appropriated to this class of the people; and it is a part of tradition that the
two Tarquins owed a part of their bad fame to the fact that they were Etruscans.
The fall of the Veii was the first step-as the defeat, in B. C. 283, of the
Etruscans by Fabius Maximus at the Vadimonian Lake was the last-in the work of
subjugating Etruria to the Romans.
The next of the ancient Italian peoples requiring our attention were the Oscans,
called by the Greeks the Opicians, or Ausones. Their territory adjoined the
country of the OEnotrians on the north, and embraced Campania as its center. The
district, however, occupied by the Oscans extended northward into Latium, and
eastward across the peninsula. The people were thus a kind of central race in
Italy, having the Pelasgic OEnotrians on the south, and the Umbrians and
Etruscans on the north. From the Oscan language it is definitely known that the
original tribe had a close race affinity with the Latins. The two tongues,
indeed, are but cognate dialects of the same speech-a fact which has led to the
remark of Niebuhr that if a single book written in the Oscan language had been
preserved we should have little difficulty in deciphering it.
The earliest movement of the Oscans from their original seats appears to have
been their spreading into Samnium. To what extent this country was subjugated by
them can not be certainly known, but the likelihood is that they became, and
continued for a long time, the dominant people of that state. It is believed,
moreover, that the Volscians and the AEquians were Oscan tribes, as was also the
colony at Reate, which afterward descended from its highland position and became
a part of the composite family of Latini.
The first foreign aggression made upon the territory of the Oscans was by the
mountain tribe of the Sabines. According to tradition these warlike people
descended upon their more quiet neighbors of Samnium, and easily overran the
province. They were fewer in number than the people whom they subdued, but easily
kept the mastery of the subject district. It is one of the earliest examples of a
tribe of conquerors residing among the conquered and acquiring their language and
habits. By this union was formed the race of the Samnites, destined to bear so
important a part in the early history of Rome. It is related, however, that the
governing class in ancient Samnium was driven out by the Sabine invasion, and
that these expelled people, retiring into Latium, combined with the immigrant
Latini to form that composite body of population known as the Latin race. It
should also be remarked that the linguistic changes effected by the conquest of
the Oscan Samnites by the Sabines, and the union of the Samnian language with
that of the incoming Latini, were slight and unimportant; for all these tribes
alike spoke dialects of that Graeco-Italic speech which was diffused through all
the West as far as the borders of Hispania.
It is proper in this connection to add a few words respecting those strong
primitive tribes which inhabited the hill-country lying east of Latium and
Samnium. The most important of these mountaineers were the Sabines, or
Sabellians. The original seats of this hardy people were in the lofty ranges of
the central Apennines. It was from this vantage ground that, as we have just
seen, they descended upon and expelled the Oscans of Samnium. The center of
Sabine influence was thus carried towards the west. Several of the surrounding
nations claimed their descent from the people of the Sabine Hills. Thus did the
Piceni, who in historical times held the district of Picenum; as did also the
Peligni and the Vestini-the latter, indeed, representing themselves as an
original Sabine tribe. It has even been claimed that the more celebrated race of
the Frentani, occupying the large and valuable territory on the Adriatic coast,
north of the spur of Italy, was of a Samnite, and therefore, of a Sabine, origin.
Nor do some ethnographers hesitate to affirm that the Lucanians were the
descendants of a Samnite colony, planted within the limits of ancient OEnotria.
Thus were the Sabines distributed from the frontiers of Umbria and Etruria on the
north to the Gulf of Tarentum and the borders of Bruttium.
That Italian people, however, with whom history is most concerned, were the great
race of the Latins. All the ancient authors are agreed in regarding them as a
tribe distinct from the