The Latin, Samnite and Pyrrhic Wars

  • M. Cary
  • H. H. Scullard


In buying off the Gauls (p. 73), the Romans won a respite of 800 years for their city, until another Northman, Alaric the Goth, captured it in A.D. 410 (p. 551). But their defeat at the Allia so discredited them in the eyes of their neighbours that the Aequi, Volsci and Etruscans seized the opportunity to reopen war, while the Latins and the Hernici became doubtful or divided in their loyalty. The ascendancy acquired by Rome in 100 years was lost in a single campaign.


Fourth Century Adriatic Coast Greek City Roman Supremacy Roman Territory 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    Sallust (Cat. 51) and the Ineditum Vaticanum date the change of armament to the Samnite Wars and believe that the Roman borrowed the pilum and scutum from the Samnites. On the other hand Livy (i. 43.1; viii. 8.3) dates the adoption of the scutum either to Servius Tullius or to c. 400 B.c. when pay for military service was first introduced. The older phalanx formation was obviously not suitable for the siege of Veii and a looser manipular system may have been introduced then (cf. Q. F. Maule and H. R. W. Smith, Votive Religion at Caere (1959), 22 ff.), but if so, it did not save the army at the Allia. More probably the reform was later (the scutum was in use among other Italian peoples before the Samnite Wars, and thus available for imitation:Google Scholar
  2. cf. P. Coussin, Les armes romaines (1926), 240 ff.). The ‘manipular’ army is described by Livy (viii. 8) under the year 340, but a rival Roman tradition preserved by Plutarch (Camillus, ch. 40) represented Camillus as a military reformer; thus some believe (e.g. L. Homo, CAH, vii, 568) that it was the Gauls whom the Romans had in mind when they remodelled their tactical formations. F. E. Adcock, however (CAH, vii. 596, 601), argues for a Samnite War dateGoogle Scholar
  3. while E. T. Salmon (Samnium and the Samnites (1967), 105 ff.) suggests the beginning of the fourth century.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    For details see Ed. Meyer, Kleine Schriften, ii, 200 ff.; Kromayer-Veith, Heerwesen und Kriegfuhrung der Griechen und Romer (1928), 261 ff.Google Scholar
  5. See also E. Rawson, PBSR 1971, 13 ff.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Rome’s treatment of Caere is ambiguous: at some point Caere received civitas sine suffragio (i.e. it shared the private privileges and obligations of Roman citizenship, namely commercium, conubium and militia). One tradition regarded this as a benefit, granted for protecting the Vestal Virgins during the Gallic invasion of 390; another tradition saw in this treatment a punishment (for some revolt?) when civitas sine suffragio was considered an inferior form of citizenship. Perhaps Caere received hospitium in 390, a truce for a hundred years in 353, and civitas s. suffr. c. 274. See A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Citizenship2 (1973), 52 ff.; Toynbee, Hannibal’s Legacy, i. 410 ff.; Brunt, Manpower, 515 ff.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Sabelli is the Roman name for speakers of Oscan (they called themselves Sapineia); the most important group were the Samnites. They were akin to, but separate from, the Sabines. The Osci (= Opici) were originally primitive inhabitants of southern Italy, living chiefly in Campania. When they were overrun by the Sabellians in Campania, the name Oscan survived for the invaders’ language, which predominated there and spread widely in southern Italy. Thus in later times it is more accurate to speak of Oscan-speaking Sabellians for a large part of the population of southern Italy, but they are often more loosely referred to as Oscans. On their occupation of Campania see T. J. Cornell, Museum Helveticum 1974, 193 ff.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    For the Samnites see E. T. Salmon, Samnium and the Samnites (1967); for their culture, pp. 50–186.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Livy’s account of the First Samnite War (vii. 29–viii. 2) is plainly impossible in its details, some of which are manifest duplicates of happenings in the second war. But neither this nor the silence of Diodorus may be sufficient reason for denying the first war altogether, as is done, for example, by F. E. Adcock, CAH, vii. 588. The historicity of the conflict is defended by E. T. Salmon, Samnium and the Samnites (1967), 195 ff.Google Scholar
  10. which should be consulted for all the Samnite Wars. Cf. also A. Bernardi, Athenaeum 1943, 21 ff.Google Scholar
  11. E. S. Staveley, Historia 1959, 419 ff., and esp. 424 ff., has argued that growing interest in industry and trade lay behind Rome’s desire to extend her influence southward to Campania and that this Campanian policy was advocated by a group of men who included Q. Publilius Philo, M. Valerius Corvus, Sp. Postumius Albinus, C. Maenius and later the great Appius Claudius. E. T. Salmon, however, would attribute this southern policy to a group of patricians, though they were supported by some plebeian leaders (Samnium, 203 ff.). To what extent strategic military motives were reinforced by commercial considerations must remain doubtful, but clearly a group of senators successfully continued to urge a more active policy towards Campania.Google Scholar
  12. Polybius also denied a statement of a pro-Carthaginian Sicilian, named Philinus, that there was another treaty which forbade the Romans to enter Sicily and the Carthaginians Italy. If Philinus should be right (cf. A. J. Toynbee, Hannibal’s Legacy, i (1965), 543 ff.Google Scholar
  13. and R. E. Mitchell, Historia 1971, 633 ff.), the treaty should probably be dated to 306. Cf. Chap. 12 above.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    The aristocracy of Capua is said to have received full citizenship, but this is improbable. On Rome’s relations with Capua 343–338 see A. Bernardi, Athenaeum 1942, 86 ff., 1943, 21 ff.Google Scholar
  15. On early Capua see J. Heurgon, Capouepréromaine (1942).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    On the coloniae maritimae see E. T. Salmon, Roman Colonization (1969), 70 ff., and above, Chap. 11. On early Ostia, Salmon, 71 ff. There may have been a primitive Roman settlement there during the Regal period (p. 54), but there are no traces of a formal colony until the walls of the castrum which belong to the second half of the fourth century; they enclose about 5 acres, just enough as the urban centre for 300 coloni (for photograph, Salmon, plate 43). Unlike Antium, Ostia was founded on a site where no organised town existed.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    The site of the Caudine Forks is uncertain. E. T. Salmon, Samnium, 225 ff., favours the traditional site, known from medieval times as Forchia, between Santa Maria a Vico and Arpaia, in the territory of the Samnite Caudini (air-photographs, Salmon, plate 3). See further P. Sommella, Antichi campi di battaglia in Italia (1967), 49 ff. (fully illustrated).Google Scholar
  18. 20.
    On Rome’s relations with the Etruscans from the war of 311 until the Augustan settlement see W. V. Harris, Rome in Etruria and Umbria (1971). It is tempting to reject Livy’s account of a battle near Lake Vadimo in 310 (ix. 39) as an anticipation of the combat on that site in 283 (p. 93). But the general conditions of the campaign of 310 point to an engagement in that neighbourhood.Google Scholar
  19. 22.
    On the inscription on his sarcophagus (Dessau, ILS, n. 1) Scipio Barbatus modestly claims to have ‘subdued all Lucania’. For a suggestion that the Lucani conquered by Scipio were a small northern group of Lucani in the Sangro Valley in Samnium see A. La Regina, Dialoghi di Archaeologia 1968, 173 ff.Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    The ruins of Sentinum lie near Sassoferrato, to the north of which the battle is located by P. Sommella, Antichi campi di battaglia in Italia (1967). The casualties in the battle were estimated by a contemporary Greek historian, Duris, at 100,000! (see Diodorus, xxi. 6.1).Google Scholar
  21. The vast amount of bronze from booty probably enabled the Romans to start issuing coins of their own for the first time, the heavy aes grave: see R. Thomsen, Early Roman Coinage, iii (1961), 259 f., and above, p. 106. In 289 the Romans first established Triumviri Monetales.Google Scholar
  22. 29.
    Hadria: Livy, Epit. xi. The establishment of a maritime Roman colony at Castrum Novum in Picenum is improbable (the references belong rather to Castrum Novum in Etruria): see E. T. Salmon, Roman Colonization (1969), 180.Google Scholar
  23. 30.
    On the events of 284–283 to which Polybius alludes (ii. 18–19) see Walbank, Polvbius, i. 188 ff. cf. J. H. Corbett, Historia 1971, 656 ff.;Google Scholar
  24. M. G. Morgan, Cl. Qu. 1972, 309.Google Scholar
  25. 31.
    On Tarentum see P. Wuilleumier, Tarante (1939). Tarentine coins of the fourth century found their way along the Po valley to France.Google Scholar
  26. 32.
    Appian, Samn. vii. The date of the treaty by which the Romans were excluded from the Gulf of Tarentum is uncertain. Beloch and De Sanctis place it in 303, Mommsen in 348. For the possibility of 332, when it will have been part of the agreement with Alexander of Epirus (Livy, viii. 17.10; Justin, xii. 2.12), see M. Cary, Journ. Phil. 1920, 165 ff.Google Scholar
  27. Roman policy to intervene in the south is sometimes attributed to the plebeian leaders whose political position had been strengthened by the lex Hortensia in 287 (e.g. by T. Frank, CAH, vii. 641), but E. T. Salmon (Samnium, 281 ff.) thinks that the ‘southern lobby’ in the Senate was, as earlier, a faction of the patricio-plebeian nobility, which included Ap. Claudius Caecus, P. Cornelius Rufinus, P. Valerius Corvus, L. Papirius Cursor and C. Aelius (who proposed that help should be sent to Thurii in 286/285). The possible effect on Carthage of Rome’s continuing involvement in affairs of the south from 326 onwards is emphasised by R. E. Mitchell, Historia 1971, 633 ff.Google Scholar
  28. P. Lévêque, Pyrrhos (Paris, 1957)Google Scholar
  29. gives a detailed account of Pyrrhus’s Italian campaigns. G. Nenci, Pirro, aspirazioni egemoniche ed equilibrio mediterraneo (1953), is more concerned with Pyrrhus’s objectives (Pyrrhus was supporting the — hypothetical — anti-Carthaginian policy of the Ptolemies, i.e. Carthage, not Rome, was the primary target of his western adventure; contraGoogle Scholar
  30. J. V. A. Fine, AJ Phil. 1957, 108 ff.).Google Scholar
  31. 35.
    The Roman soldiers nicknamed Pyrrhus’s elephants ‘Lucanian oxen’ (Heraclea is in Lucania). They were Indian, not African, beasts and are depicted on various objects: a painted clay dish found in southern Italy; a tiny elephant is added to an issue of Tarentine coins; and on a piece of Aes Signatum (p. 595). On this, and for elephants in general, see H. H. Scullard, The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World (1974), where the three objects are illustrated on plates vii a and xiv a and b respectively.Google Scholar
  32. 37.
    The ancient authorities for the history of the negotiations are extremely confused. For analyses see G. N. Cross, Epirus (1932), 115 ff.; Lévêque, Pyrrhos, 341 ff., 404 ff.;Google Scholar
  33. M. R. Lefkowitz, Harvard Studies in Cl. Phil. 1959, 147 ff. No attempt to unravel the complicated web can be attempted here.Google Scholar
  34. 38.
    Polybius, iii. 25. In return for Carthaginian aid Rome agreed that if either party made a treaty with Pyrrhus, it should be with the stipulation that they might legally render mutual aid in whichever country Pyrrhus attacked. Thus Carthage preventedRomefrom making an immediate peace with Pyrrhus and perhaps alarmed him by this rapprochement with Rome. On the other hand the Romans got ships and money, while if Pyrrhus crossed to Sicily they were under no obligation to send help to the Carthaginians there unless they so wished. For discussion see Walbank, Polybius, i. 349 ff. The treaty is usually dated to 279/8. E. Will (Histoire politique du monde hellenistique, i (1966), 106 ff.)Google Scholar
  35. however, argues for 280, while G. Nenci (Historia 1958, 261 ff.) argued for two treaties, in 280 and 278 (but see Lefkowitz, Harvard Studies in Cl. Phil. 1959, 170).Google Scholar
  36. R. E. Mitchell, Historia 1971, 646 ff., argues that the essence of the negotiations in 279/8 was a reaffirmation of the Philinus treaty (see above, n. 11).Google Scholar
  37. 39.
    For a novel interpretation of Rome’s part in this episode at Rhegium, see F. Cassola, Igruppipolitici romani nel III secolo a.C. (1962), 171 ff.Google Scholar
  38. and A. J. Toynbee, Hannibal’s Legacy, i (1965), 101 f.Google Scholar
  39. 40.
    On this burst of colonisation see E. T. Salmon, Roman Colonization (1969), 62 ff., with many illustrations. Archaeology is revealing what some colonies, especially Cosa and Alba Fucens, looked like. For the establishment of Cosa, see Salmon, 29 ff.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The representatives of the estate of the late M. Cary and H. H. Scullard 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Cary
    • 1
  • H. H. Scullard
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LondonUK

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