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Heroic capture of Carthaginian camp near Beneventum

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Roman soldiers of the Republic period
Roman soldiers of the Republic period | Author: Bronti

Valerius Maximus, a Roman author from the 1st century CE, in his work about famous deeds and sayings mentions, among others, the story of the heroic conquest of the Carthaginian camp near Beneventum in 212 BCE.

Valerius Maximus was one of the Roman authors who wrote during the reign of Octavian Augustus – the first emperor of Rome, who noticed that Roman citizens began to depart from the values ​​of their ancestors (mos maiorum) for promiscuity, wealth and laziness. The cultural renewal that he proposed was primarily to “hit” the highest social classes who had guided the fate of Rome for hundreds of years. His conservative approach was to be reflected not only in in-laws and regulations but especially in the works and treatises of cultural representatives. Virgil, Horace, Titus Livius and the just discussed Valerius Maximus were among the members of the renewal trend. His work, as the ancient author himself presents in the introduction to Book I, was intended to show through specific events and cases (exemp) model attitudes that should be imitated in Roman society. Naturally, it focuses primarily on events in the history of the motherland but often reaches for people and stories from outside of Rome.

A great example of emphasizing the heroism of the ancestors is the conquest of the Carthaginian camp near Beneventum in 212 BCE. Valerius Maximus reports that the events took place during the siege of Capua by Hannibal, but the more likely message – on this topic – is provided by Titus Livy. According to his message, the Romans could not conquer the high-situated and well-secured Carthaginian camp at Beneventum, which could only be approached by a steep slope.

Roman troops led by consul Quintus Fulvius Flaccus could not capture the enemy’s ramparts, and therefore the commander decided to withdraw to the city of Beneventum. However, the commander’s decision was opposed by a certain Vibius Accaus, the commander of the Paelignian cohort (Latin allies), who threw the unit’s banner over the Punic rampart and put a curse on himself and his companions to mobilize the unit to regain the banner.

Seeing the attack of the allies of the Romans, the tribune of the third legion, Valerius Flaccus, said: “As far as I can see, we have just come here to look at other people’s courage, but I do not want our nation to have the shame of seeing Romans coming second to Latins in glory, I, at any rate, want to die with honor or succeed with courage, and I am ready to rush forward on my own”. At these words, the centurion Pedanius tore the military sign from the ground and said: “This is going with me now inside the enemy palisade, so if you dont want to have it captured, you’ll have to follow me!”. Pedanius with the banner moved to the enemy shafts, dragging the entire legion with him.

The heroic attitude of the two men made it possible to overcome the resistance of the Punics and conquer their camp. In total, the Romans killed 10,000 enemy soldiers, and 7,000 were captured. Accaus and Pedanius, in turn, received an award for their determination and courage.

Sources
  • Titus Livy, Ab urbe condita, XXV.14
  • Valerius Maximus, Factorum et dictorum memorabilium libri novem, 3.2.20

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