Key to Umbria: Perugia

First Contact with Rome

Perusia first enters the historical record in 310 BC, when it suffered a defeat at the hands of the Roman consuls Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus and Gaius Marcius Rutilus Censorinus.  The surviving classical sources give different reasons for this outbreak of hostilities: 

  1. According to Diodorus Siculus ,when an Etruscan army laid siege to Sutrium, the consul Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus:

  2. “... marched into upper Etruria, which had not been plundered for a long time. Falling upon it unexpectedly, he ravaged a large part of the country; and in a victory over those of the inhabitants who came against him, he slew many of them and took no small number of them alive as prisoners.   Thereafter, defeating the Etruscans in a second battle near the place called Perusia and destroying many of them, he overawed the nation since he was the first of the Romans to have invaded that reg, likewise with those of Perusia; and, taking by siege the city called Castola,he forced the Etruscans to raise the siege of Sutrium” (Bibliotheca Historica’, 20: 35: 55-7)

  3. Livy had a slightly different account.  He recorded that Marcus Fabius, the brother the consul Fabius, crossed the Ciminian forest and threatened upper Etruria.  This

  4. “... roused to arms, not only the states of Etruria, but the neighbouring parts of Umbria.  They came therefore to Sutrium, with such a numerous army as they had never before brought into the field ... Then, a little before day, ... the [Roman] troops rushing forth, fell upon the enemy... and these... were quickly routed... On that day, 60,000 of the enemy were slain or taken.  Some affirm that this famous battle was fought on the farther side of the Ciminian forest, at Perusia ....  But on whatever spot it was fought, it is certain that the Roman power prevailed; and, in consequence thereof, ambassadors from Perusia, Cortona, and Arretium, which were then among the principal states of Etruria, soliciting a peace and alliance with the Romans, obtained a truce for 30 years” (‘History of Rome’, 9:37). 

  5. The truce did not initially hold, so:

  6. “... the consul Fabius fought with the remnants of the Etrurians at Perusia, which city also had violated the truce, and gained an easy and decisive victory.  He would have taken the town itself (for he marched up to the walls) had not deputies come out and capitulated.  Having placed a garrison at Perusia, and sent on before him to the Roman senate the embassies of Etruria, who solicited friendship, the consul rode into the city in triumph ...” (‘’History of Rome’’, 9:40).

Battle of Sentinum (295 BC)

Perusia was still as an independent and powerful state by the time of the Third Samnite War.  In 295 BC, part of the Samnite army under Gellius Egnatius marched into Etruria, planning to join with other armies of Umbrians, Etruscans, and Gauls in an attack Rome from the north.  Livy (Book 10:21) recorded that, when the news reached Rome, “the senate ordered the courts of justice to be shut, and a levy to be made of men of every description”.  The consuls Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus and Publius Decius Mus crossed the Apennines and confronted the allies at Sentinum.  Livy recorded that, among the allies:

  1. “... the part of maintaining the fight was committed to the Samnites and Gauls; and the Etrurians and Umbrians were ordered to attack the Roman camp during the heat of the engagement.  This plan was frustrated by three Clusian deserters, who came over by night to Fabius, and after disclosing the above designs, were sent back with presents, in order that they might discover and bring intelligence of any new scheme which should be determined on.  The consuls then wrote to [the Roma generals] Flavius and Postumius [later consul - see below] to move their armies ... towards Clusium (Chiusi); and to ruin the enemy's territory by every means in their power.  The news of these depredations drew the Etrurians from Sentinum to protect their own region” (’History of Rome’’, 10:27).


  1. “... matters were managed successfully [at Cusium] by Gnaeus  Fulvius, propraetor, he having, besides the immense losses occasioned to the enemy by the devastation of their lands, fought a battle with extraordinary success, in which there were above 3,000 of the Perusians and Clusians slain, and 20 military standards taken” (’History of Rome’’, 10:30).

Livy continued:

  1. “Notwithstanding these successes, peace was not yet established, either among the Samnites or Etrurians: for the latter, at the instigation of the Perusians, resumed their arms, after the consul had withdrawn his army ... In Etruria, on the revival of hostilities, Fabius slew 4,500 Perusians, and took prisoners 1,740, who were ransomed at the rate of 310 asses each.  All the rest of the spoil was bestowed on the soldiers” (Book 10:31).

In the following year, the consul Lucius Postumius Megellus:

  1. “... having led over his forces into Etruria, first laid waste the lands of the Volsinians (Orvieto); and afterwards, on their marching out to protect their country, gained a decisive victory over them, at a small distance from their own walls.  2,200 Etrurians were slain; the proximity of their city protected the rest.  The army was then led into the territory of Rusella[a city near modern Grosseto that no longer exists], and there, not only were the lands wasted, but the town itself taken.  More than 2,000 men were made prisoners, and somewhat less than that number killed on the walls.  But a peace, effected that year in Etruria was still more important and honourable than the war had been.  Three very powerful cities, the chief ones of Etruria, (Volsinii, Perusia, and Arretium) sued for peace; and having stipulated with the consul to furnish clothing and corn for his army, on condition of being permitted to send deputies to Rome, they obtained a truce for 40 years, and a fine was imposed on each state of 500,000 asses, to be immediately paid” (’History of Rome’’, 10:37).

Thereafter, Perusia was faithful to Rome and it is likely that it signed a formal treaty that gave it allied status. 

Proceed to the detailed page on Literary Sources for Ancient Perugia.

Continue to the page on Roman Perugia.

Return to the History of Perugia.

Roman Conquest of Perusia

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(Note that the page “Literary Sources s” expands on all the classical references in the account below)