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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 5: War with the Samnites. Surrender.[321 BC]
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The consuls [Note 1] left to confer with Pontius. When the victor began to insist upon a treaty, they told him that a treaty could not possibly be made without the orders of the people nor without the fetials and the usual ceremonial. So that the convention of Claudium did not, as is commonly believed and as even Claudius asserts, take the form of a regular treaty. It was concluded through a sponsio, i.e. by the officers giving their word of honour to observe the conditions. For what need would there have been in the case of a treaty for any pledge from the officers or for any hostages, since in concluding a treaty the imprecation [Note 2] is always used: "By whosoever default it may come about that the said conditions are not observed, may Jupiter so smite that people as this swine is now struck by the fetials." |
The consuls, the staff-officers, the quaestors, and the military tribunes all gave their word on oath, and all their names are extant to-day, whereas if a regular treaty had been concluded no names but those of the two fetials would have survived.
Owing to the inevitable delay in arranging a treaty, 600 equites were demanded as hostages to answer with their lives if the terms of the capitulation were not observed [Note 3]. Then a definite time was fixed for surrendering the hostages and sending the army, deprived of its arms, under the yoke.
The return of the consuls with the terms of surrender renewed the grief and distress in the camp. So bitter was the feeling that the men had difficulty in keeping their hands off those "through whose rashness," they said, "they had been brought into that place and through whose cowardice they would have to leave it in a more shameful plight than they had come. They had had no guides who knew the neighbourhood, no scouts had been thrown out, they had fallen blindly like wild animals into a trap." There they were, looking at each other, gazing sadly at the armour and weapons which were soon to be given up, their right hands which were to be defenceless, their bodies which were to be at the mercy of their enemies. They pictured to themselves the hostile yoke, the taunts and insulting looks of the victors, their marching disarmed between the armed ranks, and then afterwards the miserable progress of an army in disgrace through the cities of their allies, their return to their country and their parents, whither their ancestors had so often returned in triumphal procession. They alone, they said, had been defeated without receiving a single wound, or using a single weapon, or fighting a single battle; they had not been allowed to draw the sword or come to grips with the enemy; courage and strength had been given them in vain.
While they were uttering these indignant protests, the hour of their humiliation arrived which was to make everything more bitter for them by actual experience than they had anticipated or imagined. First of all they were ordered to lay down their arms and go outside the rampart with only one garment each. The first to be dealt with were those surrendered as hostages who were taken away for safe keeping. Next, the lictors were ordered to retire from the consuls, who were then stripped of their paludamenta. This aroused such deep commiseration amongst those who a short time ago had been cursing them and saying that they ought to be surrendered and scourge, that every man, forgetting his own plight, turned away his eyes from such an outrage upon the majesty of state as from a spectacle too horrible to behold.
Note 1: consuls = Postumius and Veturius