Siege of Nola, 90-80 BC

The siege of Nola (to 80 BC) was an intermittent Roman attempt to recapture the city after it fell to the Samnites during the Social War, not ended until after Sulla's Second Civil War.

Although the siege is sometimes said to have lasted for ten years, it was probably conducted in two separate parts, the first in 89-87 BC during the Social War, and the second ending in 80 BC, in the aftermath of Sulla's victory in his Second Civil War.

Nola fell to the Samnite leader Gaius Papius Mutilus in 90 BC, early in the Social War, a revolt of Rome's allies who were frustrated that they weren't being given Roman citizenship. 2,000 Roman soldiers who were captured in the city agreed to change sides, but their officers refused and were starved to death.

Nola was then the site of a battle in 89 BC, when Sulla defeated the Italian leader Lucius or Aulus Cluentius. The survivors of the battle had fled into the city, although some 20,000 of the fugitives, including Cluentius, were said to have been killed outside the walls. Sulla probably had command of the first part of this first stage of the siege.

In 88 BC, when Sulla fled from Rome after losing command of the war against Mithridates, his opponents sent tribunes to the army at Nola to take command of it for Marius - presumably this was the army besieging Nola, which was still being held by the Samnites. Sulla's march on Rome would have ended this first siege.

In 87 BC Nola was one of the towns reported to have approached by the consul Cinna after his first attempt to overthrow Sulla's reforms had failed and he had been expelled from the city. At this point there is no suggestion that it had been lost by the Samnites,

A fragment of Granius Licinianus reports that the Samnites at Nola surrendered to Sulla in 80 BC, 'out of fear of a siege'. Mutilus was still there and escaped from the city. He attempted to take refuse at Taenum, where his wife Bastia lived, but she refused to let him in because he had been proscribed by Sulla, so he committed suicide.

The periochae of Livy just records that Sulla recaptured Nola in Samnium in 80 BC and that 47 legions were settled in the conquered area.

It is possible that there was no actual siege in 80 BC, and that the city surrendered before one was needed, in an attempt to try and avoid the worst punishments that might have followed if they put up any resistance.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (23 November 2017), Siege of Nola, 90-80 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/siege_nola.html

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