Caudine Forks 321 BC – Rome’s Humiliation in the Second Samnite War, Nic Fields

Caudine Forks 321 BC – Rome’s Humiliation in the Second Samnite War, Nic Fields

Campaign 322

The battle of the Caudine Forks was one of the most humiliating defeats in Roman history, in which two consuls and their army were trapped in a mountain valley and eventually forced to surrender on their opponent’s terms.

A sizable part of the book is taken up with background material – who were the Samnites, a brief history of early Rome, the possible evolution of the Roman army, the reliability of Livy as a source etc. This takes us up to page 39, where the Opposing Plans chapter finally brings us to the Second Samnite War and the campaigns that led to the battle.

The account of the actual campaign and battle itself doesn’t take up too much space, mainly because there isn’t really much to go on. Having walked into an ambush in the Claudine Forks, the Romans don’t appear to have put up much of a fight, but instead built a fortified camp, before being forced to surrender as their supplies ran out. There is more on the aftermath – the unconditional surrender of the Romans, the reaction back in Rome, the possible campaigns of the following year and the later renewal of the war.

The key question of where the battle actually happened is only really dealt with in captions of photographs showing some of the possible locations, on a map, and in a couple of paragraphs. This isn’t due to a lack of space – there are several sections that could happily have been cut to make space (including a rather clumsy explanation of what deception is, which comes after we’ve had the rather easier to follow example of how it was used by the Samnites, or the comments on the Schlieffen plan).  The fundamental problem is that there isn’t really that much to say about the battle itself – there may not even have been much fighting, so the author has to find other things to talk about. As a result we do get an interesting account of the nature of the Roman army during this war, the political background etc.

Origins of the Campaign
Opposing Forces
The Source: Titus Livius
Opposing Plans
The Campaign

Author: Nic Fields
Edition: Paperback
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2021

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