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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VII Chapter 31: War with Samnites. The war declared.[343 BC]
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When the envoys had withdrawn, the senate proceeded to discuss the question. Many of the members realised how the largest and richest city in Italy, with a very productive country near the sea, could become the granary of Rome, and supply every variety of provision. Notwithstanding, however, loyalty to treaties outweighed even these great advantages, and the consul was authorised by the senate to give the following reply: "The senate is of opinion, Campanians, that you are worthy of our aid, but justice demands that friendship with you shall be established on such a footing that no older friendship and alliance is thereby impaired. Therefore we refuse to employ on your behalf against the Samnites arms which would offend the gods sooner than they injured men. We shall, as is just and right, send an embassy to our allies and friends to ask that no hostile violence be offered you." |
Thereupon the leader of the embassy, acting according to the instructions they had brought with them, said: "Even though you are not willing to make a just use of force against brute force and injustice in defence of what belongs to us, you will at all events defend what belongs to you. Wherefore we now place under your sway and jurisdiction, senators and that of the Roman people, the people of Campania and the city of Capua, its fields, its sacred temples, all things human and divine. Henceforth we are prepared to suffer what we may have to suffer as men who have surrendered themselves into your hands." At these words they all burst into tears and stretching out their hands towards the consul they prostrated themselves on the floor of the vestibule.
The senators were deeply moved by this instance of the vicissitudes of human fortune, where a people abounding in wealth, famous for their pride and luxuriousness, and from whom, shortly before, their neighbours had sought assistance, were now so broken in spirit that they put themselves and all that belonged to them under the power and authority of others. It at once became a matter of honour that men who had formally surrendered themselves should not be left to their fate, and it was resolved "that the Samnite nation would commit a wrongful act if they attacked a city and territory which had by surrender become the possession of Rome."
They determined to lose no time in despatching envoys to the Samnites. Their instructions were to lay before them the request of the Campanian, the reply which the senate, mindful of their friendly relations with the Samnites, had given, and lastly the surrender which had been made. They were to request the Samnites, in virtue of the friendship and alliance which existed between them, to spare those who had made a surrender of themselves and to take no hostile action against that territory which had become the possession of the Roman people. If these mild remonstrances proved ineffective, they were to solemnly warn the Samnites in the name of the senate and people of Rome to keep their hands off the city of Capua and the territory of Campania.
The Samnites defiant -- war declared.
The envoys delivered their instructions in the national Council of Samnium. The reply they received was couched in such defiant terms that not only did the Samnites declare their intention of pursuing the war against Capua, but their magistrates went outside the council chamber and, in tones loud enough for the envoys to hear, ordered the prefects of cohorts to march at once into the Campanian territory and ravage it.
Event: First war with Samnites