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Any member of an ancient warlike tribe of the mountainous centre of southern Italy. The Samnites were probably related to the Sabines. Originally allies of Rome against the Gauls (354 BC), they later fought three wars against the Romans (343–341, 316–304, 298–290). Though defeated, the Samnites later helped Pyrrhus and Hannibal in their wars against Rome. They also fought in the Social War and unsuccessfully took part in the civil war against Sulla (82 BC).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Samnite, visit Britannica.com.