An Oscan‐speaking district in the central southern Apennines. A warlike people, the Samnites were divided into four tribal states, but were linked in a confederation. A generalissimo led the confederation in wartime. After their treaty with Rome (354 bc) the Liris evidently became their boundary with Latium. Shortly thereafter their neighbours sought Roman protection. By granting it the Romans precipitated the three Samnite Wars. The First (343–341) resulted in Roman control of northern Campania; the Second (327–321, 316–304), despite Samnite success at the Caudine Forks, prevented Samnite control of Apulia, Lucania, and southern Campania; the Third (298–290) involved and at Sentinum decided the destiny of all peninsular Italy. Samnium, still unbowed, then supported Pyrrhus, but the Romans defeated him and split Samnium apart with Latin colonies at Beneventum (268) and Aesernia (263). Samnium helped Hannibal and lost both population and territory when the Second Punic War was over. Samnites also fought implacably in the Social War, and in the civil war against Sulla. Romanization was slow. Under Augustus, however, municipalization of the region (see municipium) greatly advanced, and from the late 1st cent. ad, men of Samnite stock were increasingly to be found in the senate.
Subjects: Classical Studies.