while the new consuls, Quintus Fabius1
Maximus (in his fourth term) and Publius Decius Mus (in his third), were laying plans together how one should take the field against the Samnites,
and the other against the Etruscans, and were considering what forces would suffice for these respective provinces and which of them was the better suited to the one command and which to
the other, there came deputies from Sutrium and Nepete and Falerii, with the news that the nations of Etruria were counselling together how they might sue for peace, and thus diverted upon Samnium the whole burden of war.
when the consuls set out, in order to lessen the difficulty of getting supplies and to keep the enemy uncertain where the attack would come, Fabius marched into Samnium by way of Sora, Decius through the territory of the Sidicini.
arrived at the borders of the enemy, each spread his army over a wide front and pillaged.
yet they scouted more widely than they pillaged, and the enemy were therefore unable to surprise them near Tifernum, where they had drawn their forces up in a secluded valley, and were preparing to assail the Romans from above, once they should have [p. 409]
removing the baggage to a place of2
safety and appointing a small force to guard it, Fabius warned his troops that a struggle was at hand, and forming them into a hollow square, led them up towards the place where the enemy lay, as I have said, concealed.
balked of their surprise attack, the Samnites —since it must ultimately come to an open trial of strength —likewise preferred to fight a regular engagement.
they accordingly descended to level ground, and committed their cause to Fortune, with courage greater than their hopes. however, whether owing to their having assembled the fighting strength of all the Samnite nations, or because a contest on which everything was staked heightened their valour, they occasioned some perturbation amongst the Romans, even in an open battle.
when Fabius saw that the enemy were nowhere giving way, he ordered Maximus his son3
and Marcus Valerius —military tribunes with whom he had hurried to the front —to
go to the horsemen and tell them that if they remembered ever an occasion when the state had been helped by the horse, now was the time for them to exert their strength to preserve untarnished the glory of that body:
in the struggle of infantry the enemy were yielding not an inch; no hope remained save in a charge of cavalry. addressing each of the young men by name, lie loaded them now with praise and now with promises.
but since it was conceivable that even their prowess might prove to be inadequate, he thought proper to resort to strategy, if strength [p. 411]
should not achieve his purpose.
so he ordered4
Scipio, his lieutenant, to withdraw the hastati5
of the first legion from the battle and conduct them, as secretly as possible, by a circuitous route to the nearest mountains; they were then, concealing their ascent from observation, to climb the heights and suddenly show themselves on the enemy's rear.
The cavalry, led by the tribunes, occasioned hardly more confusion in their enemies than in their friends, as they rode out unexpectedly in front of the standards.
The Samnite line held firm against their galloping squadrons, and could at no point be forced back or broken, and the cavalry, finding their attack abortive, retired behind the lines and left the battle.
this gave the enemy a fresh access of spirits; and the front ranks would have been incapable of sustaining so long a struggle and the increasing violence with which the enemy's confidence inspired him, had not the second line, by the consul's order, come up to relieve them.
their fresh strength halted the Samnites, who were now pressing forward; and catching sight just at this juncture of our detachments descending from the mountains, and hearing the cheer they gave, the enemy was filled with terror of worse things than actually threatened him;
for Fabius shouted that his colleague Decius was approaching, and the soldiers themselves in their joy and eagerness cried out that the other consul was at hand —that
the legions were at hand; and this mistake, occurring in a good hour for the Romans, filled the Samnites with fear and bewilderment, for they dreaded nothing so much as that the other army, fresh and entire, might overwhelm them in their exhausted [p. 413]
The slaughter was less than is usual in so6
great a victory, for the enemy scattered far and wide in their flight. three thousand four hundred were slain; about eight hundred and thirty were made prisoners, and twenty —three standards were taken.