The seat of the war was then changed. The legions were led away from Samnium and Apulia to Sora.
Sora had revolted to the Samnites, and put to death the Roman colonists. The Roman army having arrived here first, by forced marches, with the purpose of revenging
the murder of their countrymen, and recovering possession of the colony, and the scouts who were scattered about the roads bringing intelligence, one after another, that the Samnites were following and were now not
far off, they marched to meet the enemy, and at Lautulae fought them with doubtful success. Neither loss nor flight on either side, but the night separated the combatants, uncertain whether they were victorious or defeated.
I find in some historians, that the Romans were worsted in this battle, and that here Quintus Aulius, the master of the horse, fell.
Caius Fabius, substituted master of the horse in the room of Quintus Aulius, came hither with a new army from Rome; and having, by messengers whom he sent forward, consulted the dictator, where he should halt, at what time, and on what side he should fall upon the enemy, and, being sufficiently apprized of his designs in every particular, he rested in a place where he was safe from observation.
The dictator, after having kept his men within the rampart for several days after the engagement, like one besieged, rather than a besieger, suddenly displayed the signal for battle;
and judging it the more efficacious method of inflaming the courage of brave men, to let none have any room for hope but in himself, he kept secret from the troops the arrival of the master of the horse and the new army;
and, as if there were no safety but in forcing their way thence, he said, “Soldiers, caught as we are in a confined situation, we have no passage through which we can extricate ourselves, unless we open one by a victory.
Our post is sufficiently secured by works; [p. 592]
but, at the same time, untenable through scarcity of necessaries: for all the country round, from which provisions could be supplied, has revolted; and besides, even were the inhabitants disposed to aid us, the ground is unfavourable.
I will not therefore mislead you by leaving a camp here, into which ye may retreat, as on a former day, without completing the victory. Works ought to be secured by arms, not arms by works.
Let those keep a camp, and repair to it, whose interest it is to protract the war; but let us cut off from ourselves every other prospect but that of conquering.
Advance the standards against the enemy; as soon as the troops shall have marched beyond the rampart, let those who have it in orders burn the camp. Your losses, soldiers, shall be compensated with the spoil of all the nations round who have revolted.”
The soldiers advanced against the enemy with spirits inflamed by the dictator's discourse, which seemed indicative of an extreme necessity; and, at the same time, the very sight of the camp burning behind them, though the nearest part only was set on fire, (for so the dictator had ordered,) was no small incitement:
rushing on therefore like madmen, they disordered the enemy's battalions at the very first onset; and the master of the horse, when he saw at a distance the fire of the camp, which was a signal agreed on, made a seasonable attack on their rear. The Samnites, thus surrounded on every side, fled different ways.
A vast number, who had gathered into a body through fear, yet from confusion incapable of acting, were surrounded and cut to pieces.
The enemy's camp was taken and plundered; and the soldiers being laden with the spoil, the dictator led them back to the Roman camp, highly rejoiced at the success, but by no means so much as at finding, contrary to their expectation, every thing there safe, except a small part only, which was injured or destroyed by the fire.