Never was a general on a more familiar footing with his soldiers, by his performing all the duties among the lowest of the soldiers without reluctance.
Moreover in the military sports, wherein equals vie with their equals in contests of swiftness and strength, affable and condescending, he conquered and was conquered with the same countenance; nor did he spurn any competitor who should offer; in his acts kind according to the occasion;
in his conversation no less mindful of the ease of others than of his own dignity; and, a thing than which nothing is more agreeable to the people, he administered his offices by the same line of
conduct by which he had gained them. The whole army therefore, cheering the exhortation of their leader with the utmost alacrity, march forth from the camp.
The battle commenced with equal hopes and equal strength on both sides, as much as any battle ever did, with confidence in themselves, and without contempt of their enemies.
Their recent exploits and their double victory a few days before, increased the spirits of the Samnites on the other side; the glories of four hundred years and victory coeval with the building of their city [had the same effect] on the Romans;
to both sides, however, the circumstance of the enemy being a new one gave additional anxiety.
The battle was a proof what spirits they possessed; for they maintained the conflict in such a manner, that, for a considerable time, the armies inclined to neither side.
Then the consul, thinking that some confusion should be caused among them, since they could not be overpowered by force, endeavours to disorder their foremost battalions by a charge of cavalry. And when he saw them wheel their troops within a narrow compass in fruitless disorder, and that they could not open a passage to the enemy, riding back to the van of the legions, after leaping from his horse, he says, “Soldiers, this is the task for us infantry;
come on, as ye shall see me making way with my sword, in whatever direction I shall advance into the enemy's line, so let each man, with all his might, beat down those who oppose him.
All those places, where their erected spears now [p. 489]
glitter, you shall see cleared by widely-extended slaughter.” He had uttered these words, when the cavalry by order of the consul turn to the wings, and open a passage for the legions to the centre of the line.
First of all, the consul attacks the enemy, and slays him whom he happened to engage. Those on the right and left, fired at this sight, commence a dreadful fight, each with the foe opposite him.
The Samnites obstinately stand their ground, though they receive more wounds than they inflict. The battle had now lasted for a considerable time, great slaughter occurred around the standards of the Samnites; in no part was there a flight, so firmly had they made up their minds to be vanquished by death alone.
Wherefore the Romans, when they perceived their strength to relax by fatigue, and but a small part of the day still remained, fired with fury, rush upon the enemy.
Then for the first time it appeared that they were giving ground, and that the matter was inclining to a flight; then the Samnites were taken, some slain; nor would many have survived, had not night terminated the victory rather than the battle.
Both the Romans confessed, that they had never fought with a more determined enemy;
and the Samnites, on being asked what cause first drove them to fly after being so determined, said, that it was the eyes of the Romans which seemed to them to flash fire, and their distracted looks, and furious aspect; that more of terror arose from thence, than from any thing else. Which terror they confessed not only in the issue of the battle, but in their departure by night.
Next day the Romans take possession of the deserted camp of the enemy, whither all the Campanians flocked to congratulate them.