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10 - Pyrrhus

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2008

P. R. Franke
Affiliation:
University of the Saarland
F. W. Walbank
Affiliation:
University of Liverpool
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Summary

THE CONFLICT BETWEEN ROME AND TARENTUM

There was a treaty between Rome and the South Italian Greek city of Tarentum, certainly from 303–302 B.C., perhaps even as early as 332/1, which prohibited the Romans from sailing northwards beyond the Lacinian Promontory (south of Croton) and penetrating the Gulf of Tarentum (Map 10). But a squadron of ten Roman ships nevertheless did make a surprise appearance in the harbour of Tarentum, probably in the autumn of 282 – the first time, incidentally, that mention is made of Roman warships in ancient times. Only shortly before the consul C. Fabricius Luscinus had liberated the city of Thurii from a Lucanian siege. The Lucanians, along with the Bruttii, were increasingly terrorizing the Greek settlements in southern Italy. The consul left a garrison behind to protect the city and its oligarchic government which was loyal to Rome. The Tarentines therefore had good reason to fear that this would severely weaken their own position in relation to Thurii, their constant rival in reputation and power. No one in the city believed for one moment that the Roman ships were only making a sightseeing tour of Magna Graecia on their way to visit Thurii or, perhaps, the three Roman colonies of Sena Gallica, Hadria and Castrum Novum which had been founded on the upper Adriatic coast after the Third Samnite War. On the contrary, they feared a political purpose behind the visit on the part of the new rising power in Latium whom they had been watching with suspicion for some time and who, they imagined, had come to overthrow the demos (the mass of the people) in Tarentum in order to reinstate the aristocrats who were sympathetic towards Rome, just as they had done in Thurii.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1990

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References

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