But the Roman senate, regardless of the oath of their officers and of the fate of the hostages, cancelled the agreement, and contented themselves with surrendering to the enemy those who had concluded it as personally responsible for its fulfilment. Impartial history can attach little importance to the question whether in so doing the casuistry of Roman advocates and priests kept the letter of the law, or whether the decree of the Roman senate violated it; under a human and political point of view no blame in this matter rests upon the Romans. It was a question of comparative indifference whether, according to the formal state law of the Romans, the general in command was or was not entitled to conclude peace without reserving its ratification by the burgesses. According to the spirit and practice of the constitution it was quite an established principle that in Rome every state-agreement, not purely military, pertained to the province of the civil authorities, and a general who concluded peace without the instructions of the senate and the burgesses exceeded his powers. It was a greater error on the part of the Samnite general to give the Roman generals the choice between saving their army and exceeding their powers, than it was on the part of the latter that they had not the magnanimity absolutely to repel such a suggestion; and it was right and necessary that the Roman senate should reject such an agreement. A great nation does not surrender what it possesses except under the pressure of extreme necessity: all treaties making concessions are acknowledgments of such a necessity, not moral obligations. If every people justly reckons it a point of honour to tear to pieces by force of arms treaties that are disgraceful, how could honour enjoin a patient adherence to a convention like the Caudine to which an unfortunate general was morally compelled, while the sting of the recent disgrace was keenly felt and the vigour of the nation subsisted unimpaired?

Victory Of The Romans

Thus the convention of Caudium did not produce the rest which the enthusiasts for peace in Samnium had foolishly expected from it, but only led to war after war with exasperation aggravated on either side by the opportunity forfeited, by the breach of a solemn engagement, by military honour disgraced, and by comrades that had been abandoned. The Roman officers given up were not received by the Samnites, partly because they were too magnanimous to wreak their vengeance on those unfortunates, partly because they would thereby have admitted the Roman plea that the agreement bound only those who swore to it, not the Roman state. Magnanimously they spared even the hostages whose lives had been forfeited by the rules of war, and preferred to resort at once to arms.

Luceria was occupied by them and Fregellae surprised and taken by assault (434) before the Romans had reorganized their broken army; the passing of the Satricans(2) over to the Samnites shows what they might have accomplished, had they not allowed their advantage to slip through their hands. But Rome was only momentarily paralyzed, not weakened; full of shame and indignation the Romans raised all the men and means they could, and placed the highly experienced Lucius Papirius Cursor, equally distinguished as a soldier and as a general, at the head of the newly formed army. The army divided; the one-half marched by Sabina and the Adriatic coast to appear before Luceria, the other proceeded to the same destination through Samnium itself, successfully engaging and driving before it the Samnite army. They formed a junction again under the walls of Luceria, the siege of which was prosecuted with the greater zeal, because the Roman equites lay in captivity there; the Apulians, particularly the Arpani, lent the Romans important assistance in the siege, especially by procuring supplies. After the Samnites had given battle for the relief of the town and been defeated, Luceria surrendered to the Romans (435). Papirius enjoyed the double satisfaction of liberating his comrades who had been given up for lost, and of requiting the yoke of Caudium on the Samnite garrison of Luceria. In the next years (435-437) the war was carried on(3) not so much in Samnium itself as in the adjoining districts. In the first place the Romans chastised the allies of the Samnites in the Apulian and Frentanian territories, and concluded new conventions with the Teanenses of Apulia and the Canusini. At the same time Satricum was again reduced to subjection and severely punished for its revolt. Then the war turned to Campania, where the Romans conquered the frontier town towards Samnium, Saticula (perhaps S. Agata de' Goti) (438). But now the fortune of war seemed disposed once more to turn against them. The Samnites gained over the Nucerians (438), and soon afterwards the Nolans, to their side; on the upper Liris the Sorani of themselves expelled the Roman garrison (439); the Ausonians were preparing to rise, and threatened the important Cales; even in Capua the party opposed to Rome was vigorously stirring. A Samnite army advanced into Campania and encamped before the city, in the hope that its vicinity might place the national party in the ascendant (440). But Sora was immediately attacked by the Romans and recaptured after the defeat of a Samnite relieving force (440). The movements among the Ausonians were suppressed with cruel rigour ere the insurrection fairly broke out, and at the same time a special dictator was nominated to institute and decide political processes against the leaders of the Samnite party in Capua, so that the most illustrious of them died a voluntary death to escape from the Roman executioner (440). The Samnite army before Capua was defeated and compelled to retreat from Campania; the Romans, following close at the heels of the enemy, crossed the Matese and encamped in the winter of 440 before Bovianum, the: capital of Samnium. Nola was abandoned by its allies; and the Romans had the sagacity to detach the town for ever from the Samnite party by a very favourable convention, similar to that concluded with Neapolis (441).

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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