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"The Third Romano-Samnite War - Phase 1: 316 312 BC" Topic


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239 hits since 10 Oct 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2018 4:06 p.m. PST

"In 316 BC war broke out once again between Rome and the Samnite tribes of the central Apennines the third such conflict between the Italian belligerents since their initial clash in 343 BC. This new conflagration was to become the longest period of sustained warfare between the two powers, eventually, during its course widening its scope of contestants to include the Sabellians of the Abruzzi and the cities of the Etruscan League. The initial five years of this new war, however, only concerned the forces of the Romans and the Samnites and it is this phase of the third war's operations which is covered in this study. The next and final phase of this war (311 304 BC) will be analysed in a later document. During the fighting in these years Rome's military endeavors gained in scope and scale, as it punched and counter-punched with its Samnite foe. The standard compliment of the army had by now very likely increased from two to four legions, as necessity demanded and as new manpower resources came online from the maturing sections of Rome's expanding hegemony. The evolution of the manipular legion and its attendant battle tactics would have continued apace during these years, driven by the realities of fighting war against the rustic but martial mountain tribes of the central Apennines, although it is impossible to trace any details of this metamorphosis from the extant sources. The planting of new colonies once again makes an appearance, along with, significantly, the commencement of Rome's first military road-building project. Against this growing Roman menace, the Samnites tribes waged war as best they could, against a foe which continued to grow stronger.

The reason why republican Rome decided to return to war against the Samnites is not related by the existent accounts, other than a rather confusing statement by Livy [1] that that a Roman attack gave the Samnites an excuse to renew the war. But in light of Roman actions between 321 and 317 BC, their renewal of hostilities should not come as a surprise. While honouring the imposed terms of the Caudine peace and not attacking the Samnites directly, Rome had warred elsewhere, particularly in Apulia. Rebellions in Apulia and the Liris/Trerus valley were ruthlessly crushed and gains made in the eastern littoral. Following this interlude, at the first opportunity the Romans renewed the conflict with Samnium, intending to further neutralize and subdue the dangerous mountain foe. Some main reasons for such a course of action, while greatly obscured to the modern reader and no doubt complex, may be ventured. The remote upland valleys of the Apennine Samnites, while not serving as a particularly enticing economic prospect in the vein of Apulia or Campania, remained the home of a strong, dangerous and un-bowed people whom Rome had so recently lost a war to. Hard-headed strategic logic and the drivers to external conquest inherent in Roman society demanded action be taken against the Samnites, whatever the price. The tribally confederated Samnites, whatever the thinking of its leading voices at the time, had no choice but to accept the challenge, which they did with their characteristic determination and martial prowess…."
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