consuls sent word to the senate that there were very slender hopes of the Samnites remaining at peace. Publilius informed them that 2000 troops from Nola and 4000 Samnites had been admitted into Palaeopolis, more under pressure from Nola than
from any great desire for their presence on the part of the Greeks; Cornelius sent the additional information that orders for a general levy had been issued
throughout Samnium, and attempts were being openly made to induce the neighbouring communities of Privernum, Fundi, and Formiae to rise.
Under these circumstances it was decided to send ambassadors to the Samnites before actually commencing war. The Samnites sent an insolent reply.
They accused the Romans of wanton aggression, and absolutely denied the charges made against themselves; they declared that the assistance which the Greeks had received was not furnished by their government, nor had they tampered with Fundi and Formiae, for they had no reason to distrust their own strength if it came to war.
Moreover, it was impossible to disguise the deep irritation which the Samnite nation felt at the conduct of the Roman people in restoring Fregellae
after they had taken it from the Volscians and destroyed it, and placing a colony on Samnite territory which the colonists called Fregellae.
If this insult and injury were not removed by those responsible for it, they would themselves exert all their strength to get rid of it
The Roman ambassadors invited them to submit the questions at issue to arbitration before their common friends, but the Samnites replied: ‘Why should we beat about the bush?
No diplomacy, no arbitration can adjust our quarrel; arms and the fortune of war can alone decide the issue. We must meet in Campania.’
To which the Roman replied: ‘Roman soldiers will march not whither the enemy summons them, but whither their commander leads them.’
Publilius meantime had taken up a suitable position between Palaeopolis and Neapolis in order to prevent them from rendering each other the mutual assistance they had hitherto given. The time for the elections was close at hand, and it would have been most inexpedient for the public interest to recall Publilius, as he was ready to attack the place and in daily expectation of effecting its capture.
An arrangement was accordingly made with the tribunes of the plebs to propose to the people that at the expiration
of his term of office Publilius should continue to act as proconsul till the war with the Greeks was brought to a close.
The same step was taken with regard to Cornelius, who had already entered Samnium, and written instructions were sent to him to nominate a Dictator to hold the elections. He nominated M. Claudius Marcellus, and Sp. Postumius was named by him Master of the Horse.
The elections, however, were not held by that Dictator, doubts having been raised as to whether the proper formalities had been observed in his nomination. The augurs, when consulted, declared that they had not been duly observed. The tribunes characterised their action as dishonest and iniquitous.
‘How,’ they asked, ‘could they know that there was any irregularity? The consul rose at midnight to nominate the Dictator; he had made no communication to any one either officially or privately about the matter;
there was no one living who could say that he had seen or heard anything which would vitiate the auspices; the augurs sitting quietly in Rome could not possibly divine what difficulty the consul may have met with in the camp. Who was there who could not see that the irregularity which the augurs had discovered lay in the fact that the Dictator was a plebeian?’
These and other objections were raised by the tribunes. Matters, however, reverted to an interregnum, and owing to the repeated adjournment of the elections on one pretext after another, there were no fewer than fourteen interegna. At last L. Aemilius, the fourteenth interrex, declared C. Poetilius and L. Papirius Mugilanus duly elected. In other lists I find Cursor.