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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book X Chapter 43: Capture of Cominium.[293 BC]
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The same good fortune attended the other consul [Note 1] at Cominium. At the approach of daylight he brought his whole force up to the walls so as to enclose the city with a ring of steel, and stationed strong bodies of troops before the gates to prevent any sortie from being made. Just as he was giving the signal for assault the alarming message reached him from his colleague about the 20 cohorts. This delayed the attack and necessitated the recall of a portion of his troops, who were ready and eager to begin the storm. He ordered Decimus Brutus Scaeva, one of his staff, to intercept the hostile reinforcements with the first legion and ten auxiliary cohorts with their complement of cavalry. Wherever he fell in with them he was to hold them and stop their advance; if circumstances should make it necessary he was to offer them battle; in any case he was to prevent those troops from reaching Cominium. |
Then he went on with his preparations for the assault. Orders were issued for scaling ladders to be reared against the walls in all directions and an approach made to the gates under a shield roof. Simultaneously with the smashing in of the gates the storming parties clambered up on the walls on every side. Until they saw their enemy actually on the walls the Samnites had sufficient courage to try to keep them from approaching the city, but when they had to fight not by discharging their missiles from a distance, but at close quarters, when those who had forced their way on to the walls and overcome the disadvantage of being on lower ground were fighting on even terms with an enemy who was no match for them, the defenders abandoned their walls and towers and were driven back into the forum. Here they made a desperate effort to retrieve their fortune, but after a brief struggle they threw down their arms and 11,400 men surrendered after losing 4880 killed.
Thus matters went at Cominium as they had gone at Aquilonia
In the country between these two cities, where a third battle was expected, nothing was seen of the 20 cohorts. When they were still seven miles from Cominium they were recalled by their comrades, and so did not come in for either battle. Just as twilight was setting in, when they had reached a spot from which their camp and Aquilonia were both visible, a noise of shouting from both quarters made them call a halt. Then in the direction of their camp, which had been set on fire by the Romans, flames sheeting up far and wide, a more certain indication of disaster, stopped them from going any further. They threw themselves down just where they were under arms, and passed a restless night waiting for and dreading the day. When it began to grew light, whilst they were still uncertain what direction to take, they were espied by the cavalry who had gone in pursuit of the Samnites in their nocturnal retreat from Aquilonia. The whole body were plainly discernible, with no entrenchments to protect them, no outposts on guard. They were visible, too, from the walls of the city, and in a short time the legionary cohorts were on their track. They made a hasty flight, and the infantry were unable to come up with them, but some 280 in the extreme rear were cut down by the cavalry. A great quantity of arms and 22 standards were left behind in their hurry to escape. The other body who had escaped from Aquilonia reached Bovianum in comparative safety, considering the confusion which marked their retreat.
Note 1: consul = Carvilius
Event: Fourth war with Samnites