when the year had come round, the1
conduct of the war passed without a break into the [p. 247]
hands of the dictator Quintus Fabius. The new2
as their predecessors had done, remained in Rome; Fabius took new forces to replace the old, and proceeded to Saticula, to receive the army from Aemilius.
for the Samnites had not continued before Plistica, but, summoning fresh troops from home and confiding in their numbers, had pitched their camp on the same spot as before, and were trying to provoke the Romans into giving battle, in the endeavour to divert them from the siege.
this but intensified the dictator's concentration on the enemy's walls, for he deemed the war to consist solely in the attack upon the city, and treated the Samnites with much indifference, save only that he posted out —guards to prevent their making any inroad upon his camp.
but this only made the Samnites the more audacious, and riding again and again up to the rampart, they gave no respite to the Romans. and now the enemy were almost in the gateway of the camp, when Quintus Aulius Cerretanus, the master of the horse, without consulting the dictator, sallied out with all his squadrons in a furious charge and drove them off.
at this juncture —though in a type of battle by no means marked by obstinacy — Fortune so used her powers as to bring extraordinary losses on both sides, and on the commanders themselves distinguished deaths.
The Samnite general first, indignant at being routed and put to flight from a position he had so boldly occupied, prevailed with his troopers by entreaties and encouragement to renew the conflict;
against whom, conspicuous amongst his followers as he urged them into battle, the Roman master of the horse rode such a tilt with levelled lance as at one lunge unhorsed and killed [p. 249]
yet the rank and file were not more dismayed4
by their leader's death —though it often happens so —than they were angered; and as Aulius rode recklessly on through the enemy's squadrons, all those about him darted their javelins at him.
but the glory of avenging the Samnite general was given by Heaven in largest measure to his brother, who, wild with grief and rage, dragged down the victorious Roman from his seat and slew him. indeed the Samnites almost got possession of the body, which had fallen in the midst of their troops.
but the Romans at once dismounted, and the Samnites were forced to do the same; and hurriedly forming up their lines, they began a battle on foot around the bodies of their generals, in which the Romans had easily the better. so they rescued the body of Aulius, which they bore back victoriously to their camp, with mingled feelings of sorrow and satisfaction.
The Samnites, having lost their commander, and having tried what they could do in a cavalry engagement, gave up Saticula, which they felt was holding out in vain, and returned to the siege of Plistica. within a few days' time Saticula had surrendered to the Romans and the Samnites had carried Plistica by assault.