Samnite War

In the mid-fourth century B.C. Rome’s influence had spread south to the River Liris, here they encountered members of the Samnite tribe[1].  The Samnites were the inhabitants of the hills and mountains to the south of Rome, there were few urban centers in Samnium, but the region was still Rome’s chief rival for control of Southern Italy[2].  As time went on the two nations grew more hostile as they both fought for power in the region.  In roughly 342 B.C.[3][4] war broke out between the two regional powers.  The wars, all told there were three separate Samnite Wars between Rome and Samnium, were largely indecisive until in 295 B.C. when the Samnites, along with an army of allies from across the area fought the Romans at Sentium.  The Romans broke the alliance and inflicted casualties of 25,000 men on the Samnites and allies compared to the Roman’s 9,000 men injured[5]. This battle broke the power of the Samnites and in 290 B.C. the Samnites submitted unconditionally and became a subject-ally of Rome[6]. [i]Two Samnite Warriors from a Pompeii fresco      

ii. Map of ancient Italy

Pyrrhic War

The next great war in which the area of Beneventum was the Pyrrhic War.  The war began in 281B.C. when Tarantum attacked a Roman fleet and Rome, in response declared war.  The Taranines called to Prince Pyrrhus from Greece for support[7].  Pyrrhus obliged bringing 22,500 foot soldiers, 3,000 cavalrymen and 20 elephants.  After winning an early battle thanks in part to his elephants, much of southern Italy, including Samnium, joined Pyrrhus in the fight against Rome[8].  Even after fighting and achieving slim victories in a few battles, Pyrrhus gained nothing tangible and lost men he couldn’t replace.  It in from these battles the term Pyrrhic Victory is derived[9].   After a brief diversion into Sicily, the greatest battle of the war took place at Beneventum in 275.  As Pyrrhus was returned to Tarentum from Sicily the Romans dispatched two separate armies to deal with Pyrrhus, they each took a different path south.  Pyrrhus saw his chance with the Roman forces split and marched to meet the army under Manius Curius near Beneventum.  Pyrrhus rushed the Roman position and was soundly defeated by the Romans, losing even his camp.  Pyrrus gave up his hopes of a conquest and returned to Greece leaving the way open for Rome to take the rest of Italy[10].

Second Punic War

Rome’s next rival for power, this time for control of the entire Mediterranean, was Carthage.  By 220 B.C. the two powers had already been to war once with neither side winning a complete victory[11].  War came again between the two nations in 218 when Hannibal made his famous march from Spain to Italy to invade Rome[12].  The Battle of Cannae was the first major engagement of the war and in this the Romans came off greatly the worse, their entire army of 80,000 being broken while Hannibal lost only 6,000 men[13].  The war continued on as Hannibal lacked the strength to take the city herself. Hannibal moved south to Capua and based himself there for a while. 
During this period of the war Beneventum served as a strategic center for the Romans[14]. Near Beneventum one of Hannibal’s lieutenants Hanno, commanded an army of 17,000 infantry men, and was trying to march north to meet Hannibal.  The Romans commanded Beneventum and therefore the road, this along with other strategic placements blocked Hanno’s route north to his general.  The two armies met on the southern side of the Calore River, the Carthaginians were routed, with only 2,000 men surviving the battle.  The returning Roman army was celebrated and feasted upon its return to Beneventum[15].  Slowly, the Second Punic War wound down as the Romans invaded Carthage and defeated Hannibal at the Battle of Zama in 202 B.C.  As a result heavy tributes were forced on Carthage and Carthaginian Spain was added to Roman Territory[16].

iii. Map of Ancient Mediterranean

1.Livy, Betty Radice. 1982. Rome and Italy Penguin Classics, England. pg. 26
2. George Rawlinson. 1876. A Manual of Ancient History, from the Earliest Times to the Fall of the Western Empire. New York, Harper’s and Brother’s Publisher’s. pg.418
3. Livy, Radice, Rome and Italy pg. 26
4. Rawlinson, A Manual of Ancient History. pg. 415
5. Livy, Radice, Rome and Italy pg. 28
6. Rawlinson, A Manual of Ancient History. pg. 420
7. ibid, pg. 421
8. ibid, pg. 422
Livy, Emory Bair Lease. 1914. Livy, books I, XXI, and XXII. Boston, MA, D. C. Heath and Co. Publishers. pg. 243
10. Rawlinson, A Manual of Ancient
11. Robert
Fowler. 1878. A History of Rome. New York, Leighton Clark and Maynard Publishers. pg. 144
12. ibid, pg. 134
13. Dodge, Theodore Ayrault. 1891. Hannibal. Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin Company. pg.360
14. Fowler, A History of Rome. pg.142
15. Dodge, Hannibal. pg.434
16. Fowler, A History of Rome. pg.154
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