Wars of greater magnitude, in respect both of the forces of our enemies and of the remoteness of their countries and the long periods of time involved, now fall to be related.
For in that year the sword was drawn against the Samnites, a people powerful in arms and in resources; and hard upon the Samnite war, which was waged with varying success, came war with Pyrrhus, and after that with the Carthaginians. How vast a series of events! How many times the extremity of danger was incurred, in order that our empire might be exalted to its present greatness, hardly to be maintained!
Now the cause of the war between the Romans and the Samnites, who had been united in friendship and alliance, was of external origin and not owing to themselves.
The Samnites had unjustly attacked the Sidicini, because they happened to be more powerful than they, and the Sidicini, driven in their [p. 457]
need to fly for succour to a more wealthy nation,1
had attached themselves to the Campanians.
The Campanians had brought reputation rather than real strength to the defence of their allies; enervated by luxury, they had encountered a people made hardy by the use of arms, and being defeated in the territory of the Sidicini, had then drawn down the full force of the war upon themselves.
For the Samnites, disregarding the Sidicini and attacking the Campanians —the very stronghold of their neighbours, —from whom they would gain full as easy a victory and more plunder and renown, had seized and with a strong force occupied Tifata — a range of hills looking down on Capua —and thence had descended in battle-order into the plain that lies between.
There a second battle had been fought, and the Campanians, being worsted, had been shut up within their walls; and having, after the loss of their choicest troops, no prospect of relief at hand, had been driven to seek assistance of the Romans.