Battle of the Cremera

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CITIZEN-SOLDIER, CLASS I

Servian class I citizen-soldiers fought essentially with hoplite panoply, each citizen equipping himself with helmet, two-piece corselet and greaves, all of bronze (though later linen and composite corselets would be usual). He also carried the clipeus, a bowl-shaped shield, approximately 90cm in diameter and clamped to the left arm. There is a superb example of a clipeus in the Museo Gregoriano at the Vatican.

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CITIZEN-SOLDIER, CLASS III

In Livy (1.43.1-7) the Servian class I essentially fought with a hoplite panoply, each man equipping himself with helmet, corselet and greaves, all of bronze, together with the clipeus, that is to say, the aspis (large round shield) carried by Greek hoplites. The spear and sword were the main weapons used. Men of class II equipped themselves similarly, but were not expected to provide a corselet, while those of class III could omit the greaves as well. However, to balance the absence of body armour, classes II and III used the oval scutum instead of the round clipeus. This was a body shield, Italic in origin.

In 480BC, the Rome was engaged in 3 wars, with the Volsci, the Aequi and the Etruscan city of Veii. The Veientines were raiding the outlying Roman and Latin settlements, retreating beyond the Cremera river each time a legion was sent against them. As the Romans were also occupied in a war with the Volsci and Aequi, the clan of the Fabii proposed that they would counter the Veientine raids by themselves in 479 BC. A venture worthy of praise, and for two years the Fabii and their retainers (306 men in all) skirmished quite successfully with the Veientine raiders.

In actual history, the Fabii got wiped out in a disastrous ambush at the river Cremera in 477BC. Only one member of the clan, Quintus Fabius Vibulanus survived the battle.

At this point I will leave actual History alone. In real life, the precedent of the Fabii was unique, a single event in the long history of Rome. In my AAR the legend of the Fabii becomes the origin of the three-way split of Italy between the Julii, Scipii and Brutii, an alternative military institution of Rome, the Gens Cum Imperio.

After the destruction of the Fabii at the hands of the Veientines, Rome was in an uproar, a panic even, as if the Veientine legions were now marching on Rome in great numbers. Of course, nothing of the sort was happening was discovered the next few days.

The Fabii did however set a precedent. As the raids of the Veientines now renewed in vigour and the Volsci and Aequi were restive also, three men pledged their families to the Fabian cause. These were Appius Julius, Decius Brutus and Publius Scipio the Elder. Their Families would take up arms to combat the Veientine Raiding parties.

The three clans together were of course, far more powerful than the Fabii on their own and managed to establish a strong fortress on Veientine territory. This time, the Romans wouldn’t be fooled by easy baits like the Fabii were in 477BC. In fact, they even got the support of a full Roman legion in the Battle of Fidenae (475 BC) and were victorious. Meanwhile, the regular Roman armies were free to deal with the Volsci and Aequi unobstructed by threats to their rear from Veii.

In 472BC their Patres Familiae were as Triumvirate invested with Imperium Maius, equal to that of a Consul, to conquer the city of Veii itself with access to two full legions. After a siege of 2 years, Veii fell to the Romans.

Battle of the Cremera

The Battle of the Cremera was fought between the Roman Republic and the Etruscan city of Veii, in 477 BC (276 AUC).

Historical records show the defeat of the Roman stronghold on the river Cremera, and the consequent incursions of the Veientes in Roman territory.

The preserved account of the battle, written by Livy, is an elaboration of the real events, and celebrates the sacrifice of the gens Fabia. Probably, its aim is to give a reason of the absence of Fabii from consular lists in the years following the battle. Furthermore, this account is clearly influenced by the Spartan last stand at the Battle of Thermopylae.

After a pacific coexistence between Rome and Veii, open war sprung between the close cities, escalating into a battle in 480 BC, in which the Roman army was close to defeat, and saved by consul Kaeso Fabius Vibulanus. After the battle, the Veientes kept on raiding Roman territory, retreating in front of Roman legions to deny them open battle.

Engaged in a conflict with Aequi and Volsci, the Romans were fighting on two fronts. Thus, in 479 BC, the gens Fabia offered to deal with Veii on its own, while the Republican legions had to fight against the other enemies. Livy says that all of the 306 adult (i.e. more than fifteen years old) Fabii went to the war, together with their clients.

The Fabii built a stronghold on the river Cremera, close to Veii, from which they managed to limit Veii raids. The Veientes engaged an open battle near the Roman stronghold, but were defeated by Fabii and a Roman army led by consul Lucius Aemilius Mamercinus, and obliged to ask for a truce.

After the truce was broken, the Veientes renewed their raid, but were repeatedly defeated by the Fabii, who, encouraged by the successes, became bold and attacked and pillaged Veii territory.

In the end, however, the Fabii fell in the trap laid by the Veientes. Considering the enemies far from the stronghold, the Romans exited from the stronghold to capture a herd, scattering in pursuit of the animals. In that moment, the outnumbering Veientes exited and surrounded the Fabii. Adopting the wedge formation, the Romans broke through and reached a hill, where they successfully repulsed the Etruscan attacks, until a Veienite formation arrived to their back.

All of the Fabii were slaughtered save Quintus Fabius Vibulanus, who was too young to be sent to war.