Hirpini

Hirpini

The Hirpini (Greek: polytonic|Ἱρπινοί, Pol.; polytonic|Ἱρπῖνοι, Strab., App.), were an ancient people of central Italy, of Samnite race, and who were often regarded as constituting only a portion of the Samnite people, while at other times they are treated as a distinct and independent nation. They inhabited the southern portion of Samnium, in the more extensive sense of that name, roughyl the area now known as Irpinia from their name: it is a mountainous region bordering on Basilicata towards the south, on Apulia to the east, and on Campania towards the west. No marked natural boundary separated them from any one of these neighboring nations; but they occupied the lofty masses and groups of the central Apennines, while the plains on each side, and the lower ranges that bounded them, belonged to their more fortunate neighbors. The mountain basin formed by the three tributaries of the Vulturnus (modern Volturno) – the Tamarus (modern Tamaro), the Calor (mod. Calore), and the Sabatus (mod. Sabato), which unite their waters near Beneventum, with the valleys of these rivers themselves, surrounded on all sides by lofty and rugged ranges of mountains – may be regarded as constituting the center and heart of their territory; while its more southern portion comprised the upper valley of the Aufidus (modern Ofanto) and the lofty group of mountains in which that river takes its rise.

Name

Their name was derived, according to the statement of ancient writers, from "hirpus", the Oscan name of a wolf; and, in accordance with this derivation, their first ancestors were represented as being guided to their new settlements by a wolf. (Strab. v. p. 250; Serv. "ad Aen." xi. 785.) This tradition appears to indicate that the Hirpini were regarded as having migrated, like the other Sabellian races in the south of Italy, from more northerly abodes; but we have no indication of the period, or supposed period, of this migration, and, from their position in the fastnesses of the central Apennines, it is probable that they were established from a very early time in the region which we find them occupying when they first appear in history.

Affiliations and history

The early history of the Hirpini cannot be separated from that of the Samnites in general. Indeed it is remarkable that their name does not once occur in history during the long protracted struggle between the Romans and the Samnite confederacy (the Samnite Wars), though their territory was often the theatre of the war, and several of their cities, especially "Maloenton" (Roman "Maleventum", modern Benevento), are repeatedly mentioned as bearing an important part in the military operations of both powers. Hence it is evident that the Hirpini at this time formed an integral part of the Samnite league, and were included by the Roman annalists (whose language on such points Livy follows with scrupulous fidelity) under the general name of Samnites, without attempting to distinguish between the several tribes of that people. For the same reason we are unable to fix the exact period at which their subjugation was effected; but it is evident that it must have been completed before the year 268 BCE, when the Roman colony was established at Beneventum (Liv. "Epit." xv.; Vell. Pat. i. 14), a position that must always have been, in a military point of view, the key to the possession of their country.

In the Second Punic War, on the contrary, the Hirpini appear as an independent people, acting apart from the rest of the Samnites; Livy even expressly uses the name of Samnium in contradistinction to the land of the Hirpini. (Liv. xxii. 13, xxiii. 43.) The latter people was one of those which declared in favour of Hannibal immediately after the battle of Cannae, 216 BCE ("Id." xxii. 61, xxiii. 1); but the Roman colony of Beneventum never fell into the hands of the Carthaginian general, and as early as the following year three of the smaller towns of the Hirpini were recovered by the Roman praetor M. Valerius ("Id." xxiii. 37). In 214 BCE their territory was the scene of the operations of Hanno against Tiberius Gracchus, and again in 212 BCE of those of the same Carthaginian general with a view to the relief of Capua. ("Id." xxiv. 14-16, xxv. 13, 14.) It was not till 209 BCE, when Hannibal had lost all footing in the center of Italy, that the Hirpini were induced to make their submission to Rome, and purchased favourable terms by betraying the Carthaginian garrisons in their towns. (Id. xxvii. 15.)

The next occasion on which the Hirpini figure in history is in the Social War (90 BC), when they were among the first to take up arms against Rome: but in the campaign of the following year (89 BCE), Sulla having taken by assault Aeculanum, one of their strongest cities, the blow struck such terror into the rest which led them to make offers of submission, and they were admitted to favourable terms. (Appian, "B.C." i. 39, 51.) Even before this there appears to have been a party in the nation favorable to Rome, as we are told that Minatius Magius (the ancestor of the historian Velleius), who was a native of Aeculanum, was not only himself faithful to the Roman cause, but was able to raise an auxiliary legion among his countrymen, with which he supported the Roman generals in Campania. (Vell. Pat. ii. 16.) The Hirpini were undoubtedly admitted to the Roman franchise at the close of the war, and from this time their national existence was at an end. They appear to have suffered less than their neighbours the Samnites from the ravages of the war, but considerable portions of their territory were confiscated, and it would seem, from a passage in Cicero, that a large part of it had passed into the hands of wealthy Roman nobles. (Cic. "de Leg. Agr." iii. 2; Zumpt, "de Colon." p. 258.)

By the division of Italy under Augustus, the Hirpini were separated from the other Samnites, and placed in the second Region together with Apulia and Calabria, while Samnium itself was included in the fourth Region. (Plin. iii. 11. s. 16, 12. s. 17.) The same separation was retained also in the later divisions of Italy under the Roman Empire, according to which Samnium, in the more confined sense of the name, formed a small separate province, while Beneventum and the greater part, if not the whole, of the other towns of the Hirpini, were included in the province of Campania. The "Liber Coloniarum", indeed, includes all the towns of Samnium, as well as those of the Hirpini, among the "Civitates Campaniae"; but this is probably a mistake. (Lib. Col. pp. 229--239; Mommsen, "ad Lib. Col." pp. 159,205, 206; Marquardt, "Handb. d. Röm. Alterthümer." vol. iii pp. 62, 63.)

Towns and cities

The national characteristics of the Hirpini cannot be separated from those of the other Samnites, nor is it always easy to separate the limits of the Hirpini from those of the neighbouring Samnite tribes; more especially as our authorities upon this point relate almost exclusively to the Imperial times, when the original distinctions of the tribes had been in great measure obliterated. Pliny's list of the towns in the second region is more than usually obscure, and those of the Hirpini and of Apulia are mixed up together in a most perplexing manner. The towns which may be assigned with certainty to the Hirpini are: Beneventum, by far the most important city in this part of Italy, and which is often referred to Samnium, but must have properly been included in the Hirpini, and is expressly called by Pliny the only Roman colony in their territory (Plin. iii. 11. s. 16); Aeculanum, also a flourishing and important town, nearly in the heart of their territory; Abellinum, on the confines of Campania, and near the sources of the Sabatus; Compsa (modern Conza), near the head waters of the Aufidus and bordering on Lucania; Aquilonia and Romulea near the frontiers of Apulia, in the southeastern portion of the Hirpinian territory; Trivicum and Equus Tuticus (modern Sant'Eleuterio) also adjoining the Apulian frontiers; and, north of the last-mentioned city, Murgantia near the sources of the Frento, which seems to have been the furthest of the Hirpinian towns towards the northeast, if at, least it be correctly placed at modern Baselice. In the valley of the Tamarus, north of the territory of Beneventum, were situated the Ligures Barbiani et Corneliani, a colony of Ligurians transplanted to the heart of these mountain regions in 180 BCE (Liv. xl. 38, 41), and which still continued to exist as a separate community in the days of Pliny. (Plin. iii. 11. s. 16; Lib. Col. p. 235.) Of the minor towns of the Hirpini, three are mentioned by Livy (xxiii. 37) as retaken by the praetor M. Valerius in 215 BCE; but the names given in the manuscripts (see Alschefski, "ad boc."), Vescellium, Vercellium, and Sicilinum, are probably corrupt: they are all otherwise unknown, except that the Vescellani are also found in Pliny's list of towns. (Plin. l. c.) Ferentinum, mentioned also by Livy (x. 17), in connection with Romulea, is also wholly unknown. Fratulum (Greek: polytonic|Φρατούολον, Ptol. iii. 1. § 71), of which the name is found only in Ptolemy, is equally uncertain. Taurasia mentioned as a town only in the celebrated epitaph of Scipio Barbatus, had left its name to the Taurasini Campi not far from Beneventum, and must therefore have been itself situated in that neighborhood. Aletrium, of which the name is found in Pliny ("Aletrini", iii. 11. s. 16), has been conjectured to be the modern Calitri, a village in the upper valley of the Aufidus, not far from Compsa (Conza). Of the other obscure names given by the same author, it is impossible (as already observed) to determine which belong to the Hirpini.

Volcanic structures

The most remarkable natural curiosity in the land of the Hirpini was the valley and lake, or rather pool, of Amsanctus, celebrated by Virgil in a manner that shows its fame to have been widely spread through Italy. (Virg. "Aen." vii. 563.) It is remarkable as the only trace of volcanic action remaining in the central chain of the Apennines. (Charles Daubeny on "Volcanoes", p. 191.)

Roads

The country of the Hirpini, notwithstanding its rugged and mountainous character, was traversed by several Roman roads, all of which may be regarded as connected with the Via Appia. The main line of that celebrated road was carried in the first instance direct from Capua to Beneventum: here it branched into two, the one leading directly by Aeculanum, Romulea, and Aquilonia, to Venusia (modern Venosa) and thence to Tarentum (modern Taranto): this was the proper Via Appia; the other known from the time of the emperor Trajan (who first rendered it practicable throughout for carriages) as the Via Trajana which proceeded from Beneventum by Forum Novum (modern Buonalbergo), and Equus Tuticus (San Eleuterio), to Aecae in Apulia, and thence by Herdonea and Canusium (modern Canosa) to Brundusium (modern Brindisi). Their course through the country of the Hirpini has been traced with great care by Mommsen. ("Topografia degli Irpini", in the "Bullettino dell' Inst. Archeol." 1848, pp. 6-13.)

References

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