Samnite Bronze Helmet and Neckguard, C. 450 BC
This imposing helmet is a unique hybrid of the Samnite-Chalcidian type.
The Samnites were an Italic people living in Samnium (map) in south-central Italy who fought several wars with the Roman Republic. They formed a confederation, consisting of four tribes: the Hirpini, Caudini, Caraceni, and Pentri. They were allied with Rome against the Gauls in 354 BC, but later became enemies of the Romans and were soon involved in a series of three wars (343–341, 327–304, and 298–290 BC) against the Romans. Despite a spectacular victory over the Romans at the Battle of the Caudine Forks (321 BC), the Samnites were eventually subjugated.
What was known as a ‘Samnite Gladiator’ 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.