Dramatis Personae

Peoples and Tribes

The Oscans

The Oscans (alternatively known as Opici, Opsci and Obsci) inhabited Southern Italy living in what is now Northern Campania and ultimately settling in the border region between Latium and Campania. They also competed with the Etruscans for possession over Campania.

Early in the 5th century BC, the Oscans fought Rome for the Ager Pomptinus, the region in Latium between Mons Abanus and the coast of the Mare Tyrrhenum. However, the Oscans suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of the Romans. Later in the 5th century, the Samnites, who also spoke Oscan, took over the region and subjugated the tribe.

The Etruscans

The Etruscans were an ancient people whom the Romans called Etrusci or Tusci. The Etruscans themselves used the term Rasenna. The civilization developed around 800BC and endured until its complete assimilation into the Roman Republic.

The Etruscans expanded both to the north beyond the Apennines and to the south into Latium and Campania. Their interests, however, collided with those of the Greeks, especially in the sixth century BC.

The Etruscans allied themselves with Carthage against the Greeks and this initially proved fruitful. However, as Carthage's sphere of influence grew, so Etruria shrank. In 480 BC, Etruria's ally Carthage was defeated by a coalition of Magna Graecia cities led by Syracuse (Magna Graecia is the name of the area in Southern Italy and Sicily colonised by Greek settlers in the eighth century BC).

A few years later, in 474, the Etruscans were defeated at the Battle of Cumae. Etruria's influence over the cities of Latium and Campania slowly began to weaken.

In the 4th century BC, Etruria lost its northern territories to a Gallic invasion while further south Rome had begun annexing Etruscan cities. At the beginning of the 1st century BC, Rome annexed all the remaining Etruscan territory.

The Samnites

Samnium was a region of the south central Apennines that was home to the Samnites, a group of tribes (the Pentri, the Caraceni, the Caudini and the Hirpini) that controlled the area between 600BC - 290BC. The region was bordered by Latium to the north, Lucania to the south, Campania to the west and by Apulia to the east.

The earliest written record of the people is a treaty with the Romans from 354BC, which set their border at the Liris River (originally called the Clanis River). During the Samnite Wars they won an important battle against the Roman army in 321BC, and their empire reached its peak in 316BC after further gains from the Romans. In 290BC, the Romans finally broke the Samnites' power.

In March 90BC the Samnite towns of Campania, led by Gaius Papius Mutilus, rose up against Rome in what became known as the Social War (also known as the Marsic War). After 10 years of war the Romans finally defeated the rebels.

Historic Figures

Lucius Cornelius Sulla

Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (c. 138BC – 78BC), usually known simply as Sulla, was a Roman general and politician, holding the office of consul twice as well as the dictatorship.

A gifted and effective general, Sulla marched his armies on Rome twice; enjoying the absolute power of a dictator. Though he resigned his complete command of the Republic, he is often seen as having hastened the end of the Republic by his example.

Sulla came from an impoverished patrician family, served as consul, and led military campaigns in North Africa under Gauis Marius, and against Mithidrates of Pontus. He came to prominence most of all in the Social War (91-89 BC).
Sulla was the first man to use the army to establish a personal autocracy at Rome. He became dictator (88-82BC) and used his power to re-establish the supremacy of Senate in the Roman state and to carry out other reforms.

In 79 BC he suddenly resigned and withdrew to his country villa near Puteoli to write his memoirs. He died shortly thereafter.
He is generally seen to have been the example that led Caesar to cross the Rubicon, and to have provided the inspiration for Caesar's eventual Dictatorship.


Titus Didius

Titus Didius was a Roman general and politician. He is credited with the restoration of the Villa Publica in Rome and his governing of Hispania Citerior, a province on the north-east coast of Spain, during the Republic.

He first held office in 103BC as a Tribune of the Plebs. Two years later he was elected a Praetor. During this time he fought in Macedonia, defeating the Scordisci and earning his first triumph upon his return in 100BC.

In 98BC Didius was elected Consul and was subsequently given the governorship of the province of Hispania Citerior, where he served from 97BC to 93BC.

After concluding his service in Spain, Didius served as a legate in the Social War, under Lucius Julius Caesar in 90BC, then Lucius Portius Cato and Sulla in 89BC.

Shortly following a successful capture of Herculaneum, he died in battle on June 11, 89BC.

Gaius Papius Mutilus

Gaius Papius Mutilus was a Samnite noble who is best known for being the leader of the southern rebels who fought against the army of Rome in the Social of 91-87 BC.

Papius achieved great success as the leader of the Samnite army during his advance into Roman territory. During the campaign the rebels captured the settlements of Nola, Stabiae, Minervium, and Salernum while conquering the country around Nuceria.

Throughout his leadership of the Samnite army Papius only lost two notable battles. These were to consul Lucius Julius Caesar in 90 BC and to Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 89 BC. Shortly after his defeat he was proscribed (declared an enemy of the state) and committed suicide.


 Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (c. 75BC - 25BC) was a Roman writer and architect engineer. He is best known for his treatise The Ten Books on Architecture written in about 25BC, which he dedicated to the Emperor Augustus. The work, consisting of 10 volumes, is based on his own experience in the field of Roman and Greek architecture and is the only surviving major book on architecture from classical antiquity. It had a considerable influence on the buildings of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

In the books, Vitruvius explained the theory of the architectural orders, as well as the design and layout of public buildings such as theatres and basilicas. His volumes also covered such diverse topics as flour mills, waterscrews and other more mundane objects.

Marcus Claudius Marcellus

Marcus Claudius Marcellus (42BC - 23BC) was the eldest son of Octavia Minor, sister of Augustus, and Gauis Claudius Marcellus Minor, a former consul. Since Augustus had no sons, Marcellus was one of his closest relatives.

Poppaea Sabina

Poppaea Sabina (30 - 65) was a Roman Empress and second wife of Nero. She was born in Pompeii and at the age of 14 married Rufrius Crispinus (who was later executed by order of Nero).

Her second husband was Otho, a friend and confidant of Nero. According to Tacitus, Poppaea was ambitious and ruthless and only married Otho to get close to Nero.

Whatever the true story, Otho was ordered abroad to be governor of Lusitania (a decade later he became emperor briefly after Nero's death in succession to Galba).
Tacitus also claims that Poppaea was the reason that Nero murdered his mother Agrippina so that the two could be married.

Pliny the Elder

Gaius Plinius Secundus, (23 – August 24, 79), known as Pliny the Elder, was an author, natural philosopher and naval and military commander. He saw military service under Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo in Germania Inferior in 47.

Under Nero Pliny lived mainly in Rome where he conceived of, and researched. his great work, the Naturalis Historia, an encyclopedia containing much of the knowledge of his time. Aside from minor finishing touches, the work in 37 books was completed in 77 when he dedicated the work to the emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus.

Vespasian later appointed him praefect of the Roman Navy. On August 24, 79, he was stationed at Misenum when Vesuvius erupted overwhelming Pompeii and Herculaneum. He launched his galleys and crossed the Bay of Naples to observe the phenomenon more closely and also to mount a rescue mission. He landed at Stabiae (near Castellammare di Stabia).
His nephew, Pliny the Younger, whom he had adopted, provided an account of his death, suggesting that he collapsed and died through inhaling poisonous gases from Vesuvius. His body was found two days later on 26 August under some volcanic debris. He was described as having no apparent injuries which tends to corroborate asphyxiation or poisoning.

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