Battle of Lautulae

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Battle of Lautulae
Part of Second Samnite War
Date 315 BC
Location near Terracina, Italy
Result Samnite victory
Roman Republic Samnium
Commanders and leaders
Fabius Maximus Rullianus

The Battle of Lautulae was fought in 315 BC between the Romans (led by dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus) and the Samnites within the Second Samnite Wars, and was won by the Samnites.[1]

Preceding the Battle[edit]

In 315 BC, the Romans elected L. Papirius Cursor and Q. Publilius Philo as their consuls. These were the same consuls that were elected five years earlier to deal with the Caudine Crisis.[2] This same year, L Papirius Cursor went to Apulia to attack the Samnites at Luceria and Q. Publilius Philo went to Campania to attack the Samnites at Saticula.[3] Simultaneously, another Roman force, under Q. Fabius Rullianus, continued to press an attack on Satricum and on the Volscian rebels in the Liris valley.[4] This was a logical progression of the policy of southward expansion; however later it was revealed, this was a dangerous dispersal of Rome's military strength.[3]

In Apulia, Papirius Cursor laid siege to Samnite-controlled Luceria, and in the Liris valley Fabius Rullianus recovered Satricum.[3] But, in Campania, something went wrong. It was documented that a Samnite force either defeated or eluded Publilius Philo and began to more toward Latium. Fabius Rullianus was the only commander close enough who could help defend Latium. He chose to cover the inland route while the Samnites came steadily on.[3] When he reached the site of Fregellae, he was faced with the choice of either continuing onto Rome along the Trerus valley or traveling left, whereby splitting the Roman territory. He chose the latter course and this brought him against the forces of Quintus Aulius Cerretanus at Lautulae.[3]

During the Battle[edit]

The inexperienced Roman levies were no match for the hardy Samnites and were soundly defeated.[3] The only Roman who chose not to flee was Quintus Aulius Cerretanus, who stayed to fight the Samnites and was killed.[3] The Roman territory had been split. The southern portion of Rome was inhabited by citizens who were persuaded or coerced by the Samnites to renounce the allegiance to Rome. The northern half of Rome was inhabited by citizens with full rights. However they were being advanced upon by the Samnites.[3]

In the meantime, in Rome, Rullianus and the authorities were trying to protect the various approaches in the city. They succeeded in doing so, but it weakened the Roman forces in the Liris Valley. There the Samnites stormed across the river and captured Sora. Then, the Samnites thwarted lines of communication between Roman forces within the city and those in Apulia. This is where the Samnite success had reached its peak.[3]


Because of the disaster of the previous battle (Caudine Forks) and the Battle of Lautulae, the Roman military began to reorganize and rethink their strategy.[5] The Romans had a knack for learning from their enemies, such as the Greeks, Etruscans, and Carthaginians.[5] For example, they learned how to fight with round shields from the Etruscans, and they learned how to manipulate siege craft from the Greeks.[5] What they learned from the Samnites was how to fight in maniples armed with pilums (javelins) and scutums (shields), and they later turned this against the Samnites and defeated them.[5]

Two differing stories of Lautulae[edit]

There are two versions of the battle. A Roman historian, Livy, wrote a main narrative of the Battle of Lautulae. This version is far more favorable to the Roman cause.[6] In this narrative, he recounts that the battle was indecisive and had to be broken off because of the coming of the night.[6] However, Livy recorded a second account where the Romans were defeated and the master of the horse was killed.[6] However, the aftermath of the battle clearly shows that the Samnites inflicted a major defeat upon the Romans. This was shown through the widespread civil unrest and revolts among Rome's Volscian, Auruncan, and Campanian allies.[6]


  1. ^ Rickard, J. "Battle of Lautulae, 315 BC". Retrieved 2011-11-13. 
  2. ^ Salmon, E.T. (1967). Samnium and the Samnites. Cambridge University Press. pp. 234–36. ISBN 9780521061858. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Salmon, E.T. (1967). Samnium and the Samnites. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 234–36. ISBN 978-0-521-06185-8. 
  4. ^ Salmon, E.T. (1967). Samnium and the Samnites. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 234–36. ISBN 9780521061858. 
  5. ^ a b c d Forsythe, Gary (2005). A Critical History of Early Rome. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 305. ISBN 0-520-22651-8. 
  6. ^ a b c d Forsythe, Gary (2005). A Critical History of Early Rome. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 301–304. ISBN 0-520-22651-8.