Roman History: The Unification of Italy

Etruscans and Samnites were the most dangerous neighbors of Rome. The first war against Samnites took place in Campania (B.C. 343-341). Two Roman armies were sent into the field, one – to protect Campania, another to invade Samnium. The first victory of Rome took place at Mt. Gaurus; then two united Roman armies defeated Samnites at Suessula. In such a way Romans gained control of Northern Campania. Rome decided to make a treaty with Samnites and to withdraw from war. They started preparation for conquest of Latium. Latium demanded from Romans to unite with them into one republic with both of them having equal rights. Romans refused, and Latins in alliance with Campanians started war against Romans in alliance with Samnium (B.C. 340-338). The later invaded Campania; Tibur, Praeneste, Aricia, Lanuvium, Antium and Pedum were defeated in succession. Latin revolt came to an end. There was a danger of Latin towns’ revolts, because towns were united in leagues. Romans adopted a policy of isolation that meant to destroy leagues for towns of Latium to be fully incorporated into Roman state; their inhabitants were to gain either full Roman citizenship or imperfect citizenship (Latin right). Romans established Roman and Latin colonies, as well as Dependent Allies (Morey ch. X).

There was a question of supremacy in Central Italy between Rome and Samnium. Second Samnite War (B.C. 326-304) started after Samnites gave military support to Paleopolis. Romans invaded to withdraw troops, but Samnites refused. As a result of this, Romans declared war and siege of Paleapolis. Samnites gained their first victory at Caudine Forks (B.C. 321). Etruscans came to aid Samnites but were defeated at Lake Vadimonis. After that, chief city of Samnium, Bovianum, was captured and war came to the end. The Third Samnite War (B.C. 298-290) was fought between Rome and principal nations of Italy – Samnites, Umbrians, Etruscans and Gauls. Attempt of Samnites to get control of Lucania led to declaration of war by Rome. Romans won in the battle of Sentinum (B.C. 295). After this event, Italian coalition dispersed. As a result of this war, Rome gained control of Central Italy and secured itself with establishment of the new colonies at Minturnae, Sinuessa and Venusia (Morey ch. XI).

The most important Greek city in Southern Italy was Tarentum. Romans declared war with Tarentum because, when Roman fleet that anchored in harbor of Tarentum was attacked and captured, Tarentum refused to give reparations. Tarentum appealed for help from Epirus king, Pyrrhus. At battle of Heraclea (B.C. 280) Roman army was defeated after coming into contact with Pyrrhus army’s Macedonian phalanx. Pyrrhus suffered great losses and decided that Romans cannot be conquered by the forces he had. That is why he sent his minister Cineas with proposal of peace, to which Romans refused. Another battle won by Pyrrhus was fought at Asculum (B.C. 279). After battle of Beneventum (B.C. 275) Pyrrhus led remnants of his army back to Greece. Afterwards, Tarentum was besieged (B.C. 272) but allowed to retain its local government. Lucancians, Bruttians, Picenum, Umbria, Etrucia had fallen submitted to Rome (Morey ch. XII).

With every extension of territory, Rome extended its authority as a sovereign power. Roman population was subdivided into ruling body of citizens and subject body of people. Roman domain now included Latium, Northern Campania, Southern Etrucia, Sabine country, Picenum and part of Umbria. Inhabitants of its colonies were allowed to retain their rights of citizenship, were permitted to vote and make laws. Rome also incorporated into its territory some conquest towns under name “municipia”. Every citizen between age of seventeen and forty-five was obliged to serve in Roman army. In case of war, four legions of soldiers were raised. Romans fought in a manner of Greek phalanx, in Solid Square, and encouraged their soldiers by rewards and honors (Morey ch. XIII).

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