), is the name given by Roman writers to an ancient race or nation of Italy.
It appears certain that it was originally the appellation given by them to the people called AUSONES
by the Greeks: indeed, the two names are merely different forms of the same, with the change so common in Latin of the s into the r. (Aurunci==Aurunici==Auruni==Ausuni.)
The identity of the two is distinctly asserted by Servius (Serv. ad Aen. 7.727
), and clearly implied by Dio Cassius (Fr.
2), where he says, that the name of Ausonia was properly applied only to the land of the Auruncans, between the Volscians and the Campanians.
In like manner Festus (s. v. Ausonia
) makes the mythical hero Auson the founder of the city of Aurunca., Servius terms the Aurunci one of the most ancient nations of Italy (ad Aen.
7.206); and they certainly appear to have been at an early period much more powerful and widely spread than we subsequently find them.
But it does not appear that the name was ever employed by the Romans in the vague and extensive sense in which that of Ausones was used by the Greeks. [AUSONES
At a later period, in the fourth century B.C., the two names of Aurunci and Ausones had assumed a distinct signification, and came to be applied to two petty nations, evidently mere subdivisions of the same great race, both dwelling on the frontiers of Latium and Campania; the Ausones on the W. of the Liris, extending from thence to the mountains of the Volscians; the Auruncans, on the other hand, being confined to the detached group of volcanic mountains now called Monte di Sta Croce,
or Rocca Monjina,
on the left bank of the Liris, together with the hills that slope from thence towards the sea. Their ancient stronghold or metropolis, AURUNCA
was situated near the summit of the mountain, while SUESSA
which they subsequently made their capital, was on its south-western slope, commanding the fertile plains from thence to the sea. On the E. and S. they bordered closely on the Sidicini of Teanum and the people of Cales, who, according to Livy (8.16
), were also of Ausonian race, but were politically distinct from the Auruncans. Virgil evidently regards these hills as the original abode of the Auruncan race (Aen.
7.727), and speaks of them as merely a petty people.
But the first occasion on which they appear in Roman history exhibits them in a very different light, as a warlike and powerful nation, who had extended their conquests to the very borders of Latium.
Thus, in B.C. 503, we find the Latin cities of Cora and Pometia “revolting to the Aurunci,” and these powerful neighbours supporting them with a large army against the infant republic. (Liv. 2.16
.) And a few years later the Auruncans took up arms as allies of the Volscians, and advanced with their army as far as Aricia, where they fought a great battle with the Roman consul Servilius. (Id. 2.26; Dionys, 6.32.) On this occasion they are termed by Dionysius a warlike people of great strength and fierceness, who occupied the fairest plains of Campania; so that it seems certain the name is here used as including the people to whom the name of Ausones (in its more limited sense) is afterwards applied. From this time the name of the Auruncans does not again occur till B.C. 344, when it is evident that Livy is speaking only of the petty people who inhabited the mountain of Rocca Monfjna,
who were defeated and reduced to submission without difficulty. (Liv. 7.28
A few years later (B.C. 337) they were compelled by the attacks of their neighbours the Sidicini, to apply for aid to Rome, and meanwhile abandoned their stronghold on the mountain and established themselves in their new city of Suessa. (Id. 8.15.) No mention of their name is found in the subsequent wars of the Romans in this part of Italy; and as in B.C. 313 a Roman colony was established at Suessa (Liv. 9.28
), their national existence must have been thenceforth at an end. Their territory was subsequently included in Campania.