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CAU´DIUM (Καύδιον: Eth. Καυδῖνος, Eth. Caudinus), a city of Samnium, situated on the road from Beneventum to Capua. It seems probable that it was in early times a place of importance, and the capital or chief city of the tribe called the Caudini; but it bears only a secondary place in history. It is first mentioned during the Second Samnite War, B.C. 321, when the Samnite army under C. Pontius encamped there, previous to the great disaster of the Romans in the neighbouring pass known as the Caudine Forks (Liv. 9.2); and again, a few years later, as the head-quarters occupied by the Samnites, with a view of being at hand to watch the movements of the Campanians. (Id. ib. 27.) The town of Caudium is not mentioned during the Second Punic War, though the tribe of the Caudini is repeatedly alluded to [CAUDINI]: Niebuhr supposes the city to have been destroyed by the Romans, in revenge for their great defeat in its neighbourhood; but there is no evidence for this. It reappears at a later period as a small town situated on the Appian Way, and apparently deriving its chief importance from the transit of travellers (Hor. Sat. 1.5. 51; Strab. v. p.249): the same causes preserved it in existence down to the close of the Roman empire. (Ptol. 3.1.67; Itin. Ant. p. 111; Itin. Hier. p. 610; Tab. Peut.) We learn that it received a colony of veterans; and it appears from Pliny, as well as from inscriptions, that it retained its municipal character, though deprived of a large portion of its territory in favour of the neighbouring city of Beneventum. (Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16; Lib. Colon. p. 232; Orelli, Inscr. 128, 131.) The period of its destruction is unknown: the name is still found in the ninth century, but it is uncertain whether the town still existed at that time.

The position of Caudium is fixed by the Itineraries, which all concur in placing it on the Appian Way, 21 Roman miles from Capua, and 11 from Beneventum; and as the total distance thus given from Capua to Beneventum is perfectly correct, there can be no doubt that the division of it is so too. Yet Holstenius and almost all the Italian topographers have placed Caudium at Arpaja, which is less than 17 miles from Capua, as is proved by the discovery of the Roman milestone with the number xvi. a short distance from thence, on the road to Capua, as well as by the measurement of the distance. D'Anville is therefore certainly correct in placing the site of Caudium about 4 miles nearer Beneventum, between Arpaja and Monte Sarchio. It must have stood on or near the little river Isclero; though there are no ruins of it on the spot. Arpaja, the origin of which cannot be traced further back than the tenth century, probably arose, like so many other towns in Italy, in the stead of Caudium, when the latter was destroyed or abandoned by its inhabitants; which will account for its having been identified by tradition in early times with the latter city. (Holsten. Not. in Cluver. p. 267; Pellegrini, Discorsi della Campania, vol. i. p. 368; Romanelli, vol. iii. pp. 393--399; D'Anville, Anal. Géog. de l'Italie, p. 214--216.) The point is of importance from its connection with the much disputed question concerning the true position of the celebrated pass called the FURCULAE CAUDINAE 1 or Caudine Forks, the scene of one of the greatest disasters sustained by the Romans in the whole course of their history.

Livy's narrative of this celebrated event is the only one sufficiently detailed to throw any light upon the topographical question. He describes the place known as the Furculae Caudinae as a pass consisting of two narrow defiles or gorges (saltus duo alti, angusti, silvosique,--angustiae, 9.2), united by a continuous range of mountains on each side, enclosing in the midst a tolerably spacious plain, with good grass and water. The Roman army, supposing the Samnites to be far distant, advanced incautiously through the first pass, but when they came to the second they found it blocked up with trees and stones, so as to be wholly impassable; and when they turned back and retraced their steps to the pass at the entrance of the valley, they found this similarly obstructed: [p. 1.574]hereupon they abandoned themselves to despair, and after encamping in the valley between the two passes for some days, they were compelled by famine to surrender at discretion. (Liv. 9.2-6.) The exaggeration of this account, so far as it represents the Romans as overcome by the difficulties of the ground alone, without even attempting to engage the enemy, is obvious; and. Niebuhr has justly inferred that they must have sustained a defeat before they were thus shut up between the two passes. Cicero also twice alludes to the battle and defeat of the Romans at Caudium (Caudinum proelium, deSen. 13; cum male pugnatum ad Caudium esset, de Off. 3.30); but unless we are to reject Livy's account as wholly fabulous, we must suppose the enemy to have derived great advantage from the peculiarities of the locality; and the same thing is stated by all the other writers who have related, though more briefly, the same event. (Appian, Samn. Exc. 4; Flor. 1.16; Eutrop. 2.9; Oros. 3.15.)

An ancient tradition, which has been followed by almost all writers on this subject, represents the valley of Arpaja, on the high road from Capua to Beneventum, as the scene of the action; and the name of Forchia, a village about a mile from Arpaja, affords some confirmation to this view. But almost all travellers have remarked how little this valley accords with the description of Livy: it is, indeed, as Keppel Craven observes, “nothing more than an oblong plain, surrounded by heights which are scarcely sufficient to give it the name of a valley, and broken in several parts so as to admit paths and roads in various directions.” There is a narrow defile near Arienzo, which might be supposed to be the one at the entrance of the valley, but there is no corresponding pass at the other extremity; nor is there any stream flowing through the valley. And so far from presenting any extraordinary obstacles to troops accustomed to warfare in the Apennines, there are perhaps few valleys in Samnium which would offer less. (Eustace, Class. Tour, vol. iii. p. 69--73, 8vo. edit.; Swinburne's Travels, vol. i. p. 421; K. Craven, Southern Tour, p. 11--12.)

To this it may be added that it appears very improbable that a pass described as so peculiar in its character should have lain on the Appian Way, and in the great high road from Capua to Beneventum, where it must have been traversed again and again, both by Roman and Samnite armies, without any subsequent allusion being made to it. During the Second Punic War, and again in the Social War, such a pass on the great highway must have been a military position of the highest importance; yet the name of the Furculae Caudinae is never mentioned in history, except on this single occasion.

On the other hand, another pass in the same neighbourhood has been pointed out by an intelligent traveller, which appears to answer well to Livy's description of the Caudine Forks. (See a dissertation by Mr. Gandy, in Craven's Tour through the Southern Provinces of the K. of Naples, pp. 12--20.) This is the narrow valley between Sta Agata and Moirano, on the line of road from the former place to Benevento, and traversed by the little river Isclero. As this valley meets that of Arpaja just about the point where Caudium must have been situated, according to the Itineraries, it would have an equal right to derive its name from that town. And it is a strong argument in its favour that it lay on the direct route from the Samnite Calatia (Caiazzo) to Caudium: for we have every reason to believe that the Calatia where the Roman army was encamped at the commencement of the campaign (Liv. 9.2) was the Samnite city of the name, which is mentioned on several other occasions during these wars, and commands the valley of the Vulturnus in a manner that must have given it importance in a military point of view. Those writers, however, who regard the valley of Arpaja as that of the Caudine Forks necessarily suppose the Romans to have been advancing from the Campanian Calatia on the road to Capua. If the valley of the Isclero were really the scene of the disaster, it would account for our hearing no more of the Furculae Caudinae, as this difficult pass would for the future be carefully avoided, armies acquainted with the country taking the comparatively easy and open route from Capua to Beneventum, along which the Via Appia was afterwards carried, or else that from the Via Latina, by Allifae and Telesia, to the same city.

The only argument of any force in favour of the valley between Arienzo and Arpaja, is that derived from the tradition which gave to it the name of the Valle Caudina, as well as to an adjoining village that of Furculae, now corrupted into Forchia. This tradition is certainly very ancient, as the name of Furculae or Furclae is already found in documents of the ninth and tenth centuries; and it is therefore undoubtedly entitled to much weight; but its credibility must in this case be balanced against that of the narrative of Livy, which is wholly inconsistent with the valley in question. It is singular that all those authors who regard the valley of Arpaja as the scene of the events narrated by Livy, at the same time aggravate the inconsistency by admitting Arpaja itself to occupy the site of Caudium, though it is quite clear from Livy that the town of Caudium was not in the pass, which is represented as uninhabited and affording no provisions; and Caudium itself evidently continued in the hands of the Samnites both before and after the action. (Liv. 9.2, 4; Appian. Samn. l.c.) The arguments in favour of the received opinion are fully given by Daniele (Le Forche Caudine Illustrate, fol. Napoli, 1811), as well as by Pellegrini (Discorsi, vol. i. pp. 393--398), Romanelli (vol. ii. pp. 399--407), and Cramer (vol. ii. pp. 238--245). The same view is adopted by Niebuhr (vol. iii. p. 214), who was, however, apparently ignorant of the character of the valley of the Isclero, which may be said to have been brought to light by Mr. Gandy; Cluverius, who first suggested it as the site of the Furculae Caudinae, having misconceived the course of the Appian Way, and thus thrown the whole subject into confusion. Holstenius, on the contrary, supposes the valley beyond Arpaja on the road to Benevento, to be that of the Caudine Forks, a view still more untenable than the popular tradition. (Cluver. Ital. p. 1196; Holsten. Not. in Cluv. p. 269.)


1 This appears to be the correct form of the name, and is the only one found in prose writers: Lucan alone has “Furcae Caudinae” (2.137), for which Silius Italicus (8.566) employs “Caudinae Fauces.”

hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 4
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 2
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 6
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
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