The senate received information, from both the con- suls, that there was very little hope of peace with the Sam- nites. Publilius informed them, that two thousand soldiers from Nolae, and four thousand of the Samnites, had been received into Palaepolis, a measure rather forced on the Greeks by the Nolans than agreeable to their inclination.
Cor- nelius wrote, that a levy of troops had been ordered, that all Samnium was in motion, and that the neighbouring states of Privernum, Fundi, and Formiae, were openly solicited to join them.
When in consequence it was thought proper, that, before hostilities were commenced, ambassadors should be sent to the Samnites, an insolent answer is returned by them;
they even went so far as to accuse the Romans of behaving injuriously towards them;
but, nevertheless, they took pains to clear themselves of the charges made against them, assert- ing, that “the Greeks were not assisted with either counsel or aid by their state, nor were the Fundanians or Formians tampered with by them; for, if they were disposed to war, [p. 534]
they had not the least reason to be diffident of their own strength.
However, they could not dissemble, that it gave great offence to the state of the Samnites, that Fregellae, by them taken from the Volscians and demolished, should have been rebuilt by the Romans;
and that they should have established a colony within the territory of the Samnites, to which their colonists gave the name of Fregellae.
This injury and affront, if not done away by the authors, they were determined themselves to remove, by every means in their power.” When one of the Roman ambassadors proposed to discuss the matter before their common allies and friends, their magistrate said, “Why do we disguise our sentiments? Romans, no conferences of ambassadors, nor arbitration of any person whatever, can terminate our differences; but the plains of Campania, in which we must meet; our arms and the common fortune of war will settle the point.
Let our armies, therefore, meet between Capua and Suessula; and there let us decide, whether the Samnite or the Roman shall hold the sovereignty of Italy.”
To this the ambassadors of the Romans replied, that they would go, not whither their enemy called, but whither their commanders should lead." In the mean time, Publilius, by seizing an advantageous post between Palaepolis and Neapolis, had cut off that interchange of mutual aid, which they had hitherto afforded each other, according as either place was hard pressed.
Accordingly, when both the day of the elections approached, and as it was highly inexpedient for the public interest that Publilius should be called away when on the point of assailing the enemy's walls, and in daily expectation of gaining possession of their city, application was made to the tribunes, to
recommend to the people the passing of an order, that Publilius Philo, when his year of office should expire, might continue in command, as pro-consul, until the war with the Greeks should be finished.
A letter was despatched to Lucius Cornelius, with orders to name a dictator; for it was not thought proper that the consul should be recalled from the vigorous prosecution of the war now that he had entered into Samnium.
He nominated Marcus Claudius Marcellus, who appointed Spurius Postumius master of the horse. The elections, however, were not held by the dictator, because it became a question whether he had been appointed under an irregularity; [p. 535]
and the augurs being consulted, pronounced that it appeared that the dictator's appointment was defective.
The tribunes inveighed against this proceeding as dangerous and dishonourable; “for it was not probable,” they said, “that suc defect could have been discovered, as the consul, rising in the night, had nominated the dictator while every thing was still;1
nor had the said consul in any of his letters, either public or private, made any mention of such a thing to any
one; nor did any person whatever come forward who said that he saw or heard any thing which could vitiate the auspices. Neither could the augurs sitting at Rome divine what inauspicious circumstance had occurred to the consul
in the camp. Who did not plainly perceive, that the dictator's being a plebeian, was the defect which the augurs had discovered?” These and other arguments were urged in vain by the tribunes: the affair however ended in an interregnum. At last, after the elections had been adjourned repeatedly on one pretext or another, the fourteenth interrex, Lucius Aemilius, elected consuls Caius Paetelius, and Lucius Papirius Mugillanius, or Cursor, as I find him named in some annals.