According to the historians of ancient Rome, a peculiar warband of Gallic warriors neared Roman territory around 350 BCE and pillaged in the Latin and Volscian borderlands. The robbery and destruction was too close to home for the Romans, so Marcus Popilius Laenas (one of Rome’s two consuls at the time) was dispatched with an army to attack the Gallic force. He engaged them near a landmark called the Alban Citadel (or Heights) and forced the Gallic warband to retreat. The fleeing Gallic force, which was not pursued, regrouped for a time in the safety of the mountainous countryside, but eventually resumed their pillaging of the Latin and Volscian region. By 348 BCE, the Gallic warband was again marauding in full force. Yet, as the Gauls pillaged their way toward the Volscian seaside stronghold of Antium, they curiously discovered that they were not the only crew of looters in the region. As it happened, there was, at that very same time, a fleet of Greek pirates that was raiding the Italian coast. In an ironic twist of fate, the Gallic marauders and Greek pirates were said to have found each other on the same patch of shoreline at the same time and the two sides erupted into an impromptu battle, which must have been a relief to the Romans and the people of Antium. The Roman historian, Livy (c. 59 BCE-17 CE), described the alleged incident:
“The Gauls came down from the Alban heights, being unable to stand the severity of the winter weather, and ranged over the plains and coastal area, destroying the countryside. Greek fleets infested the sea, the coast of Antium, the Laurentine district and the mouth of the Tiber, and on one occasion the pirates encountered the land-raiders and fought an indecisive battle, so that the Gauls returned to their camp and the Greeks to their ships, both uncertain whether they had lost or won” (Livy, Roman History, 7.25).
As the pirates and marauders did not eradicate each other in their inconclusive battle, the Romans decided to send out armies to address both threats. The Greek pirates, fortunately for Rome, were said to have eventually sailed out of Roman waters. As for the Gallic warband, they required another battle. Still around the year 348 BCE, a fresh and healthy Roman army, commanded by Consul Lucius Furius Camillus, was said to have fought the remnants of the Gallic force that had been wandering around Italy for years. It was an easy Roman victory and the Gallic warband was driven away.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Cropped section of the Landing of Scipio Africanus at Carthage, by Michiel Coxie (c. 1499-1592), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the Rijksmuseum).
- The History of Rome (Rome and Italy) by Livy, translated by Betty Radice. New York: Penguin Classics, 1982.