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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VIII Chapter 10: The Revolt of the Latins and Campanians. Defeat of the Latins[340 BC]
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When Manlius heard the fate of his colleague, he honoured his glorious death with tears no less than with the due need of praise. Meantime the battle proceeded, and in some quarters the weight of numbers was giving the advantage to the Latins. For some time Manlius was in doubt whether the moment had not come for calling up the triarii, but judging it better for them to be kept fresh till the final crisis of the battle, he gave orders for the accensi at the extreme rear to advance to the front. When they came up, the Latins, taking them for the opposing triarii, instantly called up their own. In the desperate struggle they had tired themselves out and broken or blunted their spears, but as they were still driving the enemy back by main force, they imagined that the battle was decided and that they had reached their last line. Then it was that the consul said to his triarii: "Rise up now, fresh and vigorous against a wearied foe; think of your country and your parents and wives and children; think of your consul lying there dead that ye might win the victory!" They rose up fresh and resplendent in their armour, as though a new army had suddenly sprung up, and after letting the antepilani retire through them they raised their battle-shout. The front ranks of the Latins were thrown into disorder, the Romans thrust their spears into their faces, and in this way killed the main support of their army. They went on without being touched through the remaining companies as though through a crowd of unarmed men, and they marked their advance with such a slaughter that they left hardly a fourth part of the enemy. |
The chief credit for that successful battle was given by all, Romans and allies alike, to the two consuls -- one of whom had diverted on to himself alone all the dangers that threatened from the gods supernal and the gods infernal, whilst the other had shown such consummate generalship in the battle itself that the Roman and Latin historians who have left an account of it, are quite agreed that whichever side had had Titus Manlius as their commander must have won the victory.
After their flight the Latins took refuge in Menturnae. Their camp was captured after the battle, and many were killed there, mostly Campanians. The body of Decius was not found that day, as night overtook those who were searching for it, the next day it was discovered, buried beneath a heap of javelins and with an immense number of the enemy lying round it. His obsequies were conducted by his colleague in a manner befitting that glorious death.
I ought to add here that a consul or dictator or praetor, when he devotes the legions of the enemy, need not necessarily devote himself but may select any one he chooses out of a legion that has been regularly enrolled. If the man who has been so devoted is killed, all is considered to have been duly performed. If he is not killed, an image of the man, seven feet high at least, must be buried in the earth, and a victim slain as an expiatory sacrifice; on the spot, where such an image has been buried, no Roman magistrate must ever set his foot. If, as in the case of Decius, the commander devotes himself but survives the battle, he can no longer discharge any religious function, either on his own account or on behalf of the State. He has the right to devote his arms, either by offering a sacrifice or otherwise, to Vulcan or to any other deity. The spear on which the consul stands, when repeating the formula of devotion, must not pass into the enemy's hands; should this happen a suovetaurilia must be offered as a propitiation to Mars.
Persons with images|
Triarii:Third line in a Roman army, veteran soldiers. Their steadiness often restored a battle when the first and second lines had given way.
Accensus:Follower, attendant of an official.
Antepilani:First two lines in a Roman army
Foot:a. part of the body (3379). b. infantry (6534).
Suovetaurilia:A sacrifice consisting of a swine, a bull and a sheep.