Teaching Students About the Samnites

As students learn about ancient civilizations, the focus often centers on the Greeks and Romans. But there were other groups who lived during this time period, such as the Samnites. Teaching students about the Samnites can provide a more comprehensive understanding of ancient Italy and broaden their knowledge of history.

Who were the Samnites?

The Samnites were an ancient people who lived in central Italy from the 5th to the 3rd centuries BCE. They were a tough and independent people who were known for their warrior culture. Samnites were famous for their military tactics, which involved close combat, ambushes, and guerilla warfare. They were feared by the Romans and were one of their most formidable adversaries.

Teaching about the Samnite culture

To help students learn about the Samnite culture, there are several ways that teachers can approach the topic. Here are a few ideas:

1. Deconstructing their name: Explaining the meaning behind the name “Samnites” can be a great way to introduce this topic. The word comes from the ancient Greek word, “sabao”, which means “to live”, from which is derived, “the Sabines”. The Romans referred to them as the “Sabini,” a name derived from the Samnites and other groups living in the area.

2. Look at their art: Samnites looked for their artistic inspiration from the Greeks. They had a strong artistic style with symmetrical, stylized patterns and designs that often features zoomorphic elements. Examining some of the Samnite art can provide insight into their culture.

3. Discuss their wars: The Samnites were constantly at war with the Romans, as both sides jockeyed for power and control. Look at some of the Samnite victories and defeats to understand their military tactics and their relationship with Rome.

4. Talk about their daily life: It’s important to also understand the Samnite’s way of life. Discuss aspects of their daily life, such as their food, clothing, and social interactions. Samnites lived in tribes and practiced agriculture as their main source of livelihood.

5. Look for similarities and differences: Comparing and contrasting the Samnites’ way of life with that of other ancient civilizations can help students understand their unique contributions to history.


Teaching students about the Samnites provides a more in-depth look at ancient Italy and expands their understanding of history. Incorporating different perspectives, cultural artifacts, and aspects of daily life can help students engage with the subject matter and foster a love of learning. By focusing on the Samnites, students will gain a more comprehensive understanding of the ancient world and a deeper appreciation of its diversity.

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