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: When he drank his destruction at Babylon
Notes
Do not display Latin text
History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 4: War with the Samnites. Speech of Lentulus.[321 BC]
Next chapter
Return to index
Previous chapter
Neither of these plans was approved and Herennius was carried home from the camp.

In the Roman camp, after many fruitless attempts had been made to break out and they found themselves at last in a state of utter destitution, necessity compelled them to send envoys to the Samnites to ask in the first instance for fair terms of peace, and failing that to challenge them to battle. Pontius replied that all war was at an end, and since even now that they were vanquished and captured they were incapable of acknowledging their true position, he should deprive them of their arms and send them under the yoke, allowing them to retain one garment each. The other conditions would he fair to both victors and vanquished. If they evacuated Samnium and withdrew their colonists from his country, the Roman and the Samnite would henceforth live under their own laws as sovereign states united by a just and honourable treaty. On these conditions he was ready to conclude a treaty with the consuls, if they rejected any of them he forbade any further overtures to be made to him.

When the result was announced, such a universal cry of distress arose, such gloom and melancholy prevailed, that they evidently could not have taken it more heavily if it had been announced to them all that they must die on the spot. Then followed a long silence. The consuls were unable to breathe a word either in favour of a capitulation so humiliating or against one so necessary. At last Lucius Lentulus, of all the staff-officers the most distinguished, both by his personal qualities and the offices he had held, spoke: "I have often," he said, "heard my father, consuls, say that he was the only one in the Capitol who refused to ransom the City from the Gauls with gold, for the force in the Capitol was not invested and shut in with fosse and rampart, as the Gauls were to indolent to undertake that sort of work; it was therefore quite possible for them to make a sortie involving, perhaps, heavy loss, but not certain destruction. If we had the same chance of fighting, whether on favourable or unfavourable ground, which they had of charging down upon the foe from the capitol, in the same way as the besieged have often made sorties against their besiegers, I should not fall behind my father's spirit and courage in the advice which I should give. To die for one's country is, I admit, a glorious thing, and as concerns myself I am ready to devote myself for the people and legions of Rome or to plunge into the midst of the enemy. But it is here that I beheld my country, it is on this spot that all the legions which Rome possesses are gathered, and unless they wish to rush to death for their own sakes, to save their honour, what else have they that they can save by their death. "The dwellings of the City," somebody may reply, "and its walls, and that crowd of human beings who form its population." Nay, on the contrary, all these things are not saved, they are handed over to the enemy if this army is annihilated. For who will protect them? A defenceless multitude of non-combatants, I suppose; as successfully as it defended them from the approach of the Gauls. Or will they implore the help of an army from Veii with Camillus at its head? Here and here alone are all our hopes, all our strength. If we save these we save our country, if we give these up to death we desert and betray our country. "Yes," you say, "but surrender is base and ignominious." It is; but true affection for our country demands that we should preserve it, if need be, by our disgrace as much as by our death. However great then the indignity, we must submit to it and yield to the compulsion of necessity, a compulsion which the gods themselves cannot evade! Go, consuls, give up your arms as a ransom for that State which your ancestors ransomed with gold!"

Event: Third war with the Samnites. The Caudine Fork

Et in castris Romanis cum frustra multi conatus ad erumpendum capti essent et iam omnium rerum inopia esset, uicti necessitate legatos mittunt, qui primum pacem aequam peterent; si pacem non impetrarent, uti prouocarent ad pugnam. Tum Pontius debellatum esse respondit; et, quoniam ne uicti quidem ac capti fortunam fateri scirent, inermes cum singulis uestimentis sub iugum missurum; alias condiciones pacis aequas uictis ac uictoribus fore: si agro Samnitium decederetur, coloniae abducerentur, suis inde legibus Romanum ac Samnitem aequo foedere uicturum; his condicionibus paratum se esse foedus cum consulibus ferire; si quid eorum displiceat, legatos redire ad se uetuit. Haec cum legatio renuntiaretur, tantus gemitus omnium subito exortus est tantaque maestitia incessit ut non grauius accepturi uiderentur, si nuntiaretur omnibus eo loco mortem oppetendam esse. Cum diu silentium fuisset nec consules aut pro foedere tam turpi aut contra foedus tam necessarium hiscere possent, L. Lentulus, qui tum princeps legatorum uirtute atque honoribus erat, "patrem meum" inquit, "consules, saepe audiui memorantem se in Capitolio unum non fuisse auctorem senatui redimendae auro a Gallis ciuitatis, quando nec fossa ualloque ab ignauissimo ad opera ac muniendum hoste clausi essent et erumpere, si non sine magno periculo, tamen sine certa pernicie possent. Quod si, illis ut decurrere ex Capitolio armatis in hostem licuit, quo saepe modo obsessi in obsidentes eruperunt, ita nobis aequo aut iniquo loco dimicandi tantummodo cum hoste copia esset, non mihi paterni animi indoles in consilio dando deesset. Equidem mortem pro patria praeclaram esse fateor et me uel deuouere pro populo Romano legionibusque uel in medios me immittere hostes paratus sum; sed hic patriam uideo, hic quidquid Romanarum legionum est; quae nisi pro se ipsis ad mortem ruere uolunt, quid habent quod morte sua seruent? tecta urbis, dicat aliquis, et moenia et eam turbam a qua urbs incolitur. Immo hercule produntur ea omnia deleto hoc exercitu, non seruantur. Quis enim ea tuebitur? imbellis uidelicet atque inermis multitudo. Tam hercule quam a Gallorum impetu defendit. An a Veiis exercitum Camillumque ducem implorabunt? hic omnes spes opesque sunt, quas seruando patriam seruamus, dedendo ad necem patriam deserimus [ac prodimus]. At foeda atque ignominiosa deditio est. Sed ea caritas patriae est ut tam ignominia eam quam morte nostra, si opus sit, seruemus. Subeatur ergo ista, quantacumque est, indignitas et pareatur necessitati, quam ne di quidem superant. Ite, consules, redimite armis ciuitatem, quam auro maiores uestri redemerunt."