The ambassadors then withdrawing, after the senate had been consulted, though to a great many, their city the greatest and wealthiest in Italy, their land the most fertile, and situated near the sea, seemed likely to prove a granary to the Roman people for all varieties of provision; still the faith of their engagements was more regarded than such great advantages, and the consul, by the direction of the senate, answered as follows: “Campanians, the senate considers you deserving of aid.
But it is meet that friendship be so established with you, that no prior friendship and alliance be violated. The Samnites are united in a treaty with us. Therefore we refuse you arms against the Samnites, which would be a violation of duty to the gods first, and then to men. We will as divine and human law requires, send ambassadors to our allies and friends to entreat that no violence be committed against you?”
To this the chief of the embassy replied, (for such were the instructions they had brought from home,) “Since you are not willing to defend by just force our possessions against violence and injustice, at least you will defend your own.
Wherefore, conscript fathers, we surrender the Campanian people, and the city of Capua, their lands, the temples of the gods, all things divine and human, into your jurisdiction and that of the Roman people; whatever we shall suffer henceforth, being determined to suffer as men who have surrendered to you.”
On these words, all extending their hands towards the consuls, bathed in tears they fell prostrate in the porch of the senate-house.
The fathers, affected at the vicissitude of human greatness, seeing that a nation abounding in wealth, noted for luxury and pride, from which a little time since their neighbours had solicited assistance, was now so broken in spirit, as to give up themselves and all they possessed into the power of others;
moreover, their honour also seemed to be involved in not betraying those who had surrendered, nor did they consider that the people of the Samnites would act fairly, if they should attack a territory and a city which had become the property of the Roman people by a surrender.
It was resolved therefore, that ambassadors should be sent forthwith to the Samnites; instructions were given “that they [p. 486]
should lay before the Samnites the entreaties of the Campanians, the answer of the senate duly mindful of the friendship of the Samnites, and finally the surrender that had been concluded.
That they requested, in consideration of the friendship and alliance subsisting between them, that they would spare their subjects; and that they would not carry hostilities into that territory which had become the property of the Roman people.
If by gentle measures they did not succeed, that they should denounce to the Samnites in the name of the senate and Roman people, to withhold their arms from the city of Capua and the Campanian territory.”
When the ambassadors urged these matters in the assembly of the Samnites, so fierce an answer was returned, that they not only said that they would prosecute that war, but their magistrates, having gone out of the senate-house, in the very presence of the ambassadors, summoned the prefects of the cohorts;
and with a distinct voice commanded them, to proceed forthwith into the Campanian territory, in order to plunder it.