History of Samnium and Samnites - Samnite warriors and Legio Linteata.

Sometime ago, in the Tunisian desert, an archaelogical expedition was lucky enough to zero-in at an old fortifcation at Ksour es-Saf, and after timely historic and topographic analysis they believed to have identified a place where Hannibal and his troops had established, after retuning from the italian's wars.
Among the many reperts after the initial discovery, the finding of a beautifully executed gold-plated bronze cuirass stirred up a great deat deal of amazement and wonder. This armour, excellently preserved on both valves was found amid thick sand and maybe wrapped with the remaining of what would have been a multicolored cloth. The clasps of the metallic fibules uniting both valves represented a bull's head and the middle of the central plate decorated with branches of bitter oak and acorns. The main portion emphasized a head wearing a plumeted helmet and an acorn necklace same as the embossed one but much bigger, and was situated on the upper part of the front valve.
  Trefoil cuirass - IV century b.C.

Trefoil cuirass from
Alfedena - IV century b.C.
Obviously, all the adornaments of armour symbolically would take us to the history of the Samnites and their religion. The intention of bull was that of the animal flag-bearer of the majority of the toutos, except of the Irpinis choosing instead the wolf (irpus) as their animal-guide.
Winged victory - Bronze - IV century b.C.
Winged victory (part of helmet) from Pietrabbondante.
The Samnites did love the symbol of the oak (quercus cerris): for them, it denoted the strenght arising from mother's earth. Another typical description was the acorn's picture that symbolically reminded the strenght emanating from earth as well.
Actually for the Samnites the symbol of oak was connected to the cult of Hercules, an italic Olympus god, revered in many shrines of the old Samnium. At this point, one should ask if such an armour would belong to either an Hannibal's soldier or to a samnitic one following his armies. One must consider as well that Hannibal conjecturing his strategies, adopted a particular plan based upon the uprising's hope (sic!) of the subjugated italic people involving them directly over Rome's domination. In vain Hannibal had pursued this scope mainly because the oscan people had maintained good relation with the latins up until 70 years earlier.
Instead in the battle of Cannae in the 216 b.C. the Samnites, very tough customers for Hannibal, were the ones included in military spheres of Rome especially when around the town of Geronium, the Fabiis' magister equitum, M. Munucius Rufus, was saved from defeat just for the intervention of the Samnites commanded by Numerius Decimius. But after romans disastrous defeat of Cannae, something must have happened between the ranks of italicis that, after the treaty between the city of Capuae and Hannibal, purposefully they did not opt for him but abstained instead from most of the ensuing war events. Among the Samnites, only the Caudini and Irpini defected from Rome. The Pentri did not follow suit even tough some of them choose to remain with the carthaginensis chief when he decided to march against Rome.
Afrewards Hannibal, consumed by the wear and tear of the romans as it was called, abandoned the idea of the italian conquest and after the sicilian hiatus, choose to return to Africa mostly because stung by the consular's armies. This is the way, perhaps, of those Samnites' warriors that following Hannibal to the walls of Rome decided to go back with him to avoid sure death due to roman traitors. Only this might had been the reason why a Samnites' cuirass would show up among the sands of the tunisian desert.
  Bell vase of Libation painter
Bell vase of Libation painter.
Caudium, half of IV century b.C.
To the contrary it would have been less probable thet the Samnites would have allowed to seize a military booty of so much value to Hannibal's troops. Even if Hannibal's eroic achievements go back to the first decades of the 3rd century b.C. and to times just before the samnitic wars, it is probable this armour also going back to the 3rd century b.C., it would be part of "Legio Linteata" equipment and such an outfit, preserved by descendants, could had been worn when called in by war-duties as Linteati. It is also certain that when Hannibal thought of the siege of Rome it would have been the best occasion for those soldiers to show off a stately and brilliant armour. In any way not matter how things turned out, the finding of the armour would inexorably take us to re-think Titus Livius description of the Legio Linteata.


Back of samnite cuirass of Legionari   Pectoral of samnite cuirass of Legionari   Lintean Legonary

At the left picture the back and at the center the pectoral of legionar cuirass. At the right the ATINA model that reproducing a samnite warrior of Legio Linteata. The cuirass is strongly ispired to the Greek influence both in anatomical shape and in the type of engraving (maybe from Taranto). This armor represents an evolution of the typical three disks (trefoil) samnite cuirass. It is is presently conserved in the Musee du Bardo at Tunisi.



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History of Samnites and Samnium, the ancient people of Italy - Davide Monaco