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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 24: War with Samnites. Capture of Sora.[314 BC]
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They then returned to Sora, and the new consuls, Marcus Poetilius and Gaius Sulpicius, took over the army from the dictator Fabius, after a large proportion of the veterans had been sent home and new cohorts brought up as reinforcements. Owing, however, to the difficulties presented by the position of the city, no definite plan of attack was yet formed; a long time would be needed to reduce it by famine, and to attempt to storm it would involve considerable risk. |
In the midst of this uncertainty a Soran deserter left the town secretly and made his way to the Roman sentinels, whom he requested to conduct him at once to the consuls. On being brought before them he undertook to betray the place into their hands. When questioned as to the means by which he would carry out his undertaking, he laid his proposals before them and they appeared quite feasible. He advised them to remove their camp, which was almost adjoining the walls, to a distance of six miles from the town, this would lead to less vigilance on the part of those who were on outpost duty during the day and sentry duty at night. The following night, after some cohorts had been ordered to conceal themselves in some wooded spots close under the town, he conducted a picked body of ten men by a steep and almost inaccessible path into the citadel. Here a quantity of missile weapons had been collected, far more than would be required for the men who had been brought there, and in addition there were large stones, some lying about as is usual in craggy places, others piled in heaps by the townsmen to use for the defence of the place. When he had posted the Romans here and had pointed out to them a steep and narrow path leading up from the town, he said to them: "From this ascent even three armed men could keep back a multitude however large. You are ten in number, and what is more you are Romans, and the bravest of them. You have the advantage of position and you will be helped by the night, which by its obscurity makes everything look more terrible. I will now spread panic everywhere; you devote yourselves to holding the citadel." Then he ran down and created as great a tumult as he possibly could, shouting: "To arms, citizens! Help, help! The citadel has been seized by the enemy, hasten to its defence!" He kept up the alarm as he knocked at the doors of the principal men, he shouted it in the ears of all whom he met, of all who rushed out terror-struck into the streets. The panic which one man had started was carried by numbers through the city. The magistrates hurriedly sent men up to the citadel to find out what had happened, and when they heard that it was held by an armed force, whose numbers were grossly exaggerated, they gave up all hopes of recovering it. All quarters of the city were filled with fugitives; the gates were burst open by people who were only half awake and mostly without arms, and through one of these the Roman cohorts, roused by the shouting, rushed in and slew the frightened crowds who were thronging the streets.
Sora was already captured when in the early dawn the consul appeared and accepted the surrender of those whom Fortune had spared from the nocturnal massacre. Amongst these two hundred and twenty-five were sent in chains to Rome as they were universally admitted to have been the instigators of the murder of the colonists and the revolt which followed. The rest of the population were left uninjured and a garrison was stationed in the town. All those taken to Rome were scourged and beheaded to the great satisfaction of the plebs, who felt it to be a matter of supreme importance that those who had been sent out in such large numbers as colonists should be safe wherever they were.