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Volscian settlements (in red)

The Volsci were an Italic tribe, well known in the history of the first century of the Roman Republic. At the time they inhabited the partly hilly, partly marshy district of the south of Latium, bounded by the Aurunci and Samnites on the south, the Hernici on the east, and stretching roughly from Norba and Cora in the north to Antium (modern Anzio and Nettuno[1]) in the south.[2] Rivals of Rome for several hundred years, their territories were taken over by and assimilated into the growing republic by 300 BCE.

Description by the ancient geographers[edit]

Strabo says that the Volsci formed a sovereign state near the site of Rome.[3] It was placed in the Pomentine plain, between the Latins and the Pontine marshes, which took their name from the plain.


The Volsci spoke Volscian, a Sabellic Italic language, which was closely related to Oscan and Umbrian, and more distantly to Latin.[4]

In the Volscian territory lay the little town of Velitrae (modern Velletri), home of the ancestors of Caesar Augustus. From this town comes an inscription dating probably from early in the 3rd century BCE; it is cut upon a small bronze plate (now in the Naples Museum), which must have once been fixed to some votive object, and dedicated to the god Declunus (or the goddess Decluna).[2]

Conflict with ancient Rome[edit]

The Volsci were among the most dangerous enemies of ancient Rome, and frequently allied with the Aequi, whereas their neighbors the Hernici from 486 BCE onwards were the allies of Rome.[5][2]

According to Rome's early semi-legendary history, Rome's seventh and last king Lucius Tarquinius Superbus was the first to go to war against the Volsci, commencing two centuries of a relationship of conflict between the two states.[6]

Also, the legendary Roman warrior Gaius Marcius Coriolanus earned his cognomen after taking the Volscian town of Corioli in 493 BCE. The reputed rise and fall of this hero is chronicled in Plutarch's Parallel Lives, which served as the basis for Shakespeare's later play Coriolanus.[7]

However, if Livy's account of the war between Rome and Clusium is accurate, it can be seen that the relationship between Rome and the Volsci was not always hostile. Livy writes that, at the approach of the Clusian army in 508 BCE, with the prospect of a siege, the Roman senate arranged for the purchase of grain from the Volsci to feed the lower classes of Rome.[8]

Notable Volsci[edit]

  • Attius Tullus Aufidius.
  • Camilla in Virgil's Aeneid, a Volscian Warrior Maiden (like the legendary Amazons). Virgil says that she could run over the waves of the sea without getting her feet wet. She fights on the side of the Latins and kills many of the Trojan refugees before being killed herself by the Etruscan hero Arruns.


  1. ^ Paola Brandizzi Vittucci, Antium: Anzio e Nettuno in epoca romana, Roma, Bardi, 2000 ISBN 88-85699-83-9
  2. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainConway, Robert Seymour (1911). "Volsci" . In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 197–198.
  3. ^ Strabo. "Book 5 Chapter 3". Geography. Tufts University, Perseus Digital LIbrary.
  4. ^ James Clackson; Geoffrey Horrocks (23 May 2011). The Blackwell History of the Latin Language. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 59–. ISBN 978-1-4443-9358-3.
  5. ^ Nathan Rosenstein; Robert Morstein-Marx (7 September 2011). A Companion to the Roman Republic. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 279–. ISBN 978-1-4443-5720-2.
  6. ^ Livy Ab urbe condita 1.53
  7. ^ William Shakespeare (1969). Coriolanus. CUP Archive. ISBN 978-0-521-07529-9.
  8. ^ Livy Ab urbe condita 2.10