Samnium, a division of ancient Italy, bounded N. W. by the territories of the Marsi, Pe-ligni, and Marrucini, N. E. by that of the Frentani, E. by Apulia, S. by Lucania, and S.
W. and W. by Campania and Latium, and comprising most of the present provinces of Campobasso and Benevento, with some surrounding districts. The country is occupied by some of the highest mountain groups of the central Apennines. It was watered by the upper courses of the Sagrus (now Sangro), Tifernus (Biferno), Frento (Fortore), Aufidus (Ofanto), and Vulturnus (Volturno), all of which, except the last, flow into the Adriatic. The principal places were Beneventum (Benevento), Caudium (Airola) - near which were the narrow passes called Caudine Forks, where a defeated Roman army passed under the yoke in 321 B. C. - Aufidena (Alfidena), Bovianum (Bojano), and AEsernia (Isernia). The Sam-nites were a warlike people of the Sabine race, who conquered the country from the Opicans before the foundation of Rome. With this republic they waged a series of wars, in which Valerius Corvus, Curius Dentatus, Papirius Cursor, Fabius Maximus Rullianus, and other Romans shine as heroes amid frequent calamities and humiliating defeats of their countrymen (343-290 B. C). They were finally subdued, joined Pyrrhus in 280, but succumbed again, and in 216 took sides with Hannibal, but without any permanent result.
They rose again together with other Italians in the social war (90), and were the last of the allies to yield. During the war of Sulla and Marius they tried to recover their independence; but their army was annihilated by Sulla in a battle at the Colline gate of Rome, and their country laid waste and distributed to Roman settlers, the inhabitants being sold into slavery (82).