Monday, November 24, 2014

Word of the Day -- Samnite

A Samnite (Latin Samnis, plural Samnites) was a Roman gladiator who fought with equipment styled on that of a warrior from Samnium: a short sword (gladius), a rectangular shield (scutum), a greave (ocrea), and a helmet. Warriors armed in such a way were the earliest gladiators in the Roman games. They appeared in Rome shortly after the defeat of Samnium in the 4th century BC, apparently adopted from the victory celebrations of Rome's allies in Campania. By arming low-status gladiators in the manner of a defeated foe, Romans mocked the Samnites and appropriated martial elements of their culture.
Samnites were quite popular during the period of Roman Republic. Eventually, other gladiator types joined the roster, such as the Gaul and the Thracian. Under the reign of Emperor Augustus, Samnium became an ally and integral part of the Roman Empire (all Italians had by this point gained Roman citizenship). Around this time, the Samnite gladiator fell out of favour, probably because insulting the Samnites was no longer seen as acceptable behaviour. The Samnite was replaced by similarly armed gladiators, including the hoplomachus and the secutor.

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