The OSCI (also called OPICI, OPSCI, OBSCI, OPICANS,
Ancient Greek :
Ὀπικοί, Ὀσκοί), were an
Italic people of
Latium adiectum during Roman times. They spoke the
Oscan language ,
also spoken by the
Samnites of Southern
Italy . Although the language
Samnites was called Oscan, the
Samnites were never called Osci,
Traditions of the Opici fall into the legendary period of Italian
history, approximately the first half of the first millennium BC, down
to the foundation of the
Roman Republic . No agreement can be reached
concerning their location and language. At the end of that time, the
Oscan language appeared and was spoken by a number of sovereign tribal
states. By far the most important in military prowess and wealth was
Samnites , who rivalled Rome for about 50 years in the 2nd half of
the 4th century BC, sometimes being allies, and sometimes at war with
the city, until they were finally subdued with considerable difficulty
and were incorporated into the Roman state.
Samnites and the Romans were the Oscans. Though often
eager to go to war, they were never a power to be taken seriously
militarily. They cost the Romans no more than a single battle to
defeat on every trial of their prowess. Their final disposition more
closely resembled the farces with which they regaled Roman audiences
than a serious war. They kept their independence by playing off one
state against another, especially the Romans and Samnites. That
sovereignty fell victim at last in the
Second Samnite War
Second Samnite War , when prior
to invading Samnium, the Romans found it necessary to secure the
border tribes. After the war, the Oscans assimilated quickly to Roman
culture. Their memory survived only in place names and in literature.
* 1 Classical sources
* 2 Oscans of the early republic
* 3 Conflict and subjugation
* 3.1 Volscian war
* 3.2 First
* 3.4 Fall of
* 3.5 Peace with the
* 4 Vestiges of the Oscans at Rome
* 5 References
* 6 Bibliography
* 7 See also
Aristotle , the Opici lived in "the part of Italy
Tyrrhenia " and were called also
Ausones . Antiochus of
Syracuse agreed that the Opici were
Ausones and placed them in
Strabo , however, the chief source for the fragments of
Antiochus, himself distinguished between the
Osci and the Ausones,
remarking that the
Osci had disappeared, but the Romans still used
their dialect as a literary language, and that the "high sea" near
Sicily was still named Ausonian even though the Ausonians never lived
Aurunci is the Roman name for
Ausones by a commonplace
change of an s to an r in Latin: *Ausuni> *Auruni> *Aurunici> Aurunci.
They were perhaps the same people in the early
Roman Republic . In
the 4th century BC the names came to be applied to distinct tribes.
OSCANS OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC
A people called the
Livy appear the earliest in history.
In 503 BC, the Latin colonies of Cora and Pometia rebelled against
Roman authority, obtaining the assistance of the Aurunci, seat
unknown. Two consular armies sent against them won after a hard-fought
battle in which "many more were killed than were taken prisoners; the
prisoners were everywhere butchered, even the hostages ... fell a
victim to the enemy's bloodthirsty rage". The enemy fell back on
Pometia, which was besieged by the Romans. The
Aurunci sallied out,
burned the siege towers, massacred the troops and grievously wounded
one of the consuls. The Romans withdrew, but returned later in greater
force. Taking the town, they beheaded the
Aurunci officers, sold the
Pometians into slavery, levelled the buildings and put the land up for
Aurunci appear one more time in the early republic in a failed
attempt to support the
Volsci in their struggle against Rome. In 495
BC, putting an army on the march for Rome, they sent envoys ahead to
demand the withdrawal of the Romans from Volscian territory. The
consul Publius Servilus Priscus Structus met them on the march at
Arricia and "in one battle finished the war". No more is heard of the
Oscans for almost a century.
CONFLICT AND SUBJUGATION
In the last half of the 4th century BC, the remaining Oscan
populations (who were not
Samnites ) lived in three sovereign states:
the Sidicini, the
Aurunci and the
Ausones . The Sidicini's capital
city was Teanum , which minted its own coins bearing inscriptions in
Oscan language . The town of
Cales was the capital of the Ausones
The beginning of the end of Oscan sovereignty was their attempted
exploitation of an opportunity to maraud against the Romans in the
period of instability following a major victory against the
Volsci , a
tribe occupying the
Volsci Mountains overlooking and including the
Pontine Marshes . During the final revolt of the Volsci, the Romans
had sacked and leveled
Satricum about 346 BC and had sold the
remaining 4,000 fighting men into slavery. For whatever reasons, the
Aurunci chose this moment to send a marauding expedition against the
Romans. Panic ensued in the city. The senators saw a wider conspiracy
Latin League . They appointed Lucius Furius Camillus
dictator, halted business, drafted an army on the spot and sent it
into the field against the Aurunci, but "the war was finished in the
very first battle". The Romans used the army to complete the conquest
Volsci at Sora .
FIRST SAMNITE WAR
Samnites in 343 BC "made an unprovoked attack upon the Sidicini",
who appealed to
Campania for military assistance and received it.
After losing two battles and being penned within
Capua , the
Campanians offered themselves to Rome with tears and prostrations in
the Senate House. The Senate accepted the offer and granted
assistance on the grounds that
Campania would be an ally in the rear
Volsci in case of further conflict with them. When
Roman envoys presented the Samnite Senate with demands for withdrawal
from Campania, the answer was no; moreover, the envoys were allowed to
hear staged orders of Samnite commanders to their troops to march on
Campania immediately. So began the First
Samnite War (343–341 BC).
The Roman Senate declared war, the people ratified the declaration,
two consular armies were sent into Samnium and
For two years the Romans knew only victories, until at last the
Samnites sued for the restoration of their former alliance with one
condition: they would be free to war on the
Sidicini if they wished.
The Romans had an agreement with Campania, but none with the Sidicini.
The Senate bought peace by ratifying the treaty and paying off their
Samnites used their army to attack the
Sidicini again. In
desperation, the latter offered themselved to Rome but were turned
down on the grounds that they were too late. The
Sidicini allied with
a force being raised by the
Latin league against the Samnites. They
were joined by the Campanians. A multi-national army began to
devastate Samnium. The
Samnites now appealed to Rome under the terms
of their treaty, asking if in fact Rome was sovereign over Campania.
The Romans disavowed any agreement that would restrain the Campanians
and Latins from making war on whomever else they pleased.
Encouraged by Roman refusal to assume leadership, the Latins made
plans to turn their army against Rome once the Samnite threat had been
neutralized. Word of the plans leaked to the Romans, who reacted by
inviting ten Latin chiefs to Rome to receive orders under the terms of
the treaty. As the price for submitting to Rome, the Latins demanded a
new common government, with one consul and half the Senate to be
elected from the Latins. When Titus Manlius Torquatus , one of the
consuls for 340 BC, heard these conditions, he swore by Jupiter's
statue that if the Senate accepted them he would kill every Latin in
the Senate House with drawn sword. Emotional posturing began around
the statue; a Latin envoy, Lucius Annaeus, slipped on the stairs while
railing against Jupiter and hit his head, becoming unconscious. At
that moment, a thunderstorm burst on the Senate House. Interpreting
these events as a sign the Romans declared war on the Latins and their
allies and allied themselves with the Samnites. The two years of
conflict, 340–338, is known as the
Latin War .
In a number of legendary battles, the Romans defeated the Latin
League , taking away the sovereignty of its tribal states, who
subsequently assimilated to Rome. The consul, Lucius Furius Camillus,
asked the Senate: "Do you wish to adopt ruthless measures against a
people that have surrendered and been defeated? ... Or do you wish to
follow the example of your ancestors and make Rome greater by
conferring her citizenship on those whom she has defeated?" The Senate
chose to offer different terms to different Latin cities. Colonists
were placed throughout Latium.
FALL OF CALES
Aurunci and Sidicini, who had been perforce in the Latin camp,
received separate treaties from Rome. In 337, the
Aurunci for no reason given by Livy. The Roman Senate decided
that the terms of the latter's treaty warranted military intervention,
but meanwhile the
Aurunci abandoned their towns in
Campania in favor
of a mountain stronghold, Suessa , which they renamed Aurunca. Further
events escalated the conflict: the
Cales joined the
Sidicini. In 335, the Romans sent a consular army under Marcus
Valerius Corvus to lay siege to Cales. Informed by an escaped prisoner
(who broke his chains and climbed the wall in plain sight without
being observed) that the enemy were all drunk and sleeping, Corvus
took the city in a night time rout and garrisoned it. The Senate voted
to send 2,500 colonists, to whom enemy land was distributed. The
Ausoni were never again sovereign.
PEACE WITH THE SIDICINI AND AURUNCI
After the fall of Cales, both consular armies were sent against the
Sidicini , who fortified themselves in Teanum with a large army. Livy
does not reveal the outcome of this campaign. The Romans were struck
by a plague (the most typical plague in the region was malaria ,
carried by the marsh mosquitos); both consuls were relieved for
suspicion of impiety, but the Roman army remained among the Sidicini.
Livy changes the topic to relations with the
Samnites in preparation
for his account of the Second Samnite War, 326–304 BC. The Sidicini
do not appear in that war or ever again in history, but Teanum goes on
as Teanum Sidicinum and its territory as Sidicinus ager. If the Romans
had fought a great battle and had obliterated the
Sidicini there would
be some mention of it or some evidence of a discontinuity at Teano.
Instead, the city prospers. Smith accords with the general conclusion
that between 335 and 326, most likely in 334, the
to lay down their arms and become part of the greater Roman
municipality. Livy's omission remains unexplained.
Aurunci similarly disappeared from tradition. They remained
subject to Rome. After the
Samnites were pacified, the region kept the
peace and was prosperous. It was popular vacation spot, being on high
ground away from the pestilential air, which today is recognized to be
the malaria mosquito.
VESTIGES OF THE OSCANS AT ROME
Osci were known among their neighbors for their lascivious
festivals, games and plays (compare:
Atellan Farce ). Their debauchery
was adopted by the larger Roman society over time, and the term Osci
loqui or Obsci loqui came to mean licentious or lewd language.
Wikisource has original text related to this article: FROM THE
FOUNDING OF THE CITY
* ^ Lewis, Charlton T; Short, Charles (2010) . "Osci". A Latin
Dictionary. Tufts University: Perseus Digital Library.
Aristotle . "vii.10". Politics.
Strabo . "5.4.3". Geography.
Strabo . "5.4.6". Geography.
* ^ Smith 1854 , pp. 343, 345
Livy . "2.16". City.
Livy . "2.26". City.
* ^ A B Bunbury, Edward Herbert (1873). "Sidicini". In Smith,
William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. Volume. II. London:
John Murray. pp. 995–996.
* ^ The Sidicini's territory was approximatively 3,000 km² wide
(Giacomo Devoto, Gli antichi italici, Firenze, Vallecchi, 1931,
Livy . "7.27". City.
Livy . "7.28". City.
Livy . "7.29–7.31". City.
Livy . "8.1–8.2". City.
Livy . "8.3–8.7". City.
Livy . "8.14". City.
Livy . "8.15". City.
Livy . "8.16". City.
* Cancik, Hubert; Helmuth Schneider, eds. (2003). "Oscans". Brill's
New Pauly Encyclopedia of the Ancient World. II. Leiden: Brill
Academic Publisher. ISBN 90-04-12259-1 .
* Caspari, M.O.B. (1911). "The Etruscans and the Sicilian Expedition
of 414–413 B.C.". pp. 113–115.
* Hornblower, Simon; Spawforth, Anthony, eds. (2003). Oxford
Classical Dictionary (Revised) (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University
Press. ISBN 0-19-866172-X .
Livy (1990). "History of Rome". In Lewis, Naphtali; Reinhold,
Meyer. Roman Civilization: The Republic and the Augustan Age. I (3rd
ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 81–85. ISBN
* Smith, William, ed. (1854). "Aurunci, Ausones". Dictionary of
Greek and Roman Geography. Volume. I. Boston: Little, Brown & Company.
* This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain : Wood, James , ed. (1907). "article name needed". The
Nuttall Encyclopædia . London and New York: Frederick Warne.
* Ancient peoples of
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