There was never a commander who more endeared himself to his men by cheerfully sharing all their duties with the meanest of the soldiers.
At the military sports, too, in which those of a like age contend with one another in strength and swiftness, he was easy-going and good-natured; he would win or lose without changing countenance, nor did he scorn to match himself with anyone who challenged him;
in his acts his kindness was suited to the circumstances, in his speech he had regard to the liberty of others no less than to his own dignity; finally —and nothing can be more popular than this —he
was the same in office that he had been while a candidate.
It was therefore with incredible eagerness that the whole army, after listening to the general's speech, marched out of camp.
The battle began, if ever battle did, with like hopes on both sides and equal strength, and a self-confidence which yet was not mixed with contempt for the enemy.
The Samnites were' emboldened by their recent exploits and by their double victory of a few days before, the Romans on their part by the glories of four centuries and a victorious career that dated from the founding of [p. 475]
each side nevertheless experienced some1
anxiety at meeting an untried foe. The engagement testified how resolute they were, for they so fought that for some time neither battle-line gave ground.
Then the consul, thinking that he must inspire his enemies with fear, since he could not drive them back by force, attempted by sending in the cavalry to 'throw their front ranks into disorder.
But when he saw that nothing came of the confused fighting of the squadrons, as they tried to manœuvre in a narrow space, and that they could not break the enemy's line, he rode back: to the front ranks of his legions, and, dismounting from his horse, exclaimed, “Soldiers, it is for us, the infantry, to accomplish yonder task!
Come, as you shall see me making a path for myself with my sword wherever I advance against the enemy's line, so do you every man strike down whom you encounter; all that array where now uplifted spears are glancing you shall see laid open with great carnage.”
No sooner had he said these words, than the horsemen, by the consul's order, drew off towards the wings and left the legions room to attack the centre.
The consul was the very foremost in the charge, and slew the man he chanced to meet with. Kindled by this sight, the Romans on the right and on the left pushed forward, every man of them, and fought a memorable combat; the Samnites stood manfully at bay, but they took more strokes than they delivered.
The battle had now lasted a considerable time; there was dreadful slaughter about the standards of the Samnites, but as yet no retreating anywhere, so determined were they to be overcome by naught but death.
And so the Romans, who saw that their [p. 477]
strength was fast ebbing away in weariness and2
that little daylight yet remained, were filled with rage, and hurled themselves against the enemy.
Then for the first time were there signs of giving way and the beginning of a rout; then were the Samnites captured or slain; nor would many have survived, if night had not ended what was now a victory rather than a battle.
The Romans admitted that never had they fought with a more stubborn adversary;
and the Samnites, on being asked what it was that first had turned them, resolute as they were, to flight, replied that it was the eyes of the Romans, which had seemed to blaze, and their frenzied expression and infuriated looks; this it was more than anything else that had caused their panic. And this panic stood confessed not alone in the outcome of the fight but in the night-retreat that followed.
On the morrow the Romans took possession of the deserted camp, and thither the whole population of Capua streamed out to congratulate them.