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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 16: War with the Samnites. Reduction of Satricum.[319 BC]
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The authorities are agreed that the remainder of the war was conducted by the consuls. Aulius finished the campaign against the Frentanians in one battle. Their routed army fled to their city, and after giving hostages the consul received their surrender. |
The other consul was equally fortunate in his campaign against the Satricans. Though admitted to Roman citizenship they had revolted to the Samnites after the Caudine disaster and allowed them to garrison their city. But when the Roman army was close to their walls they sent an urgent request, couched in very humble terms, for peace. The consul replied that unless they handed over the Samnite garrison or put them to death they were not to go to him again. The severity of this reply created more terror amongst them than the actual presence of the Roman army. They repeatedly asked him by what means he thought that such a small and weak body as they were could attempt to use force against a strong and well-armed garrison. He told them to seek counsel from those through whose advice they had admitted the garrison in the first instance. After having with some difficulty obtained his permission to consult their senate, they returned to the city. There were two parties in the senate: the leaders of the one were the authors of the revolt from Rome, the other consisted of loyal citizens. Both, however, were equally anxious that every effort should be made to induce the consul to grant peace.
As the Samnite garrison were not in the least prepared to stand a siege, they intended to evacuate the city the following night. The party who had introduced them thought it would be quite sufficient to let the consul know at what hour and by what gate they would leave; the others who had been all along opposed to their coming actually opened the gate to the consul that very night and admitted his troops into the city. The Samnites were unexpectedly attacked by a force concealed in the woods through which they were marching whilst the shouts of the Roman were resounding in all parts of the city; by this double act of treachery the Samnites were slain and Satricum captured within the space of one short hour and the consul became complete master of the situation. He ordered a strict inquiry to be made as to who were responsible for the revolt, and those who were found to be guilty were scourged and beheaded. The Satricans were deprived of their arms and a strong garrison was placed in the city.
The writers who tell us that it was under Papirius that Luceria was recovered and the Samnites sent under the yoke, go on to inform us that after the capture of Satricum he returned to Rome to celebrate his triumph. And indeed he was, undoubtedly, a man deserving of all praise for his soldierly qualities, distinguished as he was not only by intellectual force but also by his physical prowess. He was especially noted for his swiftness of foot, which gave him his cognomen (1); he is stated to have beaten all those of his own age in racing. Owing either to his great strength or the amount of exercise he took he had an enormous appetite. Under no commander did either horse or foot find service harder, for he himself never knew what it was to be tired. On one occasion the cavalry ventured to ask him to excuse them some of their fatigue duty in consideration of their having fought a successful action. He replied: " That you may not say I never excuse you anything, I excuse you from rubbing your horses' backs when you dismount." He was as much of a martinet to the allies of Rome as he was to his own countrymen. The commander of the Praenestine detachment had shown a lack of courage in bringing his men up from the rear into the fighting line. Papirius, walking in front of his tent, ordered him to be called up, and on his appearance told the lictor to get the axe ready. The Praenestine, on hearing this, stood paralysed with fear. " Come, lictor," said Papirius, "cut out this root; it is in the way of people as they walk." After almost frightening him to death with this threat, he dismissed him with a fine. No age has been more prolific in great and noble characters than the one in which he lived, and even in that age there was no one whose single arm did more to sustain the common-wealth. Had Alexander the Great, after subjugating Asia, turned his attention to Europe, there are many who maintain that he would have met his match in Papirius.
(1): "Cursor" = "the runner."