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Roman Conquests of Italy:
The Samnite Wars
345 – 290BC
Map of Italian
500-218 BC
Samnite Wars
• The Samnite Wars were part of the second phase
of the Italian Conquests by the Romans –
Conquest of Central Italy 345-290BC.
• There were three separate wars between the
Romans and the Samnites and other Italian states
and groups:
 First Samnite War 343-341 BC
 Second (Great) Samnite War 326-304 BC
 Third Samnite War 298-290 BC
• Each war was characterised by many different
factors. We will look at how Rome managed to
expand and succeed.
The First Samnite War
• In extending their territory between , the Romans first
came into contact with the Samnites, the most warlike
people of central Italy.
• The Campanians in the South (Naples) appealed to Rome
for help, and promised to become loyal Roman subjects if
they assisted in the war against the Samnites.
• The members of the Latin League had been forced into the
Samnite War without their consultation, and they resented
their dependence on Rome.
• The war lasted two years, ending in 341 with Rome
triumphant and the Samnites willing to make peace.
• Despite its brevity the First Samnite War resulted in Roman
acquisition of the rich land of Campania with its capital of
• Campania (with Capua as its capital) was a major addition
to Rome's strength and manpower in the west.
Second (Great) Samnite War
• Cause of the war originated in Campania where the twin cities of
Palaepolis (the old city) and Neapolis (the new city) were located – many
disputes arose between these two cities.
• 327 BC, war broke out again between Samnite hill people and those on
Campania's plain.
• During the first half of the war Rome suffered serious defeats, but the
second half saw Rome's recovery, reorganization, and ultimate victory.
• Battle at the Caudine Forks (321 BC) – Rome suffered defeat and forced
to sign treaty with Samnites. Roman Army and Leaders humiliated through
a ritual called marching under the yoke.
• Following the defeat at Caudine Forks the war stalled for some years, and
as Rome waited for the treaty to expire, it strengthened its military by
increasing recruitment.
• During these same years Rome organized a rudimentary navy, constructed
its first military roads, and increased the size of its annual military levy.
• 311 BC, Etruscans enter war against Rome. Roman armies defeat
Etruscans and Samnites.
• 308 BC, Etruscans sue for peace and in 304 BC Samnites also make peace
terms with Rome. Rome demands alliance and takes Samnite conquests.
• During the period 334–295 BC, Rome founded 13 colonies against the
Samnites and created six new rustic tribes in annexed territory.
Third Samnite War
• 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 (priests) to insist the Samnites evacuate Lucania, they
refused and the Third Samnite war began.
• 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.
• Rome’s influence covered most of from north to central Italy and
the Third Samnite War developed into a pan-Italic resistance against
Roman influence or expansion.
• End of the Italian Coalition - The crucial battle for Italy took place in
295 at Sentinum in Umbria, in Central Italy. The Romans defeated
the coalition of Samnites, Etruscans, Umbrians, and Gauls form the
North Po-Valley; the Romans benefiting from their self-discipline,
the quality of their military legions, and their military leadership.
• Following this battle the Roman’s secured all the territory south of
the Po-Valley to the Greek cities in the south.
Results of the Samnite Wars
Rome secured Central Italy
 The great result of the Samnite wars was to give Rome the controlling
position in central Italy.
 Samnites had to give up their conquests to Rome and become subject
allies to Rome.
 Rome was able to unite allies to her cause and organise more effectively
than the Samnites.
Increased Roman Territory
 Roman territory extended in two directions: West and East.
 On the west side of the peninsula, the greater part of Campania was
brought into the Roman domain; and the Lucanians became the subject
allies of Rome. On the east side the Sabines were incorporated with Rome
 The Roman domain now stretched across the Italian peninsula from
Tyrrhenian sea to Adriatic sea.
The New Colonies
 Rome secured herself by the establishment of new colonies.
 Two of these were established on the west side—one at Minturnae at the
month of the Liris River, and the other at Sinuessa in Campania.