The battle having sped thus, the consul called an assembly, and pronounced a panegyric upon Decius, in which he rehearsed, in addition to his former services, the fresh glories which his bravery had achieved. Besides other military gifts, he bestowed on him a golden chaplet and a hundred oxen, and one choice white one, fat, and with gilded horns.
The soldiers who had been on the [p. 491]
hill with him were rewarded with a double: ration1
in perpetuity, and for the present an ox apiece and two tunics. Following the consul's award, the legions, accompanying the gift with their cheers, placed on Decius's head a wreath of grass,2
to signify his rescuing them from a siege; and his own detachment crowned him with a second wreath, indicative of the same honour.
Adorned with these insignia, he sacrificed the choice ox to Mars, and presented the hundred others to the soldiers who had served with him on the expedition. To these same soldiers the legions contributed a pound of spelt and a pint of wine for each man. All these awards were carried out amid the greatest cheerfulness, the shouts of the soldiers testifying to the general approval.
A third engagement was fought at Suessula, for the Samnites, after the rout inflicted on them by Marcus Valerius, had called out all the men they had of military age, determined to try their fortune in a final encounter.
From Suessula the alarming news was carried to Capua, whence gallopers were dispatched to Valerius the consul, to implore assistance.
The troops were immediately set in motion, and leaving behind the baggage and a strong garrison for the camp, made a rapid march, and being got within a short distance of the enemy, encamped in a very small compass, for they had only their horses with them and neither beasts of burden nor a crowd of camp-followers.
The Samnites, assuming that the battle would not be delayed, formed up in line; then, as no one came out to meet them, they advanced against the enemy's camp.
When they saw the soldiers on the rampart, and when the scouts whom they had [p. 493]
dispatched to spy out the camp on every hand3
reported how straitened its dimensions were, inferring thence the paucity of their foes, the whole army began to murmur that they ought to fill up the trenches, breach the rampart, and burst into the enclosure;
and their rashness would have brought the war to a conclusion, had not the commanders restrained the ardour of their men.
But since their numbers were a burden on the commissariat, and since, owing first to their sitting down before Suessula and afterwards to the delay in fighting, they were almost reduced to want for everything, they decided that while the enemy were cowering within their works, they would send their soldiers over the country-side to forage:
meantime the Romans, remaining inactive, would be reduced to destitution, for they had come in light marching order, with only so much corn as they could carry, along with their armour, on their shoulders.
Seeing the Samnites dispersed about the fields, and their stations thinly manned, the consul addressed a few words of encouragement to his soldiers and led them to the assault of the enemy's camp.
Having taken it at the first shout and rush, and slain more men in their tents than at the gates and on the breastworks, he ordered the captured standards to be collected in one spot.
Then, leaving two legions to guard them and defend the place, — with strict injunctions to refrain from spoiling until he himself returned, —he marched out in serried column, and sending the cavalry on before to surround the scattered Samnites, as with a cordon of hunters, and so drive them in, he made a prodigious slaughter of them.
For in their terror they were [p. 495]
unable to agree either under what standard they4
should rally, or whether they should make for their camp or direct their flight towards some more remote place;
and so great was their discomfiture and panic, that the Romans brought in to the consul no less than forty thousand shields —though not near so many men were slain —and of military standards, including those which had been captured in the camp, no fewer than a hundred and seventy.
The victors then returned to the enemy's camp and there the plunder was all given to the soldiers.