The Tense And Mobilizing Elections Of 329 BCE In Rome

Hitting the ground running is a saying that is extremely applicable for the leaders of ancient Rome who took office after the elections of 329 BCE. Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus and Gaius Plautius were the winners of the vote, and they had a lot on their plate when they took office. First and foremost, they inherited an ongoing war against a Privernum-Fundi alliance that had been raging since 330 BCE. By the time Mamercinus and Plautius took office, Fundi had already surrendered and Privernum was still under siege. Yet, in addition to the war, new scary rumors gripped Rome around the time of the elections. It was the Roman people’s worst nightmare—a Gallic army was said to have been possibly marching toward Rome. As Rome had been sacked by a Gallic force between 390-386 BCE, and had subsequently faced further sporadic waves of less successful marauding Gallic armies in the following decades, the report of a new potential Gallic invasion was a threat that the Roman population took seriously. Responding to this news, Mamercinus and Plautius, on their first day in office, were said to have hastily mobilized a new army to defend against the potential Gallic invaders. On these events, the Roman historian, Livy (c. 59 BCE-17 CE), wrote, “The war with Privernum was not yet finally settled when a gloomy report reached Rome of a Gallic rising, news which the Senate scarcely ever ignored. Without delay the new consuls, Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus and Gaius Plautius, were accordingly ordered, on the very day (the first of July) they entered office, to divide the commands between them. Mamercinus, who had been allotted the Gallic war, was told to enlist an army without allowing any exemptions” (Livy, History of Rome, 8.20). As the Roman military was already mustered and in action for the siege of Privernum, the new drive for mobilization was reportedly scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel that was Rome’s manpower. Nevertheless, the new army was indeed raised and temporarily was camped in the region of Veii.

Intriguingly, Mamercinus’ army soon found out that the news about an incoming threat from Gaul was unfounded. As told by Livy, “it was quite clear that all was quiet amongst the Gauls at that time, and the whole army was diverted to Privernum” (Livy, History of Rome, 8.20). On whether or not the news about the possible Gallic threat was a real misunderstanding or simply a quick and easy ploy by the Roman leadership to assemble another army to reinforce the siege of Privernum, Livy, unfortunately, did not give his opinion on the matter. Whatever the case, the additional army seemed to be just what the siege of Privernum needed, and the city fell to the Romans before the end of the year.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Cropped Illustration titled Humiliation of captive enemies by the yoke, from the Munchener Bilderbogen series (Braun und Schneider, 1852-1898), [Public Domain/No Rights statement] via Creative Commons and the NYPL Collections).



  • The History of Rome (Rome and Italy) by Livy, translated by Betty Radice. New York: Penguin Classics, 1982.

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