The consuls adjusting the provinces between them, the Samnites fell by lot to Junius, the new war of Etruria to Aemilius.
In Samnium the Samnites had blockaded and reduced by famine Cluvia, a Roman garrison, because they had been unable to take it by storm; and, after torturing with stripes, [p. 602]
in a shocking manner, the townsmen who surrendered, they had put them to death.
Enraged at this cruelty, Junius determined to postpone every thing else to the attacking of Cluvia; and, on the first day that he assaulted the walls, took it by storm, and slew all who were grown to man's estate.
The victorious troops were led from thence to Bovianum; this was the capital of the Pentrian Samnites, by far the most opulent of their cities, and the most powerful both in men and arms.
The soldiers, stimulated by the hope of plunder, for their resentment was not so violent, soon made themselves masters of the town: where there was less severity exercised on the enemy; but a quantity of spoil was carried off, greater almost than had ever been collected out of all Samnium, and the whole was liberally bestowed on the assailants.
And when neither armies, camps, or cities could now withstand the vast superiority of the Romans in arms; the attention of all the leading men in Samnium became intent on this, that an opportunity should be sought for some stratagem, if by any chance the army, proceeding with incautious eagerness for plunder, could be caught in a snare and overpowered.
Peasants who deserted and some prisoners (some thrown in their way by accident, some purposely) reporting to the consul a statement in which they concurred, and one which was at the same time true, that a vast quantity of cattle had been driven together into a defile of difficult access, prevailed on them to lead thither the legions lightly accoutred for plunder.
Here a very numerous army of the enemy had posted themselves, secretly, at all the passes; and, as soon as they saw that the Romans had got into the defile, they rose up suddenly, with great clamour and tumult, and attacked them unawares.
At first an event so unexpected caused some confusion, while they were taking their arms, and throwing the baggage into the centre; but, as fast as each had freed himself from his burden and fitted himself with arms, they assembled about the standards, from every side; and all, from the long course of their service, knowing their particular ranks, the line was formed of its own accord without any directions.
The consul, riding up to the place where the fight was most warm, leaped from his horse, and called “Jupiter, Mars, and the other gods to witness, that he had come into that place, not in pursuit of any glory to [p. 603]
himself, but of booty for his soldiers;
nor could any other fault be charged on him, than too great a solicitude to enrich his soldiers at the expense of the enemy.
From that disgrace nothing could extricate him but the valour of the troops: let them only join unanimously in a vigorous attack against a foe, already vanquished in the field, beaten out of their camps, and stripped of their towns, and now trying their last hope by the contrivance of an ambuscade, placing their reliance on the ground they occupied, not on their arms.
But what ground was now unsurmountable to Roman valour?” The citadel of Fregellae, and that of Sora, were called to their remembrance, with many other places where difficulties from situation had been surmounted.
Animated by these exhortations, the soldiers, regardless of all difficulties, advanced against the line of the enemy, posted above them; and here there was some fatigue whilst the army was climbing the steep.
But as soon as the first battalions got footing in the plain, on the summit, and the troops perceived that they now stood on equal ground, the dismay was instantly turned on the plotters; who, dispersing and casting away their arms, attempted, by flight, to recover the same lurking-places in which they had lately concealed themselves.
But the difficulties of the ground, which had been intended for the enemy, now entangled them in the snares of their own contrivance. Accordingly very few found means to escape; twenty thousand men were slain, and the victorious Romans hastened in several parties to secure the booty of cattle, spontaneously thrown in their way by the enemy.