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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VIII Chapter 30: Conflict between the dictator and his Master of the Horse.[324 BC]
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The advance into Samnium was made under doubtful auspices. This circumstance did not portend the result of the campaign, for that was quite favourable, but it did foreshadow the insane passion which the commanders displayed. |
Papirius was warned by the pullarius that it would be necessary to take the auspices afresh. On his departure for Rome for this purpose, he strictly charged the Master of the Horse to keep within his lines and not to engage the enemy. After he had gone Quintus Fabius, learnt from his scouts that the enemy were showing as much carelessness as if there were not a single Roman in Samnium. Whether it was that his youthful temper resented everything being dependent on the dictator, or whether he was tempted by the chance offered him of a brilliant success, at any rate, after making the necessary preparations and dispositions he advanced as far as Inbrinium -- for so is the district called -- and fought a battle with the Samnites. Such was the fortune of the fight that had the dictator himself been present he could have done nothing to make the success more complete. The general did not disappoint his men, nor did the men disappoint their general. The cavalry made repeated charges but failed to break through the massed force opposed to them, and acting on the advice of Lucius Cominius, a military tribune, they removed the bits from their horses and spurred them on so furiously that nothing could withstand them. Riding down men and armour they spread carnage far and wide. The infantry followed them and completed the disorder of the enemy. It is said that they lost 20,000 men that day. Some authorities whom I have consulted state that there were two battles fought in the dictator's absence, and each was a brilliant success. In the oldest writers, however, only one battle is mentioned, and some annalists omit the incident altogether.
In consequence of the vast number slain, a large amount of spoil in the shape of armour and weapons was picked up on the battle-field, and the Master of the Horse had this collected into a huge heap and burnt. His object may have been to discharge a vow to some deity. But if we are to trust the authority of Fabius, he did this to prevent the dictator from reaping the fruits of his glory, or carrying the spoils in his triumph and afterwards placing his name upon them (1). The fact also of his sending the despatches announcing his victory to the senate and not to the dictator would seem to show that he was by no means anxious to allow him any share in the credit of it. At all events the dictator took it in that night, and whilst everybody else was jubilant at the victory which had been won, he wore an expression of gloom and wrath. He abruptly dismissed the senate and hurried from the Senate-house, repeatedly exclaiming that the authority and dignity of the dictator would be as completely overthrown by the Master of the Horse as the Samnite legions had been if this contempt of his orders were to remain unpunished. In this angry and menacing mood, he started with all possible speed for the camp. He was unable, however, to reach it before news arrived of his approach, for messengers had started from the City in advance of him, bringing word that the dictator was coming bent on vengeance, and almost every other word he uttered was in praise of Titus Manlius. (2)
(1): The name of the victorious general was generally inscribed on such spoils of the enemy as were offered to a deity, generally either Romulus or Jupiter, and hung up in his temple. We have an instance of an inscription on the spoils in Vol. I. p. 244.
(2): Papirius was evidently hoping to take Titus Manlius for his model and re-enact the scene described in chap. vii.