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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VIII Chapter 9.:The Revolt of the Latins and Campanians. Self-devotion of Decimus[340 BC]
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The battle took place near the base of Mount Vesuvius, where the road led to Veseris. Before leading out their armies to battle the consuls offered sacrifice. The haruspex, whose duty it was to inspect the different organs in the victims, pointed out to Decius a prophetic intimation of his death, in all other respects the signs were favourable. Manlius' sacrifice was entirely satisfactory. "It is well," said Decius, "if my colleague has obtained favourable signs." They moved forward to battle in the formation I have already described, Manlius in command of the right division, Decius of the left. |
Self-devotion of Decius.
At first both armies fought with equal strength and equal determination. After a time the Roman hastati on the left, unable to withstand the insistency of the Latins, retired behind the principes. During the temporary confusion created by this movement, Decius exclaimed in a loud voice to Marcus Valerius: Valerius, we need the help of the gods! Let the Pontifex Maximus dictate to me the words in which I am to devote myself for the legions." The Pontifex bade him veil his head in his toga praetexta, and rest his hand, covered with the toga, against his chin, then standing upon a spear to say these words:
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Haruspex:(H)aruspex: diviner, predicts future events form entrails. Originally Etruscan.
Hastati:First line of Roman army, young soldiers armed with spears
Principes:Second line in a Roman army, adult soldiers
Pontifex Maximus:Head of the college of State priests
Pontiff / Pontifex:Member of the college of State priests
Toga praetexta:Toga of a youth or a magistrate.
Gabine Cincture:In the Gabine cincture the loose flowing toga was gathered up and wound round the body, allowing freer movement for the limbs. It was adopted in certain cults, especially those which were accompanied by marches and solemn dances.
Horse:a. the animal. b. cavalry.
Rorarii:Skirmishers, who made the first attack
Antepilani:First two lines in a Roman army
Triarii:Third line in a Roman army, veteran soldiers. Their steadiness often restored a battle when the first and second lines had given way.