The consuls divided the commands between them: to Junius the lot assigned the Samnites, to Aemilius the new war with Etruria.
in Samnium the Roman garrison at Cluviae,1
which had defended itself successfully against assault, was starved into submission. The Samnites, having scourged their prisoners in brutal fashion, put them to death, although they had surrendered.
incensed by this act of cruelty, Junius felt that nothing should take precedence over an attack on Cluviae. he carried the place by storm on the day he arrived before it, and slew all the grown —up males.
from there he led his victorious army to Bovianum. this was the capital of the Pentrian Samnites, a very wealthy city and very rich in arms and men.
against this town the soldiers were not so exasperated, but the hope of plunder spurred them on to capture it. and so there was less severity shown to the enemy, but there was almost more booty carried out than was ever collected from all the rest of Samnium, and the whole of it was generously made over to the soldiers.
when the conquering arms of the Romans might now no longer be withstood by any embattled host or camp or city, the leaders of the Samnites all eagerly directed their attention to the seeking out a place for an ambush, on the chance that the army might somehow be permitted to disperse for plundering, and so be surprised and surrounded.
certain rustic deserters and prisoners, some falling into the consul's hands by accident and some on purpose, [p. 283]
by giving all the same account —and a true one,2
too —of enormous flocks that had been brought together in an inaccessible mountain meadow, persuaded him to lead thither his legions in light marching order to seize the booty.
there a great army of the enemy had secretly beset the ways, and seeing that the Romans had entered the pass, rose up suddenly with much din and shouting and fell upon them unawares.
at first the unexpectedness of the attack occasioned some trepidation, while the soldiers were putting on their armour and piling their packs in the midst. afterwards, when everyone had got rid of his encumbrance and had armed himself, they began to assemble from every side about their standards. in the course of a long training in the army they had become familiar with their places, and formed a line of their own accord, without anyone's direction.
The consul, riding up to the place where the fighting was most critical, leaped down from his horse, and called on Jupiter and Mars and the other gods to witness that he had come there seeking no glory for himself, but only booty for his soldiers:
his sole fault, he said, was a too great desire to enrich his men; from this disgrace nothing could save him but their courage.
only let them all unite in singleness of purpose to assail an enemy conquered in battle, stripped of his camp, deprived of his cities, and pinning his last hopes to the treachery of an ambuscade, were his trust was in his position, not in arms. but what position was there now, he demanded, too strong for Roman valour to overwhelm?
he reminded them of Fregellae's citadel and Sora's, and all the places where they had triumphed over disadvantage of ground.
roused by these words, the soldiers disregarded3
every obstacle and advanced against the battle —line which their enemies had formed above them. there was a little hard fighting there, while the column was mounting the slope;
but as soon as the foremost companies had reached the plateau at the top, and the soldiers perceived that their line was now established on level ground, the panic was straightway turned upon the waylayers, who fled, dispersing and throwing down their arms, in search of those very lurking —places where a little while before they had concealed themselves.
but the ground which they had sought out for the difficulties it presented to an enemy caught the Samnites themselves in a trap of their own devising. and so, very few were able to get off; about twenty thousand men were slain; and the victorious Romans struck out this way and that to collect the booty of cattle which the enemy had thrown in their way.4