External Challenges – Gauls & Samnites
Despite Rome being the most powerful state in Italy, her influence was still restricted to Latium and the conquered portion of Etruria, and she still faced challenges from within. Some Latin cities even went so far as to unite with the Gauls against Rome, which swung the rest of Latium to her side, as they feared the Gallic threat more. The Latin League was renewed in 358 B.C., and this time, the balance of power lay on the side of Rome, with her superiority acknowledged.
The Latin League was renewed on terms more definitely emphasizing the superior status of Rome (358 BC), and the second Gallic tide was rolled back in 354 BC. The opportunistic Etruscan cities attacked while she was fighting, but were soon defeated, and signed a forty year peace treaty three years later.
In 351 B.C., the Gauls reattacked, after recovering from their defeat and seizing the moment that Rome was dealing with the Etruscans, but Camillus’ son defeated them as his father had earlier.
Perhaps the first external recognition of Rome as an upcoming great power (or superpower, in today’s terminology) came from Carthage, which drew up a treaty in 348 B.C. Trade between the two nations was encouraged, and Latin territory and the coastal towns were acknowledged as being part of the Roman sphere of influence. These terms of peace separated the cities under the protectorate of Rome and those that were just treaty-allies, as Carthage was implicitly allowed to attack the southern Greek cities without Rome stepping in. However, if a Latium territory outside Roman protection was attacked, Carthage was only allowed to loot the area, but the land was returned to Rome.
Five years after this successful treaty, Rome became involved in the first Samnite war, against the Samnite highlanders, at the appeal of Campania. The Campanians were originally highlanders as well, but had settled down and had become “civilised”, and were ill-equipped to match the barbarity of their “kinsmen”. Despite their military success, Rome’s own Latin allies started an insurrection, protesting against Rome’s high-handedness in committing the whole Latin League to war without consulting them. Hence, Rome had to turn her attention to dealing with these factitious elements, leaving her allies in Campania, resulting in the “Great Latin War”, which was won two years later in 338 B.C. The Latin League was dissolved, and cities were either integrated into Rome, or the citizens were granted limited citizenship, without political rights.
The Second Samnite War was a quagmire, bogging down Rome for twenty years. At the outset, victory looked certain, but the terms for peace were so stringent that the Samnites refused to accept them, choosing instead to continue the war. The two consuls were captured in a mountain pass between two forces of Samnites, and agreed to a treaty, in which Rome was at a significant disadvantage. Not surprisingly, the senate refused to ratify it, and the war continued, with the tide only turning in the Roman’s favour in 314 B.C.
However, 3 years later, the Etruscans stepped in, propping up the failing Samnites, and Rome defeated both - the Etruscans suing for peace in 308 B.C., the Samnites four years later. The Samnites had not lost their appetite for war, however, as a last-ditch attempt to defeat Rome, involving Etruscans, Gauls, Umbrians, Sabines as well, was made in 298 B.C. In three years, Rome had crushed the combined forces at Sentinum in Umbria, but the Samnites doggedly fought until 291 B.C., when it became clear that it was impossible to win against the indomitable Roman forces. As a result of these wars, the Greek cities drew closer to Rome, as it was seen as a protector, and had aided the Greeks in Campania.