THIS year is followed by the convention of Caudium, so memorable on account of the misfortune of the Romans, the consuls being Titus Veturius Calvinus and Spurius Postumius.
The Samnites had as their commander that year Caius Pontius, son to Herennius, born of a father most highly renowned for wisdom, and himself a consummate warrior and commander.
When the ambassadors, who had been sent to make restitution, returned, without concluding a peace, he said, “That ye may not think that no purpose has been effected by this embassy, whatever degree of anger the deities of heaven had conceived against us, on account of the infraction of the [p. 560]
treaty, has been hereby expiated.
I am very confident, that whatever deities they were, whose will it was that you should be reduced to the necessity of making the restitution, which had been demanded according to the treaty, it was not agreeable to them, that our atonement for the breach of treaty should be so haughtily spurned by the Romans.
For what more could possibly be done towards appeasing the gods, and softening the anger of men, than we have done?
The effects of the enemy, taken among the spoils, which appeared to be our own by the right of war, we restored: the authors of the war, as we could not deliver them up alive, we delivered to them dead: their goods we carried to Rome, lest by retaining them, any degree of guilt should remain among us.
What more, Roman, do I owe to thee? what to the treaty? what to the gods, the guarantees of the treaty? What umpire shall I call in to judge of your resentment, and of my punishment? I decline none; neither nation nor private person.
But if nothing in human law is left to the weak against a stronger, I will appeal to the gods, the avengers of intolerable arrogance, and will beseech them to turn their wrath against those for whom neither the restoration of their own effects, nor additional heaps of other men's property, can suffice;
whose cruelty is not satiated by the death of the guilty, by the surrender of their lifeless bodies, nor by their goods accompanying the surrender of the owner; who cannot be appeased otherwise than by giving them our blood to drink, and our entrails to be torn.
Samnites, war is just to those for whom it is necessary, and arms are clear of impiety for those who have no hope left but in arms.
Wherefore, as in every human undertaking, it is of the utmost importance what matter men may set about with the favour, what under the displeasure of the gods, be assured that the former wars ye waged in opposition to the gods more than to men; in this, which is now impending, ye will act under the immediate guidance of the gods themselves.”