Sample Essay on Battle of Cumae

What is Battle of Cumae?

Battle of Cumae refers to the naval battle that was fought between the combined Cumae and Syracuse fleets and the Etruscan fleet. This battle was fought in Naples bay. It was a battle in which Syracuse Hiero I with Aristodemus, the Cumae tyrant, were defending their territories against the expansion of the Etruscans in Southern Italy.

What led to the Battle of Cumae?

The Cyme Greek city or Cumae in Latin had been established or founded in 8th Century BC. It was located in a place towards the Etruscan power’s limit. The Cumaeans had defeated the Etruscans between 524 and 504. However, they were a powerful force still and in 474; they managed to organize a fleet that was a direct threat to Cumae. In mid 6th century, the Etruscans had conquered Corsica and this victory encouraged them to march against Cumae. In 524 B.C, an army that comprised of Daunians, Umbrians, Tyrrhenians and other barbarians appeared all over sudden in Campania plain. The army comprised of about 18,000 soldiers riding horses and 500,000 by foot. Considering the dependents and territories of the attackers as well as the low density of the population of the non-Greeks in Italy, the forces mobilized against Cumae were impressive.

On realizing the nature of the attack that they were facing, a delegation was sent to Hieron by Cumaeans seeking military assistance. In return, Hieron sent a trireme fleet to Cumae. The Syracusan fleet managed to reach Cumae where it united with local forces. Having a combined fleet, they went out to the sea to fight the Etruscans in a sea battle.

How the Battle of Cumae fought?

The Cumae forces were divided into three sections. Each section had between 4,000 and 4,500 infantrymen as well as 600 horsemen. The invaders were confronted by one division only within a narrow passage. Apparently, the Cumae forces spread to guard other crossings in order to defend the city walls, fortresses and towns of their territory and to staff the navy of Cumae which was responsible for protecting the coast from a possible attack by the Etruscans. The Italians and Tyrrhenian forces confronted the Greeks in the narrow passage that was found between swamps and mountains.

Due to the narrow nature of the space, the attackers were unable to benefit from their overwhelmingly large number. They were forced to fight the Cumae forces with similar length in terms of the phalanx front. Etruscan cavalry attempted to prevent their imminent defeat by trying to encircle Greeks. However, the small space could not allow them. A large crowd and limited space made it impossible for many Etruscans to escape in time from this passage. Thus, they were either trampled or killed by the Cumaeans. The Etruscans were defeated.

What are the Effects of the Battle of Cumae?

The actual number of the casualties of this battle is unknown. However, this battle played a significant role of completing the fall of the Etruscan power within Southern Italy. The area was left open to the incursions of the Romans and Samnites. Etruscan lost most political influence within Italy. They no longer had control of the territories that belonged to them and the sea. Most of their territory was taken by the Gauls, Samnites and the Romans. It also helped in creating the Hieron’s power to the south of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The Cumaeans in a way became the West Athens. The Cumaean Aristodemos managed to distinguish himself during this battle. This made him the common people’s champion against aristocratic city rulers. Later, he became a Cumae tyrant who overthrew aristocrats and then continued struggling against Etruscans more so against Capuans which provided a refuge to the Cumaeans aristocrats who had been exiled. Later, the Etruscans joined forces with the failed expedition of the Athenians against Syracuse in 415 B.C. This contributed to their further decline.