Pontius then said, “Neither will I accept such a surrender, nor will the Samnites deem it valid.
Spurius Postu- [p. 574]
mius, if you believe that there are gods, why do you not undo all that has been done, or fulfil your agreement? The Samnite nation is entitled, either to all the men whom it had in its power, or, instead of them, to a peace.
But why do I call on you, who, with as much regard to faith as you are able to show, return yourself a prisoner into the hands of the conqueror? I call on the Roman people. If they are dissatisfied with the convention made at the Caudine forks, let them replace the legions within the defile where they were pent up.
Let there be no deception on either side. Let all that has been done pass as nothing. Let them receive again the arms which they surrendered by the convention; let them return into their camp. Whatever they were in possession of, the day before the conference, let them possess again. Then let war and resolute counsels be adopted.
Then let the convention, and peace, be rejected. Let us carry on the war in the same circumstances, and situations, in which we were before peace was mentioned. Let neither the Roman people blame the convention of the consuls, nor us the faith of the Roman people.
Will ye never want an excuse for not standing to the compacts which ye make on being defeated? Ye gave hostages to Porsena: ye clandestinely withdrew them. Ye ransomed your state from the Gauls, for gold: while they were receiving the gold, they were put to the sword.
Ye concluded a peace with us, on condition of our restoring your captured legions: that peace ye now annul; in fine, ye always spread over your fraudulent conduct some show of right.
Do the Roman people disapprove of their legions being saved by an ignominious peace? Let them have their peace, and return the captured legions to the conqueror. This would be conduct consistent with faith, with treaties, and with the laws of the heralds.
But that you should, in consequence of the convention, obtain what you desired, the safety of so many of your countrymen, while I obtain not, what I stipulated for on sending you back those men, a peace; is this the law which you, Aulus Cornelius, which ye, heralds, prescribe to nations?
But for my part, I neither accept those men whom ye pretend to surrender, nor consider them as surrendered; nor do I hinder them from returning into their own country, which stands bound under an actual convention, formally entered into, carrying with them the wrath of all the gods, [p. 575]
whose authority is thus baffled.
Wage war, since Spurius Postumius has just now struck with his knee the herald, in character of ambassador. The gods are to believe that Postumius is a citizen of Samnium, not of Rome; and that a Roman ambassador has been violated by a Samnite; and that therefore a just war has been waged against us by you.
That men of years, and of consular dignity, should not be ashamed to exhibit such mockery of religion in the face of day!
And should have recourse to such shallow artifices to palliate their breach of faith, unworthy even of children! Go, lictor, take off the bonds from those Romans. Let no one delay them from departing when they think proper.” Accordingly they returned unhurt from Caudium to the Roman camp, having acquitted, certainly, their own faith, and perhaps that of the public.