The Fourth Century BC

"Every single step the Celts took...being commended to them by the heat of passion than by cool calculation ---Polybius

The fourth century started out as a terrible time for the Romans and yet by the end of the century they had defeated the combined armies of the Latin League and Rome became the capital of all of Latium and her armies defended its borders.

(see also The Roman Legions)

Some of these barbarian tribes would cut off the heads of their enemies and place them around their neck to ward off evil spirits since they believed that the soul dwelt within the head even after death. They would even throw a detached head at their enemy in order to terrify the enemy and also ward off evil spirits.

The Gauls

Around 387 BC a barbarous tribe in the north part of Europe known as the Gauls defeated the Romans at the River Allia and invaded Italy and sacked Rome. According to the historian Livy, most of the people had fled Rome in terror. Only a handful of soldiers and some Roman senators had remained and the Gauls provoked the senators to defend themselves and when they did the Gauls brutally slaughtered them. (see Barbarian Wars and the Gauls)

After the destruction only the Capitoline Hill had held her ground and the Gauls decided to attack at night secretly but some Geese made their presence known and after some bribery the Gauls finally left. Most of the Latin cities were very happy to see Rome overthrown.


With their city destroyed a leader named Camillius attempted to rebuild Rome and raise strong walls around her seven hills. Around 380 BC he organized what was left of the army and introduced new tactics and weapons made of iron. He even developed new laws regarding Roman citizenship. They began to regain their lost territory and, with the help of the Samnites, a tribe from central Italy, they conquered the area again and this made them the most powerful people in Latium.

The Samnites

Rome was determined to defend herself against future attack from the Gauls, and by 330 BC the Samnites became a big threat and had been attacking Campania. Naples, a city in southern Italy, had pleaded with Rome for help against the Samnites. When Appius Claudius heard of this he strengthened the army and built a navy and prepared for war.

Rome went to war against the Samnites along with their allies the Gauls and the Etruscans. After a series of wars lasting 40 years Rome finally defeated the Samnites and this made Rome a bigger threat than ever to the Latin League and they united against her for war and were crushed. (see The Roman Conquest of Southern Italy)

Rome now became the capital of all of Latium and was requiring citizenship to all of the surrounding colonies under her dominion. Rome had won many strategic victories and soon dominated northern and central Italy.

The Appian Way

Appius Claudius constructed the first of Rome's great military highways called The Appian Way. It was the first strand of what was to become a great web of paved highways throughout the whole Mediterranean world. There was nothing like it and without it Rome could not have won its tremendous empire.