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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 41: Wars with Etruria, the Samnites and Umbria.[308 BC]
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Owing to his splendid services in the subjugation of Etruria, the consulship of Fabius was extended to another year, Decius being his colleague. Valerius was elected praetor for the fourth time. The consuls arranged their respective commands; Etruria fell to Decius, and Samnium to Fabius. Fabius marched to Nuceria, where the people of Alfaterna met him with a request for peace, but as they had refused it when offered to them before, he declined to grant it now. It was not till he actually began to attack the place that they were forced into unconditional surrender. He fought an action with the Samnites and won an easy victory. The memory of that battle would not have survived if it had not been that the Marsi engaged for the first time on that occasion in hostilities with Rome. The Peligni, who had followed the example of the Marsi, met with the same fate. |
The other consul, Decius, was also successful. He inspired such alarm in Tarquinii that its people provided his army with corn and asked for a forty years' truce. He captured several fortified posts belonging to Volsinii, some of which he destroyed that they might not serve as retreats for the enemy, and by extending his operations in all directions he made his name so dreaded that the whole Etruscan league begged him to grant a treaty. There was not the slightest chance of their obtaining one, but a truce was granted them for one year. They had to provide a year's pay for the troops and two tunics for every soldier. That was the price of the truce.
While matters were thus quieted in Etruria fresh trouble was caused by the sudden defection of the Umbrian, a people hitherto untouched by the ravages of war beyond what their land had suffered from the passage of the Romans. They called out all their fighting men and compelled a large section of the Etruscan population to resume hostilities. The army which they mustered was so large that they began to talk in very braggart tones about themselves and in very contemptuous terms about the Romans. They even expressed their intention of leaving Decius in their rear and marching straight to attack Rome. Their intentions were disclosed to Decius; he at once hastened by forced marches to a city outside the frontiers of Etruria and took up a position in the territory of Pupinia, to watch the enemy's movements.
This hostile movement on the part of the Umbrians was regarded very seriously in Rome, even their menacing language made people, after their experience of the Gaulish invasion tremble for the safety of their City. Instructions were accordingly sent to Fabius, ordering him, if he could for the time being suspend operations in Samnium, to march with all speed into Umbria. The consul at once acted upon his instructions and proceeded by forced marches to Mevania, where the forces of the Umbrians were stationed. They were under the impression that he was far away in Samnium, with another war on his hands, and his sudden arrival produced such consternation amongst them, that some advised a retreat into their fortified cities, while others were in favour of abandoning the war. There was one canton -- the natives call it Materina -- which not only kept the rest under arms but even induced them to come to an immediate engagement. They attacked Fabius while he was fortifying his camp. When he saw them making a rush towards his entrenchments he called his men off from their work and marshalled them in the best order that the ground and the time at his disposal allowed. He reminded them of the glory they had won in Etruria and in Samnium, and bade them finish off this wretched aftergrowth of the Etruscan war and exact a fitting retribution for the impious language in which the enemy had threatened to attack Rome. His words were received with such eagerness by his men that their enthusiastic shouts interrupted their commander's address, and without waiting for the word of command or the notes of the trumpets and bugles they raced forward against the enemy. They did not attack them as though they were armed men; marvellous to relate, they began by snatching the standards from those who bore them, then the standard-bearers were themselves dragged off to the consul, the soldiers were pulled across from the one army to the other, the action was everywhere fought with shields rather than with swords, men were knocked down by the bosses of shields and blows under the arm-pits. More were captured than killed, and only one cry was heard throughout the ranks: "Lay down your arms!" So, on the field of battle, the prime authors of the war surrendered. During the next few days the rest of the Umbrian communities submitted. The Ocriculans entered into a mutual undertaking with Rome and were admitted to her friendship.