Samnium is a Latin exonym for a region of south or south and central Italy in Roman times. The name survives in Italian today, but today's territory comprising it is only a small portion of what it once was. The populations 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 The language of these endonyms and of the population was the Oscan language
Oscan language
Oscan is a term used to describe both an extinct language of southern Italy and the language group to which it belonged.The Oscan language was spoken by a number of tribes, including the Samnites, the Aurunci, the Sidicini, and the Ausones. The latter three tribes were often grouped under the name...

. However, not all the Samnites spoke Oscan, and not all the Oscan speakers lived in Samnium.

The ancient authors were unable to relay a precise definition of Samnium's borders. Moreover, the regions included vary depending on the time period considered. The main configurations are the borders that it had during the floruit of the Oscan speakers, from about 600 BC to about 290 BC, known historically in the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

, and the borders as they were defined to be by the emperor Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

, published in his official manifesto, Discriptio Italiae, lost to moderns, but serving as the basis of Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

's description of Italy. By that time Oscan was not spoken. Samnium had ceased to be a sovereign state since about 290 BC. Augustus divided Italy into 11 regions. Samnium was Region IV. It included areas that had never been in the republican Samnium and also omitted much of it. Ancient Samnium was included in three of Augustus' regions.


Etymologically the name Samnium is generally recognized to be a form of the name of the Sabines, who were Umbria
Umbria is a region of modern central Italy. It is one of the smallest Italian regions and the only peninsular region that is landlocked.Its capital is Perugia.Assisi and Norcia are historical towns associated with St. Francis of Assisi, and St...

ns. 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
Umbria is a region of modern central Italy. It is one of the smallest Italian regions and the only peninsular region that is landlocked.Its capital is Perugia.Assisi and Norcia are historical towns associated with St. Francis of Assisi, and St...

. 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.

The linguist, Julius Pokorny
Julius Pokorny
Julius Pokorny was an Austrian linguist and scholar of the Celtic languages, particularly Irish, and a supporter of Irish nationalism. He held academic posts in Austrian and German universities.-Life:...

, carries the etymology somewhat further back. Conjecturing that the -a- was altered from an -o- during some prehistoric residence in Illyria
In classical antiquity, Illyria was a region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula inhabited by the Illyrians....

 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
The Suebi or Suevi were a group of Germanic peoples who were first mentioned by Julius Caesar in connection with Ariovistus' campaign, c...

 and Semnones, Suiones; Celtic Senones
The Senones were an ancient Gaulish tribe.In about 400 BC they crossed the Alps and, having driven out the Umbrians settled on the east coast of Italy from Forlì to Ancona, in the so-called ager Gallicus, and founded the town of Sena Gallica , which became their capital. In 391 BC they invaded...

; Slavic Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

 and Sorbs
Sorbs are a Western Slavic people of Central Europe living predominantly in Lusatia, a region on the territory of Germany and Poland. In Germany they live in the states of Brandenburg and Saxony. They speak the Sorbian languages - closely related to Polish and Czech - officially recognized and...

; Italic Sabelli, Sabini, etc., as well as a large number of kinship terms. The general concept is "our own kith and kin," Pokorny's "von eigener Art," "Gesamtheit der eigenen Leute," "Liebe," "Sippegenossen," "Sippenangehörigen," and the like.

Historical geography

Samnium was delimited by Latium
Lazio is one of the 20 administrative regions of Italy, situated in the central peninsular section of the country. With about 5.7 million residents and a GDP of more than 170 billion euros, Lazio is the third most populated and the second richest region of Italy...

 in the north, by Lucania
Lucania was an ancient district of southern Italy, extending from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Gulf of Taranto. To the north it adjoined Campania, Samnium and Apulia, and to the south it was separated by a narrow isthmus from the district of Bruttium...

 in the south, by Campania
Campania is a region in southern Italy. The region has a population of around 5.8 million people, making it the second-most-populous region of Italy; its total area of 13,590 km² makes it the most densely populated region in the country...

 in the west and by Apulia in the east. The principal cities of the region were Bovaiamom, renamed Bovianum by Latins
"Latins" refers to different groups of people and the meaning of the word changes for where and when it is used.The original Latins were an Italian tribe inhabiting central and south-central Italy. Through conquest by their most populous city-state, Rome, the original Latins culturally "Romanized"...

 (today: Bojano
Bojano or Boiano is a town and comune in the province of Campobasso, Molise, south central Italy.-History:Originally named Bovianum, it was settled by the 7th century BC. As the capital of the Pentri, a tribe of the Samnites, it played a major role in the Samnite Wars, as well as in the Social War,...

 or Boiano) and Malventum (Maloenton in Oscan), which was later renamed Beneventum by the Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 (today: Benevento
Benevento is a town and comune of Campania, Italy, capital of the province of Benevento, 50 km northeast of Naples. It is situated on a hill 130 m above sea-level at the confluence of the Calore Irpino and Sabato...


For most of their history the Samnites were landlocked, but during a brief period they controlled parts of both coasts of the Italian peninsula. The Samnites were composed of at least four tribes: the Pentri
The Pentri were a tribe of the Samnites, and apparently one of the most important of the subdivisions of that nation. Their capital city was Bovianum Undecumanorum The Pentri (Greek: ) were a tribe of the Samnites, and apparently one of the most important of the subdivisions of that nation. Their...

 (the most important tribe, capital: Bovianum), the Caraceni
Caraceni (tribe)
The Caraceni or Caricini or Carricini were a tribe of the Samnites. According to Ptolemy, they inhabited the most northern part of Samnium, bordering on the Peligni and the Frentani; but more especially the upper valley of the Sagrus . The only city that he assigns to them is Aufidena...

 (principal cities: Cluviae, the modern Casoli
Casoli is a comune and town in the Province of Chieti in the Abruzzo region of Italy: it is situated on a foothill of the Majella mountain, at the base of which runs the Aventino River, tributary of the Sangro...

, and Juvanum
Juvanum or Jovanum was one of the chief cities of the Caraceni, a tribe of Samnites, the ruins of which are located in the communes of Montenerodomo and Torricella Peligna, in province of Chieti, region of Abruzzo, Italy...

, the ruins of which are spread between Torricella Peligna
Torricella Peligna
Torricella Peligna is a comune and town in the Province of Chieti in the Abruzzo region of Italy.-External links:*...

 and Montenerodomo
Montenerodomo is a comune and town in the Province of Chieti in the Abruzzo region of Italy, south-east of Rome....

), the Caudini
The Caudini were a Samnite tribe that lived among the mountains ringing Campania and in the valleys of the Isclero and Volturnus rivers. Their capital was at Caudium, but it seems certain that the appellation was not confined to the citizens of Caudium and its immediate territory...

 (capital: Caudium, today Montesarchio
Montesarchio is a comune in the Province of Benevento, Campania, southern Italy. It is located 18 km south-east of Benevento in the Valle Caudina at the foot of Monte Taburno...

) and the Hirpini
The Hirpini , were an ancient Samnite people of central Italy. While general regarded as having been Samnites, sometimes they are treated as a distinct and independent nation...

 (Oscan for wolf; capital Beneventum), and later may have been joined by the Frentani
The Frentani were an ancient people of central Italy, occupying the tract on the east coast of the peninsula from the Apennines to the Adriatic, and from the frontiers of Apulia to those of the Marrucini. They were bounded on the west by the Samnites, with whom they were closely connected, and from...

 (capital Larinum, the modern Larino
Larino is a town and comune of approximately 8,200 inhabitants in Molise, province of Campobasso, southern Italy. It is located in the fertile valley of the Biferno River....

). The federal capital of the League they formed was Bovianum, except for a short period between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, when it was Aquilonia
Aquilonia is a town and comune in the province of Avellino, part of the Campania region of southern Italy. It is situated in mountainous terrain in the eastern part of Avellino, at an elevation of 750 m...

, destroyed by Romans in 293 BC, whose probable location today is modern Aquilonia, in Campania, province
Province of Avellino
The Province of Avellino is a province in the Campania region of Italy. The area is typified by many small towns and villages scattered across the province; in fact only two towns have a population over 20,000; its capital city Avellino and Ariano Irpino....

Avellino is a town and comune, capital of the province of Avellino in the Campania region of southern Italy. It is situated in a plain surrounded by mountains 42 km north-east of Naples and is an important hub on the road from Salerno to Benevento.-History:Before the Roman conquest, the...



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
Samnite Wars
The First, Second, and Third Samnite Wars, between the early Roman Republic 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...

 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, but even so they would join and aid Hannibal during the 2nd Punic War. 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
Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix , known commonly as Sulla, was a Roman general and statesman. He had the rare distinction of holding the office of consul twice, as well as that of dictator...

 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 "the towns of Samnium have become villages, and most have vanished altogether."

Uprising against Sulla

  • Gaius Papius Mutilus
    Gaius Papius Mutilus
    Gaius Papius Mutilus was a Samnite noble who is best known for being the leader of the southern rebels who fought against the army of Rome in the Social War of 91-87 BC .- The Southern Forces Under Gaius Papius :...

     90-89 with:
  • Pontius Telesinus - Samnite commander to Papius

Roman citizens

  • Pontius Pilate
    Pontius Pilate
    Pontius Pilatus , known in the English-speaking world as Pontius Pilate , was the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from AD 26–36. He is best known as the judge at Jesus' trial and the man who authorized the crucifixion of Jesus...

     - the 5th Prefect
    Prefect is a magisterial title of varying definition....

     of the Roman
    Roman Empire
    The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

     province of Judaea
    Iudaea Province
    Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

    from AD 26–36.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.