Home Introduction Persons Geogr. Sources Events Mijn blog(Nederlands)
Religion Subjects Images Queries Links Contact Do not fly Iberia
This is a non-commercial site. Any revenues from Google ads are used to improve the site.

Custom Search
Quote of the day: There is besides a story, that Hannibal,
Display Latin text
History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VII Chapter 35: War with Samnites. The plan of Publius Decius Mus.[343 BC]
Next chapter
Return to index
Previous chapter
After arranging the watches, he [Note 1] ordered the tessera to be given to the rest of the troops; when the bugle sounded for the second watch they were to muster round him in silence. When they had assembled in accordance with instructions, he said: "This silence, soldiers, must be maintained, and all applause as you listen to me checked. When I have laid my proposals fully before you, those of you who approve will cross over silently to the right. The opinion of the majority will be adopted. Now listen to my plans. You were not carried here in flight, nor have you been abandoned through cowardice, and the enemy are investing you. You seized this position by your courage, by your courage you must get away from it. By coming here you have saved a splendid army for Rome, now you must save yourselves by cutting your way out. Though few in number you have brought aid to many, and it is only fitting to your deserts that you yourselves should need the aid of none. We have to do with an enemy who through his slackness yesterday failed to use the chance which Fortune gave him of wiping out an entire army; who did not perceive this most useful peak hanging over his head until it had been seized by us. With all their thousands of men they did not prevent us, few as we are, from climbing it, and now that we are holding it, did they, though plenty of daylight remained, enclose us with lines of circumvallation? The enemy whom you eluded while his eyes were open, and he was on the watch, you certainly ought to evade when he is heavy with sleep. In fact, it is absolutely necessary for you to do so, for our position is such that I have rather to point out the necessity in which you are placed than to suggest any plan of action. For there can be no question as to your remaining here or departing, since Fortune has left you nothing but your arms and the courage which knows how to use them. If we show more fear of the sword than becomes men and Romans we shall have to die of hunger and thirst. Our one chance of safety, then, lies in our breaking our way through and departing. We must do that either in the daytime or at night. But this is a point which admits of little doubt; if we wait for daylight how can we hope that the enemy, who, as you see, has drawn a ring of men all round us, will not completely enclose us with entrenchments? On the other hand, if night be best for our sortie, as it most certainly is, then this hour of the night is most assuredly the fittest. You have mustered at the call for the second watch, an hour when men are buried in sleep. You will pass through them in silence, unnoticed by the sleepers, but should they become aware of your presence you will throw them into a panic by a sudden shout. You have followed me so far, follow me still, while I follow Fortune who has guided us here Those of you who think this a safe plan step forward and pass over to the right."

Note 1: he = Publius Decius Mus

Event: First war with Samnites