Siege of Fidenae, 435 or 426 B.C.

The siege of Fidenae (435 or 426 B.C.) saw the Romans capture the town only five miles upstream on the Tiber and eliminate the last Veientine enclave on the right bank of the Tiber.

Early in the Second Veientine War the Romans won a major victory close to the River Anio, which ended after the death of Lars Tolumnius, king of Veii. Two years of epidemics in Rome mean that they were not able to follow up on this victory. The Fidenates regained their confidence and began to raid Roman territory. They were then joined by the Veientines, and the combined army marched up to the gates of Rome, before retreating after the Romans formed a new army under the command of the Dictator Q. Servilius. The Romans followed the retreating Etrurians and inflicted a defeat on them close to Nomentum, to the north-east of Fidenae. After that battle the allies retreated back into Fidenea and prepared for a siege.

Fidenae was strongly fortified and well supplied, and the Romans knew that they had little chance of storming the town, or starving it out. The only weak fortifications were in an area that was naturally strong. The Romans did have one big advantage - Fidenae was only five miles from the city, and so the entire area was very well known to many in the army. Servilius decided to dig a tunnel up to the Citadel through the rock on the more weakly defended side of the town. Noisy attackers were made on the walls to conceal the tunnelling, and eventually the Romans were able to break into the Citadel, forcing the remaining defenders to surrender.

This siege may have effectively ended the Second Veientine War, but Livy records two sieges separated by nine years, one in 435 and one in 426. The events leading up to the two sieges are suspiciously similar, and it is generally believed that the second siege is a mistaken repeat of the first. Whichever case is true the result was that by 426 B.C. the Romans had eliminated the last Etruscan foothold on the east bank of the Tiber.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (6 October 2009), Siege of Fidenae, 435 or 426 B.C. , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_fidenae.html

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