THE BATTLE OF AQUILONIA
Thìs abstract of Nicola Fierro's book touches all of its main points. It deals with an issue that has been controversial for centuries: the location of ancient Aquilonia, the site of the battle fought in 293 BC between the Samnite Legio Linteata and the Roman legions commanded by Papirius Cursor. Many scholars presently believe that Aquilonia stood on the site of present-day Lacedonia in Upper Irpinia. They base their deductions on hermeneutic evidence derived from the historical sources dealing with the history of this town. This written evidenee is complemented by innumerable archaeological testimonies found especially in the last two decades. Further confirmation can be found in the geography of the area. Other scholars whose number, however, is decreasing, claim that the site of ancient Aquilonia should be looked for in Upper Samnium, in the territory of the Pentri, i.e., present-day Molise. The Archeological Association of Lacedonia, which I have the honor of directing, espouses the first of these two hypotheses, and it would take unquestionable proof of the contrary tu change this conviction. Thus, it gladly promotes this careful and detailed book hy Prof. Fierro, to whom all the population of Lacedonia is grateful. Special thanks are due to Italpack, a well-established firm which has a factory in the place where we believe the Battle of Aquilonia to have taken place. Italpack has met the costs of the printing and translation of the volume, showing a remarkable commitment to the promotion of the cause of culture. I would also like to express my most heartfeit thanks to Pietro Mennea, tu whom we owe the preface to this work, the first out-and-out scholarly publication tu be specifically devoted to the history of ancient Irpinia.
: Director of Archelogical Association of Lacedonia.
THE BATTLE OF AQUILONIA
Aquilonia in Hirpinis, a town of southern Samnium burned by the Romans in 293 BC, stands on the same site as present-day Lacedonia, in the province of Avellino. During the third Samnite war, afler the collapse of northern Samnium, the Samnites had concentrated their forces in the territory of Aquilonia, within the Lacedonia - S.Agata di Puglia - Scampitella triangle. Here, the Samnites' legio linteata was crushed by the Roman army led by Lucius Papirius Cursor.
Most scholars, even very knowledgeable ones, continue to ignore the geographic position of Aquilonia in Samnium. In the town of Lacedonia there is abundant pottery and archaeological material, mostly buried, dating from the Samnite (fourth-third century BC) and Roman (second century BC-first century AD) periods. The area is stili unexplored. According to an ancient roadmap (250 AD), Aquilonia lay along the Appia road between Aeclanum and Pons Aufidi. The mutatio of Aquilonia, located in ‘Capo dell'Acqua’, near monte Origlio, is six miles away from the mutatio of Subromola (the fountain of Serroni di Bisaccia) and 11 miles from Pontaufidi (the villa and springs of Siricciardi, in the Monteverde countryside). It should be noted that the distances reported in the Tabuta Peutingeriana are inverted in the Subromula-Pontaufidi stretch.
The vestiges of the settlement of Lacedonia, dated to the Samnite period, lie on a sandstone hill honeyeombed with still unexplored ancient caves and galleries. All the published and unpublished Roman inscriptions found in the area originally come from the town and pertain to the municipium established there after the Social War.
Other fragmentary inscriptions are kept in the Episcopal Seminar. Thirteen Latin epigraphs found in Lacedonia and its territory were published by Theodor Mommsen in his Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. The epigraphic documents of Lacedonia, the only source of information un the town in the Roman period, were never the object of scientifie study. The ancient town, Lacedonia, was rich in monuments and inscriptions. The ancient stones were reworked, squared, and re-employed in the buildings of the medieval and modem town.
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The general mobilization of the Samnites at Aquilonia
Carvilius, having enlisted a new arrny, reached Cominium and put it under siege. His army had obviously come by way uf the Valley of the Platano. Papirius Cursur, instead, had presumably come by the isthmian road, a still extant archaic route across the Sele Valley, mentioned in the Periplus by the Pseudo Scilax (§15). He marched upon Aquilonia (presentday Lacedonia), where the Samnite army had already gathered. This army was called the legio linteata because it had been enlisted in a trenched camp covered with long strips of cluth (lintei), as Livy tells us:
"About 60,000 men gathered here, the flower uf the militia of Samnium. Almost in the center of the camp they enclosed in rush mats and covered with cloth a space extending at most for 200 feet equally in every direction".
In this square enclosure (8598 square meters), the sacred ceremony and the solemn military oath took place. The men, summoned tu Aquilonia from all over Samnium, were divided into two groups: a special corps (legio linteata), and a heavy-infantry unit. The special corps was lormed of 16,000 élite soldiers, the regular army of over 20.000 soldiers.
Calthough Livy chaims that 40,000 men from all over Samnium had convened at Aquilonia. Thus, the Samnite regular army must have consisted of 36,000 men. In the trenched camp, in front uf an altar and an officiating priest, Ovius Paeeius, all the participants, soldiers and noblemen, took a solemn oath tu fight in defense of their homeland. This event is also mentioned by PI iny the Elder and Festus.
Thus, the entire Samnite League, created tu face Rome's military threat, took part in the solemn religious ceremony of the oath. Livy's descriptiun of the Samnites preparations for war shows clear signs of rhetorical exaggeration, meant tu excite his readers' imagination and make Rome's victory look even more spectacular.
Livy says that the two Roman camps of Aquilonia and Cominium were twenty miles (about 29 kilometers) away from one another. This is indeed the distance hetween the piace where the final battie was fought, in the valley of the Calaggio river, and Monteverde (Cominium Ocritum). But where exactly did the battle take place?
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