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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 45: War with the Aequi.[304 BC]
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Publius Sulpicius Saverrio and Publius Sempronius Sophus were the next consuls. During their consulship the Samnites, anxious for either a termination or at least a suspension of hostilities, sent envoys to Rome to sue for peace. In spite of their submissive attitude they did not meet with a very favourable reception. The reply they received was to the effect that if the Samnites had not often made proposals for peace while they were actually preparing for war negotiations might possibly have been entered into, but now as their words had proved worthless the question must be decided by their deeds. They were informed that the consul Publius Sempronius would shortly be in Samnium with his army, and he would he able to judge accurately whether they were more disposed to peace or to war. When he had obtained all the information that he wanted he would lay it before the senate; on his return from Samnium the envoys might follow him to Rome. Wherever Sempronius marched they found the Samnites peaceably disposed and ready to supply them with provisions and stores. The old treaty was therefore restored. |
From that quarter the Roman arms were turned against their old enemies the Aequi. For many years this nation had remained quiet, disguising their real sentiments under a peaceable attitude. As long as the Hernicans remained unsubdued, the Aequi had frequently co-operated with them in sending help to the Samnites, but after their final subjugation almost the whole of the Aequian nation threw off the mask and openly went over to the enemy. After Rome had renewed the treaty with the Samnites the fetials went on to the Aequi to demand satisfaction. They were told that their demand was simply regarded as an attempt on the part of the Romans to intimidate them by threats of war into becoming Roman citizens. How desirable a thing this citizenship was might be seen in the case of the Hernicans who, when allowed to choose, preferred living under their own laws to becoming citizens of Rome. To men who were not allowed which they would prefer, but were made Roman citizens by compulsion, it would be a punishment.
As these opinions were pretty generally expressed in their different councils, the Romans ordered war to be declared against the Aequi. Both the consuls took the field and selected a position four miles distant from the enemy's camp. As the Aequi had for many years had no experience of a national war, their army was like a body of irregulars with no properly appointed generals and no discipline or obedience. They were in utter confusion; some were of opinion that they ought to give battle, others thought they ought to confine themselves to defending their camp. The majority were influenced by the prospect of their fields being devastated and their cities, with their scanty garrisons, being destroyed. In this diversity of opinions one was given utterance to which put out of sight all care for the common weal and directed each man's regards to his own private interests. They were advised to abandon their camp at the first watch, carry off all their belongings, and disperse to their respective cities to protect their property behind their walls. This advice met with the warmest approval from all.
Whilst the enemy were thus straggling homewards, the Romans as soon as it was light marched out and formed up in order of battle, and as there was no one to oppose, they went on at a quick march to the enemy's camp. Here they found no pickets before the gates or on the rampart, none of the noise which is customary in a camp, and fearing from the unusual silence that a surprise was being prepared they came to a halt. At length they climbed over the rampart and found everything deserted. Then they began to follow up the enemy's footsteps, but as these went in all directions alike, they found themselves going further and further astray. Subsequently they discovered through their scouts what the design of the enemy was, and their cities were successively attacked. Within a fortnight they had stormed and captured thirty-one walled towns. Most of these were sacked and burnt, and the nation of the Aequi was almost exterminated.
A triumph was celebrated over them, and warned by their example the Marrucini, the Marsi, the Paeligni, and the Feretrani sent spokesmen to Rome to sue for peace and friendship. These tribes obtained a treaty with Rome.
Event: Fourth war with the Aequi
|P. Sulpicio Sauerrione P. Sempronio Sopho consulibus Samnites, seu finem seu dilationem belli quaerentes, legatos de pace Romam misere. Quibus suppliciter agentibus responsum est, nisi saepe bellum parantes pacem petissent Samnites, oratione ultro citro habita de pace transigi potuisse: nunc, quando uerba uana ad id locorum fuerint, rebus standum esse. P. Sempronium consulem cum exercitu breui in Samnio fore; eum, ad bellum pacemne inclinent animi, falli non posse; comperta omnia senatui relaturum; decedentem ex Samnio consulem legati sequerentur. Eo anno cum pacatum Samnium exercitus Romanus benigne praebito commeatu peragrasset, foedus antiquum Samnitibus redditum. Ad Aequos inde, ueteres hostes, ceterum per multos annos sub specie infidae pacis quietos, uersa arma Romana, quod incolumi Hernico nomine missitauerant simul cum iis Samniti auxilia et post Hernicos subactos uniuersa prope gens sine dissimulatione consilii publici ad hostes desciuerat; et postquam icto Romae cum Samnitibus foedere fetiales uenerant res repetitum, temptationem aiebant esse ut terrore incusso belli Romanos se fieri paterentur; quod quanto opere optandum foret, Hernicos docuisse, cum quibus licuerit suas leges Romanae ciuitati praeoptauerint; quibus legendi quid mallent copia non fuerit, pro poena necessariam ciuitatem fore. Ob haec uolgo in conciliis iactata populus Romanus bellum fieri Aequis iussit; consulesque ambo ad nouum profecti bellum quattuor milia a castris hostium consederunt. Aequorum exercitus, ut qui suo nomine permultos annos imbelles egissent, tumultuario similis sine ducibus certis, sine imperio trepidare. Alius exeundum in aciem, alii castra tuenda censent: mouet plerosque uastatio futura agrorum ac deinceps cum leuibus praesidiis urbium relictarum excidia. Itaque postquam inter multas sententias una, quae omissa cura communium ad respectum suarum quemque rerum uertit, est audita, ut prima uigilia diuersi e castris ad deportanda omnia tuendosque moenibus in urbes abirent, cuncti eam sententiam ingenti adsensu accepere. Palatis hostibus per agros prima luce Romani signis prolatis in acie consistunt et, ubi nemo obuius ibat, pleno gradu ad castra hostium tendunt; ceterum postquam ibi neque stationes pro portis nec quemquam in uallo nec fremitum consuetum castrorum animaduerterunt, insolito silentio moti metu insidiarum subsistunt. Transgressi deinde uallum cum deserta omnia inuenissent pergunt hostem uestigiis sequi; sed uestigia in omnes aeque ferentia partes, ut in dilapsis passim, primo errorem faciebant. Post per exploratores compertis hostium consiliis, ad singulas urbes circumferendo bello unum et triginta oppida intra dies quinquaginta, omnia oppugnando, ceperunt; quorum pleraque diruta atque incensa nomenque Aequorum prope ad internecionem deletum. De Aequis triumphatum; exemploque eorum clades fuit, ut Marrucini Marsi Paeligni Frentani mitterent Romam oratores pacis petendae amicitiaeque. His populis foedus petentibus datum.|