The war against Vulci and the foundation of the Cosa colony
In 280 BC the Roman consul Tiberius Coruncanius waged war against the Etruscan cities of Vulci and Volsinii, winning them both, and returned to Rome to celebrate the triumph1. The unfortunate outcome of the war was fatal for Vulci, that lost control of all the coastal possessions, now occupied by the Romans. A few years later, in fact, in 273 BC, the Romans consolidated their dominion over the area with the deduction of the Cosa colony, located at the top of today’s Ansedonia hill and provided with mighty polygonal walls (still well preserved) to defend themselves from possible assaults by the surrounding populations. The territory administered by Cosa certainly included the entire Monte Argentario, by the Romans called promontorium Cosanum, and probably also the in front islands of Giglio and Giannutri2.
Cosa and Talamone overthrown by the Roman civil war
In 87 BC the territory of Cosa entered fully into the Roman civil war that saw opposing Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, respectively leaders of the political faction of the populares (reformists favorable to the people and the Italics) and of the optimates (the conservative aristocrats): the political confrontation, that had long been violent, had led to the coup d’état of Sulla, who entered Rome at the head of the legions entrusted to him to lead the war in the East against Mithridates; Marius, who had fled to Africa, returned to Italy shortly after, disembarking at Talamone, not far from Cosa. He was at the head of a handful of men and recruited others in the port and nearby, promising even freedom for slaves who would follow him3; after having built his own army in this way, Marius was able to return to Rome, taking advantage of Sulla’s departure for the planned military expedition, and there he slaughtered a lot of political opponents. Marius died in natural circumstances during 86 BC and the populares prepared themselves for a long time for the feared return of Sulla in Italy at the head of his army; this punctually happened in the spring of 83 BC. In the following months Sulla and the optimates who had escaped massacres repeatedly defeated the Marian followers, who were helped by numerous Italian insurgents, among whom there were Etruscans: in 82 Sulla conquered Saturnia, Populonia and Talamone, razing them; it is probable that the same fate also happened to Cosa, which, although not mentioned in historical sources, shows the signs of a violent looting operated during those years. The city of Cosa will be rebuilt only a few decades later by the first emperor Augustus, as a sign of the end of the civil wars.
1 The celebration of the triumph is mentioned in the Fasti capitolini triumphales on 1 February 279 BC.
2 About Cosa see Cosa in Enciclopedia dell’Arte Antica, Cosa in Enciclopedia dell’Arte Antica (updates), Cosa in Enciclopedia dell’Arte Antica (second updates)
3 The episode is mentioned in Plut., Vit., Mar., 41. Appian, who does not mention Talamone but only reports of a landing of Marius in Etruria, adds that with him were other populares who had fled to Africa and about 500 of his slaves that had reached him from Rome. In addition to these, in the following days he collected around 6000 Etruscans near the port of Talamone: a considerable amount of people that explains the subsequent violent reprisals against these territories by Sulla (App., B.C., 1.67).