Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus
Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus (died c. 280 BC) was one of the two elected Roman consuls in 298 BC. He led the Roman army to victory against the Etruscans near Volterra. A member of the noble Roman family of Scipiones, he was the father of Lucius Cornelius Scipio and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Asina and great-grandfather of Scipio Africanus.
General of the third Samnite war
Barbatus rose to preeminence as a patrician officer of the Roman Republic during the crucial period of the Third Samnite War, when Rome finally defeated a coalition of neighboring states: the Etruscans, Umbrians and Samnites assisted by the Gauls, thereby extending its leadership and sovereignty over most of Italy.
Battle of Volterra, 298 BC
Prior to 298 BC war had already broken out between Rome and Etruria when the Etruscans decided to invade Rome in combination with some Gallic allies they had purchased. The planned attack was a violation of a former treaty with Rome. The Gauls reneged and the Etruscans found themselves facing a Roman army under consul Titus Manlius who however died after a fall from his horse in a display of horsemanship. The election held to replace him made Marcus Valerius Corvus consul. He joined the army in Etruria and began to waste the country hoping to provoke the Etruscans to battle, which they refused.
In 298 BC Appius Claudius followed by Publius Sulpicius became interreges for reasons unknown. Sulpicius held an election, which brought Barbatus and Gnaeus Fulvius Maximus Centumatus into consular office. The Lucanians spoke before the Senate saying that the Samnites were devastating their country and asking for the protection of Rome in exchange for a treaty and hostages. The Senate assented after a few moments' deliberation and dispatched heralds to tell the Samnites to withdraw. Encountering the Samnite army they were told that if they spoke in Samnium they would never leave there alive; consequently, the Senate declared war on Samnium. In a casting of lots as to which consul would take which war Barbatus won command of the army in Etruria while Centumatus undertook the initial campaign in the Third Samnite War.
The Etruscans attacked immediately before Volterra. A day-long battle brought no victory but in the night the Etruscans withdrew to their fortified cities leaving their camp and equipment to the Romans. Encamping his army at the Etrurian border Barbatus led a lightly armed force in the devastation of the countryside.
Battle of Tifernum, 297 BC
In the next year the Etruscans sued for peace. The newly elected consuls for 297 BC, Quintus Fabius Maximus and Decius Mus led both armies against Samnium, Barbatus going as lieutenant general (legatus) under Maximus. As they advanced into Samnium laying waste to the country the Samnites were hoping to catch them in an ambush in a valley at Tifernum (Samniticum).[note 1] Stationing a force there to entice the Romans they hid their main force in the hills behind. Fabius saw through the ruse and brought his army up in quadrangular formation before the "hiding place" of the Samnites, who then came down to fight a conventional battle, line-to-line.
Unable to obtain a victory, Fabius withdrew the spearmen of the First Legion from the line and sent them under the command of Barbatus stealthily around the enemy flank into the hills behind, whence the latter had earlier descended. They were ordered to coordinate an attack from behind with an especially vigorous cavalry charge to the front of the Samnite line. The plan went entirely wrong: the charge came too soon and was repulsed. A counterattack was beginning to break the Roman line when Barbatus' men appeared on the hills and were mistaken for the second Roman army under Mus, a disaster for the Samnites if true. They abandoned the field posthaste leaving behind 23 standards and 3400 slain, while 830 were taken prisoner. In fact Publius Decius Mus was far away in south Samnium.
Campaigns under Claudius and Flamma, 296 BC
Having routed the Samnite army both consuls proceeded to the systematic reduction of Samnium over a period of five months until the next election. Mus travelled over the country conducting operations from 45 camps successively while Maximus utilized 86. After elections the new consuls ordered them to continue the war in Samnium for six months, each with the rank of proconsul. The Samnite army under Gellius Egnatius, unable to remain in Samnium, offered its services to Etruria, which were accepted; under Egnatius' leadership the Umbrians were brought in and Gallic mercenaries were hired. Calling a meeting of all the chief men in Etruria Egnatius declared that war for freedom was better than peace with servitude and announced his intention to attack Rome. The Etruscans assented.
Receiving intelligence of the new dangerous circumstances the Senate dispatched Appius Claudius into Etruria in command of the First and Fourth Legions and 12,000 allied troops. Several inconclusive engagements were fought. The second consul for 296, Lucius Volumnius Flamma, was assisting the two proconsuls in the reduction of Samnium when the Lucanians defected, influenced by an appeal from the ordinary people of Samnium. Flamma claimed to have received a letter from Claudius asking for military assistance, a claim which was later denied by Claudius. Sending Maximus (presumably still with Barbatus) to the reduction of Lucania he departed for Etruria.
Claudius was ill-pleased to see him and had ordered him away when all the officers of his own army met to insist that he be retained. The men took a voice vote of such magnitude that it alarmed the nearby enemy camp and they prepared for battle. The Romans went out to fight immediately, with Claudius giving in to a situation he had to accept. The Romans attacked so fiercely with Claudius, it is said, fighting in the front ranks along with the men and continually invoking the goddess of war, Bellona, with hands upraised to heaven, that they routed the combined enemy force and drove them from their camp, killing 7300 and taking 2120 prisoners.[note 2]
Meanwhile the reduced forces of Maximus and Mus failed to restrain the Samnites, who raised another army with which they invaded and plundered Campania. Arriving there by forced marches Flamma learned that the Samnite army was encamped at the river Volturnus on its way back to Samnium. In the Battle of the Volturnus of 296 BC Flamma's army waited in ambush outside the gates of the Samnite camp. Flamma had sent in native spies the night before, who ascertained that the Samnites would make a dawn march. At dawn Flamma allowed part of the Samnite army to march out, splitting their forces, before he launched an attack that had such a momentum it was soon being fought in the camp. 7400 Roman prisoners taken previously by the Samnites freed themselves and joined in the fighting. At the end of the day the Romans had killed 6000, taken 2500 prisoners including four military tribunes and the commander, Statius Minacius, and captured 30 standards. They redistributed the Samnite booty to claimants and gave the unclaimed property to the soldiers. Samnite hopes in the south had been dealt a fatal blow.
News was received at Rome however that Gellius Egnatius had raised another army in the north consisting of Samnites, Etruscans, Umbrians and Gauls. The Senate in a mood of despair prepared to mobilize the last of the Roman forces. They ordered a draft of all males, including adolescents, the elderly and the sons of freedmen. For the first time they began to debate the permanent depopulation of Samnium (a measure that was never carried out).
The turning point, 295 BC
The elections of 295 BC were now upon the city. Flamma was recalled to conduct them. Maximus and Mus were elected, with Appius Claudius in the office of praetor. Maximus insisted on commanding in Etruria without the casting of lots that normally apportioned duties to consuls and after an intense public debate the Senate granted his request. He proceeded to Etruria, relieved Claudius of his command and sent him home on the grounds that he was a do-nothing commander who had allowed his men to sit in camp without even the exercise of marches for patrols and training. Thanks to Claudius, Maximus was soon recalled to account for his conduct of the Etrurian campaign and receive any further orders. Barbatus suddenly appears again in the account, indicating that he had been under Maximus' command all along. Maximus assigns Barbatus as propraetor of the Second Legion stationed temporarily at Clusium. He then departs for Rome.
At the time of his death Barbatus was the patrician censor of 280 BC. His censorate is notable because it is the first one of which we have a reliable record, though the position was quite old by that time.
- FVIT—CONSOL CENSOR·AIDILIS·QVEI·FVIT·APVD·VOS—TAVRASIA·CISAVNA
which has been stated in modern upper- and lower-case script as the verse:
- Cornelius Lucius Scipio Barbatus Gnaivod Patre Prognatus
- Fortis Vir Sapiensque
- Quoius Forma Virtutei Parisuma Fuit
- Consol Censor Aidilis Quei Fuit Apud Vos
- Taurasia Cisauna Samnio Cepit
- Subigit Omne Loucana Opsidesque Abdoucit.
and also transcribed in classical Latin as:
- Cornelius Lucius Scipio Barbatus, Gnaeo patre
- prognatus, fortis vir sapiensque, cuius forma virtuti parissima
- fuit, Consul, Censor, Aedilis, qui fuit apud vos; Taurasiam, Cisaunam,
- Samnium cepit, subigit omnem Lucaniam, obsidesque abducit.
A translation is:
- Cornelius Lucius Scipio Barbatus, sprung from Gnaeus his father, a man strong and wise, whose appearance was most in keeping with his virtue, who was consul, censor, and aedile among you - He captured Taurasia, Cisauna, Samnium - he subdued all Lucania and led off hostages.
There is a rough-hewn area above the epitaph, where it appears that some text has been erased. This has traditionally been interpreted as evidence of an earlier, shorter epitaph, which was replaced by the surviving text at a later date. More recently, however, a detailed analysis of the epitaph has suggested that the surviving text is the original inscription, but that the first part of the epitaph has been deleted. A summary of this analysis states:
The most compelling arguments that suggest the removal of part of the same verse text we now have relate to the shape and character of the erasure itself. In effect, a fine sarcophagus, which was inscribed with a long and carefully executed text, is marred by a rough erasure. If the erasure was made before the new text was cut, why was more trouble not taken to smooth and prepare the stone? Moreover, why does our text start at a distance of a third of a line from the margin? It would have been easy for the mason to produce a better surface so that he could have started at the margin. The whole execution of the inscription itself is very fine and clearly not the work of an amateur. The overall impression is that no expense was spared in the layout of a large tomb and the manufacture of a magnificent sarcophagus for its first occupant.
If a short, earlier text had indeed been inscribed, there would have been no reason to write it in small letters at the very top of the ample space available on the front of the sarcophagus. It would surely have been placed more in the middle and in larger letters... Barbatus’ erasure suggests that the letters were the same size and the lines the same length as the extant text. The erasure comprises exactly the length of two of the Saturnian verses below. All these considerations strongly suggest that part of this same text was erased.
The question remains as to what was erased by a later family member... Whatever was rubbed out must have been controversial or unsatisfactory from the family’s point of view
Since the tomb was closed in the late Republic, the erasure must date to the middle Republic, and since the tombs were private, the erasure must have been done at the request of an authoritative male family member. In her review of the epitaph, Harriet Flower notes that "The Scipios are also known for their continued search for earlier ancestors. This was done partly by invention and partly by substitution of the cognomen Scipio for earlier ones of branches that later died out... It is possible, therefore, that Barbatus'...[epitaph contained some claim to be the first Scipio, and that this]...became an obstacle to later family members who were eager to find earlier ancestors and other founders, who could compete with the claims of rival families. Such a reconstruction, while it can not be proved, is at least plausible and in accord with the other available evidence."
- Of the three settlements of ancient Italy named Tifernum, two were in Umbria, while the third, of location unknown exactly, is believed to have been at the source of the Tifernum (Biferno) river at the foot of Mount Tifernus (Matese Mountain), a Samnite stronghold. Cramer, John Anthony (1826). A Geographical and Historical Description of Ancient Italy: With a Map and a Plan of Rome. Clarendon Press. p. 231.
- Livy does not name the battle or give its location within Etruria.
- Livy. "Book X Sections 10-12". History of Rome.
- Livy. "Book X, Section 14". History of Rome.
- Livy. "Book X, Section 15". History of Rome.
- Livy. "Book X, Sections 16-19". History of Rome.
- Ramsay (1859). p. 247. Missing or empty
- Wachter, Rudolf (1987). Altlateinische Inschriften. Sprachliche und epigraphische Untersuchungen zu den Dokumenten bis etwa 150 v. Chr. Bern: Peter Lang. pp. 301–342.
- Flower, Harriet I. (1996). Ancestor masks and aristocratic power in Roman culture. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 173–176. ISBN 0-19-924024-8.
- Flower, Harriet I. (2006). The art of forgetting: disgrace & oblivion in Roman political culture (illustrated ed.). Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 55–57. ISBN 0807830631, ISBN 978-0-8078-3063-5.
- Flower, Harriet I. (1996). Ancestor masks and aristocratic power in Roman culture. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 176–177. ISBN 0-19-924024-8.
- Ramsay, William (1859). A Manual of Latin Prosody (2 ed.). London and Glasgow: Richard Griffin and Company.
Marcus Fulvius Paetinus and Titus Manlius Torquatus
(Suffect: Marcus Valerius Corvus)
|Consul of the Roman Republic
with Gnaeus Fulvius Maximus Centumalus
Fabius Maximus Rullianus and Publius Decius Mus
In the modern era, the Barbatus tomb has been copied numerous times. Here is the tomb of U. S. Postmaster General Henry Payne, c. 1905, in Forest Home Cemetery, Milwaukee: http://www.flickr.com/photos/senvara/4288376612/