Battle of Mons Algidus
|Battle of Mons Algidus|
|Part of the Roman-Italic Wars|
|Commanders and leaders|
The Battle of Mons Algidus was fought in 458 BC (or 457 BC) between the Roman Republic and the Aequi near Algidus Mons, Latium. The Roman dictator Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus turned a Roman defeat into an important victory.
The government of Rome was already shared between the original Romans, the Latin and Sabine peoples. For example, the Quinctia gens who had a major influence on Roman public life during this time were of Latin origin. The Hernici were allied to Rome; the Etruscans were not impinging on the Romans, even though the Estruscan town of Veii was close to Rome.
The greatest enemies of Rome at this time were the Volsci and the Aequi. The Volsci were based in territory to the southeast of Rome while the Aequi were based to the east. The Aequi kept attacking, whether with allies or alone, Rome and its surroundings. In particular, the Aequi moved from the Apennine Mountains towards Tusculum (Frascati). Their attacks disturbed trade and commercial communications along the Via Latina as well as throughout Roman territory.
Within Rome the situation at this time was disturbing. There were conflicts between the Roman patricians and plebeians. There was also a revolt by the slaves of Rome. During the revolt, the Campidoglio was held by the slaves for a lengthy period, along with the most important temples of Rome. It was during this revolt that consul Valerius Publicola had died. The revolt ended only with the arrival of an army from Tusculum, led by Tusculan dictator Lucius Mamilius. Meanwhile, Cincinnatus was appointed as consul to replace Publicola.
In 459 BC, the Aequi occupied Tusculum. In response to the threat, the Romans decided to send an army to help the allied city, under the command of consul Lucius Cornelius Maluginensis. In addition, the consul Fabius Vibulanus, who was at that point besieging Antium, moved his forces to attack Tusculum. In the end, the Tusculans were able to recapture their city, with Vibulanus killing many Aequi near Algidus Mons. A truce was then arranged with the Aequi.
Not long after, in 458 BC, the Aequi broke the truce. They attacked Tusculum again, and camped near Algidus Mons; at the same time, a Sabinian army moved against Rome. Two Roman armies were formed in haste - consul Gaius Nautius Rutilus planned to move against the Aequi territories, while consul Lucius Minucius Esquilinus Augurinus planned to move against the Aequi camped near Algidus Mons.
Minucius did not attack the Aequi, who by nightfall had started to build a fortification all around the Roman camp. Since even Nautius did not know how to handle the situation, Cincinnatus, whose brief term as consul had ended, was elected dictator.
Cincinnatus chose his magister equitum, and levied in Campus Martius each available Roman, requiring them to bring food for five days and also bring twelve valli. The vallus was the pole brought by each Roman soldier. The valli were used to build a protective wall around the camp; a requirement of twelve valli instead of one was unusual.
The Roman army arrived at Algidus Mons by night. Cincinnatus signalled to the besieged Romans that he had arrived, then ordered his men to build a wall all around the Aequi. The Aequi attacked Cincinnatus, but they were soon obliged to turn and face the Romans of Minucius, who had left their camp to reach their companions. At dawn, the wall around the Aequi was completed; Cincinnatus ordered his men, who had marched and worked for a whole day without rest, to attack the Aequi within the wall. The Aequi, unable to sustain a double attack, surrendered. Cincinnatus let all but the leaders of the Aequi go.
The Aequi leaders were kept prisoners in Rome. The spoils of the sacking of the Aequi camp were distributed among Cincinnatus' men, while the Romans who had fought under Minucius were criticised and Minucius himself deposed.
Cincinnatus received a Roman triumph, while the Tusculan consul Lucius Mamilius received Roman citizenship. Having been elected dictator for six months, Cincinnatus resigned after only sixteen days.
- Primary sources
(print: Book 1 as The Rise of Rome, Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-19-282296-9)