or AEQUICULA´NI (Αἶκοι
Diod.), one of the most ancient and warlike nations of Italy, who play a conspicuous part in the early history of Rome. They inhabited the mountainous district around the upper valley of the Anio, and extending from thence to the Lake Fucinus, between the Latins and the Marsi, and adjoining the Hernici on the east, and the Sabines on the west. Their territory was subsequently included in Latium, in the more extended sense given to that name under the Roman empire (Strab. v. p.228
There appears no doubt that the AEQUICULI or AEQUICOLI are the same people with the AEQUI, though in the usage of later times the former name was restricted to the inhabitants of the more central and lofty vallies of the Apennines, while those who approached the borders of the Latin plain, and whose constant wars with the Romans have made them so familiarly known to us, uniformly appear under the name of Aequi.
It is probable that their original abode was in the highland districts, to which we find them again limited at a later period of their history. The Aequiculi are forcibly described by Virgil as a nation of rude mountaineers, addicted to the chase and to predatory habits, by which they sought to supply the deficiencies of their rugged and barren soil (Verg. A. 7.747
; Sil. Ital. 8.371
; Ovid. Fast.
As the only town he assigns to them is Nersae, the site of which is unknown, there is some uncertainty as to the geographical position of the people of whom he is speaking, but he appears to place them next to the Marsians. Strabo speaks of them in one passage as adjoining the Sabines near Cures, in another as bordering on the Latin Way (v. pp. 231, 237): both of which statements are correct, if the name be taken in its widest signification.
The form AEQUICULANI first appears in Pliny (3.12.17
), who however uses Aequiculi also as equivalent to it: he appears to restrict the term to the inhabitants of the vallies bordering on the Marsi, and the only towns he assigns to them are Carseoli and Cliternia At a later period the name appears to have been almost confined to the population of the upper valley of the Salto,
between Reate and the Lake Fucinus, a district which still retains the name of Cicolano,
evidently a corruption from Aequiculanum. [p. 1.54]
No indication is found in any ancient author of their origin or descent: but their constant association with the Volscians would lead us to refer them to a common stock with that nation, and this circumstance, as well as their position in the rugged upland districts of the Apennines, renders it probable that they belonged to the great Oscan or Ausonian race, which, so far as our researches can extend, may be regarded as the primeval population of a large part of central Italy. They appear to have received at a later period a considerable amount of Sabine influence, and probably some admixture with that race, especially where the two nations bordered on one another: but there is no ground for assuming any community of origin (Niebuhr, vol. i. p. 72; Abeken, Mittel Italien,
pp. 46, 47, 84).
The Aequians first appear in Roman history as occupying the rugged mountain district at the back of Tibur and Praeneste (both of which always continued to be Latin towns), and extending from thence to the confines of the Hernicans, and the valley of the Trerus or Sacco.
But they gradually encroached upon their Latin neighbours, and extended their power to the mountain front immediately above the plains of Latium. Thus Bola, which was originally a Latin town, was occupied by them for a considerable period (Liv. 4.49
): and though they were never able to reduce the strong fortress of Praeneste, they continually crossed the valley which separated them from the Alban hills and occupied the heights of Mt. Algidus.
The great development of their power was coincident with that of the Volscians, with whom they were so constantly associated, that it is probable that the names and operations of the two nations have frequently been confounded. Thus Niebuhr has pointed out that the conquests assigned by the legendary history to Coriolanus, doubtless represent not only those of the Volscians, but of the Aequians also: and the “castellum ad lacum Fucinum,” which Livy describes (4.57) as taken from the Volscians in B.C. 405, must in all probability have been an Aequian fortress (Niebuhr, vol. i. p. 72, vol. ii. pp. 244, 259).
It is impossible here to recapitulate the endless petty wars between the Aequians and Romans: the following brief summary will supply a general outline of their principal features.
The first mention of the Aequi in Roman history is during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus1
, who waged war with them with great success, and reduced them to at least a nominal submission (Strab. v. p.231
; Cic. de Rep. 2.20
The second Tarquin is also mentioned as having concluded a peace with them, which may perhaps refer to the same transaction (Liv. 1.55
; Niebuhr, vol. i. p. 359).
But it was not till after the fall of the Roman monarchy that they appear in their more formidable aspect. In B.C. 494 they are first mentioned as invading the territory of the Latins, which led that people to apply for assistance to Rome: and from this time forth the wars between the Aequians and Volscians on the one side, and the Romans assisted by the Latins and Hernicans on the other, were events of almost regular and annual recurrence ( “statum jam ac prope solenne in singulos annos bellum,” Liv. 3.15
). Notwithstanding the exaggerations and poetical embellishments with which the history of these wars has been disguised, we may discern pretty clearly three different periods or phases into which they may be divided. 1. From B.C. 494 to about the time of the Decemvirate B.C. 450 was the epoch of the greatest power and successes of the Aequians. In B.C. 463 they are first mentioned as encamping on Mount Algidus, which from thenceforth became the constant scene of the conflicts between them and the Romans: and it seems certain that during this period the Latin towns of Bola, Vitellia, Corbio, Labicum, and Pedum fell into their hands.
The alleged victory of Cincinnatus in B.C. 458, on which so much stress has been laid by some later writers (Florus 1.11
), appears to have in reality done little to check their progress. 2. From B.C. 450 to the invasion of the Gauls their arms were comparatively unsuccessful: and though we find them still contending on equal terms with the Romans and with many vicissitudes of fortune, it is clear that on the whole they had lost ground.
The great victory gained over them by the dictator A. Postumius Tubertus in B.C. 428 may probably be regarded as the turning-point of their fortunes (Liv. 4.26
; Diod. 12.64
; Ovid. Fast.
6.721; Niebuhr, vol. ii. p. 454): and the year B.C. 415 is the last in which we find them occupying their customary position on Mount Algidus (Liv. 4.45
It is not improbable, as suggested by Niebuhr, that the growing power of the Samnites, who were pressing on the Volscians upon the opposite side, may have drawn off the forces of the Aequians also to the support of their allies, and thus rendered them less able to cope with the power of Rome.
But it is certain that before the end of this period most of the towns which they had conquered from the Latins had been again wrested from their hands. 3.
After the invasion of the Gauls the Aequians appear again in the field, but with greatly diminished resources: probably they suffered severely from the successive swarms of barbarian invaders which swept over this part of Italy: and after two unsuccessful campaigns in B.C. 386 and 385 they appear to have abandoned the contest as hopeless: nor does their name again appear in Roman history for the space of above 80 years.
But in B.C. 304 the fate of their neighbours the Hernicans aroused them to a last struggle, which terminated in their total defeat and subjection. Their towns fell one after another into the hands of the victorious Romans, and the Aequian nation (says Livy) was almost utterly exterminated (Liv. 9.45
This expression is however certainly exaggerated, for we find them again having recourse to arms twice within the next few years, though on both occasions without success (Liv. 10.1
It was probably after the last of these attempts that they were admitted to the rights of Roman citizens: and became included in the two new tribes, the Aniensis and Terentina, which were created at this period (Cic. de Off. 1.1. 1
; Liv. 10.9
; Niebuhr, vol. iii. p. 267).
From this time the name of the Aequi altogether disappears from history, and would seem to have fallen into disuse, being probably merged in that of the Latins: but those of Aequiculi and Aequiculani still occur for the inhabitants of the upland and more secluded vallies which were not included within the limits of Latium, but belonged to the fourth region of Augustus: and afterwards to the province called Valeria. In Imperial times we even [p. 1.55]
find the Aequiculani in the valley of the Salto constituting a regular municipal body, so that “Res Publica Aequiculanorum” and a “Municipium Aequicolanorum” are found in inscriptions of that period (Orell. no. 3931; Ann. dell. Inst.
vol. vi. p. 111, not.). Probably this was a mere aggregation of scattered villages and hamlets such as are still found in the district of the Cicolano.
In the Liber Coloniarum (p. 255) we find mention of the “Ecicylanus ager,” evidently a corruption of Aequiculanus, as is shown by the recurrence of the same form in charters and documents of the middle ages (Holsten. not. ad Cluver.
It is not a little remarkable that the names of scarcely any cities belonging to the Aequians have been transmitted to us. Livy tells us that in the decisive campaign of B.C. 304, forty-one
Aequian towns were taken by the Roman consuls (9.45): but he mentions none of them by name, and from the ease and rapidity with which they were reduced, it is probable that they were places of little importance. Many of the smaller towns and villages now scattered in the hill country between the vallies of the Sacco
and the Anio probably occupy ancient sites: two of these, Civitella
present remains of ancient walls and substructions of rude polygonal masonry, which may probably be referred to a very early period (Abeken, Mittel Italien,
pp. 140,147; Bullett. dell. Inst.
1841, p. 49).
The numerous vestiges of ancient cities found in the valley of the Salto,
may also belong in many instances to the Aequians, rather than the Aborigines, to whom they have been generally referred.
The only towns expressly assigned to the Aequiculi by Pliny and Ptolemy are CARSEOLI
in the upper valley of the Turano,
in that of the Salto.
To these may be added ALBA FUCENSIS
which we are expressly told by Livy was founded in the territory of the Aequians, though on account of its superior importance, Pliny ranks the Albenses as a separate people (Pliny 3.12. 17
; Ptol. 3.1.56
; Liv. 10.1
). VARIA, which is assigned to the Aequians by several modern writers, appears to have been properly a Sabine town. NERSAE, mentioned by Virgil (Aen.
7.744) as the chief place of the Aequiculi, is not noticed by any other writer, and its site is wholly uncertain. Besides these, Pliny (l.c.
) mentions the Comini, Tadiates, Caedici, and Alfaterni as towns or communities of the Aequiculi, which had ceased to exist in his time: all four names are otherwise wholly unknown.