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 dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla conducted an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Samnites, after which they disappeared from history.
This section's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (September 2015)
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 Osco-Umbrian: 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 origin.
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.
Linguist 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 Suebi and Semnones, Suiones; Celtic Senones; Slavic Serbs and Sorbs; Italic Sabelli, Sabini, etc., as well as a large number of kinship terms.
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 thereafter, the 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. The Samnites were one of the Italian peoples that allied with King 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 Samnites could not resist on their own and submitted to Rome. A few of them joined and aided Hannibal during the Second Punic War, but most were loyal to Rome. The 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
Uprising against Sulla
- Pontius Pilate - the 5th Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea from AD 26–36.
- Saint Longinus - Roman soldier who pierced Jesus in his side with a lance.[better source needed]
- "Samnite (people)". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
- 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
- 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.