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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 8: War with the Samnites. Discussion in the Senate.[320 BC]
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They entered upon the active duties of their office on the very day of their election, for so had the senate decreed, and after disposing of the business connected with their accession to office, they proceeded at once to introduce the subject of the capitulation of Caudium. Publilius, who was the presiding consul called upon Spurius Postumius to speak. He rose in his place with just the same expression that he had worn when passing under the yoke, and began: |
Consuls, I am quite aware that I have been called upon to speak first, not because I am foremost in honour, but because I am foremost in disgrace and hold the position not of a senator but of a man on his trial who has to meet the charge not only of an unsuccessful war but also of an ignominious peace. Since, however, you have not introduced the question of our guilt or punishment, I shall not enter upon a defence which in the presence of men not unacquainted with the mutability of human fortunes would not be a very difficult one to undertake. I will state in a few words what I think about the question before us, and you will he able to judge from what I say whether it was myself or your legions that I spared when I pledged myself to the convention, however shameful or however necessary it was. This convention, however, was not made by the order of the Roman people, and therefore the Roman people are not bound by it, nor is anything due to the Samnites under its terms beyond our own persons. Let us be surrendered by the fetials, stripped and bound; let us release the people from their religious obligations if we have involved them in any, so that without infringing any law, human or divine, we may resume a war which will be justified by the law of nations and sanctioned by the gods. I advise, that in the meantime the consuls enrol and equip an army and lead it forth to war, but that they do not cross the hostile frontier until all our obligations under the terms of surrender have been discharged. And you, immortal gods, I pray and beseech, that as it was not your will that the consuls Spurius Postumius and Titus Veturius should wage a successful war against the Samnites, you may at least deem it enough to have witnessed us sent under the yoke and compelled to submit to a shameful convention, enough to witness us surrendered, naked and in chains, to the enemy, taking upon our heads the whole weight of his anger and vengeance! May it be in accordance with your will that the legions of Rome under fresh consuls should wage war against the Samnites in the same way in which all wars were waged before we were consuls!"
When he finished speaking, such admiration and pity were felt for him that they could hardly think that it was the same Spurius Postumius who had concluded such a disgraceful peace. They viewed with the utmost sadness the prospect of such a man suffering at the hands of the enemy such terrible punishment as he was sure to meet with, enraged as they would be at the rupture of the peace.
The whole House expressed in terms of the highest praise their approval of his proposal. They were beginning to vote on the question when two of the tribunes of the plebs, Lucius Livius and Quintus Maelius, entered a protest which they afterwards withdrew. They argued that the people as a whole would not be discharged from their religious obligation by this surrender unless the Samnites were placed in the same position of advantage which they held at Caudium. Further, they said they did not deserve any punishment for having saved the Roman army by undertaking to procure peace (1), and they urged as a final reason that as they, the tribunes, were sacrosanct and their persons inviolable they could not be surrendered to the enemy or exposed to any violence.
(1): Livy evidently assumes that these two tribunes of the plebs were with the army, a most unusual arrangement, as they were supposed to be watching over the interests of the plebs within the walls of Rome. But the whole strength of Rome, i. e., the great majority of the plebeians, were at Caudium, so the presence of all the tribunes in the City might not have been necessary.