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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 13: War with the Samnites. To Luceria.[320 BC]
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Accordingly they drew up their forces for action. |
Before engaging them Publilius thought he ought to address a few words to his men, and ordered the Assembly to be sounded. There was such an eager rush, however, to the general's tent, and such loud shouts were raised in all directions as the men clamoured to be led to battle, that none of the general's address was heard; the memory of their recent disgrace was quite enough of itself to stimulate every man to fight. They strode rapidly into battle, urging the standard-bearers to move faster, and, to avoid any delay in having to hurl their javelins, they flung them away as if at a given signal and rushed upon the enemy with naked steel. There was no time for the commander's skill to be shown in manoeuvring his men or posting his reserves, it was all carried through by the enraged soldiers, who charged like madmen. The enemy were not only routed, they did not even venture to stay their flight at their camp, but went in scattered parties in the direction of Apulia. Eventually they rallied and reached Luceria in a body. The same rage and fury which had carried the Romans through the midst of the enemy hurried them on to the Samnite camp, and more carnage took place there than on the battle-field. Most of the plunder was destroyed in their excitement.
The other army under Papirius had marched along the coast and reached Arpi. The whole of the country through which he passed was peaceably disposed, an attitude which was due more to the injuries inflicted by the Samnites than to any services which the Romans had rendered. For the Samnites used to live at that day in open hamlets among the mountains, and they were in the habit of making marauding incursions into the low country and the coastal districts. Living the free open-air life of mountaineers, themselves they despised the less hardy cultivators of the plains who, as often happens, had developed a character in harmony with their surroundings. If this tract of country had been on good terms with the Samnites, the Roman army would either have failed to reach Arpi or they would have been unable to obtain provisions on their route, and so would have been cut off from supplies of every kind. Even as it was, when they had advanced to Luceria both besieged and besiegers were suffering from scarcity of provisions. The Romans drew all their supplies from Arpi but in very small quantities, for, as the infantry were all employed in outpost and patrol duty and in the construction of the siege-works, the cavalry brought the corn from Arpi in their haversacks, and sometimes when they encountered the enemy they were compelled to throw these away so as to be free to fight. The besieged, on the other hand, were obtaining their provisions and reinforcements from Samnium. But the arrival of the other consul, Publilius, with his victorious army led to their being more closely invested. He left the conduct of the siege to his colleague that he might be free to intercept the enemy's convoys on all sides. When the Samnites, who were encamped before Luceria, found that there was no hope of the besieged enduring their privations any longer, they were compelled to concentrate their whole strength and offer battle to Papirius.