Samnite war was now drawing to a close, but before the senate could dismiss it entirely from their thoughts there was a rumour of war on the side of Etruria.
With the one exception of the Gauls, no nation was more dreaded at that time, owing to their proximity to Rome and their vast population.
One of the consuls remained in Samnium to finish the war, the other, P. Decius, was detained in Rome by serious illness, and on instructions from the senate, nominated C. Junius Bubulcus Dictator.
In view of the seriousness of the emergency the Dictator compelled all who were liable for service to take the military oath, and used his utmost endeavours to have arms and whatever else was required in readiness. Notwithstanding the great preparations he was making, he had no intention of assuming the aggressive, and had quite made up his mind to wait until the Etruscans made the first move The Etruscans were equally energetic in their preparations, and equally reluctant to commence hostilities.
Neither side went outside their own frontiers.
This year (312 B.C.> was signalised by the censorship of Appius Claudius. His claim to distinction with posterity rests mainly upon his public works, the road2
and the aqueduct3
which bear his name.
He carried out these undertakings single-handed, for, owing to the odium he incurred by the way he
revised the senatorial lists and filled up the vacancies, his colleague, thoroughly ashamed of his conduct, resigned. In the obstinate temper which had always marked his house, Appius continued to hold office alone.
It was owing to his action that the Potitii, whose family had always possessed
the right of ministering at the Ava Maxima of Hercules, transferred that duty to some temple servants, whom they had instructed in the various
observances. There is a strange tradition connected with this, and one well calculated to create religious scruples in the minds of any who would disturb the established order of ceremonial usages. It is said that though when the change was made there were twelve branches of the family of the Potitii5
comprising thirty adults, not one member, old or young, was alive twelve months
later. Nor was the extinction of the Potitian name the only consequence; Appius himself some years afterwards was struck with blindness by the unforgetting wrath of the gods.