2. P. Decius
Mus, the son of the preceding, was consul B. C. 312, with M. Valerius Maximus. Livy relates that Decius remained in Rome in consequence of illness, while Ilis colleague prosecuted the war against the Samnites, and that he nominated a dictator at the wish of the senate, in consequence of the apprehension of a war with the Etruscans; but Aurelius Victor, on the contrary, tells us that Decius gained a triumph over the Samnites in his first consulship, and dedicated to Ceres the booty he had obtained in the war.
An inscription recording the victory of Decius in his first consulship has been supposed by some to be genuine, but it is evidently a forgery concocted from the words of Aurelius Victor. (Liv. 9.28
; Diod. 19.105
; Aurel. Vict. de Vir. Ill.
27; Orelli, Inscript.
In B. C. 309 Decius served as legate under the dictator L. Papirius Cursor, in the war with the Samnites; and in the following year, B. C. 303, he was consul a second time with Q. Fabins Maximus. While his colleague marched against the Samnites, Decius had the conduct of the war against the Etruscans, which he prosecuted with so much vigour that the Etruscans were contented to purchase a year's truce by paying and clothing the Roman army for that year. In B. C. 306 he was magister equitum to the dictator P. Cornelius Scipio Barbatus, and in B. C. 304 censor with Q. Fabius Maximus, his colleague in his second consulship, in conjunction with whom he effected the important reform in the constitution by which the libertini were confined to the four city tribes. In B. C. 300 Decius was the great advocate of the Ogulnian law for throwing open the pontificate and augurate to the plebeians, in opposition to the patrician App. Claudius Caecus; and upon the enactment of the law in this year, he was one of the first plebeians elected into the college of pontiffs.
In B. C. 297 Decius was elected consul a third time with his former colleague Q. Fabius Maximus, at the express wish of the latter. Both consuls marched into Samnilum by different routes: Decius defeated the Apulians near Maleventum, and then traversed Samnium, and probably Apulia also, devastating the country in ever direction.
He continued in Samnium during the following year as proconsul, and took three Samnite towns; but the capture of these towns is in other accounts attributed to Fabius or the new consuls.
In B. C. 295 Decius was elected consul a fourth time with his old colleague Fabius Maximus.
The republic was menaced by a formidable coalition of Etruscans, Samnites, Umbrians, and Gauls; the aged Fabius was unanimously called to the consulship in order to meet the danger, but he would not accept the dignity without having his former colleague associated with him in the honour and the peril. Decius was first posted in Samnium, but subsequently hastened into Etruria to the assistance of his colleague, and commanded the left wing of the Roman army at the decisive battle of Sentinum. Here he was opposed to the Gauls, and when his troops began to give way under the terrible attacks of the latter, he resolved to imitate the example of his father, dedicated himself and the army of the enemy to the gods of the dead, and fell as a sacrifice for his nation. (Liv. 9.40
; Aurel. Vict. l.c. ; Zonar. 8.1
; Flor. 1.17
; V. Max. 5.6.6
; Cic. in Orelli, l.c.