The next day, on the proposition of Manius Pomponius the praetor, the senate decreed that a letter should be written to the dictator, to the effect, that if he thought it for the interest of the state, he should come, together with the master of the horse and the
praetor, Marcus Marcellus, to hold the election for the succeeding consuls, in order that the fathers might learn from them in person in what condition the state was, and take measures according to circumstances. All who were summoned came, leaving lieutenant-generals to [p. 864]
hold command of the legions.
The dictator, speaking briefly and modestly of himself, attributed much of the glory of the campaign to the master of the horse, Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus. He then gave out the day for the comitia, at which the consuls created were Lucius Posthumius in his absence, being then employed in the government of the province of Gaul, for the third time, and Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, who was then master of the horse and curule aedile.
Marcus Valerius Laevinus, Appius Claudius Pulcher, Quintus Fulvius Flaccus, and Quintus Mucius Scaevola, were then created Praetors.
After the election of the magistrates, the dictator returned to his army, which was in winter quarters at Teanum, leaving his master of the horse at Rome, to take the sense of the fathers relative to the armies to be enlisted and embodied for the service of the year, as he was about to enter upon the magistracy after a few days.
While busily occupied with these matters, intelligence arrived of a fresh disaster —fortune crowding into this year one calamity after another —that Lucius Posthumius, consul elect, himself with all his army was destroyed in Gaul.
He was to march his troops through a vast wood, which the Gauls called Litana. On the right and left of his route, the natives had sawed the trees in such a manner that they continued standing upright, but would fall when impelled by a slight force.
Posthumius had with him two Roman legions, and besides had levied so great a number of allies along the Adriatic Sea, that he led into the enemy's country twenty-five thousand men.
As soon as this army entered the wood, the Gauls, who were posted around its extreme skirts, pushed down the outermost of the sawn trees, which falling on those next them, and these again on others, which of themselves stood tottering and scarcely maintained their position, crushed arms, men, and horses in an indiscriminate manner, so that scarcely ten men escaped.
For most of them being killed by the trunks and broken boughs of trees, the Gauls, who beset the wood on all sides in arms, killed the rest, panic-struck by so unexpected a disaster. A very small number, who attempted to escape by a bridge, were taken prisoners, being intercepted by the enemy who had taken possession of it before them.
Here Posthumius fell, fighting with all his might to prevent his being taken. The Boii, having cut off his head, carried it and the spoils they stript [p. 865]
off his body, in triumph into the most sacred temple they had.
Afterwards they cleansed the head according to their custom, and having covered the skull with chased gold, used it as a cup for libations in their solemn festivals, and a drinking cup for their high priests and other ministers of the temple.
The spoils taken by the Gauls were not less than the victory. For though great numbers of the beasts were crushed by the falling trees, yet as nothing was scattered by flight, every thing else was found strewed along the whole line of the prostrate band.