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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 16: War with the Samnites. Reduction of Satricum.[319 BC]
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The authorities are agreed that the remainder of the war was conducted by the consuls. Aulius finished the campaign against the Frentanians in one battle. Their routed army fled to their city, and after giving hostages the consul received their surrender. |
The other consul was equally fortunate in his campaign against the Satricans. Though admitted to Roman citizenship they had revolted to the Samnites after the Caudine disaster and allowed them to garrison their city. But when the Roman army was close to their walls they sent an urgent request, couched in very humble terms, for peace. The consul replied that unless they handed over the Samnite garrison or put them to death they were not to go to him again. The severity of this reply created more terror amongst them than the actual presence of the Roman army. They repeatedly asked him by what means he thought that such a small and weak body as they were could attempt to use force against a strong and well-armed garrison. He told them to seek counsel from those through whose advice they had admitted the garrison in the first instance. After having with some difficulty obtained his permission to consult their senate, they returned to the city. There were two parties in the senate: the leaders of the one were the authors of the revolt from Rome, the other consisted of loyal citizens. Both, however, were equally anxious that every effort should be made to induce the consul to grant peace.
As the Samnite garrison were not in the least prepared to stand a siege, they intended to evacuate the city the following night. The party who had introduced them thought it would be quite sufficient to let the consul know at what hour and by what gate they would leave; the others who had been all along opposed to their coming actually opened the gate to the consul that very night and admitted his troops into the city. The Samnites were unexpectedly attacked by a force concealed in the woods through which they were marching whilst the shouts of the Roman were resounding in all parts of the city; by this double act of treachery the Samnites were slain and Satricum captured within the space of one short hour and the consul became complete master of the situation. He ordered a strict inquiry to be made as to who were responsible for the revolt, and those who were found to be guilty were scourged and beheaded. The Satricans were deprived of their arms and a strong garrison was placed in the city.
The writers who tell us that it was under Papirius that Luceria was recovered and the Samnites sent under the yoke, go on to inform us that after the capture of Satricum he returned to Rome to celebrate his triumph. And indeed he was, undoubtedly, a man deserving of all praise for his soldierly qualities, distinguished as he was not only by intellectual force but also by his physical prowess. He was especially noted for his swiftness of foot, which gave him his cognomen (1); he is stated to have beaten all those of his own age in racing. Owing either to his great strength or the amount of exercise he took he had an enormous appetite. Under no commander did either horse or foot find service harder, for he himself never knew what it was to be tired. On one occasion the cavalry ventured to ask him to excuse them some of their fatigue duty in consideration of their having fought a successful action. He replied: " That you may not say I never excuse you anything, I excuse you from rubbing your horses' backs when you dismount." He was as much of a martinet to the allies of Rome as he was to his own countrymen. The commander of the Praenestine detachment had shown a lack of courage in bringing his men up from the rear into the fighting line. Papirius, walking in front of his tent, ordered him to be called up, and on his appearance told the lictor to get the axe ready. The Praenestine, on hearing this, stood paralysed with fear. " Come, lictor," said Papirius, "cut out this root; it is in the way of people as they walk." After almost frightening him to death with this threat, he dismissed him with a fine. No age has been more prolific in great and noble characters than the one in which he lived, and even in that age there was no one whose single arm did more to sustain the common-wealth. Had Alexander the Great, after subjugating Asia, turned his attention to Europe, there are many who maintain that he would have met his match in Papirius.
(1): "Cursor" = "the runner."
|Conuenit iam inde per consules reliqua belli perfecta. Aulius cum Ferentanis uno secundo proelio debellauit urbemque ipsam, quo se fusa contulerat acies, obsidibus imperatis in deditionem accepit. Pari fortuna consul alter cum Satricanis, qui ciues Romani post Caudinam cladem ad Samnites defecerant praesidiumque eorum in urbem acceperant, rem gessit. Nam cum ad moenia Satrici admotus esset exercitus legatisque missis ad pacem cum precibus petendam triste responsum ab consule redditum esset, nisi praesidio Samnitium interfecto aut tradito ne ad se remearent, plus ea uoce quam armis inlatis terroris colonis iniectum. Itaque subinde exsequentes quaerendo a consule legati quonam se pacto paucos et infirmos crederet praesidio tam ualido et armato uim allaturos, ab iisdem consilium petere iussi quibus auctoribus praesidium in urbem accepissent, discedunt aegreque impetrato ut de ea re consuli senatum responsaque ad se referri sineret ad suos redeunt. Duae factiones senatum distinebant, una cuius principes erant defectionis a populo Romano auctores, altera fidelium ciuium; certatum ab utrisque tamen est ut ad reconciliandam pacem consuli opera nauaretur. Pars altera, cum praesidium Samnitium, quia nihil satis praeparati erat ad obsidionem tolerandam, excessurum proxima nocte esset, enuntiare consuli satis habuit qua noctis hora quaque porta et quam in uiam egressurus hostis foret; altera, quibus inuitis descitum ad Samnites erat, eadem nocte portam etiam consuli aperuerunt armatosque clam hoste in urbem acceperunt. Ita duplici proditione et praesidium Samnitium insessis circa uiam siluestribus locis necopinato oppressum est, et ab urbe plena hostium clamor sublatus momentoque unius horae caesus Samnis, Satricanus captus, et omnia in potestate consulis erant; qui quaestione habita quorum opera defectio esset facta, quos sontes comperit, uirgis caesos securi percussit praesidioque ualido imposito arma Satricanis ademit. Inde ad triumphum decessisse Romam Papirium Cursorem scribunt, qui eo duce Luceriam receptam Samnitesque sub iugum missos auctores sunt. Et fuit uir haud dubie dignus omni bellica laude, non animi solum uigore sed etiam corporis uiribus excellens. Praecipua pedum pernicitas inerat, quae cognomen etiam dedit; uictoremque cursu omnium aetatis suae fuisse ferunt [et] seu uirium ui seu exercitatione multa, cibi uinique eundem capacissimum; nec cum ullo asperiorem, quia ipse inuicti ad laborem corporis esset, fuisse militiam pediti pariter equitique; equites etiam aliquando ausos ab eo petere ut sibi pro re bene gesta laxaret aliquid laboris; quibus ille "ne nihil remissum dicatis, remitto" inquit, "ne utique dorsum demulceatis cum ex equis descendetis". Et uis erat in eo uiro imperii ingens pariter in socios ciuesque. Praenestinus praetor per timorem segnius ex subsidiis suos duxerat in primam aciem; quem cum inambulans ante tabernaculum uocari iussisset, lictorem expedire securem iussit. Ad quam uocem exanimi stante Praenestino, "agedum, lictor, excide radicem hanc" inquit "incommodam ambulantibus", perfusumque ultimi supplicii metu multa dicta dimisit. Haud dubie illa aetate, qua nulla uirtutum feracior fuit, nemo unus erat uir quo magis innixa res Romana staret. Quin eum parem destinant animis magno Alexandro ducem, si arma Asia perdomita in Europam uertisset.—|