A flashback of an encounter between two heroes of the Samnite Wars. Papirius Cursor and Fabius Rullianus.
Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.
The Tale of Rome, Episode 45 — Fabius Rullianus and Papirius Cursor.
The Ciminian forest was one of those primitive places — created in the times before gods and humans, and its purpose was to keep Romans and Etruscans apart.
There were no roads through it, and even the edges of the forest — the way they looked — they caused utter angst in Rome’s population.
Nobody ever dared to get tino the Ciminian forest, up until the fourth century before Christ.
What’s more, when the Roman Senate, explicitly gave orders to Consul Fabius Maximus Rullianus to NOT to enter the confines of the forest, and when he did so — chasing Etruscans, and when he emerged unscathed from the the forest, the Romans — at first — had thoughts about letting him back into the city, for they feared that evil spirits had taken possession of the souls of the Consul, and all his soldiers.
At least — this is how our dear Livy told the story.
This forest — partly fossilized, and partly so densely overgrown that sunshine couldn’t make it through — was one of the few regions in Italy that still held soft ground between the roots of its trees.
It’s called permafrost. It’s soft ground had low temperatures — so low, that they never get to solidify.
And so, the forest kept swallowing beasts, trapped in the soft ground. From wild boars to deers, they got stuck in there, as if it were quicksand, and this area of permafrost sometimes went all the way to the region where the Tiber river met the Apennine hills.
To put it briefly, this woodland was the perfect natural border, between Rome and Etruria, for the better part of four centuries.
We are not here to talk about how Fabius Rullianus crossed that forest, even if it was in direct disobedience of the Roman Senate.
Because — after all — this happened in the year 310 BC, and we didn’t make it to that year, yet.
Which means, we still have the Third Samnite War ahead of us.
And — had it NOT been, that the Samnites got such a BAD beating from the Romans — at the Battle of Sutrium, perhaps, Rullianus never had the need to get into that forest, in the first place.
This was partly — because the town of Sutrium was literally at the edge of the Ciminian Forest, and when the Etruscans went running into the woodland, the Romans had to — either, loose them, or follow them.
We are here to talk about, the other time, Rullianus disobeyed an order.
Just — that time, it wasn’t with the Senate of Rome.
That time, he ignored orders of a Dictator of Rome.
And that Dictator was none less than a man, named Lucius Papirius Cursor.
On one hand — they could not counter Papirius, for two reasons.
ONE — He was not a Consul — he was a Dictator. He just had the power. Period.
AND TWO — Denying him something of this magnitude, or defending someone who had openly disobeyed him, did not look good.
Yep, it was a bad precedent to future generations, and the Senate was not willing to publicly weaken the position of a Dictator.
But on the other hand, they didn’t want to have Rullianus punished. After all, he just managed to beat the Samnites, and thanks to his preemptive actions, Rome could focus on other things, for this whole year.
And being able to focus on other things, instead of warfare, meant that Rome could make money.
Suddenly, this year looked like a surplus-year, and all thanks to the quick wit of a man, who directly disobeyed his superior, and brought back some 20 thousand slaves to Rome.