When the result of this mission was reported in Rome, all other matters were at once laid aside and the fetials1
were sent to demand redress. This was refused and the senate decreed that a formal declaration of war should be submitted for the approval of the people as soon as possible.
The people ratified the action of the senate and ordered the two consuls to start, each with his army; Valerius for Campania, where he fixed his camp at Mount Glaurus, whilst Cornelius advanced into Samnium and encamped at Saticula. 2
. —Valerius was the first to come into touch with the Samnite legions.
They had marched into Campania because they thought that this would be the main theatre of war, and they were burning to wreak their rage on the Campanians who had been so ready first to help others against them and then to summon help for themselves.
As soon as they saw the Roman camp, they one and all clamoured for the signal for battle to be given by their leaders; they declared that the Romans would have the same luck in helping the Campanians that the Campanians had had in helping the Sidicines.
For a few days Valerius confined himself to skirmishes, with the object of testing the enemy's strength.
At length he put out the signal for battle and spoke a few words of encouragement to his men. He told them not to let themselves be daunted by a new war or a new enemy, for the further they carried their arms from the City the more unwarlike were the nations whom they approached.
They were not to measure the courage of the Samnites by the defeats they had inflicted on the Sidicines and the Campanians; whenever two nations fought together, whatever the qualities they possessed, one side must necessarily be vanquished.
There was no doubt that as far as the Campanians were concerned they owed their defeats more to their want of hardihood and the weakening effects of excessive luxury than to the strength of their enemies. What could two successful wars an the part of the Samnites through all those centuries weigh against the many brilliant achievements at the Roman people,
who reckoned up almost more triumphs than years since the foundation of their City, who had subdued by the might at their arms all the surrounding nations —Sabines, Etruscans, Latins, Hernici, Aequi, Volscians, and Auruncans —who had slain the Gauls in so many battles and driven them at last to their ships?
His men must not only go into action in full reliance upon their own courage and warlike reputation, but they must also remember under whose auspices and generalship they were going to fight, whether under a man who is only
to be listened to provided he is a big talker, courageous only in words, ignorant of a soldier's work, or under one who himself knows how to handle weapons, who can show himself in the front, and do his duty in the melee at battle.
‘I want you, soldiers,’ he continued, ‘to follow my deeds not my words, and to look to me not only for the word at command but also for example. It was not by party struggles nor by the intrigues so common amongst the nobles but by my own right hand that I won three consulships and attained the highest reputation.
There was a time when it might have been said to me, ‘Yes, for you were a patrician descended from the liberators at our country, and your family held the consulship in the very year when this City first possessed consuls.’
Now, however, the consulship is open to you, plebeians, as much as to us who are patricians; it is not the reward of high birth as it once was, but of personal merit. Look forward then, soldiers, to securing all the highest honours!
If with the sanction of the gods you men have given me this new name at Corvinus, I have not forgotten the old cognomen of our family; I have not forgotten that I am a Publicola.3
I always study and always have studied the interests of the Roman plebs, both at home and in the field, whether as a private citizen or holding public office, whether as military tribune or as consul. I have been consistent to this aim in all my successive consulships.
And now for what is immediately before us: go on with the help at heaven, and win with me for the first time a triumph over your new foes —the Samnites.’