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Latin War

Latin War
Part of the Roman unification of Italy and the Roman-Latin wars
Italy IV century BC - Latina.svg
Italy in 4th century BC
Date 340– 338 BC
Location Latium, Campania,
Result Roman victory, dissolution of Latin League
Roman Republic, Samnites Latin League, Campanians, Volsci, Sidicini, Aurunci
Commanders and leaders
Publius Decius Mus
Titus Manlius Imperiosus
Gaius Maenius

The (Second) Latin War (340–338 BC) was a conflict between the Roman Republic and its neighbors the Latin peoples of ancient Italy. It ended in the dissolution of the Latin League, and incorporation of its territory into the Roman sphere of influence, with the Latins gaining partial rights and varying levels of citizenship.

The most comprehensive source on the Latin War is the Roman historian Livy (59 BC – AD 17), who narrates the war in the eighth book of his history of Rome, Ab Urbe Condita. Two other substantial narratives have also survived, a fragment from the Roman Antiquities of Dionysius of Halicarnassus (c. 60 BC–after 7 BC), a Greek contemporary of Livy, and a summary by the 12th century Byzantine chronicler Joannes Zonaras based on the Roman history of Cassius Dio (AD 150 – 235). Modern historians consider the ancient accounts of the Latin War to be a mixture of fact and fiction. All the surviving authors lived long after the Latin War and relied on the works of earlier writers. Several of the historians used by Livy experienced the Social War (91–88 BC) between Rome and her Italian allies and seem to have interpreted the Latin War in the terms of that war; this has introduced anachronistic elements into the historical record.

The Latins did not have any central government, but were divided into a number of self-governing towns and cities with a shared language, culture and some legal and religious institutions. In the 5th century BC, these city-states had formed a mutual military alliance, the foedus Cassianum, primarily to resist the raids and invasions of two neighbouring peoples, the Aequi and the Volsci. As the largest Latin city, Rome naturally enjoyed a leading position in this alliance. By the early 4th century BC, the Latins were no longer threatened by invasions, but instead feared an increasingly powerful Rome. Several wars between Rome and other Latins, now often found fighting beside their former enemies the Volsci, are recorded for the first half of the 4th century. In the end, the Latins and the Volsci could not prevent Rome from establishing control over the ager Pomptinus (the territory of the Pomptine Marshes and the Monti Lepini) and in 381 annexing the Latin town of Tusculum. The threat of Gallic invasion seems to have convinced at least some Latin towns to resume their treaty with Rome in 358, but these did not include Tibur and Praeneste, Rome's chief opponents among the Latins, who only made peace with Rome in 354 after a lengthy war. During the 340s, Roman-Latin relations seem to have worsened again. Livy records that, in 349, when again faced with a Gallic invasion, the Latins refused to supply their share of troops, and in 343 actually planned to attack Rome, but following news of Roman victories against the Samnites instead decided to attack the Paeligni.