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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 7: War with the Samnites. The Reception in Rome.[321-0 BC]
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While this report was being made and listened to with the greatest attention, and the name and greatness of Rome were being mourned over as though lost for ever, in the Council of her faithful allies, Ofillius Calavius, the son of Ovus, addressed the senators. He was a man of high birth and with a distinguished career and now venerable for his age. He is reported to have said: "The truth is far otherwise. That stubborn silence, those eyes fixed on the ground, those ears deaf to all consolation, that shame-faced shrinking from the light, are all indications of a terrible resentment fermenting in their hearts which will break out in vengeance. Either I know nothing of the Roman character or that silence will soon call forth amongst the Samnites cries of distress and groans of anguish. The memory of the capitulation of Caudium will be much more bitter to the Samnites than to the Romans. Whenever and wherever they meet each side will be animated by its own courage and the Samnites will not find the Caudine Forks everywhere." |
The Reception in Rome.
Rome was now aware of its disaster. The first information they received was that the army was blockaded, then came the more gloomy news of the ignominious capitulation. Immediately on receiving the first intelligence of the blockade they began to levy troops but when they heard that the army had surrendered in such a disgraceful way, the preparations for relieving them were abandoned, and without waiting for any formal order the whole City presented the aspect of public mourning. The booths round the Forum were shut up; all public business in the Forum ceased spontaneously before the proclamation closing it was made; the senators laid aside their purple striped tunics and gold rings; the gloom amongst the citizens was almost greater than that in the army. Their indignation was not confined to the generals or the officers who had made the convention, even the innocent soldiers were the objects of resentment, they said they would not admit them into the City. But this angry temper was dispelled by the arrival of the troops; their wretched appearance awoke commiseration amongst the most resentful. They did not enter the City like men returning in safety after being given up for lost, but in the guise and with the expression of prisoners. They came late in the evening and crept to their homes, where they kept themselves so close that for some days not one of them would show himself in public or in the Forum.
The consuls shut themselves up in privacy and refused to discharge any official functions with the exception of one which was wrung from them by a decree of the senate, namely, the nomination of a dictator to conduct the elections. They nominated Quintus Fabius Ambustus, with Publius Aelius Paetus as Master of the Horse. Their appointment was found to be irregular, and they were replaced by Marcus Aemilius Papus as dictator and Lucius Valerius Flaccus as Master of the Horse. Even they, however, were not allowed to conduct the elections; the people were dissatisfied with all the magistrates of that year, and so matters reverted to an interregnum. Quintus Fabius Maximus and Marcus Valerius Corvus were successively interreges, and the latter held the consular elections. Quintus Publilius Philo and Lucius Papirius Cursor -- the latter for the second time -- were returned. The choice was universally approved, for all knew there were no more brilliant generals at that day.