These fears had been made known to Papirius by deserters; and when he had described them to his soldiers, incensed as they already were of themselves, their hopes both of gods and men ran high, and they called out in unison demanding battle; they were vexed at the postponement of the struggle until the morrow, and to wait for a day and night disgusted them.
in the third watch of the night, having now received his colleague's answer, Papirius rose silently and sent the keeper of the chickens1
to take the auspices.
there was no class of men in camp who were not affected by the lust of battle; both high and low felt the same eagerness; the general could see the ardour of the men, the men that of their general.
this universal zeal spread even to those who took the auspices, for when the chickens refused to feed, their keeper dared to falsify the presage and reported that the corn danced on the ground as it fell from their greedy beaks.
The consul joyfully announced that [p. 515]
the omens were most favourable, and that the gods2
would be with them as they fought.
so saying, he displayed the signal for a battle. it chanced, as he was already moving out to the field, that a deserter came up with the information that twenty cohorts of the Samnites —of about four hundred each —had set out for Cominium.
that his colleague might not be ignorant of this, he instantly dispatched a messenger to him, and ordered his own troops to advance in double time.
he had assigned supports to take their posts at favourable points and officers to command them; the right wing he had given to Lucius Volumnius, the left to Lucius Scipio; to lead the cavalry he appointed the other lieutenants, Gaius Caedicius and Titus Trebonius. Spurius Nautius he directed to remove the pack —saddles from the mules, and with three cohorts of auxiliaries to make a hasty detour to a hill which lay in full view, and thence to show himself, in the heat of the engagement, raising as much dust as possible.3
while the general was thus employed, a dispute which broke out amongst the keepers of the chickens about the auspices for that day was overheard by some Roman cavalrymen, who, deeming it no negligible matter, reported to Spurius Papirius, the consul's nephew, that the auspices were being called in
question. The young man had been born before the learning that makes light of the gods,4
and having inquired into the affair, that he might not be the bearer of an uncertain rumour, acquainted the consul with
it. The consul replied: “for yourself, I commend your conduct and your diligence; but he who takes the auspices, if he reports aught that is false, draws down the wrath of Heaven upon
himself; as for me, I was told that the corn had5
danced; it is an excellent omen for the Roman People and the army.” he then ordered the centurions to station the keepers of the chickens in the front rank. The Samnites, too, advanced their standards, which were followed by the battle —line in gorgeous armour —a splendid spectacle, though composed of
enemies. before the first shout and the clash of arms, a random javelin struck the chicken —keeper and he fell before the
standards. The consul, on being told of this, exclaimed, “The gods are present in the battle; the guilty wretch has paid the penalty!” in front of the consul a raven, just as he spoke, uttered a clear cry, and Papirius, rejoiced with the augury, and declaring that never had the gods been more instant to intervene in human affairs, bade sound the trumpets and give a cheer.