Classification: Indo-European, Italic, Sabellian. Oscan belongs to a group of related languages, called Sabellian, that were prevalent in pre-Roman Italy. Oscan is the best attested of them. It was quite similar to Umbrian and Volscian (other Sabellian languages), and more distantly related toLatin and Faliscan.
Overview. Oscan was one of a number of Indo-European languages existent in the Italic peninsula at the beginning of the historical period (700-600 BCE). It was spoken by the Samnites located in the southern half of the peninsula who where the most formidable early enemies of the Romans but were obliterated by them in the end. Their language is, thus, known (imperfectly) only by inscriptions.
Distribution and Status. Oscan is an extinct language that was spoken in southern and central Italy, in the regions of Samnium, Campania, Lucania and Bruttium. It is attested from the 6th century BCE until the 1st century CE when it was displaced by Roman expansion.
Documents. Oscan, like other Sabellian languages, is known almost exclusively by inscriptions. Around 650 of them have been found. Many come from Capua and Pompeii, in Campania. Two important inscriptions are:
The Cippus Abellanus, a limestone plaque dating from the 2nd c. BCE, discovered in Campania, which records an arbitration between the cities of Nola and Abella regarding the use of a sanctuary of Heracles.
The Tabula Bantina, a bronze tablet from the town of Bantia in Lucania, contains the longest Oscan text. It dates from 150-100 BCE and in it are inscribed, in Latin letters, the laws of the town.