both consuls informed the senate that1
there was very little hope of peace with the Samnites: Publilius reported that two thousand soldiers from Nola and four thousand Samnites had been received into Palaepolis, —rather under compulsion from the Nolani than by the good —will
of [p. 89]
the Greeks; Cornelius, that the Samnite magistrates2
had proclaimed a levy, and that all Samnium was up, while the neighbouring cities of Privernum, Fundi, and Formiae were being openly solicited to join.
The senate having, in view of these facts, voted to send ambassadors to the Samnites before declaring war, received a defiant answer from them.
indeed they actually accused the Romans of improper conduct, yet without neglecting to clear their own skirts —if they could —of the charges brought against them:
the Greeks, they said, were receiving no public counsel or support from them, nor had they asked the Fundani or Formiani to revolt; indeed they were quite strong enough to look out for themselves, if they chose to fight;
on the other hand, they could not dissemble the chagrin of the Samnite nation that Fregellae, which they had captured from the Volsci and destroyed, should have been restored by the Roman People, and a colony planted in the territory of the Samnites which the Roman settlers called by that name;
this was an insult and an injury, which, if its authors did not themselves recall it, they proposed to resist with might and main.
when the Roman legate invited them to discuss the question with the common allies and friends of both, the Samnite spokesman said, “why do we beat about the bush? our differences, Romans, will be decided, not by the words of envoys nor by any man's arbitration, but by the Campanian plain —where we must meet in battle, —by the sword, and by the common chance of war.
let us encamp then face to face betwixt Suessula and Capua, and settle the question whether Samnite or Roman is to govern Italy.”
The Roman [p. 91]
legates having replied that they should go, not3
where the enemy summoned them, but where their generals led then . . .
by taking up a favourable position between Palaepolis and Neapolis, Publilius had already deprived the enemy of that mutual exchange of assistance which they had made use of, as one place after another was hard pressed.
accordingly, since the time drew near for the elections, and it was not for the advantage of the state that Publilius, who was threatening the enemy's walls, should be called away from the prospective capture of their city, which might happen any day, the senate got
the tribunes to propose a popular enactment, providing that Quintus Publilius Philo should, on the expiration of his consulship, conduct the campaign as proconsul until the Greeks should have been conquered.4
to Lucius Cornelius, who had already entered Samnium, and whom they were equally unwilling to withdraw from the vigorous prosecution of the war, they sent a letter directing him to name a dictator for conducting the elections.
he named Marcus Claudius Marcellus, who named Spurius Postumius master of the horse. but the comitia were not held by the dictator, inasmuch as the regularity of his appointment was called in question. The augurs were consulted, and announced that the procedure appeared faulty.
this sentence the tribunes by their accusations made suspect and infamous; for the flaw, as they pointed out, could not easily have been discovered, since the consul rose in the night and appointed the dictator in silence, neither had the consul written to anyone [p. 93]
regarding the transaction, whether officially or5
privately, nor was there a single mortal living who could say that he had seen or heard a thing that would bring to naught the auspices;
nor yet could the augurs have divined, as they sat in Rome, what obstacle the consul had met with in the camp. was there anyone, they would like to know, who could not see that the plebeian standing of the dictator was the thing which had seemed irregular to the augurs?
These and other objections were made by the tribunes to no purpose; the state at length reverted to an interregnum, and after the comitia had been again and again postponed, on one pretext or another, at last the fourteenth interrex, Lucius Aemilius, procured the election of consuls, viz. Gaius Poetelius and Lucius Papirius Mugillanus —in other annals I find the name of Cursor.