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The Latin League (c. 7th century BC – 338 BC) was a confederation of about 30 villages and tribes in the region of Latium near ancient Rome, organized for mutual defense. The term "Latin League" is one coined by modern historians with no precise Latin equivalent.

Latin League creation

It was originally created for protection against enemies from surrounding areas under the leadership of the city of Alba Longamarker. During the 6th century BC, the Etruscanmarker kings tried to establish their rule over Ariciamarker but the league's policies prevented the Etruscans' invasion. An incomplete fragment of an inscription recorded by Cato the Elder tells us that at one time the league included Tusculummarker, Ariciamarker, Lanuviummarker, Laviniummarker, Cora, Tiburmarker, Pometia and Ardeamarker. The early Roman Republic formed an alliance with the Latin League in 493 BC. According to Roman tradition, this treaty, the foedus Cassianum, followed a Roman victory over the league in the Battle of Lake Regillus. The treaty provided that both Rome and the Latin League would share loot from military conquests (which would later be one of the reasons for the Latin War 341–338 BC), and provided that any military campaigns between the two be led by Roman generals. This alliance helped repel attacks from such peoples as the Aequi and the Volsci—nomadic tribes of the Apennine Mountainsmarker—who were prevented from invading Latium by the blending of armies. It is still unclear if the Latins had accepted Rome as one into the League, or if the treaty had been signed as between the Roman State and the Latin League.

First war with Rome

The Latins first went to war with Rome in the 7th century BC during the reign of the Roman king Ancus Marcius.

According to Livy the war was commenced by the Latins who anticipated Ancus would follow the pious pursuit of peace adopted by his grandfather, Numa Pompilius. The Latins initially made an incursion on Roman lands. When a Roman embassy sought restitution for the damage, the Latins gave a contemptuous reply. Ancus accordingly declared war on the Latins. The declaration is notable since, according to Livy, it was the first time that the Romans had declared war by means of the rites of the fetials .

Ancus Marcius marched from Rome with a newly levied army and took the Latin town of Politorium by storm. Its residents were removed to settle on the Aventine Hillmarker in Rome as new citizens, following the Roman traditions from wars with the Sabines and Albansmarker. When the other Latins subsequently occupied the empty town of Politorium, Ancus took the town again and demolished it .

The war then focused on the Latin town of Medullia. The town had a strong garrison and was well fortified. Several engagements took place outside the town and the Romans were eventually victorious. Ancus returned to Rome with much booty. More Latins were brought to Rome as citizens and were settled at the foot of the Aventine near the Palatine Hillmarker, by the temple of Murcia .

War with Rome under Tarquinius Priscus

When Rome was ruled by Lucius Tarquinius Priscus the Latins again went to war with Rome. Tarquinius took the Latin town of Apiolae by storm, and from there brought back great booty to Rome .

Roman domination of the League

The increasing power of Rome gradually led to its domination of the league. The renewal of the original treaty in 358 BC formally established Roman leadership and eventually triggered the outbreak of the Latin War (343 BC338 BC). Following the Roman victory, the league was dissolved.

After 338 BC, the end of the Latin league, Rome renamed the cities municipiae and established coloniae inside them. This meant that the towns were now ruled by Rome (or the Roman republic) and that the people living there were considered Roman colonists.


  1. Stearns, Peter N. (2001) The Encyclopedia of World History, Houghton Mifflin. pp. 76–78. ISBN 0-395-65237-5.
  2. Tim Cornell, (1995), The Beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars, page 293. Routledge
  3. Tim Cornell, (2000), The City-State in Latium, in Mogens Herman Hansen, A Comparative Study of Thirty City-state Cultures, page 213. Kgl. Danske Videnskabernes Selskab
  4. Nelson, Eric. (2001) The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Roman Empire, Alpha Books. pp. 76–77. ISBN 0-02-864151-5.
  5. Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1:32
  6. Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1:33
  7. Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1:35

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