During these transactions in Etruria, the other consul, Caius Marcius Rutilus, took Allifae by storm from the Samnites; and many of their forts, and smaller towns, were either destroyed by his arms, or surrendered without being injured.
About the same time also, the Roman fleet, having sailed to Campania, under Publius Cornelius, to whom the senate had given the command on the sea-coast, put into Pompeii. Immediately on landing, the soldiers of the fleet set out to ravage the country about Nuceria: and after they had quickly laid waste the parts which lay nearest, and whence they could have returned to the ships with safety, they were allured by the temptation of plunder, as it often happens, to advance too far, and thereby roused the enemy against them.
While they rambled about the country, they met no opposition, though they might have been cut off to a man; but as they were returning, in a careless manner, the peasants overtook them, not far from the ships, stripped them of the booty, and even slew a great part of them. Those who escaped were driven in confusion to the ships.
As Fabius' having marched through the Ciminian forest had occasioned violent apprehensions at Rome, [p. 613]
so it had excited joy in proportion among the enemy in Samnium: they talked of the Roman army being pent up, and surrounded; and of the Caudine forks, as a model of their defeat.
“Those people,” they said, “ever greedy after further acquisitions, were now brought into inextricable difficulties, hemmed in, not more effectually by the arms of their enemy, than by the disadvantage of the ground.”
Their joy was even mingled with a degree of envy, because fortune, as they thought, had transferred the glory of finishing the Roman war, from the Samnites to the Etrurians:
they hastened, therefore, with their whole collected force, to crush the consul Caius Marcius; resolving, if he did not give them an opportunity of fighting, to proceed, through the territories of the Marsians and Sabines, into Etruria. The consul met them, and a battle was fought with great fury on both sides, but without a decisive issue.
Although both parties suffered severely, yet the discredit of defeat fell on the Romans, because several of equestrian rank, some military tribunes, with one lieutenant-general, had fallen; and, what was more remarkable than all, the consul himself was wounded. On account of this event, exaggerated by report as is usual, the senate became greatly alarmed, so that they resolved on having a dictator nominated.
No one entertained a doubt that the nomination would light on Papirius Cursor, who was then universally deemed to possess the greatest abilities as a commander: but they could not be certain, either that a message might be conveyed with safety into Samnium, where all was in a state of hostility, or that the consul Marcius was alive.
The other consul, Fabius, was at enmity with Papirius, on his own account; and lest this resentment might prove an obstacle to the public good, the senate voted that deputies of consular rank should be sent to
him, who, uniting their own influence to that of government, might prevail on him to drop, for the sake of his country, all remembrance of private animosities.
When the deputies, having come to Fabius, delivered to him the decree of the senate, adding such arguments as were suitable to their instructions, the consul, casting his eyes towards the ground, retired in silence, leaving them in uncertainty what part he intended to act.
Then, in the silent time of the night, according to the established custom, he nominated Lucius Papirius dictator. When the deputies returned him [p. 614]
thanks, for so very meritoriously subduing his passion, he still persevered in obstinate silence, and dismissed them without any answer, or mention of what he had done: a proof that he felt an extraordinary degree of resentment, which had been suppressed within his breast.
Papirius appointed Caius Junius Bubulcus master of the horse; and, as he was proceeding in an assembly of the Curiae1
to get an order passed respecting the command of the army, an unlucky omen
obliged him to adjourn it; for the Curia which was to vote first, happened to be the Faucian, remarkably distinguished
by two disasters, the taking of the city, and the Caudine peace; the same Curia having voted first in those years in which the said events are found. Licinius Macer supposes this Curia ominous, also, on account of a third misfortune, that which was experienced at the Cremera.