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Samnite Wars
Part of the ancient unification of Italy
Roman conquest of Italy.PNG
Map showing Roman territory before and after the Samnite wars.
Date1st: 343 to 341 BC
2nd: 326 to 304 BC
3rd: 298 to 290 BC
LocationCentral Italy
Result Roman domination over the Italian peninsula from the Po river to the cities of Magna Graecia
Roman Republic Samnium

The First, Second, and Third Samnite Wars, between the early Roman Republic, fighting for control of Italy, and the tribes of Samnium, extended over half a century, involving almost all the states of Italy, and ended in Roman domination of the Samnites. The Samnites, who held the Apennines to the southeast of Latium, were one of early Rome's most formidable rivals.


For centuries the Sabellian highlanders of the Apennines had struggled to force their way into the plains between the hills and the Mediterranean. But Etruscans and Latins had held them in check, and for the past hundred years the direction of their expansion had been not on Latium but east and south-east. They had begun to stream into Campania where they had become accustomed to a more civilized life, and in turn had become less warlike and ill-fitted to cope with their kinsmen of the hills. In the middle of the fourth century, the most powerful group of the highlanders, the confederated Samnites, were swarming down upon their civilized precursors in Campania. Farther east and south, Lucanians and Bruttians were pressing upon the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia. The Samnite warrior-herdsmen from nearby hills wished to use the grasslands of the plains for their animals — lands that the plains people had fenced. The Greeks were appealing for help to Epirus; those on the plains — the Campanians — appealed to Rome and Rome came to their rescue. Diodorus and Livy report that in 354 Rome and the Samnites concluded a treaty,[1][2] but neither list the terms agreed upon. Modern historians have proposed that the treaty established the river Liris the boundary between their spheres of interest.

First Samnite War (343 to 341 BC)

Livy is the only preserved source to give a continuous account of the war which has become known in modern historiography as the First Samnite War. In addition, the Fasti Triumphales records two Roman triumphs dating to this war and some of the events described by Livy are also mentioned by other ancient writers.


Livy's account

According to Livy, the First Samnite War started not because of any enmity between Rome and the Samnites, but due to outside events.[3] The spark came when the Samnites without provocation attacked the Sidicini,[4] a tribe living north of Campania with their chief settlement at Teanum Sidicinum.[5] Unable to stand against the Samnites, the Sidicini sought help from the Campani.[6] The league of the Campani was led by the city-state of Capua; the famous wealth of Campania had made Capua the most opulent city of ancient Italy. Like the Samnites, and also the Sidicini, the Campani spoke the Oscan language.[7][5] But, Livy continues, the warlike Samnites defeated the Campani in a battle on Sidicine territory and then turned their attention toward Campania. First they seized the Tifata hills overlooking Capua, and, having left a strong force to hold them, marched into the plain between the hills and Capua.[8] There the Samnites defeated the Campani in a second battle and drove them within their walls. This defeat compelled the Campani to ask Rome for help.[9]

At Rome, the Campanian ambassadors were admitted to an audience with the Senate. In a speech, they proposed an alliance between Rome and Capua, noting how the Campani with their famous wealth could be of aid to the Romans, pointing out that nothing in Rome's treaty with the Samnites prevented them from also making a treaty with the Campani, and warning that if they did not, the Samnites would conquer Campania and its strength would be added to the Samnites' instead of to the Romans'.[10] After discussing this proposal, the senate concluded that while there was much to be gained from a treaty with the Campani, Rome could not ally with the Campani and still be considered loyal to their existing treaty with the Samnites, and for this reason they had to refuse the proposal.[11] After being informed of Rome's refusal, the Campanian embassy, in accordance with their instructions, surrendered the people of Campania and the city of Capua unconditionally into the power of Rome.[12] Moved by this surrender, the Senators resolved that Rome's honour now required that the Campani and Capua, who by their surrender had become the possession of Rome, be protected from Samnite attacks.[13]

Envoys were therefore sent to the Samnites to bring them the news from Rome and request that they, in view of the mutual friendship between them and Rome, refrain from territory which had become the possession of Rome. But if this request was not heeded they were to formally warn the Samnites in the name of the Senate and People of Rome to keep their hands off the city of Capua and the territory of Campania.[14] The envoys delivered their message as instructed to the Samnites' national assembly. They were met with an uncompromising response: not only did the Samnites declare their intention of waging war against Capua, but their magistrates left the council chamber, and loud enough for the Roman envoys to hear, ordered their armies to march out at once and ravage Campanian territory.[15] When these news reached Rome, they sent fetials to demand redress, and when this was refused the people of Rome formally declared war against the Samnites.[16]

Modern views

The historical accuracy of Livy's account is disputed among modern historians. They are willing to accept that while Livy might have simplified the way in which the Sidicini, Campani and Samnites came to be at war, his narrative is here, at least in outline, historical.[17][18][19][20] The Sidicini's stronghold at Teanum controlled an important crossroad for region which would have provided the Samnites with a motive for conquest.[21][5][20] Like Livy writes then, the First Samnite War might have started quite by accident. The Sidicini were located on the Samnite river side of the Liris, and while the Roman-Samnite treaty might only have dealt with the middle Liris, not the lower, Rome does not appear to have been overly concerned for the fate of the Sidicini. The Samnites could therefore go to war with Sidicini without fear of Roman involvement. It was only the unforeseen involvement of the Campani that brought in the Romans.[17]

Many historians have however had difficulty accepting the historicity of the Campanian embassy to Rome, in particular whether Livy was correct in describing the Campani surrendered themselves unconditionally into Roman possession.[22][18][19] That Capua and Rome were allied in 343 is less controversial, as such a relationship underpins the whole First Samnite War.[23]

Historians have noted the similarities between the events leading to the First Samnite War and events which according to Thucydides caused the Peloponnesian War,[24] but there are differences as well.[25] It is clear that Livy, or his sources, has consciously modelled the Campanian embassy after the "Corcyrean debate" in Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War[19][26] There are many parallels between the speech given by the Campanian ambassador to the Roman senate in Livy and the speech of the Corcyrean ambassador to the Athenian assembly in Thucydides. But while the Thucydides' Athenians debate the Corcyreans' proposal in pragmatic terms, Livy's senators decide to reject the Campanian alliance based on moral arguments.[19][26] Livy might well have intended his literary educated readers to pick up this contrast.[19] The exaggerated misery of the surrendering Campani contrast with the Campanian arrogance, a stock motif in ancient Roman literature.[27] It is also unlikely that Livy's description of the Samnite assembly is based on any authentic sources.[28] However it does not necessarily follow that because the speeches are invented, a standard feature in ancient historians, the Campanian surrender must be invented as well.[23]

The chief difficulty lies in how rich Capua in 343 can have been reduced to such dire straits by the Samnites that the Campani were willing to surrender everything to Rome.[23] During the Second Punic War (218 to 201 BC) Capua famously sided with Carthage, but after a lengthy siege she had to surrender unconditionally in 211 BC, after which the Capuans were harshly punished by Rome. Salmon (1967, p. 197) therefore held that the Campanian surrender in 343 is a retrojection by later Roman historians. This invention would serve the double purpose of exonerate Rome from treaty-breaking in 343 and justifying the punishment handed out in 211. What Rome agreed to in 343 was an alliance on terms similar to the treaties she had with the Latins and the Hernici.Cornell (1995, p. 347) accepts the surrender as historical. Studies have shown that voluntarily submission by one part was a common feature in the diplomacy of this period. Likewise Oakley (1998, pp. 286–9) does not believe the surrender of 343 to be a retrojection, not finding many similarities between the events of 343 and 211. The ancient historians record many later instances, whose historicity are not doubted, where a state appealed to Rome for assistance in war against a stronger enemy. The historical evidence shows the Romans considered such supplicants to have technically the same status as surrendered enemies, but in practice Rome would not want to abuse would-be allies. Forsythe (2005, p. 287), like Salmon, argues that the surrender in 343 is a retrojection of that of 211, invented to better justify Roman actions and for good measure shift the guilt for the First Samnite War onto the manipulative Campani.

Livy portrays the Romans as selflessly assuming the burden of defending the Campani, but this is a common theme in Roman republican histories, whose authors wished to show that Rome's wars had been just. Military success was the chief road to prestige and glory among the highly competitive Roman aristocracy. Evidence from later, more well documented time periods shows a Roman senate quite capable of manipulating diplomatic circumstances so as to provide just cause for an expansionary war. There is no reason to believe this was not also the case in the second half of the 4th century.[29] There are also recorded examples of Rome rejecting appeals for help, implying that the Romans in 343 had the choice of rejecting the Campani.[5]

Three Roman victories

Samnite soldiers from a tomb frieze in Nola 4th century BC

According to Livy, the two Roman consuls for 343, Marcus Valerius Corvus and Aulus Cornelius Cossus, both marched with armies against the Samnites. Valerius led his army into Campania and Cornelius his into Samnium where he camped at Saticula.[30] Livy then goes on to narrate how Rome won three different battles against the Samnites. Valerius won the first battle, fought at Mount Gaurus near Cumae, only after a last desperate charge by Romans in fading daylight finally routed the Samnites after a day of hard fighting.[31] The second battle almost ended in disaster for the Romans when the Samnites attempted to trap the other consul, Cornelius Cossus, and his army in a mountain pass. However one of Cornelius' military tribunes, Publius Decius Mus led a small detachment to seize a hilltop, distracting the Samnites and allowing the Roman army to escape the trap. Decius and his men slipped away to safety during the night, and the morning after the unprepared Samnites were attacked and defeated by the Romans.[32] Still determined to seize victory, the Samnites collected their forces and laid siege to Suessula at the eastern edge of Campania. Leaving his baggage behind, Marcus Valerius took his army by forced marches to Suessula. Low on supplies, and underestimating the size of the Roman army, the Samnites scattered their army to forage for food. This gave Valerius the opportunity to win a third Roman victory when he first captured the Samnites' lightly defended camp and then scattered their foragers.[33] These Roman successes against the Samnites convinced Falerii to convert her forty year's truce with Rome into a permanent peace treaty, and the Latins to abandon their planned war against Rome and instead campaign against the Paeligni. The friendly city-state of Carthage sent a congratulatory embassy to Rome with a twenty-five pound crown for the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. Both consuls then celebrated triumphs over the Samnites.[34] The Fasti Triumphales records that Valerius and Cornelius celebrated their triumphs over the Samnites on 21 September and 22 September respectively.[35]

Modern historians have doubted the historical accuracy of Livy's description of these three battles. Livy's battle-scenes for this time period are mostly free reconstructions by him and his sources, and there are no reasons why these should be different.[36] The amount Samnites killed and spoils taken by the Romans have clearly been exaggerated.[37] Historians have noted the many similarities between the story of Publius Decius Mus, and an event said to have taken place on Sicily in 258 when the Romans were fighting the First Punic War against Carthage. According to the ancient sources, a Roman army was in danger of being trapped defile when a military tribune led a detachment of 300 men to seize a hilltop in the middle of the enemy. The Roman army escaped, but of the 300 only the tribune survived. It is unlikely that this latter, in ancient times more famous, episode has not influenced the descriptions of the former.[38]

Salmon(1967) also found several other similarities between the campaigns of 343 and later events which he considered to be doublets. Both the First and the Second Samnite War starts with an invasion of Samnium by a Cornelius, the way in which a Roman army was led into a trap resembles the famous disaster at the Caudine Forks in 321, and there are similarities to the campaigns of Publius Cornelius Arvina in 306 and Publius Decius Mus (the son of the hero of Saticula) in 297. He also thought Valerius Corvus' two Campanian victories could be doublets of Roman operations against Hannibal in the same area in 215[39] On the other hand the entries in the Fasti Triumphales supports some measure of Roman success. In Salmon's reconstruction therefore there was only one battle in 343, perhaps fought on the outskirts of Capua near the shrine of Juno Gaura, and ending with a narrow Roman victory.[40]

Oakley(1998) dismisses these claims of doublets and inclines towards believing there were three battles. The Samnites would have gained significant ground in Campania by the time the Romans arrived and Valerius' two victories could be the outcome of twin Samnite attacks on Capua and Cumae. And while Samnite ambushes are somewhat of a stock motif in Livy's narrative of the Samnite wars, this might simply reflect the mountainous terrain in which these wars were fought.[41] The story of Decius as preserved has been patterned after that of the military tribune of 258, but Decius could still have performed some heroic act in 343, the memory of which became the origin of the later embellished tale.[42]

Forsythe(2005) considers the episode with Cornelius Cossus and Decius Mus to have been invented, in part to foreshadow Decius' sacrifice in 340. P. Decius might have performed some heroic act which then enabled him to become the first of his family to reach the consulship in 340, but if so no detail of the historical event survives. Instead later annalists have combined the disaster at the Caudine Forks with the tale of the military tribune of 258 to produce the entirely fictitious story recorded by Livy, the difference being that while in the originals the Romans suffered defeat and death, here none of Decius' men are killed and the Romans win a great victory.[43]

End of the war

No fighting is reported for 342. Instead the sources focuses on a mutiny by part of the soldiery. According to the most common variant following the Roman victories of 343 the Campani asked Rome for winter garrisons to protect them against the Samnites. Subverted by luxurious living of the Campani, the garrison soldiers started plotting to seize control and set themselves up as masters of Campania. However the conspiracy was discovered by the consuls of 342 before the coup could be carried out. Afraid of being punished, the plotters mutinied, formed a rebel army and marched against Rome. Marcus Valerius Corvus was nominated dictator to deal with the crisis, he managed to convince the mutineers to lay down their arms without bloodshed and a series of economic, military and political reforms were passed to deal with their grievances.[44] The history of this mutiny is however disputed among modern historians and it is possible that the whole narrative has been invented to provide a background for the important reforms passed this year.[45] These reforms included the Leges Genuciae which stated that no one could be reelected to the same office within less than ten years, and it is clear from the list of consuls that except in years of great crisis this law was enforced. It also became a firm rule that one of the consuls had to be a plebeian.[46]

Livy writes that in 341 one of the Roman consuls, Lucius Aemilius Mamercus, entered Samnite territory but found no army to oppose him. He was ravaging their territory when Samnite envoys came to ask for peace. When presenting their case to the Roman senate, the Samnite envoys stressed their former treaty with the Romans, which unlike the Campani they had formed in times of peace, and that the Samnites now intended to go to war against the Sidicini who where no friends of Rome. The Roman praetor, Ti. Aemilius delivered the reply of the senate. Rome was willing to renew her former treaty with the Samnites. Moreover Rome would not involve herself in the Samnites' decision to make war or peace with the Sidicini. Once peace had been concluded the Roman army withdrew from Samnium.[47]

The impact of Aemilius' invasion of Samnium may have been exaggerated,[48] it could even have been entirely invented by a later writer to bring the war to an end with Rome suitably triumphant.[49] The sparse mentions of praetors in the sources for the 4th century are generally thought to be historical; it is possible therefore that as praetor Ti. Aemilius really was involved in the peace negotiations with the Samnites.[50] The First Samnite War ended in a negotiated peace rather than one part dominating the other. The Romans had to accept that the Sidicini belonged to the Samnite sphere, but their alliance with the Campani was a far greater prize. Campania's wealth and manpower was a major addition to Rome's strength.[51]

Historicity of the war

The many problems with Livy's account and Diodorus' failure to mention it has even caused some historians to reject the entire war as unhistorical. More recent historians have however accepted the basic historicity of the war.[52][18] No Roman historian would have invented a series of events so unflattering to Rome. Livy was clearly embarrassed of the way Rome had turned from being an ally to an enemy of the Samnites.[52][18] It is also unlikely that the Romans could have established such a dominating position in Campania as they had after 341 without Samnite resistance.[53] Finally Diodorus ignores many other events in early Roman history such all the early years of the Second Samnite War, his omission of the First Samnite War can therefore not be taken as proof of its unhistoricity.[53]

Second (or Great) Samnite War (326 to 304 BC)

With Rome having recovered from the First Samnite War, they began again to pick a fight with them. They sought to go to war, and therefore built colonies in Samnium that the Samnites declare war upon them. The Samnites, however, were instead occupied with Neapolis. They had formed a treaty with the people of that place to help the Neapolitans expand from the coast, and them from the mountains, and accordingly established a garrison at Neapolis. The aristocracy of the city did, however, feel threatened, and, thus, in 327 BC, war broke out again between Samnite hill people and those on Campania's plain. The Samnites established a garrison in Naples — a city inhabited by Greeks. Again people of the plain sought Rome's assistance, and again Rome went to war against the Samnites.

The Romans soon confronted the Samnites in the middle of the Liris river valley, sparking the Second, or Great, Samnite War (326–304 BC), which lasted twenty years and was not a defensive venture for Rome. During the first half of the war Rome suffered serious defeats, but the second half saw Rome's recovery, reorganization, and ultimate victory.

At first the Roman armies were so successful that in 321 BC the Samnites sued for peace. But the terms offered were so stringent that they were rejected and the war went on.

In the same year (321 BC) the two consuls, leading an invading force into Samnium, were trapped in a mountain pass known as the Caudine Forks where they could neither advance nor retreat, and after a desperate struggle would have been annihilated if they had not submitted to the humiliating terms imposed by the Samnite victor Gaius Pontius. The troops were disarmed and compelled to pass 'under the yoke', man by man, as a foe vanquished and disgraced. This ancient ritual was a form of subjugation by which the defeated had to bow and pass under a yoke used for oxen. (In this case it was a yoke made from Roman spears, as it was understood to be the greatest indignity to the Roman soldier to lose his spear).

Six hundred Equites had to be handed over as hostages. Meanwhile the captive consuls pledged themselves to a five-year treaty on the most favourable terms for the Samnites. Later Roman historians, however, tried to deny this humiliation by inventing stories of Rome's rejection of the peace and its revenge upon the Samnites.

The war stalled for five years, and as Rome waited for the treaty to expire, it strengthened its military by increasing recruitment.

In 320 and 319, the Romans returned for revenge against the Samnites and defeated them in what the Roman historian Livy described as one of the greatest events in Roman history. In 315 BC, after the resumption of hostilities, Rome suffered a crushing defeat at Lautulae.

Until 314 BC, success seemed to flow with the Samnites. Campania was on the verge of deserting Rome. Peace was established between Rome and some Samnite towns. Then the tide turned in 311, when the Samnites were joined by Etruscan cities that had decided to join a showdown against Roman power. The intervention of the Etruscans in 311 BC came about as the forty years peace reached its end.

After the first shock the Romans continuously defeated both their enemies. The war became a contest for the dominance of much of Italy. Between 311 and 304, the Romans and their allies won a series of victories against both the Etruscans (310 at Perusia) and the Samnites. In 308 BC the Etruscans sued for peace which was granted on severe terms and in 304 BC the Samnites obtained peace on terms probably severe but not crushing. For assurance, the Romans demanded inspections, and peace was established between the Romans and Samnites that remained until 298.

Ancient sources state that Rome initially borrowed hoplite tactics (the use of the phalanx) from the Etruscans (used during the 6th or 5th century BC) but later adopted the manipular system of the Samnites, probably as a result of Samnite success at this time. The manipular formation resembled a checkerboard pattern, in which solid squares of soldiers were separated by empty square spaces. It was far more flexible than the solidly massed hoplite formation, allowing the army to maneuver better on rugged terrain. The system was retained throughout the republic and into the empire.

During these same years Rome organized a rudimentary navy, constructed its first military roads (construction of the Via Appia was begun in 312 BC and of the Via Valeria in 306), and increased the size of its annual military levy as seen from the increase of annually elected military tribunes from 6 to 16.

During the period 334–295 BC, Rome founded 13 colonies against the Samnites and created six new rustic tribes in annexed territory. During the last years of the war, the Romans also extended their power into northern Etruria and Umbria. Several successful campaigns forced the cities in these areas to become Rome's allies.

Third Samnite War (298 to 290 BC)

A ceremonial Attic helmet typical of many found in Samnite tombs, ca. 300 BC

During the interwar years the Roman Republic continued to expand its power into central Italy. The Aequi were crushed in a short campaign in 304 BC. The neighbouring tribes of the Abruzzi, the Marsi, Paeligni, Marrucini and the Frentani, concluded permanent treaties of alliance with Rome that same year and the Vestini in 302. Rome consolidated these gains by founding colonies at Sora, Alba Fucens, and Carseoli. Hostilities with the Etruscans resumed in 302 and in 299 Rome captured the Umbrian town of Nequinum such that by the outbreak of the Third Samnite War in 298 the Romans were again fighting on multiple fronts. The Third Samnite War represents the first attempt by the people of Italy to unite against Rome as the Samnites joined forces with the Etruscans, Umbrians and Gauls to the north.[54]

In 298 the Romans elected as consuls L. Cornelius Scipio Barbatus and Cn. Fulvius Maximus Centumalus. The sarcophagus of the former has been preserved and is inscribed with an epitaph claiming that he captured Taurasia and Cisauna in Samnium, subdued all Lucania and brought back hostages.[55] The inscription does not state in which year these events took place, but is most likely to refer to Scipio's exploits during his consulship, the pinnacle of his political career. The dating of the inscription is disputed, with estimates ranging from the middle third of the third century to the early second. However even if the youngest date is correct, the inscription is still the oldest surviving testimony of the Samnite wars while an earlier date is no guarantee against distortion.[55][56]

According to Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus the war originated with a Samnite attack on the Lucanians. Unable to resist, the Lucanians send ambassadors and hostages to Rome to plead for an alliance. The Romans decided to accept the alliance offer and sent fetials to insist the Samnites evacuate Lucania, they refused and the war began.[57][58] If it was Scipio who negotiated the treaty with the Lucanians and received the hostages, the later claim that he "subdued" them is a natural embellishment.[59] In Dionysius' opinion the true cause of the war was not Roman compassion for the wronged, but fear of the strength the Samnites would gain if they subdued the Lucanians.[60] Rome might well have deliberately sought a new war with Samnium by allying with her enemies.[61]

Livy writes that the consuls of 298 divided the military commands between them, Scipio receiving Etruria and Fulvius Samnium. Scipio then marched to Volaterrae where he fought an indecisive engagement with the Etruscans before retreating to Falerii where he set up camp and started ravaging the Etruscan countryside. Meanwhile Fulvius is said to have won a battle against the Samnites at Bovianum and then attacked and captured first Bovianum and later Aufidena. For his victories against the Samnites Fulvius celebrated a triumph.[62] Frontinus records three stratagems employed by one "Fulvius Nobilior" while fighting against the Samnites in Lucania.[63] The cognomen Nobilior is not otherwise recorded before 255, long after the Samnite wars were over. A plausible explanation is therefore that Nobilior is a mistake and the stratagems should be attributed to the consul of 298.[64] However, as mentioned above, Scipio's epitaph claims that it was he who fought the Samnites, and then not at Bovianum and Aufidena, but at Taurasia and Cisauna. Taurasia was most likely located in the Tammaro valley, the site of Cisauna is unknown.[65] The issue is further complicated by the Fasti Capitolini, according to which Fulvius triumphed against both the Samnites and the Etruscans.[66]

Given these contradictions it is impossible to perfectly reconcile the available sources. Modern historians would like to place primacy in Scipio's epitaph as the oldest surviving source. Furthermore Livy's narrative is problematic, especially the supposed capture of Bovianum, one of the Samnites' principal towns, in the very first year of the war.[64] Over the years historians have proposed various alternative scenarios wherein one or both of the consuls campaigned against both the Samnites and Etruscans. In the end no definite conclusion can be made with the presently available evidence.[59][67]

For 297 the Romans elected as consuls Q. Fabius Maximus Rullianus (consul for the 4th time) and P. Decius Mus (consul for the 3rd time). These two were among Rome's most experienced commanders and had been consuls together in 308. According to Livy the elections for 297 took place amid rumours that that Etruscans and Samnite were raising huge armies and that the Etruscans were blaming their leaders for not allying with the Gauls. The Romans therefore turned to Rullianus who declared that he would only accept election if P. Decius was elected as his colleague.[68] It is impossible to establish today whether Livy had any evidence for the existence of these rumours, or if they are just conjecture by Livy or his sources.[69]

Livy is the only sources for the events of 297. He writes that envoys from Sutrium, Nepete and Falerii arrived in Rome with news that the Etruscans were suing for peace. Based on these news both consuls could march against the Samnites, Fabius advancing by way of Sora and Decius through the territory of the Sidicini. A Samnite army had hidden in a valley near Tifernum, but was discovered and defeated by Fabius in a pitched battle. Meanwhile Decius camped at Maleventum where he defeated an Apulian army before he too led his army into Samnium. The two consular armies then spent five months ravaging Samnium. Fabius also captured the city of Cimetra (otherwise unknown).[70] There are no major problems with Livy's account for 297, but no parallel sources survives to confirm it either. Fabius' route via Sora to Tifernum is convoluted, but not insurmountable. The appearance of an Apulian army at Maleventum is surprising since nothing is known of Apulian hostility to Rome since the conclusion of peace in 312. However the Apulians might have been divided in their alliance with Rome or have been provoked to war by Scipio's campaign the previous year. Decius' campaign fits within the larger pattern of Roman warfare in south-east Italy, he might even have wintered in Apulia. No triumphs are recorded in this year for either of the consuls, hence they are unlikely to have had any victories of great significance or made any deep inroads into Samnium.[71]

When the Romans saw the Etruscans and Gauls in northern Italy joining the Samnites they were alarmed. The Romans had benefited from a lack of coordination among its enemies, but now Rome faced them all at once.

Some relief came with a victory over the Samnites in the south, but the crucial battle for Italy took place in 295 at Sentinum in Umbria, in Central Italy, where more troops were engaged than any previous battle in Italy. At first the Romans gave way before an attack by Gauls in chariots. Then the Romans rallied and crushed the Samnites and Gauls, the Romans benefiting from their self-discipline, the quality of their military legions, and their military leadership.

Nevertheless, the stubborn Samnites fought on until a final defeat in 291 BC made further resistance hopeless, and in the following year peace was made on more favourable terms for the Samnites than Rome would have granted any less dogged foe.

The Campanian cities, Italian or Greek, through which Rome had been involved in the Samnite wars, Capua and others, were now allies of Rome, with varying degrees of independence. Roman military colonies were settled in Campania as well as on the eastern outskirts of Samnium.

After Rome's great victory at Sentinum, the war slowly wound down, coming to an end in 282. Rome emerged dominating all of the Italian peninsula except for the Greek cities in Italy's extreme south and the Po Valley — the Po valley still being a land occupied by Gauls.


First Samnite War (344 to 341 BC)

  • 343 BC - Start of the First Samnite War.
  • 342 BC - Battle of Mount Gaurus.
  • 341 BC - Rome withdraws from the conflict with the Samnites and enters the Latin War on the side of the Samnites.

Second (or Great) Samnite War (326 to 304 BC)

  • (327 BC - Capture of Neapolis)
  • 326 BC - Start of the Second Samnite War.
  • 321 BC - Battle of the Caudine Forks.
  • 320 BC - Destruction of Fregellae by the Samnites.
  • 315 BC - Battle of Lautulae.
  • 314 BC - Battle of Teracina - Roman victory under Fabius Rulianus.
  • 311 BC - Etruscans join the Samnites against Rome.
  • 310 BC - Battle of Lake Vadimo between Rome and the Etruscans.
  • 308 BC - The war escalates when the Umbrians, Picentini, and Marsians join the war against Rome.
  • 306 BC - The Hernici revolt against Rome (Livy ix. 42).
  • 305 BC - Battle of Bovianum ends with Samnite defeat and the end of main Samnite resistance.
  • 304 BC - Aequi defeated.
  • 304 BC - End of the Second Samnite War. Rome establishes many new colonies and gains control over much of central and southern Italy.

Third Samnite War (298 to 290 BC)

  • 298 BC - Start of the Third Samnite War.
  • 298 BC - Battle of Volterra
  • 298 BC - The Romans capture the Samnite cities of Taurasia, Bovianum Vetus and Aufidena.
  • 297 BC - Consul Fabius Maximus Rullianus defeats the Samnites near Tifernum (Liv. 10.14).
  • 295 BC - Battle of Sentinum.
  • 294 BC - Samnite victory at Luceria.
  • 293 BC - Battle of Aquilonia.
  • 291 BC - The Romans storm the Samnite city of Venusia.
  • 290 BC - End of the third Samnite War.


  1. Diodorus, xvi.45.7.
  2. Livy, vii.19.3–4.
  3. Livy, vii.29.3
  4. Livy, vii.29.4
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Oakley 1998, p. 289.
  6. Livy, vii.29.4
  7. Salmon 1967, pp. 33, 195.
  8. Livy, vii.29.5–6
  9. Livy, vii.29.5–7
  10. Livy, vii.30.1–23
  11. Livy, vii.31.1-2
  12. Livy, vii.31.3–5
  13. Livy, vii.31.6–7
  14. Livy, vii.31.8–10
  15. Livy, vii.31.11–12
  16. Livy, vii.32.1–2
  17. 17.0 17.1 Salmon 1967, p. 201.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Cornell 1995, p. 347.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 Oakley 1998, p. 285.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Forsythe 2005, p. 288.
  21. Salmon 1967, p. 195.
  22. Salmon 1967, p. 197.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Oakley 1998, p. 286.
  24. Forsythe 2005, pp. 284–5.
  25. Oakley 1998, p. 294.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Forsythe 2005, p. 285.
  27. Oakley 1998, p. 305.
  28. Oakley 1998, p. 306.
  29. Forsythe 2005, pp. 285–87.
  30. Livy, vii.32.2
  31. Livy, vii.32.2-.33.18
  32. Livy, vii.33.1-.37.3; Frontin. strat., i.5.14, iv.5.9; Cic. diu., i.51
  33. Livy, vii.37.4-.18
  34. Livy, vii.38.1-3
  35. "Fasti Triumphales". 
  36. Oakley(1998), p. 310
  37. Salmon(1967), p. 198; Oakley(1998), p. 358
  38. Salmon(1967) p. 198; Oakley(1998), pp. 332-333; Forsythe(2005), p. 288
  39. Salmon(1967), pp. 199-198
  40. Salmon(1967), p. 201
  41. Oakley(1998), pp. 310-311
  42. Oakley(1998), p. 333
  43. Forsythe(2005), p. 288
  44. Livy, vii.38.4-42.7; D.H. xv.3.2-15; App. Samn. 1-2
  45. Oakley(1998), pp. 363-364; Forsythe(2005), p. 273
  46. Forsythe (2006), pp. 270, 273
  47. Livy, viii.1.7-2.4
  48. Oakley (1998), p. 394
  49. Oakley (1998), p. 311
  50. Oakley (1998), p. 394
  51. Salmon (1967), p. 202; Forsythe (2005), p. 288
  52. 52.0 52.1 Salmon 1967, p. 199.
  53. 53.0 53.1 Salmon 1967, p. 200.
  54. Cornell 1995, pp. 357–59.
  55. 55.0 55.1 Cornell 1995, p. 359.
  56. Oakley 2008, p. 164.
  57. Livy, x.11.11–12.3
  58. Dionysius, xvii/xviii.1–2
  59. 59.0 59.1 Cornell 1995, p. 360.
  60. Dionysius, xvii/xviii.3
  61. Oakley 2008, p. 168.
  62. Livy, x.12.3–13.1
  63. Frontinus, i.6.1–2 & 11.2
  64. 64.0 64.1 Oakley 2008, p. 172.
  65. Oakley 1995, p. 164.
  66. Oakley 2008, p. 171.
  67. Oakley 2008, pp. 173–4.
  68. Livy, X.13.2–13
  69. Oakley 2008, p. 178.
  70. Livy, X.14.1–15.6
  71. Oakley 2008, pp. 182–4.


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  • Ross Cowan, Roman Conquests: Italy, Barnsley 2009.
  • Forsythe, Gary (2005). "A Critical History of Early Rome". Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24991-7. 
  • Lukas Grossmann: Roms Samnitenkriege. Historische und historiographische Untersuchungen zu den Jahren 327 bis 290 v. Chr., Düsseldorf 2009.
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  • Oakley, SP (2008). "A Commentary on Livy Books VI–X". Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-923785-2. 
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