3. L. Papirius
Cursor, a son of No. 2, does not occur in history till the time when he was made magister equitum to the dictator L. Papirius Crassus in B. C. 340. In B. C. 333 he was made consul with C. Poetelius Libo, and according to some annals he obtained the same office a second time in B. C. 326, the year in which the second Samnite war broke out.
In the year following he was appointed dictator to conduct the war in place of the consul L. Camillus, who had been taken seriously ill. Cursor and his magister equitum, Q. Fabius, afterwards surnamed Maximus, were the most distinguished generals of the time. Shortly after Papirius had taken the field, a doubt as to the validity of the auspices he had taken be fore marching against the enemy, obliged him to return to Rome and take them again. Q. Fabius was left behind to supply his place, but with the express command to avoid every engagement with the enemy during the dictator's absence. But Fabius allowed himself to be drawn into a battle with the Samnites near a place called Imbrinium or Imbrivium, and he gained a signal victory over the enemy. Papirius was fearfully exasperated at this want of military discipline, and hastened back to the army to punish the offender.
He was prevented, however, from carrying his intention into effect by the soldiers, who sympathized with Fabius, and threatened the dictator with a mutiny. Fabius thereupon fled to Rome, where both the senate and the people interfered on his behalf. Papirius was thus obliged to pardon, though with out forgiving him, and returned to the army.
He was looked upon by the soldiers as a tyrant, and in consequence of this disposition of his army, he was defeated in the first battle he fought against the enemy.
But, after having condescended to regain the good-will of the soldiers by promising them the booty which they might make, he obtained a most complete victory over the Samnites, and then allowed his men to plunder the country far and wide. The Samnites now sued for a truce, which was granted by the dictator for one year, on condition that they should clothe his whole army and give them pay for a year. Papirius thereupon returned to Rome, and celebrated a triumph.
In B. C. 320, Papirius Cursor was made consul the second (or the third) time, and again undertook the command against the Samnites in Apulia.
It was however uncertain, even in the days of Livy, whether the consuls of that year conducted the war with two armies, or whether it was carried on by a dictator and L. Papirius as his magister equitum.
It is certain, however, that Papirius blockaded Luceria, and that his camp was reduced to such extremities by the Samnites, who cut off all supplies, that he would have been lost, had he not been relieved by the army of his colleague, Q. Publilius Philo.
He continued his operations in Apulia in the year B. C. 319 also, for which he was likewise appointed consul. About this time the Tarentines offered to act as mediators between the Romans and Samnites, but were haughtily rejected by Papirius, who now made a successful attack upon the camp of the Samnites: they were compelled to retreat and to leave Luceria to its fate. Seven thousand Samnites at Luceria are said to have capitulated for a free departure, without their arms and baggage; and the Frentanians, who attempted to revolt against the Romans, were obliged to submit as subjects and give hostages.
After these things were accomplished, he returned to Rome and celebrated his second triumph.
In B. C. 314 Papirius obtained the consulship for the fourth (or fifth) time. Although the war against the Samnites was still going on, neither Papirius nor his colleague Publilius Philo is mentioned by Livy as having taken part in the campains of that year, which were conducted by dictators, while the consuls are said to have remained at home.
It is difficult to account for this state of things.
In B. C. 313 Papirius was invested with his fifth (or sixth) consulship.
The war against the Samnites was still going on, but no battle was fought, although the Romans made permanent conquests, and thus gave the war a decided turn in their favour.
It was, as Livy states, again doubtful as to who had the command of the Roman armies in that year. In B. C. 309 Papirius was made dictator to conduct the war against the Samnites, to save the army of C. Marcius, who was in great distress in Apulia, and to wipe off the disgrace of Caudium, which Rome had suffered the year before. His appointment to the dictatorship was a matter of some difficulty. Q. Fabius, who had once been his magister equitum, and had nearly been sacrificed by him, was ordered to nominate Papirius.
The recollection of what had happened sixteen years before rendered it hard to the feelings of Fabius to obey the command of the senate; but he sacrificed his own personal feelings to the good of the republic, and he nominated Papirius in the silence of night without saying a word. Papirius now hastened with the reserve legions to the assistance of C. Marcius.
The position of the enemy, however, was so formidable, that for a time he merely watched them, though it would have been more in accordance with his vehement temper to attack them at once. Soon after, however, a battle was fought, in which the Samnites were completely defeated.
The dictator's triumph on his return to Rome was very brilliant, on account of the splendid arms which he had taken from the enemy : the shields decorated with gold were distributed among the stalls of the bankers around the forum, probably for no other purpose than to be hung out during processions.
This triumph is the last event that is mentioned in the life of Papirius, whence we must infer that he died soon after.
He had the reputation of being the greatest general of his age.
He did not indeed extend the Roman dominion by conquest, but it was he who roused Rome after the defeat and peace of Caudium, and led her to victory.
But he was, notwithstanding, not popular, in consequence of his personal character, which was that of a rough soldier.
He was a man of immense bodily strength, and was accustomed to partake of an excessive quantity of food and wine.
He had something horrible and savage about him, for he delighted in rendering the service of the soldiers as hard as he could : he punished cruelly and inexorably, and enjoyed the anguish of death in those whom he intended to punish. (Liv. 8.12
; Aurel. Vict. de Vir. Ill.
31; Eutrop. 2.4
; Oros. 3.15
; Dio Cass. Excerpt. Vat.
p. 32, &c., ed. Sturz; Cic. Fam. 9.21
; Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome,
iii. pp. 192-250.)