Volsci, people of ancient Italy. The Volsci first become prominent in ancient historical narratives of the early 5th cent., when they overran southern Latium and occupied the Monti Lepini, most of the Pomptine plain, and the coastal region from Antium to Tarracina. That the Volscian presence in this area was a new phenomenon is suggested by the traditional accounts of Roman hegemony in southern Latium in the late 6th cent., itself confirmed by the text of the first treaty between Rome and Carthage (Polyb. 3. 22, 509 bce). The story of Marcius Coriolanus also points to a vigorous Volscian offensive at this time, and recent excavations at Satricum (1) (Lat. Pometia), indicate changes in the early 5th cent. which can be explained by the arrival of new people. Satricum became one of the chief Volscian centres; others were Ecetra, Antium, Velitrae, Circeii, and Tarracina (which they renamed Anxur).
The Volsci are generally considered to have been an Italic people who migrated to southern Latium from the central Apennines; this is partly confirmed by the presence of another branch of the Volscians in the middle Liris valley, around Sora, Arpinum, and Atina (Livy, 10. 1). It is also consistent with linguistic evidence provided by the tiny handful of surviving Volscian inscriptions, especially a bronze tablet from Velitrae known as the tabula Veliterna (Vetter, no. 222), dating from the 3rd cent. bce and written in a language similar to Umbrian (see italy, languages of).
During the 5th cent. the Volsci frequently attacked the territory of Rome and its Latin allies, often in concert with the Aequi. Both peoples were heavily defeated in 431, however, after which their raids virtually ceased. At the end of the 5th cent. and the first decades of the 4th the Romans took the initiative, and gradually conquered the Volsci, founding Latin colonies (see colonization, roman) at Circeii (393), Satricum (385), and Setia (382), and annexing the Pomptine plain (the territory of the tribe Pomptina) in 358. The Volsci opposed Rome in the Latin War, but were defeated by C. Maenius in 338. The Volsci of the Liris valley were conquered during the Second Samnite War (see rome (history); samnium, and Sora became a Latin colony in 304. After that they were rapidly and thoroughly Romanized. C. Marius(1) and Cicero (both from Arpinum) seem Roman enough.
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