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Eth. SALENTI´NI or SALLENTI´NI (both forms seem to rest on good authority), (Σαλεντῖνοι), a people of Southern Italy, who inhabited a part of the peninsula which forms the SE. extremity, or as it is very often called the heel, of Italy. Their territory was thus included in the region known to the Greeks by the name of Iapygia, as well as in the district called by the Romans Calabria. Strabo remarks that the peninsula in question, which he considers as bounded by a line drawn across from Tarentum to Brundusium, was variously called Messapia, Iapygia, Calabria, and Salentina; but that some writers established a distinction between the names. (Strab. vi. p.282.) There seems no doubt that the names were frequently applied irregularly and vaguely, but that there were in fact two distinct tribes or races inhabiting the peninsula, the Salentines and the Calabrians (Strab. vi. p.277), of whom the latter were commonly known to the Greeks as the Messapians [CALABRIA]. Both were, however, in all probability kindred races belonging to the great family of the Pelasgian stock. Tradition represented the Salentines as of Cretan origin, and, according to the habitual form of such legends, ascribed them to a Cretan colony under Idomeneus after the Trojan War. (Strab. vi. p.282; Verg. A. 3.400; Fest. s. v. Salentini, p. 329; Varr. ap. Prob. ad Virg. Ecl. 6.31.) They appear to have inhabited the southern part of the peninsula, extending from its southern extremity (the Capo di Leuca), which was thence frequently called the Salentine promontory ( “Salentinum Promontorium,” Mel. 2.4.8; Ptol. 3.1.13), to the neighbourhood of Tarentum. But we have no means of distinguishing accurately the limits of the two tribes, or the particular towns which belonged to each.

The name of the Salentines does not seem to have been familiarly known to the Greeks, at least in early times: as we do not hear of their name in any of the wars with the Tarentines, though from their position they must have been one of the tribes that early came into collision with the rising colony. They were probably known under the general appellation of lapygians, or confounded with their neighbours the Messapians. On the contrary, as soon as their name appears in Roman history, it is in a wider and more general sense than that to which it is limited by the geographers. Livy speaks of the Salentini as acceding to the Samnite alliance in B.C. 306, when the consul L. Volumnius was sent into their country, who defeated them in several battles, and took some of their towns. (Liv. 9.42.) It is almost impossible to believe that the Romans [p. 2.882]had as early as this pushed their arms into the Iapygian peninsula, and it is probable that the Salentines are here confounded with the Peucetians, with whom, according to some accounts, they were closely connected. (Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16.) But the name is used with still greater laxity shortly after, when Livy speaks of Thuriae as “urbem in Sallentinis” (10.2), if at least, as there seems little doubt, the place there meant is the well-known city of Thurii in Lucania [THURII].

The name of the Sallentines does not again occur in history till the Fourth Samnite War, when they joined the confederacy formed by the Samnites and Tarentines against Rome; and shared in their defeat by the consul L. Aemilius Barbula in B.C. 281, as we find that general celebrating a triumph over the Tarentines, Samnites, and Sallentines. (Fast. Capit. ann. 473.) For some time after this the appearance of Pyrrhus in Italy drew off the attention of the Romans from more ignoble adversaries, but when that monarch had finally withdrawn from Italy, and Tarentum itself had fallen into the hands of the Romans, they were left at leisure to turn their arms against the few tribes that still maintained their independence. In B.C. 267 war was declared against the Salentines, and both consuls were employed in their subjugation. It was not likely that they could offer much resistance, yet their final conquest was not completed till the following year, when both consuls again celebrated triumphs “de Messapiis Sallentinisque.” (Fast. Capit.; Zonar. 8.7; Liv. Epit. xv; Florus, 1.20; Eutrop. 2.17.) All the Roman writers on this occasion mention the Salentines alone; the Triumphal Fasti, however, record the name of the Messapians in conjunction with them, and it is certain that both nations were included both in the war and the conquest, for Brundusium, which is called by Florus “caput regionis,” and the occupation of which was evidently the main object of the war (Zonar. l.c.), seems to have been at that period certainly a Messapian city. The Salentines are again mentioned as revolting to Hannibal during the Second Punic War (B.C. 213), but seem to have been again reduced to subjection without difficulty. (Liv. 25.1, 27.36, 41.) From this time their name disappears from history, and is not even found among the nations of Italy that took up arms in the Social War. But the “Sallentinus ager” continued to be a recognised term, and the people are spoken of both by Pliny and Strabo as distinct from their neighbours the Calabri. (Strab. vi. p.277; Plin. Nat. 3.11. s. 16; Ptol. 3.1.13; Mel. 2.4; Cic. pro Rosc. Am. 46) The “regio Salentina” is even mentioned as a distinct portion of Calabria as late as the time of the Lombards. (P. Diac. Hist. Lang. 2.21.)

The physical character and topography of the country of the Salentines are given in the article CALABRIA The following towns are assigned by Pliny to the Salentines, as distinguished from the Calabrians, strictly so called: ALETIUM, BASTA, NERETUM, UXENTUM, and VERETUM All these are situated in the extreme southern end of the Iapygian peninsula. The list given by Ptolemy nearly agrees with that of Pliny; but he adds Rhudiae, which was considerably further N., and is reckoned on good authority a Calabrian city [RHUDIAE]. The place he calls Banota is probably the Basta of Pliny. To these inland towns may probably be added the seaports of CALLIPOLIS, CASTRUM MINERVAE, and perhaps HYDRUNTUM also, though the last seems to have early received a Greek colony. But it is probable that at an earlier period the territory of the Salentines was considerably more extensive. Stephanus of Byzantium speaks of a city of the name of Sallentia, from which was derived the name of the Sallentines, but no mention of this is found in any other writer, and it is probably a mere mistake.


hide References (8 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (8):
    • Cicero, For Sextus Roscius of Ameria, 46
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 3.400
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.11
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 42
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 36
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 41
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 3.1
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