The contents of these despatches were listened to with every manifestation of delight, both in the senate and in the Assembly.
A four days' thanksgiving was appointed as an expression of the public joy, and festal observances were kept up in every house.
These successes were not only of great importance in themselves, but they came most opportunely for Rome, as it so happened that at that very time information was received that Etruria had again commenced hostilities.
The question naturally occurred to people's minds, how would it have been possible to withstand Etruria if any reverse had been met with in Samnium? The Etruscans, acting upon a secret understanding with the Samnites, had seized the moment when both consuls and the whole force of Rome were employed against Samnium as a favourable opportunity for recommencing war.
Embassies from the allied states were introduced by M. Atilius the praetor into the senate and complained of the ravaging and burning of their fields by their Etruscan neighbours because they would not revolt from Rome.
They appealed to the senate to protect them from the outrageous violence of their common foe, and were told in reply that the senate would see to it that their allies had no cause to regret their fidelity, and that the day was near when the Etruscans would be in the same
position as the Samnites
Still, the senate would have been somewhat dilatory in dealing with the Etruscan question had not intelligence come to hand that even the Faliscans, who had for many years been on terms of friendship with Rome, had now made common cause with the Etruscans.
The proximity of this city to Rome made the senate take a more serious view of the position, and they decided to send the fetials to demand redress.
Satisfaction was refused, and by order of the people with the sanction of the senate war was formally declared against the Faliscans. The consuls were ordered to decide by lot which of them should transport his army from Samnium into Etruria.
By this time Carvilius had taken from the Samnites three of their cities, Velia, Palumbinum, and Herculaneum. Velia he took after a few days' siege, Palumbinum on the day he arrived before its walls.
Herculaneum gave him more trouble; after an indecisive battle in which, however, his losses were somewhat the heavier he moved his camp close up to the town and shut up the enemy within their walls.
The place was then stormed and captured. In these three captures the number of killed and prisoners amounted to 10,000, the prisoners forming a small majority of the total loss.
On the consuls casting lots for their respective commands, Etruria fell to Carvilius, much to the satisfaction of his men, who were now unable to stand the intense cold of Samnium.
Papirius met with more resistance at Saepinum. There were frequent encounters, in the open field, on the march, and round the city itself when he was checking the sorties of the enemy. There was no question of siege operations, the enemy met him on equal terms, for the Samnites protected their walls with their arms quite as much as their walls protected them.
At last by dint of hard fighting he compelled the enemy to submit to a regular siege, and after pressing the siege with spade and sword he finally effected the capture of the place.
The victors were exasperated by the obstinate resistance, and the Samnites suffered heavily, losing no less than 7400 killed, while only 3000 were made prisoners. Owing to the Samnites having stored their property in a limited number of cities there was a vast amount of plunder, the whole of which was given to the soldiery.