Ancient History & Civilisation




Whether or not Rome had already crossed swords with her Samnite allies, the days when such a conflict would blaze up were fast approaching. Though distracted by the presence of Alexander of Epirus in southern Italy, the Samnites coveted the fertile plain of Campania and would not be held at bay for ever; and the Latin revolt had already drawn the Romans into the vortex of Campanian politics. Rome had granted half-citizenship to several cities there: Fundi, Formiae, Capua, Suessula and Cumae. The Sidicini were still unpunished for their participation in the Latin war: those around Teanum were attacked in 336 and granted alliance with Rome, while Cales was stormed and received a Latin colony (334). This outpost, which commanded the valley between Latium and Campania, protected the Campanian plain from the Sidicini and formed a buffer state between the Samnites on the east and the Roman possessions on the west. Despite the recent Latin revolt Rome wisely continued her policy of founding Latin colonies, in which all her allies were allowed to share; Cales received 2,500 colonists and was granted the right of coinage. In 332 Acerrae was granted the Roman civitas sine suffragio, and soon afterwards Rome entered into alliance with Fabrateria and Frusino, which lay in and above the Trerus valley not far from the Samnite frontier (c. 330). In 329 Privernum was taken and the anti-Roman leaders were banished; it was granted civitas sine suffragio, part of its territory was confiscated and was later formed into a Roman tribe, the Oufentina (318). In the same year Tarracina, which commanded the coast road, received a Roman colony, and in 328 a Latin colony was settled at Fregellae to block the north-western entrance to the fertile plain of the middle Liris. Thus the Romans gradually extended the bounds of their new confederacy and created a barrier against the north-west frontier of the Samnites.

In 326 the Romans strengthened their influence in Campania by winning the alliance of Neapolis, the Greek commercial centre of mid-Italy. The detailed account of how this came about is largely apocryphal, but the cause was political dissension within the city. The ‘Old Citizens’ (the Palaeopolitai, perhaps the refugees from Cumae; p. 99) with the help of Nola introduced a Samnite garrison into the town, or at any rate entered into friendly relations with the Samnites. Capua appealed on behalf of the Neapolitans to Rome. Q. Publilius Philo was sent to besiege the town in 327 and as the siege continued he was kept in his command for the next year as proconsul. Neapolis ultimately got rid of the Samnite garrison; the pro-Roman Greeks surrendered the town to the Romans and were doubtless glad to put their commercial activity under Roman protection against Samnite raids. An alliance was granted to Neapolis on favourable terms, by which the city was freed from the obligation of military service in return for patrolling and guarding the harbour.1 About this time Nuceria also entered into alliance with Rome.

Not only had the Romans thus acquired an alliance which the Samnites had desired to preserve for themselves, not only had they gained control of all Campania except Nola, but they followed up this success by capturing Rufrium and Allifae on the Samnite frontier. War was at hand. The actual cause of the outbreak is uncertain and unimportant. Samnite expansion and Rome’s desire for order on her frontiers led to the inevitable clash, which was hastened by the recent extension of these frontiers by colonization and alliance. Rome is said to have found allies on the other flank of Samnium in the Apulians who, after long struggles with Tarentum, realized that their interests lay with the Greeks against the Oscan invaders. If such an alliance was in fact made, the Romans would have found it difficult to join hands with their new allies, since they could not pass Oscan Nola and the Lucanians without violating their neutrality. In any case, Apulia played little part in the beginning of the Second Samnite War.2

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