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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VIII Chapter 36: War with Samnites. Defeat of the Samnites.[324 BC]
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After placing Lucius Papirius Crassus in command at the City and prohibiting Quintus Fabius from any action in his capacity as Master of the Horse, the dictator returned to the camp. His arrival was not viewed with much pleasure by his own men, nor did it create any alarm amongst the enemy. For the very next day, either unaware of his presence or regarding it of small importance whether he were present or absent, they marched towards the camp in order of battle. And yet so much depended upon that one man, Lucius Papirius, such care did he show in choosing his ground and posting his reserves, so far did he strengthen his force in every way that military skill could suggest, that if the general's tactics had been backed up by the goodwill of the troops it was considered absolutely certain that the Samnite war would that day have been brought to a close. As it was, the soldiers showed no energy; they deliberately threw the victory away that their commander's reputation might be damaged. The Samnites lost a larger proportion of killed, the Romans had more wounded. |
The quick eye of the general saw what prevented his success, and he realised that he must curb his temper and soften his sternness by greater affability. He went round the camp accompanied by his staff and visited the wounded, putting his head inside their tents and asking them how they were getting on, and commending them individually by name to the care of his staff officers, the military tribunes, and prefects. In adopting this course, which naturally tended to make him popular, he showed so much tact that the feelings of the men were much sooner won over to their commander now that their bodies were being properly looked after. Nothing conduced more to their recovery than the gratitude they felt for his attention. When the health of the army was completely restored he gave battle to the enemy, both he and his men feeling quite confident of victory, and he so completely defeated and routed the Samnites that this was the last occasion on which they ventured on a regular engagement with the dictator. After this the victorious army advanced in every direction where there was any prospect of plunder, but wherever they marched they found no armed force; they were nowhere openly attacked or surprised from ambush. They showed all the greater alertness because the dictator had issued an order that the whole of the spoil was to be given to the soldiers; the chance of private gain stimulated their warlike spirit quite as much as the consciousness that they were avenging the wrongs of their country.
Cowed by these defeats, the Samnites made overtures for peace and gave the dictator an undertaking to supply each of the soldiers with a set of garments and a year's pay. On his referring them to the senate they replied that they would follow him to Rome and trust their cause solely to his honour and rectitude. The army was thereupon withdrawn from Samnium.
Event: Second war with Samnites