The commanders entered Samnium under uncertain auspices; an informality which pointed, not at the event of war, for that was prosperous, but at the furious passions and the quarrels which broke out between the leaders.
For Papirius the dictator, returning to Rome in order to take the auspices anew, in consequence of a caution received from the aruspex, left strict orders with the master of the horse to remain in his post, and not to engage in battle during his absence.
After the departure of the dictator, Fabius having discovered by his scouts that the enemy were in as unguarded a state as if there was not a single Roman in Samnium, the high-spirited youth, (either conceiving
indignation at the sole authority in every point appearing to be lodged in the hands of the dictator, or induced by the opportunity of striking an important blow,) having made the necessary preparations and dispositions, marched to a place called Imbrinium, and there fought a battle with the Samnites.
His success in the fight was such, that there was no one circumstance which could have been improved to more advantage, if the dictator had been present. The leader was not wanting to the soldiers, nor the soldier to their leader.
The cavalry too, (finding, after repeated charges, that they could not break the ranks,) by the advice of Lucius Co- minius, a military tribune, pulled off the bridles from their horses and spurred them on so furiously, that no power could withstand them; forcing their way through the thickest of the enemy, they bore down every thing before them; and the in- fantry seconding the charge, the whole body was thrown into confusion.
Twenty thousand of the enemy are said to have fallen on that day. I have authority for saying that there were two battles fought during the dictator's absence, and two vic- tories obtained; but, according to the most ancient writers, only this one is found, and in some histories the whole trans- action is omitted.
The master of the horse getting possession of abundance of spoils, in consequence of the great numbers slain, collected the arms into a huge heap, and burned them;
either in pursuance of a vow to some of the gods, or, if we [p. 544]
choose to credit the authority of Fabius, it was done on this account, that the dictator might not reap the fruits of his glory, inscribe his name on them, or carry the spoils in triumph.
His letters also, containing an account of the success, being sent to the senate, not to the dictator, showed plainly that he wished not to impart to him any share of the honour; who certainly viewed the proceeding in this light, for while others rejoiced at the victory obtained, he showed only surliness and anger;
insomuch that, immediately dismissing the senate, he hastened out of the senate-house, and frequently repeated with warmth, that the legions of the Samnites were not more effectually vanquished and overthrown by the master of the horse, than were the dictatorial dignity and military discipline, if such contempt of orders escaped with impunity.
Thus, breathing resentment and menaces, he set out for the camp; but, though he travelled with all possible expedition, he was unable, however, to outstrip the report of his coming.
For messengers had started from the city before him, who brought intelligence that the dictator was coming, eager for vengeance, and in almost every second sentence applauding the conduct of Titus Manlius.