Samnites and Samnium - Sources between myth and history.

Citations and other writings from the Classics.

Franco Valente


The richest source for the reconstruction of the events that occurred in the Samnite region is certainly Livio, but other quotes, of several authors, are equally important for groped to put together the pieces of a mosaic which is difficult, however, have the right picture. Here are some of the most significant passages and references to those authors who have treated anyway Sannio.


  • TITO LIVIO - Annales, Libri VII-X

  • CAPITOLINE TRIUMPH (see dedicated page)

  • APPIANO, Saunitiké - IV, 1.5.

    XVI, 45.8 (Samnitai)
    XIX, 10.1 (Samnitai)
    XIX, 65.7 (Samnitai)
    XIX, 101.7
    XX, 35.1-2 (II Samnite War - Sutrium 311)
    XX, 26.4 (Ceraunilia city)
    XX 80.3.

    Antiquitates romanae I, 16, 22, 24, 76 - II, 1 - II, 48, 4;

  • EUTROPIO - II, 8

    Etymologiarum sive originum lib. IX, 2, 84.

  • FABIO PITTORE - 1, 6, 3 (?)

  • FLORO - Epitome I, 11.8:
    "hos tamen quinquaginta annis per Fabios ac Papirios patresque eorum liberos subegit ac domuit, ita ruinas ipsas urbium diruit, ut hodie Samnium in ipso Sannio requiratur nec facile appareat materia quattuor et viginti triumphorum".

  • FRONTINO - Strateg. I,6.1
    Liber Coloniarum 231,259L

  • GELLIO - Noctes Atticae, XI, 1, 5

    (About Gaius Pontius) Cato Maior XII, 41 (see about "Samnites gens fortissima" La Regina pag.28):
    "Haec cum C. Pontio Samnite, patre eius a quo Caudino proelio Sp. Postumius T. Veturius consules superati sunt, locutum Archytam Nearchus Tarentinus, hospes noster, qui in amicitia populi Romani permanserat, se a maioribus natu accepisse dicebat, cum quidem ei sermoni interfuisset Plato Atheniensis, quem Tarentum venisse L. Camillo Ap. Claudio consulibus reperio".

  • OROSIO - III, 21.3

    Excerpta ex libris Pompei Festi de significatione verborum (trascr. LINDSAY 1913) Historia Langobardorum, II, 20:
    "quarta decima inter Campaniam et mare Adriaticum Apuliamque, a Piscaria incipiens, habetur. In hac sunt urbes Theate, Aufidena, Hisernia et antiquitate consumpta Samnium, a qua tota provincia nominatur, et ispa harum provinciarum caput ditissima Beneventus. Porro Samnites nomen accepere olim ab hastis, quas ferre solebant quasque Greci saynia appellant". (Taken perhaps by Catalogus Provinciarum Italiae - MGH, SRL, 189 - del 613)

  • PLINIO - Naturalis Historia
    III, 57
    III, 98
    III, 110 ecc.
    Vedi Salmon pag. 14-15.


    II 19.5
    II, 24
    III, 24,5 (?)

  • PSEUDO AURELIO VITTORE - Liber de viris illustribus, 32,33,34

    Commentarii, VIII, 638
    Commentarii, XI, 785

  • SESTO POMPEO FESTO - De verborum significatione (437, Lindsay 1913):
    "Samnites: Samnites ab hastis appellati sunt, quas Graeci saunia appellant; has enim ferre adsueti erant; sive a colle Samnio, ubi ex Sabinis adventantes consederunt".

    De verborum significatione (519, Lindsay 1913):
    "Ver sacrum: The ancient Italians, on the occasion of major disasters, were in the habit of voting for the gods all unborn children next spring. But as they became convinced of the cruelty that children and innocent children were killed, used push them out of their lands after veiled head".

  • SILIO ITALICO - VIII, 456 (?)

  • SISENNA - framm. 99

  • STRABONE - Geographica V, 4, 12.(translation from greek)

    11. Yet part of Campania, as well as the towns first described, as we mentioned above, i.e. Cales and Teanum Sidicinum. The boundary between their respective territories is marked by two statues of Fortune that are placed on one side and on the Via Latina. They then part Suessula, Atella, Nola, Nuceria, Acerra, Abella and other villages have the least of these, some of which are considered as part of Sannio.
    Samnites at first attempted to conquer this territory Latin, which is near Ardea, then, having taken the Campania, had become very powerful indeed the Campani people, since they had already suffered the domination of other masters, immediately subject themselves to their power and then were wiped out from other domains, and finally by Sulla, Roman dictator, who, after numerous battles with suppressed revolution of the ancient Italians when he saw that the Samnites, but remained isolated, even resisted attacking Rome itself, they attacked in a clash near the walls, when some were killed not to make them prisoners. Many others, it is said three thousand or four thousand, were imprisoned and taken to Public Villa at Campo Marzio. Three days after he cut the throats of the soldiers who had sent the proscriptions and suspended only after having killed or expelled from Italy all those who called themselves the Samnites. To all those who rebuked him for his inability to control his anger, replied that history teaches that no Roman could live quietly until the Samnites they continued to have their own organizational autonomy. As a result of what the ancient cities of the Samnites were reduced to villages, indeed, some have disappeared as Bovianum, Aesernia, Panna, Telesia near Venafrum and others that no longer warrant the establishment of the city, we enter into the details of these events because about the glory and power of Italy. Beneventum and Venus still retain their importance.

    12. One other law that relates the Samnites reports that the Sabines, a tradition that belongs to the Greek people, being a long time war with the Umbria, had decided to devote all products of the year and, having obtained the victory, sacrifice part of the harvest by offering the rest to the gods. Being a famine occurred, someone made the vow to devote even children. They did so, dedicating to the Ares fignli born that year. When they became adults, were sent out of their land led by a bull. The bull stopped to rest in the land of Opici who lived in scattered settlements. They, after they attacked, they sat in that territory and of Ares sacrificed the bull that had guided them, as they had established the soothsayers.
    It's to be considered that the name of Sabelli derives from the name of their ancestors. The name of the Samnites, in greek Saunitai, has instead a different origin. Some report that they have been why philhellenic them would join the settlers laconic, while others believe they were called Pitan. It seems that this idea was invented by Tarentum who wanted to win their neighbors very strong for being able to compose an army of 80,000 infantry and 8,000 cavalry. It is said that among the Samnites there are traditions that urges them to virtue: it is not permissible to give young women in marriage to whoever asks, but every year's top ten girls and boys: the first of the male is given before the females, in accordance with the second and so on. If anyone to whom was assigned the woman subsequently becomes dishonest, the honors are removed and the bride. Are below the Irpini, they too Samnites, who were named for the wolf that led them. And that it's all for what concerns the Samnites.

  • TACITO - Hist. IV, 5

  • TOLOMEO - Geogr. III, 1, 57-58

  • VARRONE - De lingua latina, VII, 29

  • VARRONE - Rerum rusticarum, III, 16, 29


Additional sources are available from the classic text of John Patterson "A city called Sannio" in the section "News and Reserch".



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