The consuls set out from the City, Spurius Carvilius, to whom had been assigned the veteran legions which Marcus Atilius the consul of the previous year had left in the territory of Interamna, being the first to take the field.
proceeding with these forces into Samnium, while the enemy, busy with their superstitious rites, were holding secret councils, he carried the Samnite town of Amiternum by assault.
there about two thousand eight hundred men were slain and four thousand two hundred and seventy made prisoners.
Papirius, having levied a new army —for so it had been decreed —took by storm the city of Duronia, making fewer prisoners than his colleague but killing many more. in each place a rich booty was obtained.
afterwards, the consuls having ranged over Samnium and laid waste especially the district of Atina, Carvilius appeared before Cominium and Papirius before Aquilonia, where the main power of the Samnites lay encamped.
there for some days there was neither cessation from hostilities nor downright fighting, but the time was spent in provoking the enemy when they were quiet and retreating when they offered resistance —in a word, in feinting rather [p. 511]
whatever was undertaken or given1
over, the result of every skirmish, no matter how trivial it might be, was reported at the other camp, which was twenty miles away. The other colleague, Carvilius, though absent, shared in every plan of operations, and was more intent upon Aquilonia, as the crisis became more imminent, than upon Cominium, to which he was laying siege.
Lucius Papirius, being now prepared at all points for the battle, sent word to his colleague that he purposed, if the auspices permitted, to engage the enemy on the following day;
it was needful, he said, that Carvilius should also direct an assault, as violent as possible, on Cominium, that no relaxation of the pressure there might allow of the Samnites' sending relief to Aquilonia. The messenger had a day for the journey. returning in the night, he reported that Carvilius approved the measures taken by his colleague.
Papirius had no sooner sent off the courier than he addressed his
troops, and said many things of war in general and much regarding the present equipment of the enemy, more vain and showy than effective.
for crests, said he, dealt no wounds, and painted and gilded shields would let the Roman javelin through, and their battle —array, resplendent in white tunics, would be stained with blood when sword met sword. long ago a gilt and silvern Samnite army had been utterly destroyed by his father, and the spoils had done their conquerors more credit than the arms had brought to their bearers.2
it had perhaps been granted to his name and family to be sent forth as generals against the mightiest efforts of the Samnites, and to win such trophies as should strikingly adorn even public [p. 513]
The immortal gods, he said, were ready to3
intervene in behalf of treaties so often sought and so often broken.
if it were possible in any way to surmise the feelings of the gods, they had never been
more enraged with any army than with this one, which with horrid rites and stained with the commingled blood of men and beasts, doubly devoted to the wrath of Heaven, as it trembled now at the gods that attested the treaties it had made with the Romans, and now at the curses called down
when it undertook to break those treaties, had sworn unwillingly, hated its oath, and dreaded at one and the same moment its gods, its fellow —citizens, and its enemies.