The war with the Samnites being now nearly put an end to, before the Roman senate was freed from all concern on that side, a report arose of an Etrurian war;
and there was not, in those times, any nation, excepting the Gauls, whose arms were more dreaded, by reason both of the vicinity of their country, and of the multitude of their men.
While therefore one of the consuls prosecuted the remains of the war in Samnium, Publius Decius, who, being attacked by a severe illness, remained at Rome, by direction of the senate, nominated Caius Junius Bubulcus dictator.
He, as the magnitude of the affair demanded, compelled all the younger citizens to enlist, and with the utmost diligence prepared arms, and the other matters which the occasion required. Yet he was not so elated by the power he had collected, as to think of commencing offensive operations, but prudently determined to remain quiet, unless the Etrurians should become aggressors.
The plans of the Etrurians were exactly similar, [p. 600]
with respect to preparing for, and abstaining from, war: nei- ther party went beyond their own frontiers. The censorship of Appius Claudius and Caius Plautius, for this year, was remarkable;
but the name of Appius has been handed down with more celebrity to posterity, on account of his having made the road, [called after him, the Appian,] and for having conveyed water into the city.
These works he performed alone; for his colleague, overwhelmed with shame by reason of the infamous and unworthy choice made of senators, had abdicated his office.
Appius possessing that inflexibility of temper, which, from the earliest times, had been the charac- teristic of his family, held on the censorship by himself.
By direction of the same Appius, the Potitian family, in which the office of priests attendant on the great altar of Hercules was hereditary, instructed some of the public servants in the rites of that solemnity, with the intention to delegate the same to them.
A circumstance is recorded, wonderful to be told, and one which should make people scrupulous of disturbing the established modes of religious solemnities: for though there were, at that time, twelve branches of the Potitian family, all grown-up persons, to the number of thirty, yet they were every one, together with their offspring, cut off within the year;
so that the name of the Potitii became extinct, while the censor Appius also was, by the unrelenting wrath of the gods, some years after, deprived of sight.