The war in Samnium, immediately afterwards,1
was attended with equal danger and an equally glorious conclusion. The enemy, besides their other warlike preparations, had made their battle —line to glitter with new and splendid arms.
there were two corps: the shields of the one were inlaid with gold, of the other with silver. The shape of the shield was this: the upper part, where it protected the breast and shoulders, was rather broad, with a level top; below it was somewhat tapering, to make it easier to handle.
they wore a sponge2
to protect the breast, and the left leg was covered with a greave. their helmets were crested, to make their stature appear greater. The tunics of the gilded warriors were parti —coloured; those of the silvern ones were linen of a dazzling white.
The latter had silver sheaths and silver baldrics: the former gilded sheaths and golden baldrics, and their horses had gold —embroidered saddle —cloths.
The right wing was assigned to these: the others took up their post on the left. The Romans had already learned of these splendid accoutrements, and their generals had taught them that a soldier should be rough to look on, not adorned with gold and silver but putting his trust in iron and in courage:
indeed those other things were more truly spoil than arms, shining bright before a battle, but losing their beauty in the midst of blood and wounds;
manhood they said, [p. 321]
was the adornment of a soldier; all those other3
things went with the victory, and a rich enemy was the prize of the victor, however poor.
whilst his men were animated by these words, Cursor led them into battle.
he took up his own post on the right, and committed the left to the master of the horse.
from the moment of encountering, there was a mighty struggle with the enemy, and a struggle no less sharp between the dictator and the master of the horse, to decide which wing was to inaugurate the victory. it so happened that Junius was the first to make an impression on the Samnites. with the Roman left he faced the enemy's right, where they had consecrated themselves, as their custom was, and for that reason were resplendent in white coats and equally white armour.
declaring that he offered up these men in sacrifice to Orcus4
,Junius charged, threw their ranks into disorder, and clearly made their
line recoil. when the dictator saw this, he cried, “shall the victory begin upon the left? shall the right, the dictator's division, follow the attack of others? shall it not carry off the honours of
the victory?” this fired the soldiers with new energy; nor did the cavalry display less valour than the foot, or the lieutenants less enthusiasm than the generals. Marcus Valerius on the right and Publius Decius on the left, both men of consular rank, rode out to the cavalry, which was posted on the wings, and, exhorting them to join with themselves in seizing a share of glory, charged obliquely against the
enemy's flanks. thus a new and appalling danger enveloped their line on either side, and when the Roman legions, observing the terror of the Samnites, pressed forward with [p. 323]
redoubled shouts, the enemy began
to flee. The5
fields were soon heaped with slain and with glittering armour. at first the frightened Samnites found a refuge in their camp, but presently even that had to be abandoned, and ere nightfall it had been taken, sacked, and set on fire.
The dictator, as decreed by the senate, celebrated a triumph, in which by far the finest show was afforded by the
captured armour. so magnificent was its appearance that the shields inlaid with gold were divided up amongst the owners of the moneychangers' booths, to be used in decking out the Forum.6
from this is said to have come the custom of the aediles adorning the Forum whenever the tensae,
or covered chariots of the gods, were
conducted through it.7
so the Romans made use of the splendid armour of their enemies to do honour to the gods; while the Campanians, in consequence of their pride and in hatred of the Samnites, equipped after this fashion the gladiators who furnished them entertainment at their feasts, and bestowed on them the
name of Samnites.8
in the same year the consul Fabius fought a battle with the remnants of the Etruscan forces near Perusia —which, together with other cities, had broken the truce9
—and gained an easy
and decisive victory. he would have taken the town itself —for after the battle he marched up to the walls —had not ambassadors come out and
surrendered the place. having placed a garrison in Perusia and having sent [p. 325]
on before him to the senate in Rome the Etruscan10
deputations which had come to him seeking friendship, the consul was borne in
triumph into the City, after gaining a success more brilliant even than the dictator's; indeed the glory of conquering the Samnites was largely diverted upon the lieutenants, Publius Decius and Marcus Valerius, of whom, at the next election, the people with great enthusiasm made the one consul and the other praetor.