The Samnite Wars refer to the three major armed conflicts between the Samnites or the Samnium tribes and the Romans. These wars were fought from 343 to 290 BC. The Roman Republic was fighting to take Italy’s control. These wars involved almost all Italy states and in the end, the Roman Republic dominated over the Samnites. Samnites controlled the Apennines towards the Latium’s southeast and they were among the earliest formidable rivals of Rome. Regardless of the many setbacks encountered, each of these wars ended in terms that increased the power of Rome and Rome took control of the entire central Italy by the time the third Samnite War ended.
Cause of the Samnite Wars
Rome survived Celtic Gauls’ invasion at the beginning of the 4th century BC. Therefore, it aimed at expanding its middle party further this century. Rome re-conquered Etruscan and Latin towns that were left during the occupation of Gallic and while absorbing others, its position was reconsolidated as a dominant force in Central Italy and Latium. Having a secured home turf, the Romans ventured southwards to Campania.
By this time, Samnites had already moved to Campania where there were fertile lands from their initial place in south central Apennines. Samnites were controlling Cumae and Capua towns in Southern Rome. They were also swaying to the east. In order to protect the flanks and still retake Etruria and Latium, Rome entered a joint alliance with Samnites in a wise move in 354 BC. This led to an inevitable conflict with the Samnium over the dominance of Campania. Eventually, this turned into several wars that lasted from 343 to 290 BC.
Events of the wars and how they were ended
- First Samnite war
The first Samnite war was fought between 343 and 338 B.C and it entailed a brief conflict after the Campania plain dwellers requested assistance of the Rome in fending off attacks by highland neighbors. This war ended with a revolt of the Latin allies of Rome and it was resolved with a Battle of Vesuvis. Campania and the Capua chief city became a protectorate of the Roman republic.
- Second Samnite War
This was the longest of the three wars and it was fiercely fought between 326 and 304 B.C. It lasted for more than 20 years during which the Roman army was captured by the Samnites for some years in what was called the Caudine Forks defile. Rather than killing the army, the Samnits released them so that Rome could give them favorable terms. The Romans were infuriated and humiliated and they resorted to hostilities that lasted for 5 years. The war continued, alternating between the samnite victories like the Lautulae victory and the Roman victories like the Ciuna victory. This was an attrition war though most suffering was felt by the Samnites. On failing to relieve the Bovianum siege, they sought peace.
- Third Samnite war
The peace that ended the second samnite war lasted for a few years. As of 298, the Samnite had formed an alliance with the Gauls and Etruscans in the Northern Italy in order to defeat the Romans. The fighting started disastrously because the Roman army routed at the Camerinum battle. Shortly, Rome established four legions in order to meet Samnites and their allies, the Gallic, in the colossal Sentinum battle. This ended in a decisive Roman victory with the Samnite side suffering heavy losses. Although this time the Samnite did not seek peace, they could make a feeble resistance. During the last battle of Apalonia, the camp of the Samnite was looted, their warriors killed and city taken. Finally, the persistent foes of Rome accepted peace when it was offered to them bringing the wars to an end. The third war was fought between 298 and 290 B.C.
Effects of the Samnite wars
Although the actual number of the casualties of these wars is not known, the wars were significant because they helped in the establishment of Rome as the Italy’s supreme power.
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