Samnites were an ancient
Italic people who lived in
south-central Italy. They became involved in several wars with the
Roman Republic until the 1st century BC.
An Oscan-speaking people, the
Samnites probably originated as an
offshoot of the Sabines. The
Samnites formed a confederation,
consisting of four tribes: the Hirpini, Caudini, Caraceni, and Pentri.
They allied with Rome against the
Gauls in 354 BC, but later became
enemies of the Romans and were soon involved in a series of three wars
(343–341 BC, 327–304 BC, and 298–290 BC) against the Romans.
Despite an overwhelming victory over the Romans at the Battle of the
Caudine Forks (321 BC), the
Samnites were eventually subjugated.
Although severely weakened, the
Samnites later helped Pyrrhus and
Hannibal in their wars (280–275 BC and 218-201 BC) against Rome.
They also fought from 90 BC in the Social War and later in the civil
war (82 BC) as allies of
Gnaeus Papirius Carbo against Lucius
Cornelius Sulla, who defeated them and their leader Pontius Telesinus
at the Battle of the Colline Gate (82 BC). By 82 BC, the Roman
Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Lucius Cornelius Sulla conducted an ethnic cleansing campaign
against the Samnites, after which they disappeared from history.
3 List of tribes
4 Prominent Samnites
4.1 Leaders of the Samnites
4.2 Uprising against Sulla
4.3 Roman citizens
5 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
This section's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date
information. Please update this article to reflect recent events or
newly available information. (September 2015)
Samnite soldiers from a tomb frieze in Nola 4th century BC.
The population of
Samnium were called
Samnites by the Romans. Their
own endonyms were Safinim for the country (attested in one inscription
and one coin legend) and Safineis for the people.
Etymologically, the name
Samnium is generally recognized to be a form
of the name of the Sabines, who were Umbrians. From Safinim,
Sabinus, Sabellus and Samnis, an Indo-European root can be extracted,
*sabh-, which becomes Sab- in
Latino-Faliscan and Saf- in
Sabini and *Safineis. The eponymous god of the
Sabines, Sabus, seems to support this view. The Greek terms, Saunitai
and Saunitis, remain outside the group. Nothing is known of their
At some point in prehistory, a population speaking a common language
extended over both
Samnium and Umbria. Salmon conjectures that it was
common Italic and puts forward a date of 600 BC, after which the
common language began to dialectize. This date does not necessarily
correspond to any historical or archaeological evidence; developing a
synthetic view of the ethnology of proto-historic
Italy is an
incomplete and ongoing task.
Julius Pokorny carries the etymology somewhat further back.
Conjecturing that the -a- was altered from an -o- during some
prehistoric residence in Illyria, he derives the names from an o-grade
extension *swo-bho- of an extended e-grade *swe-bho- of the possessive
adjective, *s(e)we-, of the reflexive pronoun, *se-, "oneself" (the
source of English self). The result is a set of Indo-European tribal
names (if not the endonym of the Indo-Europeans): Germanic
Semnones, Suiones; Celtic Senones; Slavic
Serbs and Sorbs; Italic
Sabelli, Sabini, etc., as well as a large number of kinship terms.
Map of ancient
Samnium from The Historical Atlas by William R.
The earliest written record of the people is a treaty with the Romans
from 354 BC, which set their border at the Liris River. Shortly
Samnite Wars broke out; they won an important battle
against the Roman army in 321 BC, and their imperium reached its peak
in 316 BC, after further gains from the Romans. By 290 BC, the Romans
were able to break the Samnites' power after some hard fought battles.
Samnites were one of the Italian peoples that allied with King
Pyrrhus of Epirus
Pyrrhus of Epirus during the Pyrrhic War. After Pyrrhus left for
Sicily, the Romans invaded
Samnium and were crushed at the Battle of
the Cranita hills, but after the defeat of Pyrrhus, the
not resist on their own and submitted to Rome. A few of them joined
Hannibal during the Second Punic War, but most were loyal to
Samnites were the last tribal group holding out against Rome
in the Social War (91–88 BC). By 82 BC, the
Roman dictator Lucius
Cornelius Sulla conducted an ethnic cleansing campaign against this
most stubborn and persistent of Rome's adversaries and forced the
remnant to disperse. So great was the destruction brought upon them
that it was recorded that "their cities have now dwindled into
villages, some indeed being entirely deserted."
List of tribes
Leaders of the Samnites
Gaius Pontius ca. 320s BC
Egnatius ca. 296 BC
Uprising against Sulla
Gaius Papius Mutilus 90-89 with:
Pontius Telesinus - Samnite commander to Papius
Pontius Pilate - the 5th
Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea from
Longinus - Roman soldier who pierced Jesus in his side with a
lance.[better source needed]
List of ancient Italic peoples
^ "Samnite (people)". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia
Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
^ a b Strabo, Geography, Book V, Section 4.11.
^ Salmon 1967, p. 28.
^ Salmon 1967, p. 29.
^ Edward Togo Salmon (1967).
Samnium and the Samnites. Cambridge
University Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-521-06185-8.
^ Pokorny 1959, pp. 882–884 under se.
Library resources about
Resources in your library
Resources in other libraries
Salmon, Edward Togo.
Samnium and the Samnites. Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press, 1967.
Forsythe, Gary. A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to
the First Punic War. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.
Jones, Howard. Samnium: Settlement and Cultural Change: the
Proceedings of the Third E. Togo Salmon Conference On Roman Studies.
Providence, RI: Center for Old World Archaeology and Art, 2004.
Paget, R. F. Central Italy: An Archaeological Guide; the Prehistoric,
Villanovan, Etruscan, Samnite, Italic, and Roman Remains, and the
Ancient Road Systems. 1st U.S. ed. Park Ridge, NJ: Noyes Press, 1973.
Salvucci, Claudio R. A Vocabulary of Oscan: Including the Oscan and
Samnite Glosses. Southampton, Pa.: Evolution Pub., 1999.
Stek, Tesse. Cult Places and Cultural Change In Republican Italy: A
Contextual Approach to Religious Aspects of Rural Society After the
Roman Conquest. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010.
The Battles of Bovianum, 311 BC - article about a problematical
campaign of the Second Samnite War
The Samnite Pilum