in the other camp the Romans, finding themselves now, after many fruitless efforts to break out, in want of everything, were reduced to the necessity of sending envoys;
who were first to treat for an equal peace, and, if peace could not be had, to provoke the enemy to fight.
to them Pontius made answer, that the war was [p. 175]
already fought and won; and since they knew1
not how to admit their plight, even when beaten and made prisoners, he intended to send them unarmed and with a single garment each under the yoke;
in all else the peace should be one of equal terms to the vanquished and the victors; for if the Romans would evacuate the Samnite territory and withdraw their colonies, Romans and Samnites should thenceforward live by their own laws in an equal alliance.
on these terms he was ready to conclude a treaty with the consuls; if they were any of them unacceptable, he forbade the envoys to return to him.
when the upshot of this embassy was made known to the Romans, they all straightway fell to groaning, and so overcome were they with sorrow that it seemed as though they
could not possibly take it more to heart if they should be told that they must all die in that place.
finally, after a long silence —for the consuls were incapable of uttering a word, either for a treaty so disgraceful or against a treaty so necessary —
Lucius Lentulus, at that time first of the lieutenants both for his valour and his dignities,2
spoke as follows: “consuls, I have often heard my father say that on the Capitol he was the only man who would not have the senate ransom the City from the Gauls with gold, since their enemies, who were most indolent besiegers, had not shut them in with trench and rampart, and they were able to make a sortie, if not without great danger, yet without certain destruction.
but if, in like manner as they had it in their power to run down from the Capitol, sword in hand, against their enemy, even as the besieged have often sallied out against the besiegers, [p. 177]
so we were able, whether on favourable ground or3
no, only to come to grips with our antagonist, I should not lack my father's spirit in advising you.
i do indeed confess that it is glorious to die for one's country, and I am ready to devote myself for the Roman People and the legions, or to throw myself into the midst of the enemy;
but it is here I see my country, here all the legions Rome possesses, and unless they would rush on death to please themselves, what have they to save by dying?
'The roof —trees of the City,' someone may say, 'and its walls, and the multitude by whom it is inhabited.' nay, not so! for all these are betrayed, not saved, if this army is wiped out!
for who shall preserve them? The unwarlike, unarmed rabble? ay, even as it preserved them from the onset of the Gauls!
or will they pray perhaps that an army may be sent from Veii, and a Camillus to command it? here are all our hopes and our resources, which if we save we save our country; whereas if we give these up to die, we abandon our country and betray it.
' But surrender is shameful and humiliating.' true, but our country is so dear that we would save it by enduring shame, as we would, if need were, by our death.
let us submit then to that indignity, however great, and obey necessity, to which even gods are not superior. go, consuls, at the cost of arms redeem the City which your sires paid gold to redeem.”