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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VIII Chapter 39: The Samnites again defeated (Cont.)[322 BC]
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The cavalry force, riding in perfect order, charged the enemy whilst scattered and hampered by their plunder and filled the whole place with carnage. Incapable of either resistance or flight they were cut down amongst the packages which they had thrown away and over which their startled horses were stumbling. After almost annihilating the enemy's cavalry, Marcus Fabius led his cavalry by a short circuit round the main battle and attacked the Samnite infantry from behind. The fresh shouting which arose in that direction threw them into a panic, and when the dictator saw the men in front looking round, the standards getting into confusion, and the whole line wavering, he called upon his men and encouraged them to fresh efforts; he appealed to the military tribunes and first centurions by name to join him in renewing the fight. They again raised the battle-shout and pressed forward, and wherever they advanced they saw more and more demoralisation amongst the enemy. The cavalry were now within view of those in front, and Cornelius, turning round to his maniples, indicated as well as he could by voice and hand that he recognised the standards and bucklers of his own cavalry. No sooner did they see and hear them than, forgetting the toil and travail they had endured for almost a whole day, forgetting their wounds, and as eager as though they had just emerged fresh from their camp after receiving the signal for battle, they flung themselves on the enemy. The Samnites could no longer bear up against the terrible onset of the cavalry behind them and the fierce charge of the infantry in front. A large number were killed between the two, many were scattered in flight. The infantry accounted for those who were hemmed in and stood their ground, the cavalry created slaughter among the fugitives; amongst those killed was their commander-in-chief. |
This battle completely broke down the resistance; so much so that in all their councils peace was advocated. It could not, they said, be a matter of surprise that they met with no success in an unblest war, undertaken in defiance of treaty obligations, where the gods were more justly incensed against them than men. That war would have to be expiated and atoned for at a great cost. The only question was whether they should pay the penalty by sacrificing the few who were guilty or shedding the innocent blood of all. Some even went so far as to name the instigators of the war. One name, especially, was generally denounced, that of Brutulus Papius. He was an aristocrat and possessed great influence, and there was not a shadow of doubt that it was he who had brought about the breach of the recent truce. The praetors found themselves compelled to submit a decree which the council passed, ordering Brutulus Papius to be surrendered and all the prisoners and booty taken from the Romans to be sent with him to Rome, and further that the redress which the fetials had demanded in accordance with treaty-rights should be made as law and justice demanded. Brutulus escaped the ignominy and punishment which awaited him by a voluntary death, but the decree was carried out; the fetials were sent to Rome with the dead body, and all his property was surrendered with him. None of this, however, was accepted by the Romans beyond the prisoners and whatever articles amongst the spoil were identified by the owners; so far as anything else was concerned, the surrender was fruitless.
Event: Second war with Samnites
Standard:When an army was in camp, they were fixed in the ground, each marking the station of the cohort to which it belonged; when they were taken up it was the signal for breaking up the camp and commencing the march.
Maniple:During the republic 1/30 of infantry of a legion.
Fetial:Roman priestly official conducting international relations.
Triumph:The highest honour to a general: clad like Jupiter he drove in a chariot drawn by four white horses. Before him walked the prisoners taken in the war, and the spoils of the captured cities, and in later times pictures of the conquered territories were carried before the general's chariot. He was followed by his troops, who sung songs, often extempore effusions, in honour of their commander.