They piled their knapsacks in the centre and formed up in order of battle.
There was by this time only a narrow space between the two armies, and each side were standing motionless waiting for the others to raise the battle-shout and begin the attack.
Neither of them had any heart for fighting, and they would have marched off in opposite directions if they were not each apprehensive that the other would attack them on the retreat. In this timid and reluctant mood they commenced a feeble fight, without receiving any order to attack or raising any regular battle-shout, and not a man stirred a foot from where he stood.
Then the consul, in order to infuse some spirit into the combatants, sent a few troops of cavalry to make a demonstration; most of them were thrown from their horses and the rest got into hopeless confusion. A rush was made by the Samnites to overpower those who had been dismounted; this was met by a rush from the Roman ranks to protect their comrades.
This made the fighting somewhat more lively, but the Samnites rushed forward with more dash and in greater numbers, whilst the disordered Roman cavalry on their terrified horses were riding down their own supports.
The demoralisation which began here extended to the whole army; there was a general flight, and the Samnites had none to fight with but the rearmost of their foes.
At this critical moment the consul galloped back to the camp and posted a cavalry detachment before the gate with strict orders to treat as an enemy any one who made for the rampart whether Roman or Samnite. He then stopped his men who were running back to the camp in disorder, and in menacing tones called out, ‘Where are you going, soldiers?
Here, too, you will find armed men, and not one of you shall enter the camp while your consul is alive unless you come as victors; now make your choice whether you would rather fight with your own countrymen or with the enemy.’
While the consul was speaking, the cavalry closed round the fugitives with levelled spears and peremptorily ordered them to return to the battlefield. Not only did the consul's courage help them to rally, but Fortune also favoured them. As the Samnites were not in close pursuit there was space enough for the standards to wheel round and the whole army to change front from the camp to the enemy.
Now the men began to encourage each other, the centurions snatched the standards from the hands of the bearers and carried them forward, pointing out at the same time to their men how few the enemy were, and in what loose order they were coming.
In the middle of it all the consul, raising his hands towards heaven and speaking in a loud voice so that he might be well heard, vowed a temple to Jupiter Stator1
if the Roman army stayed its flight and renewed the battle and defeated and slew the Samnites.
The officers and men, infantry and cavalry alike, exerted themselves to the utmost to restore the battle. Even the divine providence seemed to have looked with favour on the Romans, so easily did matters take a favourable turn. The enemy were repulsed from the camp, and in a short time were driven back to the ground where the battle began.
Here their movements were hampered by the heap of knapsacks they had piled up in their centre; to prevent these from being plundered they took up their position round them.
But the Roman infantry pressed upon them in front and the cavalry attacked them in rear, so between the two they were all either killed or made prisoners. The latter amounted to 7800, these were all stripped and sent under the yoke.
The number of those killed was reported to be 4800. The Romans had not much cause for rejoicing over their victory, for when the consul reckoned up the losses sustained through the two days' fighting the number of missing was returned as 7800.
During these incidents in Apulia, the Samnites made an attempt with a second army upon the Roman colony at Interamna, situated on the Latin road.
Failing to get possession of the city, they ravaged the fields and proceeded to carry off, along with their other plunder, a number of men and several head of cattle and some colonists whom they had captured.
They fell in with the consul, who was returning from his victorious campaign in Luceria, and not only lost their booty, but their long straggling column was quite unprepared for attack and was consequently cut up.
The consul issued a notice summoning the owners of the plundered property to Interamna to identify and recover what belonged to them, and leaving his army there, started for Rome to conduct the elections.
He requested to be allowed a triumph, but this honour was refused him on the ground that he had lost so many thousands of men, and also because he had sent his prisoners under the yoke without its having been made a condition of their surrender. 2