Key to Umbria

Prefectures of the Alta Sabina

Prefectures in alta Sabina: Nursia, Reate and Amiternum

Prefectures in the territory of the Vestini: Aveia ? and Peltuinum ?

Prefectures in the territory of the Praetutti: Interamnia Praetuttorium ?

Prefectures in Umbria: Interamna Nahars ?

Citizen colony: Castrum Novum (290-86 BC ? 264 BC ?)

Latin Colonies: Alba Fucens  (303 BC); Nequinum/ Narnia (299 BC); Carseoli (298 BC);

Hadria (290-86 BC - see below); Spoletium (241 BC)

Underlining indicates tribes: green = Sergia; red = Quirina; blue = Velina; brown = Clustumina

Festus’ second list of prefectures contains two in Sabine territory: Reate (Rieti) and Nursia (Norcia).  There is also late epigraphic evidence (discussed below) for a prefecture at Amiternum (a centre that was abandoned in the Middle Ages for nearby L’Aquila).  These three centres were located in the upland alta Sabina: this was geographically distinct from Sabina tiberina, the lowland area towards Rome that was centred on Cures and that was renowned in Roman pre-history as the birthplace of two of the early kings of Rome. 

Conquest of the Sabine Lands (290 BC)

The alta Sabina possibly entered recorded history for the first time in a passage by Livy:

  1. “[In 293 BC, the consul], Spirius Carvilius, to whom had been decreed the veteran legions [that his predecessor] had left in the territory of Interamna, marched at their head into Samnium; and ... took by storm the Samnite town of Amiternum.  Here were slain about 2,800 men, and 4,270 were made prisoners”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 39: 2).

Since we know of no ‘Samnite town of Amiternum’, Stephen Oakley (referenced below, at pp. 390-1) accepted that this was probably Amiternum in the alta Sabina.  (However, he rejected the suggestion that the ‘Interamna’ in this passage was Umbrian Interamna Nahars (discussed below) rather than Samnite Interamna Lirenas.)

The next reference to the Sabines in the surviving sources relates to the year 290 BC.  Unfortunately, Livy’s books covering this period do not survive, but an entry in a surviving summary records that, in 290 BC:

  1. “Consul [Manius] Curius Dentatus celebrated two triumphs in one year, because he had defeated the Samnites and had also subdued the rebellious Sabines and accepted their surrender”, (‘Periochae’,  11: 5-6).

Thus, the allegedly rebellious Sabines were conquered immediately after the end of the Third Samnite War (298-90 BC).  Aspects of this conquest was recorded by other authors:

  1. According to Florus:

  2. “... [the Romans] attacked the race of the Sabines who, forgetful of the relationship [that they had] formed [with the Romans] under Titus Tatius, had become ... infected by the [rebellious] spirit of the Latins and had joined in their wars.  During the [first] consulship of Manius Curius Dentatus [i.e. in 290 BC], the Romans laid waste with fire and sword all the tract of country which is enclosed by the Nar, the Anio and the sources of the Velinus, and bounded by the Adriatic Sea.  By this conquest, so large a population and so vast a territory was reduced, that even [Curius] could not tell which was of greater importance”, (‘Epitome of Roman History’, 1: 10).

  3. Frontinus, in a list of examples of strategies by which Roman generals had distracted their opponents, recorded that:

  4. “When the Sabines levied a large army, left their own territory and invaded ours, Manius Curius, by secret routes, sent ... a force that ravaged their lands and villages and set fire to them in divers places.  In order to avert this destruction of their country, the Sabines thereupon withdrew [from Roman territory].  But Curius succeeded in devastating their country while it was unguarded, [and then ?]  in repelling their army without an engagement and ... slaughtering it piecemeal”, (‘Stratagems’, 1: 8: 4).

  5. Orosius:

  6. “[In 290 BC], the consul Curius waged a war against the Sabines.  In this war, the consul himself tells us how many thousand men were killed and captured.  When in the Senate, he wished to report the amount of the land acquired from the Sabines and the number of their inhabitants captured,  he was not able to give exact figures”, (‘History, against the Pagans’, 3: 22: 1).

  7. A fragment from Cassius Dio might also relate to this campaign:

  8. “Curius, in defending his conduct before the people, declared that he had acquired so much land that any smaller number of men could not have tilled it, and had captured so many men that any smaller territory would have been insufficient for them”, (‘Roman History’, 37:1).

Julius Beloch  argued (in 1906) that the Sabines would not have stood aside from the Third Samnite War and then capitulated to the Romans in the course of a single campaign.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, at pp. 31-3) reprised the elements of Beloch’s hypothesis: while he did not accept all of Beloch’s rewriting of the history of the 290s BC, he agreed that:

  1. “It would [indeed] be surprising if the Sabines had capitulated in just one year, [and] it is [more] likely that the capture of Nequinum [in 299 BC, which was colonised thereafter as Narnia, had first] provoked hostilities [between Rome and] the Sabines.”

Oakley pointed out that, if hostilities between the Romans and the Sabines had indeed  spanned the whole of the 290s, this would account for:

  1. the entry in the ‘Fasti Triumphales’ for 299/8  BC, which records that the consul Marcus Fulvius Paetinus was awarded a triumph over both the Samnites and the Nequinates: since this triumph was awarded in the lull between the Second and Third Samnite Wars, ‘Samnites’ here should perhaps read ‘Sabines’;

  2. the content of the so-called ‘Elogium’ of Appius Claudius Caecus (CIL VI 40943), according to which, he had routed the army of the Sabines and Etruscans (probably when he was consul in 296 BC);  and

  3. Livy’s record (10: 39: 2) of the capture of Amiternum in 293 BC, albeit that Livy described this as a Samnite town (as discussed above).

Lily Ross Taylor (referenced below, at pp. 63-4) accepted Beloch’s suggestion that the Romans had:

  1. “... probably acquired [the territory of Cures in Sabina tiburina] before the conquests of [290 BC].  It would have been needed to protect the approaches to Nequinum ... , captured in 299 BC and the site of the Latin colony of Narnia.  The award of partial rights to Cures in 290 BC (see below) might have been designed to secure the quiescence of the local population during Curius’ [ campaign in the alta Sabina].”

If this is correct, then the Sabines had been involved (perhaps intermittently) throughout the Third Samnite War, and we cannot rule out the possibility that some of them had been included among the Samnite-led army that the Romans defeated in spectacular fashion in the decisive Battle of Sentinum (295 BC). 

Whatever the pre-history of Curius’ invasion of 290 BC, the surviving accounts all focus on the fact that large numbers of Sabines were killed or captured in this campaign and that their territory was effectively confiscated in its entirety (albeit that claims of complete genocide seem to be over-stated).   Indeed, these confiscations extended beyond the Sabine lands, reaching the coast of the Adriatic (as discussed below).

Land Distribution in the Alta Sabina

The presence of at least three prefectures in the alta Sabina suggests that, after the conquest,  there was a significant concentration of Roman citizens in the surrounding territory.  Some of these would have been veterans of Curius’ campaign (including Curius himself):

  1. According to Columella:

  2. “Curius Dentatus ... after his conquest of the Sabines, [was often found] tilling the captured land that [he] had received in the distribution of 7 iugera per man”, (‘De Re Rustica’, 1: 14).

  3. Similarly, according to Pliny the Elder:

  4. “The words ... that were uttered by Manius Curius after his triumphs [over the Samnites andSabines] and the addition of an immense extent of territory to the Roman sway, are well known: ‘The man must be looked upon ... as a dangerous citizen, for whom 7 iugera of land are not enough, that being the amount of land that had been allotted to the people [of Rome] after the expulsion of the kings’”, (‘Natural History’, 18:4:18).

  5. Indeed, Curius was famous for only taking the same allocation as his men: thus Frontinus:

  6. “When, in honour of his defeat of the Sabines, the Senate offered Manius Curius a larger amount of ground than the discharged troops were receiving, he was [instead] content with the allotment of ordinary soldiers, declaring that man was a bad citizen who was not satisfied with what the rest received”, (‘Stratagems’, 4: 3: 12).

  7. However, this distribution apparently accounted for only a minority of the confiscated land: thus Plutarch:

  8. “When some blamed Curius for distributing but a small part of a country he took from the enemy [presumably in 290 BC] and preserving the greater part for the commonwealth, he prayed that there might be no Roman who would [regard an] estate [as] little [if it] was enough to maintain him”, (‘Sayings of Kings and Commanders’, search on ‘Curius’).

Similarly small parcels of land might well have been distributed to civilian citizens from Rome.

It is also possible that larger holdings were sold as ager quaestorius (i.e. under the auspices of the quaestors): according to Siculus Flaccus, whose writings were included in the compendium of those of the so-called Roman Land Surveyors:

  1. “As the Romans became masters of all nations, they divided up among the victorious people [i.e. themselves] land captured from the enemy.  But they sold other land, for example the land of the Sabines, which is called ‘quaestorian’” (translated by Saskia Roselaar, referenced below, at p. 125).

Roselaar (as above) observed that an area of divided land identified near Cures conforms with the specification described for such sales by Siculus Flaccus, albeit that it cannot be securely dated.  She observed that:

  1. “Siculus Flaccus' text sounds as if the sale [in the Sabine lands] happened immediately after the conquest in 290 BC, but this is not made explicit.  Scholars remain divided on the issue:

  2. some maintain that it indeed happened in the 3rd century BC, and that the Romans were inspired to lease out land after their conquest of Sicily, where similar arrangements were common; [while]

  3. others argue that the land around Cures was not sold until the Sullan era.” 

Original extent of the lacus Velinus

Adapted from the plan in this website

Most of the distributed land would have been confiscated in 290 BC.  However, more would have become available following the vast project of water management in the area of Reate for which Curius was responsible.  Our source for this project is Cicero, whom the people of Rieti retained in 54 BC:

  1. “... to plead their cause against the people of [Interamna Nahars, see below] ..., because the lacus Velinus, which had been drained by Manius Curius by cutting away the mountain, flowed into the Nar, [causing flooding problems for his clients] ... ” (‘Letter to Atticus’, 4;15;5)

Tacitus (‘Annals’, 1: 79) recorded a further legal dispute on this matter between Interamna Nahars and Reate in 15 AD.  Curius had apparently opened an artificial channel to divert the water of this large, upland lake over a precipice and into the Nar (Nera), forming what is now the Cascata delle Marmore.  This work, which is usually thought to have been carried out in Curius’ period as censor in 272 BC, would have provided a significant expanse of newly-reclaimed fertile land for distribution. 

Enfranchised Sabines could have provided another source of clients for the Roman prefects after 268 BC: according to Velleius Paterculus:

  1. “... the citizenship without the right of suffrage was given to the Sabines in the consulship of Manius Curius and Rufinus Cornelius [i.e. in 290 BC. ... In 268 BC,] the right of suffrage was granted to the Sabines”, (‘History of Rome’, 1: 14: 6-7).

Lily Ross Taylor (referenced below, at pp. 60-2) suggested that:

  1. “In Roman eyes, the Sabines proper were the Curienses [people of Cures in Sabina tiburina] ... [They] were the ‘Sabines’ of Velleius, who got partial citizenship in 290 BC and the vote in 268 BC ...” (word order amended).

As noted above, she suggested that the Romans might well have already controlled the area around Cures before 290 BC, and that the grant of citizenship without voting rights at that time might have secured their quiescence during Curius’ conquest of the alta Sabina.  Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2013, at p. 10) agreed that:

  1. “... it is very likely that the ‘Sabines’ to whom Velleius alluded are  ... effectively those of the Sabina tiberina ...” (my translation);

and suggested that this was because they represented:

  1. ... the only part of the local population that survived (fiscally and legally) the massacre and enslavement ... [of] 290 BC” (my translation). 

In other words, in Sisani’s view, there were probably very few native Sabines to be found in the alta Sabina at this time.  If this is correct, then the enfranchisement of 268 BC would not have created clients for a prefect based in the the alta Sabina, but it is possible that some of the survivors in this region were enfranchised at a later date.

Voting Tribes of the Alta Sabina and the Adjacent Territories

The tribal allocations in this region (the most important of which are indicated on the map above) throw some light on the likely pattern of viritane settlement in the area:

  1. In Sabina tiberina, Cures and Trebula, were assigned to the Sergia, one of the original 17 rural tribes, presumably in 268 BC. 

  2. The main centres to the north were subsequently assigned to two tribes, the Quirina and the Velina, that were formed only in 241 BC:

  3. the Quirina received:

  4. -Reate, Amiternum and Nursia in the alta Sabina; and

  5. -Aveia, Peltuinum and Pinna in the territory of the Vestini (see below); and

  6. the  Velina received the territory  of the Praetuttii (see below), including Interamnia Praetuttorum.

Lily Ross  Taylor (referenced below, at p. 64) observed that:

  1. “The Velina and the Quirina were assigned in 241 BC to regions which their names did not fit:

  2. the Quirina [which, according to Festus, was named for the town of Cures] was placed in a ... region that included the lacus Velinus; while

  3. the Velina [which was presumably named for the lacus Velinus] was established on the Adriatic, far away from the lake ... .”

She concluded that the names of the tribes had been originally selected at a time when there was a different plan in view.  She expanded on this (at pp. 64-5):

  1. “My suggestion is that the names [for the new tribes] were chosen by Curius Dentatus. ... The delay in [their] establishment  ... may reflect the life-long struggle between the ‘new man’ Curius and the old nobility.  When he finally became censor in 272 BC, he probably planned to organise the new tribes, with territory of [Cures and the Sabina tiberina] in the Quirina and territory of [alta Sabina] in the Velina.”

This putative plan would have been disrupted when Curius was forced to resign the censorship on the death of his colleague in mid-term.  Curius himself died in 270 BC.  Lily Ross Taylor (as above) suggested that:

  1. “... the next censors, in 269-8 BC, made a different arrangement for Cures, placing it in the [existing tribe of the] Sergia.  The [Quirina and the Velina remained unorganised] until the First Punic War [264-41 BC] was over.”

Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2013, at pp. 10-11) observed that:

  1. “The new settlers [in the alta Sabina] ... might well have arrived while Curius was still alive, ... remaining in their own original tribes until the foundation of the Quirina, a development that belonged to a wider territorial restructuring that included the foundation, also in 241 BC, of the Latin colony of Spoletium” (my translation).

However, while some of this territory might have been settled at this time, other parts of it might have remained in non-Roman ownership.  This might be reflected in an account by Polybius, who recorded that the allies who provided Rome with soldiers during the Gallic Wars (225 BC) included:

  1. “... Sabines and Etruscans ... , [who sent] to Rome, for that special occasion, 4,000 horse and more than 50,000 foot.  These were formed into an army and sent in advance into Etruria, under the command of one of the Praetors, (‘Histories’, 2:24: 4-5).

If this report is accurate, then there were still non-citizen ‘Sabines’ at this time who were capable of taking concerted military action as allies of Rome.  This would fit with the suggestion of Lily Ross Taylor (referenced below, at p. 65) that:

  1. “The Quirina may have been limited [originally]  to the best land in the region, that near Reate, reclaimed by Curius ...”

On this model, viritane settlement would have begun soon after this land reclamation, albeit that the re-assignation of the early settlers to the Quirina would have been delayed until 241 BC.

Prefectures of Reate, Nursia and Amiternum

Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2013, at p. 11) suggested that the three prefectures of the alta Sabina were constituted very shortly after 275 BC (the date he assumed for the draining of the lacus Velinus).  However, I doubt that the process of citizen settlement of such a large territory would have been achieved quickly, particularly since (as we shall see),the Gauls to the north posed an on-going security problem.  The conquest of Picenum in 268 BC (see below), which broadly coincided with the enfranchisement of the Sabina tiburina, might have given an impetus to the process, but it might well have been interrupted by the demand of the First Punic War (264-41 BC)  Against this background, it is tempting to assume that:

  1. the prefecture at Reate was the first to be constituted, possibly soon after the completion of the draining of the lacus Velina;

  2. the prefecture at Nursia was constituted in 241 BC, at the same time as the foundation of the Latin colony at Spoletium (some 50 km to the west); and

  3. the prefecture at Amiternum was established thereafter, once the settlement of the alta Sabina was complete.

An account by Livy might provide a terminus ante quem for the existence of all three Sabine prefectures: he reported that, as Scipio assembled his forces for his assault on Africa in 205 BC:

  1. “... the people of Nursia, Reate, and Amiternum, and all those of the Sabine territory, promised soldiers” (‘History of Rome, 28: 45: 19).

Edward Bispham (at p. 466, note 26) argued that, contrary to the opinion of other scholars:

  1. “... this has no clear implications for autonomy, [but rather simply suggests] that the Sabine centres named were the main ones.”

It seems that they had all been relatively insignificant centres before the conquest (as discussed below), so we might reasonably assume that they had all achieved this apparent prominence as the seats of Roman prefects.

Characteristics of the Three Sabine Prefectures

Robert Knapp (referenced below, at p. 23) suggested the existence of a category of prefectures that had been constituted in:

  1. “...unorganised areas that each had an administrative centre providing a market and judicial centre for the Romans who settled far from Rome ... [These were] either new foundations with Roman-made constitutions, or underdeveloped native towns that become significant only after Rome had taken over the area.  The prefect must have done much more [here than in more developed centres] and exercised de facto much more power.”

Strangely, Knapp argued that:

  1. “The evidence for members of [this category] of prefectures comes from sources other than Festus.  They include:

  2. Aveia and Peltuinum [in the territory of the Vestini, discussed in the following section];  and

  3. the prefectures of the Picentine area [discussed below].”

Thus, Knapp considered Reate and Nursia (which were named by Festus) to be examples of prefectures that were constituted in towns with established constitutions.  However, as we shall see below, the Sabine prefectures seem to have lacked local magistrates at least until the late Republic. 

The archeological evidence seems to suggest that this administrative vacuum was reflected in the absence of urban development at all three centres:

  1. Reate:  According to Gary Farney and Giulia Masci (referenced below, at p. 548):

  2. “Ancient Reate is situated directly underneath modern Rieti and so has received little systematic ... [archeological] attention ... With the Roman conquest [in 290 BC], a flurry of building has [nevertheless] been detected, including city walls and a bridge over the Velinus river.  Otherwise, the features of a [later] Roman city dominate our knowledge of Reate (forum, possible temple, locations, amphitheatre) ...”

  3. According to Simoni Sisani (referenced below, 2007, at p. 148) :

  4. “The circuit of walls at [Reate] ... seem to represent the only urban initiative of any significance [undertaken there] until well into the 1st century BC ...” (my translation).

  5. These later Roman structures presumably belonged to the centre that Cicero (below) felt able to describe as “a most eminent prefecture” in 54 BC.

  6. Nursia:  According to Simone Sisani and Paolo Camerieri (referenced below, at p. 103), the surviving traces of the original walls of Nursia here are among very few surviving vestiges of the Roman city.  They observed (at p. 107) that:

  7. “There are no existing elements that allow the determination of the chronology of [this] urban settlement ..., apart from information derived from the building technique adopted for the walls, ... [which were probably not earlier than] the late 2nd century BC”  (my translation).

  8. Amiternum:  According to Michael Heinzelmann et al. (referenced below, at p. 83), it seems that the “focus of activity” shifted in ca. 100 BC from the original hilltop site of Amiternum to the valley floor, which was the site of the excavations described in this paper.  On the basis of these excavations, the authors concluded that:

  9. “It is possible that Amiternum was not (as was previously assumed) a well-developed country town of medium size, but was rather a partially-developed urban centre providing administrative functions and other services for a larger region.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons why [it] remained only a praefectura, at least until the Augustan period, and why it was upgraded to the status of a municipium at a comparatively late date, if at all.”

  10. (As discussed above, Simone Sisani saw the appearance of praefecti iure dicundo at Amiternum as evidence of its municipalisation towards the end of the 1st century BC).

Sabine Prefectures after the Social War


Cicero described: 

  1. a divine apparition experienced by Publius Vatinius in 168 BC, as he returned to Rome by night from the prefecture of Reate (De Natura Deorum’, 2:6); 

  2. an occasion during the so-called Cataline conspiracy (63 BC) on which he (Cicero) had summoned the help of the young men of the prefecture of Reate (‘Third Oration against Catalina’, 3.5); and

  3. the “most eminent prefecture” of Reate, in his defence of the centre in the case brought by Interamna Nahars in 54 BC described above (‘Pro Scauro’, 27).

It is impossible to say whether Cicero conceived as Reate as a prefecture in 168 BC, or whether this was simply its status at the time of writing.  However, it is clear  that Reate was still a prefecture in 54 BC.  This is confirmed by an inscription (CIL IX 4677) from the period between Agrippa’s 3rd and 4th consulates (23 - 18 BC), which records him as the patron of what was still, at that time, the prefecture of Reate.   

Reate differs from Nursia and Amiternum in two respects:

  1. there is no surviving evidence that it was ever an octovirate (although that could be simply be an accident of non-survival); and

  2. it was eventually a quattuorvirate, as evidenced by two inscriptions: CIL IX 4754 (late 1st century AD); and CIL IX 4753 (2nd century AD).


The surviving evidence for the administrative structure of Nursia is entirely in the form of inscriptions that post-date the Social War: 

  1. Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2010, at p. 204) discussed an inscription (AE 1983, 308), which he dated to the middle of the 1st century BC, that commemorated:

  2. ‘Quintus Octavius ..., octovir, II ...’. 

  3. Octavius was thus a member of the college of eight magistrates that administered Nursia by this time.

  4. Maria Carla Spadoni (referenced below, at pp. 77-8, entries 82-4) and Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2010, at pp. 204-5 and 2013, at p. 114) listed three inscriptions that commemorated men who were (or probably were) praefecti iure dicundo:

  5. CIL IX 4593 commemorated ‘... Sabinus, praefectus iure dicundo;

  6. CIL IX 4552 commemorated ‘...ius, praefectus ...’; and

  7. CIL IX 4622 recorded the complete cursus of Q. Aufidius Iustus, who had held the posts of: municipal haruspex; octovir; and ‘praefectus iure dicundo by decree of the local senate’. 

  8. Sisani dated all three to the very early imperial period, while Maria Carla Spadoni dated CIL IX 4622 to the second half of the 1st century AD or first half of the 2nd century AD.


The surviving evidence for the administrative structure of Amiternum is likewise entirely in the form of inscriptions that post-date the Social War.  Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2010, at pp. 199-204) listed four inscriptions recording the praefectura Amertinina:

  1. He dated two of these to ca. 50 BC:

  2. AE 1984, 279;  and

  3. AE 1992, 392.

  4. In this period, three other inscriptions (CIL IX 4398, CIL IX 4440; and CIL IX 4400) recorded individual octoviri and a fourth (CIL IX 4205) recorded an aedile.

  5. He dated the other two to the Augustan period:

  6. CIL IX 4182, dated more precisely to 19 BC, recorded an octovir and an aedile of the prefecture; and

  7. CIL IX 4201.

Thus, the prefecture at Amiternum existed alongside the octovirate in the middle of the 1st century BC and survived until at least 19 BC.   Another inscription (CIL IX 4270) from Amiternum, which Sisani (at p. 201) dated to the early decades of the 1st century AD, commemorated P. Lucceius Clemens, an aedile and a praefectus iure dicundo.  Maria Carla Spadoni (referenced below, at pp. 70-1, entry 72), who dated this to a slightly earlier period (late 1st century BC to early 1st century AD), pointed out that Lucceius’ assignation to the Quirina confirmed his local origins.

Interpretation of the Later Evidence for the Three Sabine Prefectures

In order to interpret these data, we need to recognise three phases in the evolution of the prefectures of the alta Sabina in the period after the Social War:

  1. At least two of these centres still received prefects from Rome after the Social War:

  2. Reate, at least until 23-18 BC (CIL IX 4677); and

  3. Amiternum, at least until 19 BC (CIL IX 4182).

  4. According to Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2013, at p. 113, note 15), the octovirate was first recorded in the late Republic, at least at:

  5. Nursia (AE 1983, 308); and

  6. Amiternum ( CIL IX 4398, CIL IX 4400 and a third inscription published by Simonetta Segenni, referenced below, at p. 722).

  7. Since Reate and Amiternum were certainly still receiving Roman prefects at this time, Sisani argued that the new octovirate was a Roman imposition and not, as is sometimes claimed, an evolution of an unattested Sabine precursor.  These octoviri were not involved initially in administering justice, which remained the preserve of the Roman prefects.

  8. According to Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2013, at p. 114), the presence of praefecti iure dicundo was first evidenced in the early imperial period:

  9. at Nursia, where Q. Aufidius Iustus served as haruspex; octovir and praefectus iure dicundo (CIL IX 4622); and

  10. at Amiternum, where P. Lucceius Clemens, a local man (as evidenced by his assignation to the Quirina), served as aedile and  praefectus iure dicundo (CIL IX 4270).

  11. He suggested that this signified that these centres had been constituted as municipia towards the end of the 1st century BC.  He also suggested that the practice of sending prefects from Rome had ceased at this time, giving way to the alternative practice of:

  12. “... supplementing the [octovirate] with [another] local magistrate with judicial power [i.e. the praefectus iure dicundo], who replaced the Roman prefect ...” (my translation).

As noted above, Robert Knapp (referenced below, at p. 23) suggested that in prefectures that lacked their own administrative structures;

  1. “The prefect must have done much more [here than in more developed centres] and exercised de facto much more power.”

The evidence set out above suggests that the prefectures of the alta Sabina fell into this category, at least until the appearance of the Roman-imposed octovirate in the late Republic.  However, there is  no evidence that the octovirate took over functions that had previously been the prefect’s responsibility.  Rather, his responsibilities seem to have remained unchanged until municipalisation, when they were assumed by the local praefectus iure dicundo.

Territory of the Vestini

Prefectures in alta Sabina: Nursia, Reate and Amiternum

Prefectures in the territory of the Vestini: Aveia and Peltuinum

Prefectures in the territory of the Praetutti: Interamnia Praetuttorium

Prefectures in Umbria: Interamna Nahars ?

Citizen colony: Castrum Novum (290-86 BC ? 264 BC ?)

Latin Colonies: Alba Fucens  (303 BC); Nequinum/ Narnia (299 BC); Carseoli (298 BC);

Hadria (290-86 BC - see below); Spoletium (241 BC)

Underlining indicates tribes: green = Sergia; red = Quirina; blue = Velina; brown = Clustumina

As noted above, according to Florus, during Curius’ campaign of 290 BC:

  1. “... the Romans laid waste with fire and sword all the tract of country which is enclosed by the Nar, the Anio and the sources of the Velinus, and bounded by the Adriatic Sea”, (‘Epitome of Roman History’, 1: 10: 15).

This suggests that the lands of the Vestini and of the Praetutti (see below), to the east of the alta Sabina, were part of the original conquest, particularly since citizens in both regions were subsequently assigned to one of the new tribes of 241 BC;

  1. those of Aveia and Peltuinum, in the territory of the Vestini, were assigned to the Quirina; and

  2. those at Interamnia Praetuttiorum, in the territory of the Praetuttii, were assigned to the Velina.

As noted above, Robert Knapp (referenced below, at p. 23) suggested that both Aveia and Peltuinum had been constituted as prefectures.  However, as discussed below, the inscriptions on which he based this suggestion ( CIL IX 3613 and 3627 for Aveia and CIL IX 3429 for  Peltuinum) do not necessarily bear this interpretation.


Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2010, at pp. 184-7) and Maria Carla Spadoni (referenced below, at pp. 73-4, entries 77-8) recorded two relevant inscriptions from Aveia, both of which Sisani dated to the 1st or 2nd century AD:

  1. an inscription (CIL IX 3627) recording (according to Sisani’s completion) the praefectura Aveiatium; and

  2. an inscription (CIL IX 3613) from Aveia recording a praefectus iure dicundo who was assigned to the Quirina and who subsequently held the posts of quaestor, flamen of Augustus and curator for the Via Claudia Nova.

On the basis of these inscriptions, Robert Knapp (referenced below, at p. 23 and note 42) concluded that Aveia had been a prefecture in the Republican period (as noted above). 

However, Simone Sisani(referenced below, 2010, at p. 186) pointed out the people of Aveia were not included by Pliny the Elder in his list the peoples of the Augustan Fourth Region:

  1. “... in [the territory] of the Vestini: the Angulani; the Pinnenses; and the Peltuinates”, (‘Natural History’, 3: 17)

He hypothesised that this absence suggested that Aveia had not enjoyed independent status but had, more probably, belonged to Peltuinum, at least in the Augustan period.  In that case,  the ‘prefecture’ at Aveia indicated by the above inscriptions would have reflected the usage of this term by the land surveyors: as Brian Campbell (referenced below, at p. 502) explained:

  1. “[Roman] surveying writers usually employ [the term] praefectura to refer to land that had been allocated to the settlers of a colony after confiscation from the territory of a neighbouring community.”

It is interesting that the ‘Liber Coloniarium’ (translated by Brian Campbell, referenced below, at both p. 179 and at p. 197) described Peltuinum as a colony.  Campbell observed (at p. 413, note 81) that this:

  1. “... might have been a misunderstanding of a grant to individual settlers in the territory of the municipium [of Peltuinum], although there is no evidence for this.”

Whether or not Peltuinum was correctly designated as a colony, it seems to me that Sisani’s suggestion is at least plausible, and that Peltuinum was the seat of a local prefect who administered justice to citizen settlers, including some who had received land that had previously belonged to Aviea.  In other words, the inscriptions above do not indicate that Aviea itself was once a Roman prefecture.


Maria Carla Spadoni (referenced below, at pp. 78-83, entries 85-92) recorded a number of inscriptions from Peltuinum dating to the period from the 1st to the mid 3rd century AD that commemorated prefects, including the following four, all of whom were assigned to the Quirina:

  1. three were designated as praefecti iure dicundo:

  2. C. Nerius Severus (CIL IX 3434), at p. 80, entry 88;

  3. C. Pausculanus Maximus (CIL IX 3437), at pp. 80-1, entry 89; and

  4. Q. Statius Syrus (CIL IX 3484), at pp. 81-2, entry 90, which also mentions the municipium of Peltuinam; and

  5. the fourth was a praefectus quinquennalis, Q. Statius Verecundus (CIL IX 3385 ), at p. 82, entry 91.

In addition, Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2010) recorded:

  1. an inscription (CIL IX 3384) from Aufinum that he dated to the 2nd century AD, which recorded a praefectus iure dicundo Peltuinatium (at p. 189 and note 100); and

  2. an inscription (CIL IX 3429) of 242 AD, in which the council of Peltuinum celebrated Nummia Varia as the patron “praefecturae nostrae” (of our prefecture) (at p. 188).

On the basis of the last of these inscriptions, Robert Knapp (referenced below, at p. 23 and note 43) concluded that Peltuinum had been a prefecture in the Republican period (as noted above). 

However, it is important to consider all this epigraphic evidence in the round.  The analysis of the epigraphic evidence from the alta Sabina (above) led to the conclusion that the presence of local prefects with judicial power indicated a municipium.  However, in CIL IX 3429, the local council described Peltuinum as “our prefecture” in 242 AD.  Thus Simone Sisani (referenced below, 2010, at p. 191) concluded that Peltuinum could not have been a prefecture in 242 AD, at least in the usual institutional sense of this term.  He also argued (at note 115) that Peltuinum must have retained allied status until the Social War, when all of the Vestini, with the exception of Pinna, joined the revolt.  In his opinion:

  1. “... the prefecture at Peltuinum was probably constituted in the aftermath of the Social War and [the centre] must have been municipalised, at the latest, at the start of the Augustan period ...” (my translation)

The evidence of CIL IX 3429 suggested that, by 242 AD, Peltuinum was:

  1. “ ... a municipium that continued to regard its territory as a praefectura” (my translation).

If this is correct, then Peltuinum, like Aveia, lies outside the scope of this analysis because it was not constituted as a prefecture before the Social War.

Read more:

G. Farney and G. Bradley (Eds), “The Peoples of Ancient Italy”, (2018) Boston/ Berlin,  includes:

  1. G. Farney and G. Masci, “The Sabines”, at pp. 543-58

  2. O. Menozzi and A. Ciarico, “The Picentes”, at  pp. 579-602

C. Sfameni et al., “La Villa di Cottanello (Rieti): Nuove Indagini e Ricerche sui Materiali”, in

  1. M. De Simone and G. Formichetti (Eds.), “Le Ricerche Archeologiche nel Territorio Sabino: Attività, Risultati e Prospettive: Atti della Giornata di Studi Rieti, 11 Maggio 2013”, (2016) 307-12

G. Lepore, “La Colonia di Sena Gallica: un Progetto Abbandonato?” , in:

  1. M. Chiabà (Ed.), “Hoc Quoque Laboris Praemium: Scritti in Onore di Gino Bandelli”, (2014) Trieste, at pp. 219- 42.

S. Sisani (Ed.), “Nursia e l'Ager Nursinus: un Distretto Sabino dalla Praefectura al Municipium”, (2013) Rome, includes:

  1. S. Sisani, “Da Curio Dentato a Vespasio Pollione: Conquista e Romanizzazione del Distretto Nursino”, at pp. 9-16

  2. S. Sisani and P. Camerieri, “Nursia: Topografia del Centro Urbano”, at pp.103-11

  3. S. Sisani, “Le Strutture Istiuzionale dalla Praefectura al Municipium”, at pp. 113-5

F.  Sposito, TESS database, schedule 10570, (2012)

S. Antolini and S.Marengo, “Regio V (Picenum) e Versante Adriatico della Regio VI (Umbria)”, in

  1. M. Silvestrini (Ed.), “Le Tribù Romane: Atti della XVIe Rencontre sur l’Epigraphie du Monde Romaine (Bari, 8-10 Ottobre 2009)”, (2010) Bari, at pp. 209-15 

M. Heinzelmann, et. al., “Amiternum and the Upper Aterno valley: a Sabine-Roman Town and its Territory”, Journal of Roman Archaeology, 23 (2010) 55-83

S. Roselaar, “Public Land in the Roman Republic: A Social and Economic History of Ager Publicus in Italy, 396 - 89 BC”, (2010) Oxford

S. Sisani, “Dalla Praefectura al Municipium: Lo Sviluppo delle Strutture Amministrative

Romane in Area Medio-Italica tra il I sec. A.C. e l’ Età Imperiale” , Rendiconti, 21:1-2 (2010) 173–226

E. Bispham, “From Asculum to Actium: The Municipalisation of Italy from the Social War to Augustus”, (2008) Oxford

S. Segenni, “La Praefectura Amiternina e l’ Ottovirato”, in

  1. M Caldelli et al. (Eds), “Epigrafia 2006: Atti della XI V' Rencontre sur l' Epigraphie in Onore di Silvio Panciera”, (2008) Rome, at pp. 711-23

S. Sisani,  “Fenomenologia della Conquista: La Romanizzazione dell' Umbria tra il IV sec. a. C. e la Guerra Sociale”, (2007) Rome

J. Patterson, “Landscapes and Cities: Rural Settlement and Civic Transformation in Early Imperial Italy”, (2006) Oxford

S. P. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X: Volume IV, Book X”, (2005 ) Oxford

M.C. Spadoni, “I Prefetti nell' Amministrazione Municipale dell' Italia Romana”, (2004) Bari

B. Campbell, “The Writings of the Roman Land Surveyors: Introduction, Text, Translation and Commentary”, (2000) London 

R. Knapp, “Festus 262L and Praefecturae in Italy", Athenaeum, 58 (1980) 14-38

M. Humbert, “Municipium et Civitas sine Suffragio: L' Organisation de la Conquête jusqu'à la Guerre Sociale”, Publications de l'École Française de Rome, 36 (1978)

E. Salmon, “Roman Colonisation under the Republic”, (1970) New York

  1. Roman Republic: Prefectures (Main Page)     Prefectures: Volsci; Hernici; Samnites

  2. Prefectures: Etruscan      Prefectures: Sabina and Picenum    Prefectures: Ager Gallicus      Prefectures: Campania     Prefectures : Cisalpine Gaul and Liguria     Prefectures: Umbria

  3. Victory Temples and the Third Samnite War      Victory Temples in Rome (146 BC)

  4. End of the Republic     

Return to the History Index