Key to Umbria

Roman Conquest:

Conquest of the Sabine Lands (290 BC)

Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact

Latin colonies: Alba Fucens (303 BC); Carseoli (303 or 298  BC);Narnia (299 BC); Hadria (ca. 290 BC)

Citizen colonies: Castrum Novum (ca. 290 BC); Sena Gallica (ca. 290 BC or 283 BC)

Roman treaties: Camerinum (310/9 BC; Ocriculumm (308 BC);

Marrucini, Marsi, Paeligni, Frentani and Vestini (304-2 BC); Picenti (299 BC); Samnites (290 BC)

Roman victory at Sentinum over the Samnintes Gauls (incl. Senones) Etruscans and Umbrians (295 BC)

[This section is in construction]

According to Florus:

  1. “During the consulship of Manius Curius Dentatus, the Romans laid waste with fire and sword to all the territory that is enclosed by the Nera, the Anio and the sources of the Velinus, and bounded by the Adriatic Sea.  By this conquest, so large a population and so vast a territory was reduced, that even [Curius himself] could not tell which was of the greater importance” (‘Epitome of Roman History’, 1:15).

Julius Beloch  (referenced below) argued  that the Sabines would not have stood aside from the Third Samnite War and then capitulated to the Romans in the course of a single campaign.  Stephen Oakley (referenced below, at pp. 31-3) reprised the elements of Beloch’s hypothesis: while he did not accept all of Beloch’s rewriting of the history of the 290s BC, he agreed (at p. 33) that:

  1. “It would [indeed] be surprising if the Sabines had capitulated in just one year, [and] it is [more] likely that the capture of Nequinum [in 299 BC, which was colonised thereafter as Narnia, had first] provoked hostilities [between Rome and] the Sabines.”

Oakley pointed out that, if hostilities between the Romans and the Sabines had indeed  spanned the whole of the 290s, this would account for:

  1. the entry in the ‘Fasti Triumphales’ for 299/8  BC, which records that the consul Marcus Fulvius Paetinus was awarded a triumph over both the Samnites and the Nequinates: since this triumph was awarded in the lull between the Second and Third Samnite Wars, ‘Samnites’ here should perhaps read ‘Sabines’;

  2. the content of the so-called ‘Elogium’ of Appius Claudius Caecus (CIL VI 40943), according to which, he had routed the army of the Sabines and Etruscans (probably when he was consul in 296 BC);  and

  3. Livy’s record (10: 39: 2) of the capture of Amiternum in 293 BC, albeit that Livy described this as a Samnite town (as discussed above).

Lily Ross Taylor (referenced below, at pp. 63-4) accepted Beloch’s suggestion that the Romans had:

  1. “... probably acquired [the territory of Cures in Sabina tiburina] before the conquests of [290 BC].  It would have been needed to protect the approaches to Nequinum ... , captured in 299 BC and the site of the Latin colony of Narnia.  The award of partial rights to Cures in 290 BC (see below) might have been designed to secure the quiescence of the local population during Curius’ [ campaign in the alta Sabina].”

If this is correct, then the Sabines had been involved (perhaps intermittently) throughout the Third Samnite War, and we cannot rule out the possibility that some of them had been included among the Samnite-led army that the Romans defeated in spectacular fashion in the decisive Battle of Sentinum (295 BC). 

Lands of the Sabines

According to Strabo, who was writing at the end of the 1st century BC:

  1. “Although the territory of the Sabines is narrow, taken lengthwise, it measures 1,000 stadia, extending from the Tiber and the little town of Nomentum to the country of the Vestini.  They have but few cities, and even these have been brought low on account of the continual wars; they are Amiternum, and Reate  ... As for Cures, it is now only a small village, but it was once a city of significance, since it was the original home of two kings of Rome, Titius Tatius and Numa Pompilius ... Trebula, Eretum, and other such settlements might be ranked as villages rather than cities.   ... The Sabines are not only a very ancient race, but are also the indigenous inhabitants [of much of central Italy].   Furthermore, their old-fashioned ways  might be taken as evidence of bravery, and of those other excellent qualities which have enabled them to hold out to the present time. Fabius [Pictor], the historian, says that the Romans realised for the first time how wealthy they were when they became the masters of this tribe [in 290 BC].  As for the roads that have been constructed through their country, there is:

  2. the Via Salaria (though it does not run far); and

  3. the Via Nomentana which enters  it at Eretum(a village of the Sabine country, situated beyond the Tiber), though it leaves Rome] at the same gate (Porta Collina) [as Via Salaria]”, (‘The Geography’, 5: 3: 1). 

Sabine Characteristics in Roman eyes

According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus

  1. “... both Fabius and Cincius relate that [the maiden Tarpeia, who betrayed ancient Rome to the Sabines, did so because she] conceived a desire for the bracelets that the [Sabine] men wore on their left arms, and for their rings: for at that time the Sabines wore ornaments of gold and were no less luxurious in their habits than the Etruscans”, (‘Roman Antiquities’, 2: 38: 2-3).


  1. Read more: 

S. Oakley, “A Commentary on Livy, Books VI-X:Volume IV: Book X”, (2007) Oxford

Salmon, “Roman Colonisation under the Republic”, (1970) New York

  1. L. Ross Taylor, “The Voting Districts of the Roman Republic: The 35 Urban and Rural Tribes”, (1960) Rome

K. J. Beloch, “La Conquista Romana della Regione Sabina”, Rivista di Storia Antka e Science Affini, 9 (1904) 269-77

  1. Return to the History Index