In the first half of the 4th century BCE, the city of Satricum was unfortunate enough to be the target or site of many battles and military campaigns. Satricum was coveted by both the Romans and the Volscians, and during their struggles over the region, the envied city was violently captured and recaptured several times over. For a glimpse of the back-and-forth nature of Satricum’s existence, we can start at the year 386 BCE. That year, Rome captured Satricum from the Volscians. Roles reversed around 382 BCE, when the Volscians captured the city back from the Romans. Yet, Rome retook Satricum once again around 381 BCE, and needed to deploy more troops there to defend the region in 380 BCE. Satricum was back in Volscian possession around 377 BCE, when a peace arrangement was made between Rome and the important Volscian city of Antium. Despite peace with Rome, the city of Satricum was not spared in 377 BCE, for an unidentified Latin city attacked Satricum that year and allegedly burned the place to the ground. Reportedly, only a temple dedicated to a goddess known as Mater Matuta was spared. After the burning, the site of Satricum allegedly remained largely abandoned for decades.
Volscians—in particular, the city of Antium—remained interested in rebuilding Satricum, yet, they had to wait for an opportune moment to arrive. It was not until around 348 BCE that the people of Antium set in motion their long-delayed plan to bring the deserted city of Satricum back to life. The Romans, at that time, were preoccupied by rogue Gallic warbands on land, fleets of Greek pirates at sea, and an outbreak of plague in the city of Rome, itself. Due to such distractions facing Rome, the city of Antium and other Volscians were able to work unimpededly for a time on rebuilding and repopulating Satricum. Yet, peace would not last.
As the story goes, it took only two years after Satricum was rebuilt for it to once again become a target of the Roman military. Rome apparently feared that Satricum would become a hub of Volscian and Latin resistance against the Romans. To deal with this potential threat before it became a real problem, the Roman Senate, around 346 BCE, authorized an army to seize or destroy the city. A Roman consul named Marcus Valerius Corvus reportedly led the army that was dispatched. His campaign was described by the Roman historian, Livy (c. 59 BCE-17 CE):
“Valerius [Corvus] was therefore ordered by the Senate to attack the Volscians before others joined them, and marched on Satricum. There he was confronted by the Antiates and the other Volscians who had made their forces ready beforehand to meet any move by Rome, and, as both sides had long been bitterly hostile to each other, fighting broke out without delay…But even the walls gave them [the Volscians] little confidence, for the city was encircled by Roman soldiers and was being taken by scaling ladders; so they surrendered, to the number of about four thousand soldiers besides a large number of non-combatants. The town was destroyed and burnt: only the temple of Mater Matuta was saved from the fire” (Livy, Roman History, 7.27).
History, therefore, repeated itself for the unfortunate city of Satricum. It was besieged, captured and ultimately set on fire. Once again, the temple of the Mater Matuta (as had happened during the previous fire) was the main feature of the region to escape the flames. Despite two years of life, the rebuilt city was returned to ashes. It was not over, however, for Satricum—by the end of the 4th century BCE, a notable Satrican community had reemerged and were granted Roman citizenship.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Claudius Civilis Storms The Roman Army At Vetera, Jacob Folkema (c. 1692-1767), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the New York Public Library Digital Collections.jpg).
- The History of Rome (Rome and Italy) by Livy, translated by Betty Radice. New York: Penguin Classics, 1982.