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Origin and history of the Samnites-Their subdivision into Caraceni, Pentri, and Hirpini-Topographical description of these several tribes-The Frentani-Roman Ways.
WHATEVER difference of opinion may prevail among the writers of antiquity, respecting the origin of other Italian tribes, they seem agreed in ascribing that of the Samnite nation to the Sabines. Strabo, who has entered at some length on this point of history, informs us, that the Sabines, in the course of a protracted warfare, in which they were engaged with the Umbri, pledged themselves, if fortune should crown their efforts with victory, to consecrate to the gods whatsoever should be produced in their country during the spring of that year. The war having terminated in their favour, they, in compliance with their vow, considered the youth born to them in that year as sacred to Mars, and sent them forth at a proper season to seek their fortune in another land. Tradition reported that this colony, having been miraculously guided in its march by a bull, arrived in the country of the Opici, where they settled, and obtained the name of Sabelli, which was considered to be indicative of their first origin. We are not informed whence they subsequently derived the appellation of Samnites, or Σavvítai, as the Greeks wrote the word. (Strab. V. 250. Sisenn. Hist. IV. ap Non.
de doct. ind. v. Ver. Sacrum. Varr. de Ling. Lat. VI. Fest. v. Samnites.) It is certain, however, that a portion of this people always retained the name of Sabelli. (Liv. VIII. 1. and X. 19. Varr. ap. Philarg. Georg. II. 167.)
Hæc genus acre virûm Marsos, pubemque Sabellam,
There were other traditions, which stated that the Samnites, as well as their ancestors the Sabines, had at one time received a Spartan colony, but these obtained little credit with judicious critics; and Strabo insinuates that this tale originated with the Tarentines, who sought to flatter a people whom fear and policy led them to conciliate. (Strab. V. 250.)
All that we can collect of the language of the Samnites, from historical records or existing monuments, certainly confirms the account of their descent from the Sabines. Livy assures us that they spoke the Oscan dialect; (X. 20.) and the inscriptions and coins found in their country exhibit the same characters as those of Campania, which are unquestionably Oscan; we know also that the latter language, though not the same as that of the Sabines, bore great affinity to it°. (Varr. Ling. Lat. VI.)
Having already touched upon the history of the Samnites, in connexion with that of Campania, in the preceding section, it will not here be necessary to repeat the causes which involved this warlike and enterprising people in hostilities with the Romans. If we consider the extent of territory which the latter had acquired before the commencement of the war, it will be seen that whatever pretext led to this event, it could not have been long delayed. The Samnites were likewise an ambitious and rising nation, rendered confident by their successes over the Tuscans and the Oscans of Campania; and formidable not only from their own resources, but also from the ties of consanguinity, which connected them with the Frentani, Vestini, Peligni, and the other hardy tribes of central Italy. The rich and fertile territory of Campania was then the nominal object of the contest which ensued, but in reality they fought for the dominion of Italy, and consequently that of the world ; which was at stake so long as the issue of the war was doubtful. Livy seems to have formed a just idea of the importance of that struggle, and the fierce obstinacy with which it was carried on, when he pauses in the midst of his narrative, in order to point out the unwearied constancy with which the Samnites, though so often defeated, renewed their efforts, if not for empire, at least for freedom and independence. (X. 32.) But when that historian recounts an endless succession of reverses sustained by this nation, attended with losses which must have quickly
rowed this usage from the Sabines. (II. 17.) But would it not be more correct to say that it was common to all the indi
genous tribes of Italy, such as the Umbrians, Tuscans, Latins, and Oscans ?
drained a far greater population, it is impossible to avoid suspecting him of considerable exaggeration and repetition; especially as several campaigns are mentioned without a single distinct fact or topographical mark to give reality and an appearance of truth to the narrative. Nor is Livy always careful to point out the danger which not unfrequently threatened Rome on the part of these formidable adversaries. It is true that he relates with great beauty and force of description, the disaster which befell the Roman arms at the defiles of Caudium, but has he been equally explicit in laying before his readers the consequences of that event, which not only opened to the victorious Samnites the gates of several Volscian cities, but exposed a great portion of Latium to be ravaged by their troops, and brought them nearly to the gates of Rome? (Liv. IX. 12. Cf. Strab. V. 232. and 249.) In fact, though often attacked in their own territory, we as often find the Samnite legions opposed to their inveterate foes in Apulia, in the territories of the Volsci and Hernici, and even in those of the Umbrians and Etruscans. (Liv. X.) Admirably trained and disciplined, they executed the orders of their commanders with the greatest alacrity and promptitude, and such was the warlike spirit of the whole population, that they not unfrequently brought into the field 80,000 foot and 8000 horse. (Strab. V. 259.) A victory over such a foe might well deserve the honours of the triumph; and when the Romans had at length by repeated successes established their superiority, they could then justly lay claim to the title of the first troops in the world. But though the Samnites were often overmatched and finally curbed by the superior con