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1. P. Valerius Laevinus, one of the consuls in B. C. 280, obtained for his province Southern Italy, and the conduct of the war with Pyrrhus, king of Epeirus. Pyrrhus had recently landed at Tarentum, and it was important to force him to engage before he was joined by his Italian allies, and while he could bring into the field only his own troops and the Tarentines. Laevinus accordingly was despatched early in the spring into Lucania, where, from a strong position he had seized, he watched the movements of the Epeirots. Pyrrhus, to gain time, attempted negotiation, and wrote to Laevinus, offering to arbitrate between Rome, Tarentum, and the Italian allies. Laevinus, however, bluntly bade him leave the Romans to settle their own quarrels, and begone to Epeirus, if he wished them to listen to his overtures. Two of the letters which passed between Pyrrhus and Laevinus are extant, in substance at least, among the fragments of Dionysius. They were probably copied from the history of Hieronymus of Cardia, who consulted Pyrrhus's own memoirs of his Italian campaign. Laevinus and his opponent were encamped on the opposite banks of the Siris ; and, while battle was impending, an Epeirot spy was taken in the Roman lines. Laevinus showed him the legions under arms, and bade him tell his master, if he was curious about the Roman men and tactics, to come and see them himself. Laevinus, whose numbers were superior to the enemy, was driven back over the Siris; his camp was taken, and night alone enabled the fugitives to reach an Apulian town, probably Venusia. In the same year, however, he defended Capua, and hung upon the rear of the Epeirot army both in its march to Rome and on its retreat; and he had so effectually restored the courage and discipline of his legions, that Pyrrhus did not venture to attack him. The army of Laevinus, as the penalty of its defeat, remained in camp at the foot of the Samnite highlands throughout the following winter. His name does not again occur in the war with Pyrrhus. (Liv. Epit. xiii.; Dionys. A. R. 17.15, 16, 18.1-4; Dio Cass. Fr. Peiresc. xl.; Appian. Samnit. Fr. x.; Plut. Pyrrh. 16, 17; Zonar. 8.3; Just. 18.1; Oros. 4.1; Frontin. Strat. 2.4.9, 4.7.7; Vict. Vir. Ill. 35; Flor. 1.18; Eutrop. 2.11.)

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280 BC (1)
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