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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book X Chapter 39: The Battle of Aquilonia. Preparations.[293 BC]
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The consuls left the City. The first to go was Spurius Carvilius, to whom were assigned the legions which Marcus Atilius, the previous consul, had left in the district of Interamna. With these he advanced into Samnium, and while the enemy were taken up with their superstitious observance and forming secret plans, he stormed and captured the town of Amiternum. Nearly 2800 men were killed there, and 4270 made prisoners.|
Papirius with a fresh army raised by senatorial decree successfully attacked the city of Duronia. He made fewer prisoners than his colleague, but slew a somewhat greater number. In both towns rich booty was secured. Then the consuls traversed Samnium in different directions; Carvilius, after ravaging the Atinate country, came to Cominium; Papirius reached Aquilonia, where the main army of the Samnites was posted.
For some time his troops, while not quite inactive, abstained from any serious fighting. The time was spent in annoying the enemy when he was quiet, and retiring when he showed resistance -- in threatening rather than in offering battle. As long as this practice went on day after day, of beginning and then desisting, even the slightest skirmish led to no result. The other Roman camp was separated by an interval of 20 miles, but Carvilius was guided in all his measures by the advice of his distant colleague; his thoughts were dwelling more on Aquilonia, where the state of affairs was so critical, than on Cominium, which he was actually besieging.
Papirius was at length perfectly ready to fight, and he sent a message to his colleague announcing his intention, if the auspices were favourable, of engaging the enemy the next day, and impressing upon him the necessity of attacking Cominium with his full strength, to give the Samnites no opportunity of sending succour to Aquilonia. The messenger had the day for his journey, he returned in the night, bringing word back to the consul that his colleague approved of his plan.
Immediately after despatching the messenger Papirius ordered a muster of his troops, and addressed them preparatory to the battle. He spoke at some length upon the general character of the war they were engaged in, and especially upon the style of equipment which the enemy had adopted, which he said served for idle pageantry rather than for practical use. Plumes did not inflict wounds, their painted and gilded shields would be penetrated by the Roman javelin, and an army resplendent in dazzling white would be stained with gore when the sword came into play. A Samnite army all in gold and silver had once been annihilated by his father, and those trappings had brought more glory as spoils to the victors than they had brought as armour to the wearers. It might, perhaps, be a special privilege granted to his name and family that the greatest efforts which the Samnites had ever made should be frustrated and defeated under their generalship and that the spoils which they brought back should be sufficiently splendid to serve as decorations for the public places in the City. Treaties so often asked for, so often broken, brought about the intervention of the immortal gods and if it were permitted to make to form any conjecture as to the feelings of the gods, he believed that they had never been more incensed against any army than against this one of the Samnites It had taken part in infamous rites and been stained with the mingled blood of men and beasts; it was under the two-fold curse of heaven, filled with dread at the thought of the gods who witnessed the treaties made with Rome and horror-struck at the imprecations which were uttered when all oath was taken to break those treaties, an oath which the soldiers took under compulsion and which they recall with loathing. They dread alike the gods, their fellow-countrymen, and the enemy.
Event: Fourth war with Samnites