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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 12: War with the Samnites. Renewal of the War.[320 BC]
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The Samnites clearly saw that instead of the peace which they had so arrogantly dictated, a most bitter war had commenced. They not only had a foreboding of all that was coming but they almost saw it with their eyes; now when it was too late they began to view with approval the two alternatives which the elder Pontius had suggested. They saw that they had fallen between the two, and by adopting a middle course had exchanged the secure possession of victory for an insecure and doubtful peace. They realised that they had lost the chance of doing either a kindness or an injury, and would have to fight with those whom they might have got rid of for ever as enemies or secured for ever as friends. And though no battle had yet given either side the advantage, men's feelings had so changed that Postumius enjoyed a greater reputation amongst the Romans for his surrender than Pontius possessed amongst the Samnites for his bloodless victory. The Roman regarded the possibility of war as involving the certainty of victory, whilst the Samnites looked upon the renewal of hostilities by the Roman as equivalent to their own defeat. |
In the meantime, Satricum revolted to the Samnites. The latter made a sudden descent on Fregellae and succeeded in occupying it in the night, assisted, there is no doubt by the Satricans. Mutual fear kept both the Samnites and the Fregellans quiet till daylight, with the return of light the battle began. For some time the Fregellans held their ground, for they were fighting for their hearths and homes and the noncombatant population assisted them from the roofs of the houses. At length the assailants gained the advantage by adopting a ruse. A proclamation was made that all who laid down their arms should depart unhurt, and the defenders did not interfere with the crier who made it. Now that there were hopes of safety they fought with less energy and in all directions arms were thrown away. Some, however, showed more determination and made their way fully armed through the opposite gate. Their courage proved a better protection than the timid credulity of the others, for these were hemmed in by the Samnites with a ring of fire, and in spite of their cries for mercy were burnt to death.
After arranging their respective commands, the consuls took the field. Papirius marched into Apulia as far as Luceria, where the equites who had been given as hostages at Caudium were interned; Publilius remained in Samnium to oppose the legions who had been at Caudium. His presence made the Samnites uncertain how to act; they could not march to Luceria for fear of exposing themselves to a rear attack, nor did they feel satisfied to remain where they were, as Luceria might in the meantime he lost. They decided that the best course would be to try their fortune and hazard a battle with Publilius.