The following year brought with it a1
consul, Lucius Papirius Cursor, remarkable both for his father's glory and for his own, and a mighty war, with a victory such as no one, save Lucius Papirius, the consul's father, had until that day obtained over the Samnites.
and it happened that the enemy had made their preparations for the war with the same2
earnestness and pomp and all the magnificence of splendid arms, and had likewise invoked the assistance of the gods, initiating, as it were, their soldiers, in accordance with a certain antique form of oath.
but first they held a levy throughout Samnium under this new ordinance, that whosoever of military age did not report in response to the proclamation of the generals, or departed without their orders, should forfeit his life to Jupiter.
which done, they appointed all the army to meet at Aquilonia, where some forty thousand soldiers, the strength of Samnium, came together.
there, at about the middle of the camp, they had enclosed an area, extending approximately two hundred feet in all directions, with wicker hurdles, and roofed it over with linen.
in this place they [p. 507]
offered sacrifice in accordance with directions read3
from an old linen roll. The celebrant was one Ovius Paccius, an aged man, who claimed to derive this ceremony from an ancient ritual of the Samnites which the forefathers of those present had formerly employed when they had gone secretly about to get Capua away from the Etruscans.4
on the conclusion of the sacrifice, the general by his apparitor commanded to be summoned all those of the highest degree in birth and deeds of arms; and one by one they were introduced.
besides other ceremonial preparations, such as might avail to strike the mind with religious awe, there was a place all enclosed, with altars in the midst and slaughtered victims lying about, and round them a guard of centurions5
with drawn swords.
The man was brought up to the altar, more like a victim than a partaker in the rite, and was sworn not to divulge what he should there see or hear.
they then compelled him to take an oath in accordance with a certain dreadful form of words, whereby he invoked a curse upon his head, his household, and his family, if he went not into battle where his generals led the way, or if he either fled from the line himself or saw any other fleeing and did not instantly cut him down.
some there were at first who refused to take this oath; these were beheaded before the altars, where they lay amongst the slaughtered victims —a warning to the rest not to refuse.
when the leading Samnites had been bound by this imprecation, the general named ten of them and bade them choose every man another, and so to proceed until they had brought [p. 509]
their number up to sixteen thousand.6
named the “Linen Legion,” from the roof of the enclosure wherein the nobles had been sworn, and were given splendid arms and crested helmets, to distinguish them from the rest.
a little over twenty thousand8
men composed another corps, which neither in physical appearance nor in martial renown nor in equipment was inferior to the Linen Legion. this was the size of the army, comprising their effective forces, which encamped at Aquilonia.