The Third Samnite War (298-290 BC) was a crucial episode in the early history of Rome. Upon its outcome rested mastery of central Italy, and the independent survival of both Rome and the Samnites. Determined to resist aggressive Roman expansion, the Samnites forged a powerful alliance with the Senones (a tribe of Italian Gauls), Etruscans and Umbrians. The result was eight years of hard campaigning, brutal sieges and bitter battles that stretched Rome to the limit. The desperate nature of the struggle is illustrated by the ritual self-sacrifice (devotio) by the Roman consul Publius Decimus Mus at the Battle of Sentinum (295 BC), which restored the resolve of the wavering Roman troops, and by the Samnite Linen Legion at the Battle of Aquilonia (393 BC), each man of which was bound by a sacred oath to conquer or die on the battlefield. Mike Roberts, who has travelled the Italian landscape upon which these events played out, mines the sources (which are more reliable, he argues, than for Rome’s previous wars) to produce a compelling narrative of this momentous conflict.
ROME’S THIRD SAMNITE WAR 298-290BC The Last Stand of the Linen Legion
Anyone interested in the Early Roman Republic will enjoy Roberts’ narrative and interpretation of a pivotal time in Roman history. Roberts reminds us that if you are going to build an Empire, you need to beat your neighbours first. At least that was the case for Rome that became involved in a desperate struggle for survival and supremacy against the Samnites and their allies between 298 and 290 BC.