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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 6: War with the Samnites. The Return of the Roman Army.[321 BC]
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The consuls [Note 1] were the first to be sent, little more than half-clothed, under the yoke, then each in the order of his rank was exposed to the same disgrace, and finally, the legionaries one after another. Around them stood the enemy fully armed, reviling and jeering at them; swords were pointed at most of them, and when they offended their victors by showing their indignation and resentment too plainly some were wounded and even killed. |
The Return of the Roman army.
-- Thus were they marched under the yoke. But what was still harder to bear was that after they had emerged from the pass under the eyes of the foe, though, like men dragged up from the jaws of hell, they seemed to behold the light for the first time, the very light itself, serving only to reveal such a hideous sight as they marched along, was more gloomy than any shape of death.
They could have reached Capua before nightfall, but not knowing how their allies would receive them, and kept back by a feeling of shame, they all flung themselves, destitute of everything, on the sides of the road near Capua. As soon as news of this reached the place, a proper feeling of compassion for their allies got the better of the inborn disdain of the Campanian; they immediately sent to the consuls their own insignia of office, the fasces and the lictors, and the soldiers they generously supplied with arms, horses clothes, and provisions. As they entered Capua the senate and people came out in a body to meet them, showed them all due hospitality, and paid them all the consideration to which as individuals and as members of an allied state they were entitled. But all the courtesies and kindly looks and cheerful greetings of their allies were powerless to evoke a single word or even to make them lift up their eyes and look in the face the friends who were trying to comfort them. To such an extent did feelings of shame make their gloom and despondency all the heavier, and constrain them to shun the converse and society of men.
The next day some young nobles were commissioned to escort them to the frontier. On their return they were summoned to the Senate-house, and in answer to inquiries on the part of the older senators they reported that they seemed to be much more gloomy and depressed than the day before; the column moved along so silently that they might have been dumb; the Roman mettle was cowed; they had lost their spirit with their arms; they saluted no man, nor did they return any man's salutation; not a single man had the power to open his mouth for fear of what was coming; their necks were bowed as if they were still beneath the yoke. The Samnites had won not only a glorious victory but a lasting one; they had not only captured Rome as the Gauls had done before them, but, what was a still more warlike exploit, they had captured the Roman courage and hardihood.
Note 1: consuls = Postumius and Veturius