UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

City-dwelling Samnites : urban settlement at Monte Pallano and Monte Vairano Lee, Kevin Stuart


The ancient Samnites of south-central Italy have been cast by both ancient and modern authors as rough-and-tumble highlanders due to their habitation of the rugged river valleys of the southern Apennines and their ferocious resistance to Roman expansion in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. The most visible remainders of Samnite civilization are the great fortresses of polygonal masonry that crown many hilltops and mountain peaks in the modern regioni of Abruzzo, Molise, and Campania, around which Samnite farms, villages, and sanctuaries coalesced. Since the publication of Edward Togo Salmon’s Samnium and the Samnites and the wide adoption of Adriano La Regina’s pagus-vicus model for Apenninic settlement, there has been a marked resistance in modern scholarship to characterizing the largest of these fortified centers as cities. This stands in stark contrast with ancient authors, in particular Livy, who frequently refer to Samnite population centers in urban terms. This thesis defends the ancient view of the Samnites as an urban people, with permanently occupied hill-forts as their cities. It begins with a close examination of Livy’s monumental history of Rome, in particular his narration of the Samnite Wars in the seventh through tenth books. This first chapter analyzes the terminology Livy employs to describe Samnite cities and their features, and reconstructs from the text a Roman understanding of the city. The second and third chapters review the archaeological evidence from two well-documented Samnite fastnesses, Monte Pallano and Monte Vairano, in light of this understanding to illustrate how the Romans could understand them as cities. These chapters further illuminate aspects of community, state formation, and spatial organization at these cities in light of Michael Mann’s IEMP theory of power relations and Roberto Camagni’s factors for urban genesis. This thesis provides an alternative interpretation of the literary and archaeological evidence that is more faithful to the former and as such provides a firmer foundation for understanding the latter.

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