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Samnite Wars

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The Samnite Wars were a series of armed conflicts between the Roman Republic and the Samnites.

The Samnites are an ancient Italian people who spoke the language of the Oscan group, belonging to the Sabellian tribes. They originally lived in the mountains of Central Italy south of Lazio on the border with Campania and Apulia. This historical region became known as Samnium. Theodor Momsen associated the origin of the Samnites with the Umber mountains.

Samnite peoples

The entire mountain range of the Apennines, from the borders of Etruria to the southernmost tip of Italy, and some of the surrounding areas, were inhabited by a few minor peoples. Most of them probably belonged to the same tribe, and therefore they are often called Samnites, after the most famous of their people. These include: Samnites, Sabines, Vestines, Marsi, Marrucines, Pelignes, Guernicae, Frentans, Hirpines, and Picents. The Samnite peoples also include the Lucanians; the Bruttians, who occupied the southern tip of Italy in the fourth century B.C., were formed from fugitive mercenaries and slaves of various origins who settled there. The people who inhabited Campania during the Roman period were descended from a mixture of the oldest inhabitants of that country, the Ausones and Osci, with the Samnites, who took Campania from the Etruscans.

Map of Samnite tribes in the Italian Peninsula

The main occupations of the Samnites were agriculture and cattle breeding. In connection with them, as with the Latins, there was a religion and national holidays, the most famous of which were those that took place in Cures. Special priests, called fratres arvales, apart from performing their priestly duties, were engaged in agriculture, not only as a religious subject, but also as a scientific one. All the religious ceremonies and popular festivals of the Samnites were intended to maintain the government's control over the cultivation of the soil, and to excite the activity of the husbandman and preserve the ancient simplicity of manners by a sense of religious duty. The whole people, not excepting the noblest, cultivated the land with their own hands; and consequently agriculture was as highly cultivated among the Samnites as among the Latins. It is remarkable that agriculture, which, together with jurisprudence, formed the purely national science of the Italians, was one of the most important occupations of the inhabitants of Italy even in the most ancient times. The Romans even claimed that winemaking originated for the first time among one of the Samnite peoples – the Sabines. Cattle breeding was also carried to a high degree of perfection by the Samnites, and continued at this height throughout ancient history, so that even later Rome imported cattle, mules, and pigs mainly from the Samnite mountains. Agriculture was the common trade of the Samnites, and therefore there were very few cities in the country; the population was concentrated in numerous villages, and the few towns built in the most inaccessible places served only as shelters in case of enemy incursions. The industrious Samnites did not leave a single piece of land uncultivated in their mountainous country. The whole expanse of Monte Matese, now covered with snow for the greater part of the year, and left uncultivated since the time of the Samnites, thanks to the industry of that happy and industrious people, was converted into arable land or artificial meadows, and nourished an extremely dense population. These successes in economic development are easily explained by the simplicity of the Samnites ' manners and moderation, their innate love of work, and the internal connection of agriculture with all institutions and national life. Even the mountain forests were under the supervision of public authorities, as the Samnites were aware of their influence on the climate. The mountainous and well-cultivated region of the Samnites, which lay under the clear sky of Italy, combined all the advantages of the richest countries of nature; it is not surprising that Samnium was extremely densely populated, especially since, according to Samnite laws, uncultivated land was often distributed among the inhabitants for cultivation. An excessive increase in population could not be due to one ancient sacred custom. When it was necessary to fear a surplus of it, the celebration of the so-called sacred spring was appointed, consisting in a solemn vow to sacrifice or release all the cattle born in that year after twenty years, and to send all young people who had reached the age of twenty to settle in remote lands. Just as strange, but at the same time wise, were the Samnite rulings concerning marriages performed under the supervision of public authorities. At certain times, all the Samnite youths were gathered together, subjected to a thorough trial, and those who were found to be the best were given a free choice of brides; the rest of the wives were appointed by the public authority. Thus, Samnite marriage served as a means of encouraging young men to work, and on the other hand, all young men received wives who were supposed to help them in agricultural work and manage their household.

Samnite warriors. A fresco from the 4th century BC.

The works of art of the simple and truly free people of the Samnites are almost entirely ignored by the ancient writers, and there are no ruins of colossal structures like those left by the Etruscans in the entire expanse of their homeland . But later, the strict morals and spirit of moderation of the Samnites caused a special direction of later Roman literature. Among the Greeks, especially in the cities of the Doric tribe or those with institutions based on the teachings of Pythagoras, the rules of social life and descriptions of the simple customs of their ancestors were transmitted to the youth in verse. In the same way, the code of strict worldly morality passed from the Samnites to the Romans, which developed in the latter into a special kind of poetry. The ancient Samnites, especially the valiant Sabines, were closely united with the Romans, and by their pure manners, morals, religion, and justice, the latter obtained the respect and powerful influence of the other nations of Italy. Even for the later Romans, who were partly their descendants, they served as models of simplicity and honesty, so that the expression "Sabine virtue" is even proverbial and very often mentioned by Roman poets.

There was also a federal connection between the Samnite communities or cantons, somewhat similar in some respects to that which we have seen among the Latins and Etruscans; but this connection was never so weak as between the two latter tribes. The separate peoples into which the Samnite tribe was divided were almost completely separated from each other; the communities of each nation formed special alliances with each other, only occasionally accepting other members of their own kind. But even in this state of fragmentation, the energy of the Samnites and the strength of the bonds that bound the individual members of each nation fully showed themselves. Despite their disunion, the Samnite peoples have always put up a terrible resistance to their external enemies.

First Samnite War

In 343, the Samnites resumed their devastating raids on Campania. They descended from the mountains and plundered the Sidicins who lived near Theanus, then went from Tifata to plunder the Campanian plain, burning the rich country houses. The Campanians, unable to defend themselves, appealed to the Romans for help. The Romans, according to tradition, refused to help them, because they had not long made peace with the Samnites; but the Campanians said that they were surrendering to the power of Rome; then the Romans demanded of the Samnites a cessation of war with the people under the protection of Rome. The Samnites proudly rejected this demand and sent a stronger army to Campania. Both Roman consuls went to them. Marcus Valerius Corvus and one of his troops were stationed near Cumae, near Mount Havre, which is now wild and desolate, but was then covered with vineyards. His position was dangerous, and he could only escape by winning. The Samnites attacked him; the battle was fierce, the Romans and Samnites fought very bravely: both of them decided to give the victory to the enemy only with their lives. The Romans finally won. The Samnites retreated to Suessula; they said that the Romans ' eyes were burning and their cheeks were burning with fever. Another Roman army, through the imprudence of the Consul Aulus Cornelius Cossus, was placed in a very difficult position, having entered the defile between Saticula and Beneventum, but was saved from destruction by the courage of the military tribune Publius Decius Musa, who, with a body of picked soldiers, occupied the height which commanded the whole defile, and repelled the attacks of the Samnites. The Senate and the army rewarded Decius and his brave companions with gifts and honors. Then the two Roman armies joined forces, and Valerius Corvus attacked the Samnites, who were stationed at Suessula at the entrance to the Caudian Gorge. After his earlier victory, the Samnites who had retreated to Suessula received numerous reinforcements, but he attacked them in their camp and inflicted a terrible defeat on them; according to the Roman chroniclers, the victors took 40,000 shields on the battlefield and captured 170 banners. The Roman historians, while glorifying the wars with the Samnites and Latins, tell many fictions; but it is true that these wars laid the foundation of the Roman dominion over Central and southern Italy. The Latins, the former allies of the Romans, soon accepted the situation which threatened them with war; they therefore made peace with the Samnites, without demanding any great concessions, and entered into an alliance with them. The Samnites paid a year's salary to the Roman army and gave it provisions for three months; in return, the Romans pledged not to interfere with their conquest of the Sidicines.

Second Samnite War

Fate saved the Romans from the test of being able to withstand the struggle with Macedonia, which was then at the height of its power; they had to fight against a people no less brave than the Macedonians, but who had no unity of government, and were not guided by one great will, acting according to a clearly conscious, definite plan. The Samnite forces were fragmented, and in their courageous struggle against the overwhelming power of Rome, the Samnites were not energetically supported either by their own people or by the pampered Greeks of southern Italy. During the war with Alexander of Molos, the Samnites ignored Campania and gave the Romans time to consolidate their rule over it. The Romans established colonies in Campania and distributed many lands to Roman settlers. But when the death of the Molossian king secured the Samnites from danger from the east, they decided to stop the expansion of Roman power in the west. The Romans established the military colony of Fregella in that part of the Volscian land that had previously been conquered by the Samnites; this led to a quarrel between the Samnites and the Romans, and soon another fact occurred which made a renewal of the war inevitable: fearing the constant expansion of the Roman dominions, the Samnites and Tarentines, who now formed an alliance, placed a detachment of troops in the only Greek city that still retained its independence on the western bank; this was a city composed of the union of the two adjacent cities of Paleopolis or Parthenope and Naples ("old city" and "new city"). For these united cities, the name of Naples remained. The detachment was sent to Naples in 327 BC, probably at the request of some of the Neapolitans themselves, who wanted to protect themselves from Roman designs. Ignoring the Samnite-Tarentine garrison, the Romans demanded satisfaction from the Neapolitans for their insults to the Roman citizens on the Falernian field and at sea, and, having been refused, sent an army to Naples. It laid siege to Naples, and the city soon became divided between the inhabitants and the garrison. (During this siege, the Romans extended the command of a general for the first time beyond the term for which he was elected: the power of the consul was, by the decision of the Senate and the people, continued under the name of a power substituting for the consular one.) The Neapolitans were dissatisfied with the suffering of their trade, were offended by the pride of the Samnite garrison, and the Romans found an opportunity to enter into secret negotiations with them. The Neapolitans surrendered the city to the Romans at night in 326 BC. and as a reward for their submission, they received from the Romans very favorable terms of alliance: it was concluded on the basis of complete equality; the Neapolitans were not obliged to send an army to help the Romans on land. – What was even more important to the Romans was that the Lucanians soon allied with them.

Alexander of Molos, who fought with the Lucanians, had several Lucanians in his army; this shows that there were fierce quarrels between them. These troubles continued, and the result was that, through the influence of the aristocracy, the Lucanians formed an alliance with Rome. The friendship of the Samnites with the Tarentines prevented the Lucanians from continuing their raids on the Tarentine lands; this was the reason for the Lucanians ' vexation with the Samnites and their alliance with Rome. The Sabellian cities to the south of Volturnus, such as Nola, Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Nuceria, were also won over by the Romans; they operated here in the same way as in Campania and Lucania, attracting the aristocrats to their side with all sorts of intrigues. The small tribes of the Marsi, Peligni, Marrucini, and the Samnite tribe of the Frentani were permitted by the Romans to graze their flocks on the neighboring mountains of Apulia, and for this benefit they entered into treaties with the Romans, by which they pledged themselves not to help the enemies of Rome. The Vestins were forced by force of arms to enter into an alliance with Rome. The Apulians, who had long suffered from Samnite raids, saw the Romans as their friends.

In this state of affairs, the war could not fail to be unsuccessful for the Samnites. They bravely defended their valleys, defiles, villages, and weakly fortified cities; they fought bravely in the open field; but the victory was usually reserved for the Romans, who were animated by confidence in their own strength, and who had at the same time energetic and cautious generals; five years of unsuccessful warfare had exhausted the Samnites; and the Samnite people, having lost all hope of success, decided to surrender to the Romans their bravest general, Papius Brutulus, an ardent patriot, and By this shameful deed, the Samnites hoped to persuade the Romans to yield. Papias Brutulus took his own life; the Samnites sent his body to Rome and returned all the captives to the Romans. But the humiliating pleas did not soften the Romans: They agreed to peace only on condition that the Samnites would recognize the authority of Rome and pledge their troops to it. The Samnites have not yet sunk so low as to renounce their independence, to renounce their glorious past, to disgrace their name. They assembled all their forces and appointed a brave warrior, a man of noble soul, Gavius Pontius, as commander-in-chief; they appealed to the Tarentines and their Sabellian tribesmen to help them defend their common interests, and took steps to strengthen the bond of their federation. Their courage was not useless.

The Romans bitterly regretted their intransigence. The Roman consuls Spurius Postumius and Titus Veturius heard that the Samnites were besieging the Apulian city of Luceria; they both went to the aid of the besieged city. They took the whole train with them. Their way to Maluent (Benevent) through the Caudian gorge in 321 BC. e. Passing through a gorge between mountains on a damp meadow surrounded by high steep hills covered with forest, they suddenly found themselves trapped in this meadow: before them was a steep slope littered with trees and stones; on the hills were numerous enemies who had occupied the gorge they had passed in their rear. They were deceived by a false rumor and fell into an ambush prepared for them. The Romans fought bravely, but this could not be of any use: the enemy had too great an advantage. The Roman army was in a desperate situation; it was inevitable that it would either surrender or perish from starvation and enemy arrows. Many brave soldiers, centurions, and tribunes were slain in the rough battle, and the consuls decided to ask for mercy from the enemy. It is said that the old man, the father of Pontius, advised his son either to let the Roman army go without any offense, in order to influence the Romans with generosity, or to exterminate their entire army to the last man; of course, this story is only a tradition, perhaps unreliable. Pontius chose the middle way. He wanted to bring peace to his people, but at the same time he wanted the Romans to suffer humiliation. He demanded that the consuls and all the minor commanders of the Roman army swear to comply with the following conditions: the Romans enter into an alliance with the Samnites on the basis of equality, withdraw from their colonies of Calesa and Fregella, the foundation of which was a violation of the former treaty with the Samnites; in order to ensure the fulfillment of these conditions, they leave six hundred horsemen as hostages Having demanded such concessions, Pontius allowed the Roman army to leave, but only with the humiliating formality that the Roman soldiers had to give up their weapons and all their possessions, except for the most necessary clothing, and go under the yoke.

Humiliated and disgraced, the Roman soldiers returned to Rome. The people stopped all administrative and judicial proceedings, decided that all those capable of carrying weapons would go on the campaign; a general mourning was appointed: the senators took off their purple-bordered togas, the horsemen took off their gold rings, the women hid their headdresses, hid their clothes of light colors. All weddings were postponed, all holidays were canceled until the end of the disastrous year. It is true that Rome should have been grieved, but her chief sorrow should not have been that the army had failed, but that the government had acted dishonestly, and had sought by cunning to obliterate the grave consequences of its failure. The Senate declared in 320 BC that the treaty concluded with Pontius was invalid because it had not been approved by the popular assembly, that the consuls had exceeded their authority, violated the law, that the blame for their illegal deed should fall solely on them, and that therefore they should be chained up by the Fecialae to the Samnites. According to the letter of the law, the reasoning of the Senate was sound, and its decision saved the state from the ignominious treaty; but it tainted the Roman name with a disgrace, the disgrace of which is still more clearly shown by the nobility of Pontius. Ponzi convinced the Samnites not to accept issued consuls: adopting and bringing them in, the Samnites would have showed agreement with the opinion of the Roman Senate that the Treaty only be mandatory for people entering into it; Ponzi convinced the Samnites to spare the hostages and that military law was to be executed; these six riders were without any resentment remanded in custody in Luceria, which surrendered to the Samnites after kadisova the defeat of the Romans.

Both the Romans and the Samnites fiercely renewed the war. The Samnites wanted to punish their enemies for their treachery, and the Romans were eager to restore their military glory and rescue hostages, or avenge them. The news of the Romans ' failure at Caudia made a different impression on the Roman allies, because their feelings towards the Romans were not the same: some wanted to be released from the alliance and were happy, while others, loyal to the Romans, were saddened. "In addition to Luceria, Fregella and Satric were conquered by the Samnites. If Pontius had not respected the peace made by the consuls in the Caudian Pass, if he had continued the war, the Latins and Volscians would have risen up against Rome, and Rome would have had to begin her conquests again. But the loyalty of the Roman allies was restored, for the brave Roman general Papirius Cursor soon gave the war a turn favorable to Rome. Papirius acted quickly; impatient to restore the honor of the Roman arms, he marched by the Adriatic coast to Apulia, joined with another consul, defeated the Samnites under the walls of Luceria, besieged that important mountain fortress, and forced its surrender by starvation in 319 B.C.

According to Roman historians, Papirius, at the capture of Luceria, freed six hundred horsemen who were hostages, and avenged the Caudian humiliation by putting 7,000 Samnite soldiers under the yoke; he also found in Luceria the banners lost by the Romans. The Frentani, who had joined their own people before their defeat at Luceria, were subdued and forced to give hostages; and a strong garrison was placed in Luceria, which secured the submission of Apulia. The Romans soon took Satricus and Saticula and severely punished these cities for their fall. The name of Satric disappears from history after that; so hard was the fate of Rome for him.

In the following years, the war was mainly fought again in the West. The Campanians, Sidicines, and Ausonians finally realized that their own fate was inextricably linked with that of the Samnites, so they forgot their former hostility to them and became close to their former enemies. Nola and Nuceria allied themselves with the Samnites; the inhabitants of Sora, a town on the upper Liris, drove out the Roman garrison; and the national party was growing stronger in Capua and the Ausones. The dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, who went to quell this unrest, was defeated in 315 at Lavtul (between Terracina and Fundi); his army fled; Quintus Aulius, who did not want to survive this shame, fought alone with the victors until he fell. The unrest spread all along the western coast; the Samnite youth, who had grown up under the impression of a fierce war, were burning with hatred for Rome.

But the Romans took redoubled measures against the great danger that threatened them. They united their scattered troops, gave the Samnites a second battle and won the victory, quelled the agitation of the coast without giving time for the insurrection there to become general, and subdued the rebellious cities. Sora was surrendered to them by traitors; they took 225 citizens of the captured city in chains to Rome and executed them. With the Ausones, the Roman generals were even more ferocious: all those who were not executed were taken into slavery. So many people were executed in Nuceria that the site of a Roman colony was empty. The dictator Gaius Menius was appointed to march on Capua; the Capuans were horrified at his approach; the main men of the Samnite party took their own lives to avoid being betrayed to the enemy. Rome wanted to show the peoples under her control that there is no middle ground between unconditional submission and rebellion; that if loyalty becomes unlimited, then only by betraying the main enemies of Rome can the people be saved from complete extermination. Soon the war with the Samnites themselves took a decidedly favorable turn for the Romans. The Samnites were defeated at Caudium in 313 and driven back to their mountains. The Romans followed them and laid siege to their main city, Boviana, while another Roman army conquered the rich city of Nola and the fortress of Fregella. which, after the Caudian defeat of the Romans, opened its gates to the Samnites. Two hundred citizens of the Samnite party were taken to Rome and executed in the forum. The result of the second Samnite War was the consolidation of Roman rule over Campania. They sent their colonists to the deserted places, founded the military colonies of Interamna, Kazin, Suessu‑Avruncus and others garrisoned cities of strategic importance, and to facilitate the movement of troops, the censor Appius Claudius built a large military road from Rome to Capua, which perpetuated his name.

It was becoming more and more evident that Rome wished to subdue Italy; and it was evident to the most short-sighted that the means by which she was acting gave her a sure chance of achieving this end; to frustrate the plans of her ambition, to save Italy from the enslavement that threatened her, was the only hope: the unanimous union of all the states and tribes that still retained It was evident that only if all the cities and provinces of Italy would do their utmost to help the Samnites, who had been fighting the war alone for fifteen years and had fought it so bravely, would the freedom of Italy be preserved. Now everyone understood this, and in some states the love of homeland and freedom was so strong that they joined the exhausted Samnites. But in others, party discord, tribal feuds, or short-sighted frivolity prevented a resolute patriotic course of action. The Tarentines were particularly unwise. They had a large fleet, and could easily have increased their army by recruiting mercenaries, and so might have gained a decisive influence in the course of the war; but they were so ambiguous and awkward in their conduct, that they incurred the hatred of the Romans by not supporting the Samnites. Having long been accustomed to have the Samnites and Lucanians as their enemies, they still distrusted them; yet they were timid, effeminate, and selfish, and therefore incapable of adopting a policy that required sacrifice; and, yielding to the suggestions of demagogues, they assumed a defiant attitude towards Rome, and threatened war; but the Romans were not afraid of this, and they did not fulfill their threats, remained neutral in order to continue having fun. Rome's northern neighbors showed more energy. The Etruscans did not renew the truce with the Romans that had ended at that time, and laid siege to the Roman border town of Sutria in 311. This forced the Romans to divide their forces, so they fought unsuccessfully both in the north and in the south for some time. In the Samnite Mountains, the consul Marcius Rutilus was even defeated and wounded himself.

But things soon changed. The consul Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, ignoring the warnings of the Senate, made a bold campaign through the Cymene Forest, through the mountains of which there were no roads, defeated the Etruscans at Lake Vadimonus in a stubborn battle in 310, about which legends long circulated among the Romans, and forced the important cities of Perusia, Cortona, and Arretium to conclude peace with the Romans. He won a second victory at Perusia, after which peace was concluded in Tarquinia, and soon after in other Etruscan cities. Etruria has long been a favorite place for the exploits of the Fabian family. At the same time, Papirius Cursor, whom Fabius, his mortal enemy, had unwillingly appointed dictator, went to Samnium to help the Roman army that was in a difficult situation there, and defeated the enemies in 308, who were dressed in purple and had weapons decorated with gold and silver. The glittering shields he took delighted the Romans at his triumph, and were then hung on the benches of the Forum on special occasions. It was the last victory of the old hero, who had been consul five times and dictator twice, a man of gigantic strength and implacable severity, loved and feared by the Roman soldiers. He died shortly after the triumph.

The Romans had the good fortune in this war that their enemies did not all fight at the same time, but came out to fight after each other, giving the Romans time to defeat them in turn. So the Umber and some of the smaller Sabellian tribes took up arms only now that the Samnite forces were exhausted. The Umbrians were joined by the Guernicae. If it had been a year earlier, the Romans might have lost their power; but now it was already irresistible, and the appearance of new enemies served only to increase the glory of Rome. The Umbers were defeated in 308 at the head of the Tiber; the Marsi and Peligni were defeated by Quintus Fabius Maximus at Allypha; 7,000 of them were captured and sold as slaves. The survivors were so weakened, so timid, that they entered into separate treaties with Rome, by which they were placed in the position of allies; and some of their cities were given the rights of municipalities. The Romans were even harsher with the Guernica prisoners: they were all executed. Their people, fearing the Roman judges, took up arms in despair in 306; this insurrection in the rear of the Roman army gave the Romans a welcome excuse for completely suppressing the infidel allies, and in revenge for the momentary danger of depriving the Guernicians of the last vestige of national independence. Only three cities that did not participate in the revolt: Aletrius, Veruli, and Ferentinus retained their former rights; the rest lost some of their lands and were annexed to the Roman state under very difficult conditions.: they were required to perform all the duties of Roman citizens, to perform military service and taxes on an equal basis with them, without participating in their rights; the judicial power in these cities was entrusted to Roman prefects, who were appointed by the city praetor. The same fate was meted equas out to those who also irritated the Romans by attempting to revolt. The Romans took forty-one cities of the Equi in fifty days, and many of these cities were burned and destroyed; some of the lost cities were very old, surrounded by cyclopean walls. After that, the name Ekvov became only a historical memory. These victories sealed the fate of the Samnites. While the Romans were engaged in suppressing the revolts of their allies, the valiant Samnites once more rallied their forces and took the cities of Sora and Calatia; but now two consuls entered their land, one from the west, the other from the east, and advanced, laying waste everything: burning the villages, destroying the corn in the fields, and cutting down the fruit trees. The consuls joined forces in the Pentre region near Bovian. Here a decisive battle was fought; the Romans won it. The Samnite general Statius Gellius was captured. The entire Samnite army was either slaughtered, captured, or dispersed. The Romans stormed Bovian, the main fortress of the Samnites. Samnius ' strength was completely depleted. The Samnites sent an embassy to ask for peace; the Senate readily granted it. The Samnite federation retained its independence, but only within the limits of those lands that were not taken from the Samnites by the Romans during the war; the Samnites had to give up their power over the Lucanians, from the alliance with other Sabellian tribes: the Marsi, Peligni, Marrucini, Frentani, Vestini, Picenti; these tribes renewed their previous treaties with Rome. Tarentum remained independent, but the rich citizens were loyal to Rome and wanted an alliance with it.

Shortly before the end of the Samnite war, the Tarentines again summoned a mercenary general from Greece to repel Lucanian incursions and help the Samnites; this was the Spartan Cleonimus. But he behaved shamelessly: his mercenaries were violent, and he became more terrible to the Greeks than to the enemies. He allied himself with the Lucanians, stormed the city of Metapontum, and forced the citizens to pay him 600 talents and 200 girls. The Tarentines were terrified of their champion, and, in alliance with the Romans, they forced this robber to leave Italy, who was preparing to deal with Salentum and the Greek cities of Sicily in the same way as with Metapontos. He sailed to Corcyra and engaged in sea robbery; Agathocles drove him out of Corcyra; he returned to his native land and, dishonored there by family shame, ended his life by betraying the fatherland.

Third Samnite War

The peace with the Samnites lasted for six years (304-298 BC), and the Romans made extremely good use of this time to consolidate and expand their rule. Before the end of the war, the revolt of the Guernicians and Equians gave them an excuse to annex these peoples to their state, to take all their forces at their disposal, without giving the annexed peoples any political rights; now, taking advantage of the fall of some of the Volscian cities, they took from them several districts, which they added to their public land, sent new colonists to Arpin, Fregellae, Sora, and some other cities, built fortifications, and built military roads, so that the whole Volscian land was now connected with Rome by strong ties. Similarly, they also inextricably linked with Rome the areas that separated Samnium from Etruria and Umbria: they built military roads in these areas and put their garrisons on them.

Expansion of the Roman Republic's possessions

The Romans led a new road to the city through their loyal Ocriculus. Nequin, which stood at the confluence of the Nar with the Tiber. This city had formerly belonged to the Umbrians, but now it was made a Roman military colony and was called Narnia. Between Samnium and Etruria, on the border of the region of Mars, the important military colonies of Carseola and Alba were established and connected to Rome by military roads, thus cutting off the communication routes between Samnium and Etruria. We have already described how carefully the Romans consolidated their rule over Nar, Apulia, and Campania.

The Samnites looked with alarm at this extension of Roman rule, at the establishment of fortified colonies, which, like military outposts, consolidated the subjection of the conquered lands and prepared the way for new conquests; these colonies were evidently intended to cut Middle Italy in two halves. The Samnites decided to try their luck once more with their weapons, before the enemy completely romanized the areas surrounding Samnium and cut it off from all connection with Etruria and Campania. The violent actions of the Romans and their ambition for power caused unrest everywhere; it was manifested in various places by insurrections; therefore, circumstances seemed favorable to the outbreak of war. The Samnites could not wait in peace until Rome had suppressed all her opponents, completed all her preparations for the conquest of their homeland, and then forced them to live in unprotected villages as shepherds who were forbidden to come down from their mountain pastures. The Samnites entered into negotiations with the Lucanians, managed to persuade them to secede from Rome, concluded an alliance with them; this caused the third Samnite war in 298 BC. There was a party in Lucania that was loyal to Rome, and they asked the Romans for help, and they sent one army to Lucania and another to Samnium. The consul who went against the Lucanians, Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus, forced them to ask for peace and give hostages, as the inscription on his tomb found in the last century loudly says. Thus the war with the Lucanians was ended in a single campaign in 297. There were also victories in Samnium by Fabius Maximus Rullianus at Tifernae and Publius Decius Musus at Maluentum. But the Samnites gave an unexpected turn to the war with a bold expedition: they sent the brave Gellius Egnatius with a large army to Etruria to stir up the Etruscans who were dissatisfied with Rome, to summon the Gauls from Northern Italy and to march with a united force against the Romans.

The arrival of the Samnites in Etruria produced a general uprising in 296, which threatened to destroy all the results of previous Roman victories. The Etruscans and Umbers joined the Samnites and recruited many Gaulish mercenaries. The name of the Gauls still terrified the Romans, and they redoubled their efforts to deal with their numerous enemies. All citizens capable of marching were taken into the army, including even many elderly family people; released persons were taken, and troops were demanded from the allies. Thanks to this, the Romans sent such strong troops against all their enemies that they triumphed everywhere. One of their armies covered Campania, and laid waste Samnium, so that its camp was guarded, not so much by its fortifications, as by the terror with which the whole population fled far from it. The greatest Roman generals of the time, Fabius Maximus Rullianus and Decius Mus, marched with the main army into Etruria, their rear protected by two reserves, one stationed at the Phalerium, the other near Rome, on the Vatican Hill. The vanguard of the Romans was routed, and their fugitives brought the news to the red army that the enemy's forces were concentrated in Umbria; they marched there; they numbered 60,000 soldiers, and a third of this number were Roman citizens; they had a large cavalry force. At the same time, Gnaeus Fulvius led a Phalanx force into Etruria to force the Etruscans to return to defend their own country. Indeed, a significant part of the Etruscans left the allied army before the decisive battle.

On a hot summer day in 295, a bloody battle was fought at the eastern foot of the Apennines at Sentina, the outcome of which was to decide the fate of Italy. One of the consuls, Quintus Fabius, was on the right wing against the Italians; the other, Publius Decius, was on the left against the Gauls. Boy hesitated for a long time. The Samnites held out bravely against the legions of Fabius; Decius twice repulsed the Gallic cavalry; but the appearance of the Celtic chariots of war produced confusion and disorder in his ranks; the flight was beginning to become general, and a heavy defeat was imminent: at that moment Publius Decius, following the example given by his father at the Battle of Mount Vesuvius, ordered the great high priest who was with him to consecrate him as a sacrifice to the subterranean gods. At the end of the ceremony, he exclaimed: "Before me is terror and flight, blood and death, the wrath of the gods of heaven and earth! I cast a deadly curse on the banners and weapons of my enemies! Where I fall, may the Gauls and Samnites perish! " and he spurred his horse into the thick ranks of the enemy. He was killed, and from that moment on, the tide of battle changed. The Gauls stood by his body in a stupor, while the Romans assembled among their leaders, and the bravest followed in the footsteps of Decius to avenge him, or to die by his side. A detachment sent at a convenient moment by Fabius to assist the left wing under the command of Lucius Cornelius Scipio completed the victory. He flanked the Gauls, who were routed by the Campanian cavalry, and the other wing of the enemy, consisting of the Samnites and other Italians, was soon put to flight. They hurried back to their camp, but Fabius cut them off; The Samnite general Gellius Egnatius fell at the gates of the camp, and the Romans rushed in. There were 9,000 Romans on the battlefield, and three times as many were killed and captured. This defeat destroyed the coalition. The Umber, Etruscan, and Senonian Gauls bought their peace by submission to Rome; the Celtic mercenaries fled. Only the Samnites showed courage even now: they were left with 5,000 men, and they marched in orderly order through the land of the Peligni to their homeland. At the triumph of Fabius, the soldiers sang artless songs about his victory and how Decius sacrificed himself for the fatherland.

The defeat at Sentina had crushed the Samnite strength, but their courage and love of freedom remained unyielding. When the Roman forces marched south from subdued Etruria, they met stubborn resistance from the Samnite army in Campania, although the previous year the Romans had built two seaside fortresses there: Minturni and Sinuessa. The Roman general Marcus Atilius was even defeated by the Samnites. But they had no allies. The Tarentines abandoned them, not daring to send an army far from their city, which was threatened by the Lucanians and the powerful tyrant Agathocles. Left alone, the Samnites could not resist the Romans for long. Their heroism was in vain: inexorable fate decided to give them under the rule of Rome. The Samnites finally sought refuge in a religious rite: they gathered the army for a review, selected the bravest warriors, led them to an altar drenched in the blood of sacrificial animals, and there these 16,000 warriors in white linen clothes swore to prefer death to flight, to kill everyone who fled or refused to fight. At Aquilonia, this sacred band was also defeated by the legions with which Papirius Cursor, the son of a famous general, and Spurius Carvilius marched against the Samnites. After that, the fortifications to which the Samnites had taken their possessions were taken, looted, and burned. Papirius decorated the forum with loot, and Carvilius made a colossal statue of Jupiter Capitolinus out of the bronze he had taken; it was so huge that it could be seen from the Alban Mountain.

But even the defeat at Aquilonia did not shake the courage of the Samnites: with amazing heroism, they continued to defend themselves in their mountains for more than two years against numerous Roman troops, and even sometimes won victories. Finally, the old hero Fabius Maximus Rullianus went against them, and then the end of the war came. We do not know where the last battle was fought, which decided the fate of Samnium; but in it 20,000 Samnites were slain, and 6,000 prisoners were carried off to be sold as slaves. Gaius Pontius, the general – in-chief, was one of the prisoners-whether it was the same Pontius who had won at Caudium, or his son, at any rate, it was a base and unworthy deed for the Roman people to have him chained up, taken to Rome, and killed in a dungeon. Samnium was now completely exhausted; exhausted by the 37-year war, the Samnites made peace with the consul Manius Curius Dentatus in 291, who forced the Sabines to abandon their planned revolt and completely submit to Rome. The Samnites recognized the authority of Rome over them, and pledged themselves to give their detachments to its troops. The Romans treated them with leniency, so as not to provoke them by the difficult conditions of peace to renew the war. Taking advantage of the calm that followed, the Romans consolidated their rule over the conquered lands by establishing military colonies and establishing precise legal relations with the vanquished.

In the Sabine land, rich in olive oil and wine, Reate, Nursia, and Amiternum were ruled by Roman prefects, many plots were distributed to Roman colonists, and further north, on the coast, the fortress of Adria was founded. The fortresses of Minturna and Sinuessa were built in Campania during the war, and the Roman colonists who settled there were now granted full Roman citizenship to strengthen their loyalty to Rome. But in particular: the Romans took care to strengthen the eastern Primorye for themselves. They sent 20,000 citizens as colonists to the Apulian city of Venusia, which stood on the border between the lands of the Samnites, Lucanians and Tarentines, and thus this city became the stronghold of Roman rule in that area.

Related topics

Roman Republic, The Etruscans, Latinas, Equas