The year coming to a conclusion, the war was thenceforward conducted by a dictator, Quintius Fabius. The new [p. 590]
consuls, Lucius Papirius Cursor and Quintus Publilius Philo, both a fourth time, as the former had done, remained at Rome. Fabius came with a reinforcement to Saticula, to receive the army from Aemilius.
For the Samnites had not continued before Plistia; but having sent for a new supply of men from home, and relying on their numbers, had en- camped in the same spot as before; and, by provoking the Romans to battle, endeavoured to divert them from the siege.
The dictator, so much the more intently, pushed forward his operations against the fortifications of the enemy; consider- ing that only as war which was directed against the city, and showing an indifference with respect to the Samnites, except that he placed guards in proper places, to prevent any at- tempt on his camp.
The more furiously did the Samnites ride up to the rampart, and allowed him no quiet. When the enemy were now come up close to the gates of the camp, Quintus Aulius Cerretanus, master of the horse, without con- sulting the dictator, sallied out furiously at the head of all the troops of cavalry, and drove back the enemy.
In this de- sultory kind of fight, fortune worked up the strength of the combatants in such a manner, as to occasion an extraordinary loss on both sides, and the remarkable deaths of the com- manders themselves.
First, the general of the Samnites, in- dignant at being repulsed, and compelled to fly from a place to which he had advanced so confidently, by entreating and exhorting his horsemen, renewed the battle.
As he was easily distinguished among the horsemen, while he urged on the fight, the Roman master of the horse galloped up against him, with his spear directed, so furiously, that, with one stroke, he tumbled him lifeless from his horse.
The multitude, however, were not, as is generally the case, dismayed by the fall of their leader, but rather raised to fury. All who were within reach darted their weapons at Aulius, who incautiously pushed for- ward among the enemy's troops;
but the chief share of the honour of revenging the death of the Samnite general they assigned to his brother; he, urged by rage and grief, dragged down the victorious master of the horse from his seat, and slew him.
Nor were the Samnites far from obtaining his body also, as he had fallen among the enemies' troops: but the Romans instantly dismounted, and the Samnites were obliged to do the same; and lines being thus formed suddenly, [p. 591]
they began a battle on foot, round the bodies of the generals, in which the Romans had manifestly the advantage; and recovering the body of Aulius, carried it back in triumph to the camp, with joy mixed with grief.
The Samnites having lost their commander, and made a trial of their strength in this contest between the cavalry, left Saticula, which they in vain hoped to relieve, and returned to the siege of Plistia: within a few days after which, the Romans got possession of Saticula by capitulation, and the Samnites of Plistia by force.