Livy Describes the Early Roman army in
a Conflict with the Latins.
[Titus Livius. The History of Rome, vol. 2 (London: George Bell, 1903), bk. viii, ch. 5-11]
5. When they [the Latin envoys] arrived in Rome, an audience of the senate was granted them in the Capitol. There, when Titus Manlius the consul, by direction of the senate, required of them not to make war on their confederates the Samnites, Annius, as if he had taken the Capitol by arms as a victor, and were not addressing them as an ambassador protected by the law of nations, says: " It were time, Titus Manlius, and you, conscript fathers, to cease at length treating with U3 on a footing of superiority, when you see Latium in a most flourishing state by the bounty of the gods in arms and men, the Samnites being vanquished in war, the Sidicinians and Campanians our allies, the Volscians now united to us in alliance, and that your own colonies even prefer the government of Latium to that of Rome. But since ye do not bring your minds to put an end to your arbitrary despotism, we, though able by force of arms to vindicate the independence of Latium, yet will make this concession to the ties of blood between us, as to offer terms of peace on terms of equality for both, since it has pleased the immortal gods that the strength of both is equalized. One of the consuls must be selected out of Rome, the other out of Latium; an equal portion of the senate must be from both nations; we must be one people, one republic; and that the seat of government may be the same, and we all may have the same name, since the concession must be made by the one party or other, let this, and may it be auspicious to both, have the advantage of being the mother country, and let us all be called Romans." It so happened that the Romans also had a consul, a match for this man's high spirit; who, so far from restraining his angry feelings, openly declared, that if such infatuation took possession of the conscript fathers, that they would receive laws from a man of Setia, he would himself come into the senate armed with a sword, and would slay with his hand any Latin whom he should see in the senate house. And turning to the statue of Jupiter, " Hear thou, Jupiter," says he, " hear these impious proposals; hear ye them, Justice and Equity. Jupiter, art thou to behold foreign consuls and a foreign senate in thy consecrated temple, as if thou wert a captive and overpowered ? Were these the treaties which Tullus, a Roman king, concluded with the Albans, your forefathers, Latins, and which Lucius Tarquinius subsequently concluded with you ? Does not the battle at the Lake Begillus occur to your thoughts ? Have you so forgotten your own calamities and our kindnesses towards you ?"
6. When the indignation of the senate followed these words of the consul, it is recorded that, in reply to the frequent appeals to the gods, whom the consuls frequently invoked as witnesses to the treaties, an expression of Annius was heard in contempt of the divinity of the Roman Jupiter. Certainly, when aroused with wrath he was proceeding with rapid steps from the porch of the temple, having fallen down the stairs, his head being severely struck, he was dashed against a stone at the bottom with such force, as to be deprived of sense. As all writers do not say that he was killed, I too shall leave it in doubt; as also the circumstance, that a storm, with a dreadful noise in the heavens, took place during the appeal made in reference to the violated treaties; for they may both be true, and also invented aptly to express in a striking manner the resentment of heaven. Torquatus, being despatched by the senate to dismiss the ambassadors, on seeing Annius lying prostrate, exclaimed, so as that his voice was heard both by the people and the senate, " It is well. The gods have excited a just war. There is a deity in heaven. Thou dost exist, great Jove; not without reason have we consecrated thee the father of gods and men in this mansion. Why do ye hesitate, Romans, and you, conscript fathers, to take up arms under the direction of the gods ? Thus will I lay low the legions of the Latins, as you now see this man lying prostrate." The words of the consul, received with the approbation of the people, filled their breasts with such ardour, that the ambassadors on their departure were protected from the anger and violence of the people more by the care of the magistrates, who escorted them by order of the consul, than by the law of nations. The senate also voted for the war; and the consuls, after raising two armies, marched into the territories of the Marsians and Pelignians, the army of the Samnites having joined them, and pitched their camp near Capua, where the Latins and their allies had now assembled. There it is said there appeared to both the consuls, during sleep, the same form of a man larger and more majestic than human, who said, " Of the one side a general, of the other an army was due to the Dii Manes and to Mother Earth; from whichever army a general should de vote the legions of the enemy and himself, in addition, that the victory would belong to that nation and that party." When the consuls compared together these visions of the night, it was resolved that victims should be slain for the purpose of averting the anger of the gods; at the same time, that if the same portents were exhibited in the entrails as those which had been seen during sleep, either of the consuls should fulfill the fates. When the answers of the haruspices coincided with the secret religious impression already implanted in their minds; then, having brought together the lieutenant generals and tribunes, and having openly expounded to them the commands of the gods, they settle among themselves, lest the consul's voluntary death should intimidate the army in the field, that on which side soever the Roman army should commence to give way, the consul in that quarter should devote himself for the Roman people and the Quirites. In this consultation it was also suggested, that if ever on any occasion any war had been conducted with strict discipline, then indeed military discipline should be reduced to the ancient standard. What excited their attention particularly was, that they had to contend against Latins, who coincided with themselves in language, manners, in the same kind of arms, and more especially in military institutions; soldiers had been mixed with soldiers, centurions with centurions, tribunes with tribunes, as comrades and colleagues, in the same armies, and often in the same companies. Lest in consequence of this the soldiers should be involved in any mistake, the consuls issue orders that no one should fight against an enemy out of his post.
7. It happened that among the other prefects of the troops who had been sent out in all directions to reconnoitre, Titus Manlius, the consul's son, came with his troop to the back of the enemy's camp, so near that he was scarcely distant a dart's throw from the next post. In that place were some Tusculan cavalry; they were commanded by Geminus Metius, a man distinguished among his countrymen both by birth and exploits. When he recognised the Roman cavalry, and conspicuous among them the consul's son marching at their head, (for they were all known to each other, especially the men of note,) " Romans, are ye going to wage war with the Latins and allies with a single troop. What in the interim will the consuls, what will the two consular armies be doing?" " They will be here in good time," says Manlius, " and with them will be Jupiter himself, as a witness of the treaties violated by you, who is stronger and more powerful. If we fought at the lake Regillus until you had quite enough, here also we shall so act, that a line of battle and an encounter with us may afford you no very great gratification." In reply to this, Geminus, advancing some distance from his own party, says, " Do you choose then, until that day arrives on which you are to put your armies in motion with such mighty labour, to enter the lists with me, that from the result of a contest between us both it may be seen how much a Latin excels a Roman horseman ? ' Either resentment, or shame at declining the contest, or the invincible power of fate, arouses the determined spirit of the youth. Forgetful therefore of his father's command, and the consul s edict, he is driven headlong to that contest, in which it made not much difference whether he conquered or was conquered. The other horsemen being removed to a distance as if to witness the sight, in the space of clear ground which lay between them they spurred on their horses against each other; and when they were together in fierce encounter, the spear of Manlius passed over the helmet of his antagonist, that of Metius across the neck of the other's horse. Then wheeling round their horses, when Manlius arose to repeat the blow, he fixed his javelin between the ears of his opponent's horse. When, by the pain of this wound, the horse, having raised his fore-feet on high, tossed his head with great violence, he shook off his rider, whom, when he was raising himself from the severe fall, by leaning on his spear and buckler, Manlius pierced through the throat, so that the steel passed out through the ribs, and pinned him to the earth; and having collected the spoils, he returned to his own party, and with his troop, who were exulting with joy, he proceeds to the camp, and thence to the general's tent to his father, ignorant of what awaited him, whether praise or punishment had been merited. "Father," says he, "that all may truly represent me as sprung from your blood; when challenged, I slew my adversary, and have taken from him these equestrian spoils." When the consul heard this, immediately turning away from his son, he ordered an assembly to be summoned by sound of trumpet. When these assembled in great numbers, " Since you, Titus Manlius," says he, " revering neither the consular power nor a father's majesty, have fought against the enemy out of your post contrary to our orders, and, as far as in you lay, have subverted military discipline, by which the Roman power has stood to this day, and have brought me to this necessity, that I must either forget the republic, or myself and mine; we shall expiate our own transgressions rather than the republic should sustain so serious a loss for our misdeeds. We shall be a melancholy example, but a profitable one, to the youth of future ages. As for me, both the natural affection for my children, as well as that instance of bravery which has led you astray by the false notion of honour, affects me for you. But since either the authority of consuls i3 to be established by your death, or by your forgiveness to be for ever annulled; I do not think that even you, if you have any of our blood in you, will refuse to restore, by your punishment, the military discipline which has been subverted by your misconduct. Go, lictor, bind him to the stake. All became motionless, more through fear than discipline, astounded by so cruel an order, each looking on the axe as if drawn against himself. Therefore when they stood in profound silence, suddenly, when the blood spouted from his severed neck, their minds recovering as it were, from a state of stupefaction, then their voices arose together in free expressions of complaint, so that they spared neither lamentations nor execrations: and the body of the youth being covered with the spoils, was burned on a pile erected out aide-the rampart, with all the military zeal with which any funeral could be celebrated: and Manlian orders were considered with horror, not only for the present, but of the most austere severity for future times.
8. The severity of the punishment however rendered the soldiers more obedient to the general; and besides. that-the guards and watches and the regulation of the posts were every where more strictly attended to, such severity was also profitable in. the final struggle when they came into the field of battle. But the battle was very like to a civil war; so very similar was every thing among the Romans and Latins, except with respect to courage. The Romans formerly used targets; afterwards, when they began to receive pay, they made shields instead of targets; and what before constituted phalanxes similar to the Macedonian, afterwards became a line drawn up in distinct companies. At length they were divided into several centuries. A century contained sixty soldiers, two centurions, and one standard-bearer. The spearmen (hastati) formed the first line in fifteen companies, with small intervals between them: a company had twenty light-armed soldiers, the rest wearing shields; those were called light who carried only a spear and short iron javelins. This, which constituted the van in the field of battle, contained the youth in early bloom advancing towards the age of service. Next followed men of more robust age, in the same number of companies, who were called Principes, all wearing shields, and distinguished by the completest armour. This band of thirty companies they called antepilani, because there were fifteen others placed behind them with the standards; of which each company consisted of three divisions, and the first division of each they called a pilus. Each company consisted of three ensigns, and contained one hundred and eighty-six men. The first ensign was at the head of the Triarii, veteran soldiers of .tried bravery, the second, at the head of the Rorarii, men whose ability was less by reason of their age and course of service; .the third, at the head of the Accensi, a body in whom very little confidence was reposed. For this reason also they were thrown back to the rear. When the army was marshalled according to this arrangement, the spearmen first commenced the fight. If the spearmen were unable to repulse the enemy, they re treated leisurely, and were received by the Principes into the intervals of the ranks. The fight then devolved on the Principes; the spearmen followed. The Triarii continued kneeling behind the ensigns, their left leg extended forward, holding their shields resting on their shoulders, and their spears fixed in the ground, with the points erect, so that their line bristled as if enclosed by a rampart. If the Principes also did not make sufficient impression in the fight, they retreated slowly from the front to the Triarii. Hence, when a difficulty is felt, "Matters have come to the Triarii," became a usual proverb. The Triarii rising up, after receiving the Principes and spearmen into the intervals between their ranks, immediately closing their files, shut up as it were the openings; and in one compact body fell upon the enemy, no other hope being now left: that was the most formidable circumstance to the enemy, when having pursued them as vanquished, they beheld a new line suddenly starting up, increased also in strength. In general about four legions were raised, each consisting of five thousand infantry and three hundred horse. As many more were added from the Latin levy, who were at that time enemies to the Romans, and drew up their line after the same manner; and they knew that unless the ranks were disturbed they would have to engage not only standard with standard, spearmen with spearmen, Principes with Principes, but centurion also with centurion. There were among the veterans two first centurions in either army, the Roman by no means possessing bodily strength, but a brave man, and experienced in the service; the Latin powerful in bodily strength, and a first-rate warrior; they were very well known to each other, because they had always held equal rank. The Roman, somewhat diffident of his strength, had at Rome obtained permission from the consuls, to select any one whom he wished, his own subcenturion, to protect him from the one destined to be his adversary; and this youth being opposed to him in the battle, obtained the victory over the Latin centurion. They came to an engagement not far from the foot of Mount Vesuvius, where the road led to Veserius.
9. The Roman consuls, before they marched out their armies to the field, offered sacrifices. The aruspex is said to have shown to Decius the head of the liver wounded on the side relating to himself, in other respects the victim was acceptable to the gods; whilst Manlius obtained highly favour able omens from his sacrifice. " But all is well," says Decius, if my colleague has offered an acceptable sacrifice." The ranks being drawn up in the order already described, they marched forth to battle. Manlius commanded the right, Decius the left wing. At first the action was conducted with equal strength on both sides, and with the same ardent courage. Afterwards the Roman spearmen on the left wing, not sustaining the violent assault of the Latins, betook themselves to the Principes. In this state of trepidation the consul Decius cries out with a loud voice to Marcus Valerius, "Valerius, we have need of the aid of the gods. Come, as public pontiff of the Roman people, dictate to me the words in which I may devote myself for the legions." The pontiff directed him to take the gown called praetexta, and with his head covered and his hand thrust out under the gown to the chin, standing upon a spear placed under his feet, to say these words: "Janus, Jupiter, father Mars, Quirinus, Bellona, ye Lares, ye gods Novensiles [The Novensiles were nine deities brought to Rome by the Sabines: Lara. Vesta, Minerva, Feronia. Concord, Faith, Fortune. Chance, Health], ye gods Indigetes, ye divinities, under whose power we and our enemies are, and ye Dii Manes, I pray you, I adore you, I ask your favour, that you would prosperously grant strength and victory to the Roman people, the Quirites, and that ye may affect the enemies of the Roman people, the Quirites, with terror, dismay, and death. In such manner as I have expressed in words, so do I devote the legions and auxiliaries of the enemy, together with myself, to the Dii Manes and to Earth for the republic of the Quirites, for the army, legions, auxiliaries of the Roman people, the Quirites." Having uttered this prayer, he orders the lictors to go to Titus Manlius, and without delay to announce to his colleague that he had devoted himself for the army. He, girding himself in a Gabine cincture, and fully armed, mounted his horse, and rushed into the midst of the enemy. He was observed by both armies to present a more majestic appearance than human, as one sent from heaven as an expiation of all the wrath of the gods, to transfer to the enemy destruction turned away from his own side: accordingly, all the terror and panic being carried along with- him, at first disturbed the battalions of the Latins, then completely pervaded their entire line. This was most evident, because, in whatever direction he was carried with his horse, there they became panic-stricken, as if struck by some pestilential constellation; but when he fell overwhelmed with darts, instantly the cohorts of the Latins, thrown into manifest consternation, took to flight, leaving a void to a considerable extent. At the same time also the Romans, their minds being freed from religious dread, exerting themselves as if the signal was then given for the first time, commenced to fight with renewed ardour. For the Rorarii also pushed forward among the antepilani, and added strength to the spearmen and Principes, and the Triarii resting on the right knee awaited the consul's nod to rise up. 10. Afterwards, as the contest proceeded, when the superior numbers of the Latins had the advantage in some places, the consul, Manlius, on hearing the circumstance of his colleague's death, after he had, as was right and just, honoured his so glorious a death with tears, as well as with praises so well merited, hesitated, for a little time, whether it was yet time for the Triarii to rise; then judging it better that they should be kept fresh for the decisive blow, he ordered the Accensi to advance from the rear before the standards. When they moved forward, the Latins immediately called up their Triarii, as if their opponents had done the same thing: who, when they had by desperate fighting for a considerable time both fatigued themselves, and had either broken or blunted their spears, and were, however, beating back their adversaries, thinking that the battle was now nearly decided, and that they had come to the last line; then the consul calls to the Triarii, " Arise now, fresh as ye are, against men now wearied, mindful of your country and parents, your wives and children; mindful of your consul who has submitted to death to insure your victory." When the Triarii arose, fresh as they were, with their arms glittering, a new line which appeared unexpectedly, receiving the antepilani into the intervals between the ranks, raised a shout, and broke through the first line of the Latins; and goading their faces, after cutting down these who constituted their principal strength, they passed almost intact through the other companies, with such slaughter that they scarcely left one fourth of the enemy. The Samnites also, drawn up at a distance at the foot of the mountain, struck terror into the Latins. But of all, whether citizens or allies, the principal praise for that action was due to the consuls; the one of whom turned on himself alone all the threats and dangers (denounced) by the divinities of heaven and hell; the other evinced such valour and such judgment in the battle, that it was universally agreed among both the Romans and Latins who have transmitted to posterity an account of the battle, that, on whichever side Titus Manlius held the command, the victory must belong to that. The Latins in their flight betook themselves to Minturnae. Immediately after the battle the camp was taken, and great numbers still alive were surprised therein, chiefly Campanians. Night surprised them in their search, and prevented the body of Decius from being discovered on that day. On the day after it was found amid vast heaps of slaughtered enemies, pierced with a great number of darts, and his funeral was solemnized under the direction of his colleague, in a manner suited to his death. It seems right to add here, that it is lawful for a consul, a dictator, and a praetor, when he devotes the legions of the enemy, to devote not himself particularly, but whatever citizen he may choose out of a Roman legion regularly en rolled: if the person who has been devoted die, the matter is duly performed; if he do not perish, then an image, seven feet high or more, must be buried in the ground, and a victim slain, as an expiation. Where that image shall be buried, there it is not lawful that a Roman magistrate should pass. But if he wish to devote himself, as Decius did, unless he who has devoted himself die, be shall not with propriety perform any act of religion regarding either himself or the public. Should he wish to devote his arms to Vulcan or to any other god, he has a right, whether he shall please, by a victim, or in any other manner. It is not proper that the enemy should get possession of the weapon, on which the consul, standing, pronounced the imprecation: if they should get possession of it, then an expiation must be made to Mars by the sacrifices called the Suove-taurilia. Although the memory of every divine and human custom has been obliterated, in consequence of preferring what is modern and foreign to that which is ancient and belonging to our own country, I deemed it not irrelevant to relate the particulars even in the very terms used, as they have been handed down and ex pressed.
11. I find it stated in some writers, that the Samnites, having awaited the issue of the battle, can e at length with support to the Romans after the battle was over. Also aid from Lavinium, whilst they wasted time in deliberating, was at length sent to the Latins after they had been vanquished. And when the first standards and part of the army just issued from the gates, news being brought of the defeat of the Latins, they faced about and returned back to the city; on which occasion they say that their praetor, Milionius, observed, that " for so very short a journey a high price must be paid to the Romans." Such of the Latins as survived the battle, after being scattered over many roads, collected themselves into a body, and found refuge in the city of Vescia. There their general, Numisius, insisted in their counsels, that "the truly common fortune of war had prostrated both armies by equal losses, and that only the name of victory rested with the Romans; that in other respects they too shared the lot of defeated persons; the two pavilions of the consuls were polluted; one by the murder committed on a son, the other by the blood of a devoted consul; that their army was cut down in every direction; their spearmen and Principes were cut down; great havoc was made before the standards and be hind them; the Triarii at length restored their cause. Though the forces of the Latins were cut down in an equal proportion, yet for reinforcements, Latium or the Volscians were nearer than Rome. Wherefore, if they thought well of it, he would speedily call out the youth from the Latin and Volscian states, and would return to Capua with a determined army, and by his unexpected arrival strike dismay among the Romans, who were expecting nothing less than battle. Deceptive letters being sent around Latium and the Volscian nation, a tumultuary army, hastily raised from all quarters, was assembled, for as they had not been present at the battle, they were more disposed to believe on slight grounds. This army the consul Torquatus met at Trisanum, a place between Sinuessa and Minturnae. Before a place was selected for a camp, the baggage on both sides being piled up in n heap, they fought and terminated the war; for so impaired was their strength, that all the Latins surrendered themselves to the consul, who was leading his victorious army to lay waste their lands, and the Campanians followed the example of this surrender. Latium and Capua were fined some land. The Latin with the addition of the Privernian land; and the Falernian land, which had belonged to the people of Campania, as far as the river Vulturnus, is all distributed to the commons of Rome. In the Latin land two acres a man were assigned, so that they should receive an additional three fourths of an acre from the Privernian land; in the Falernian land three acres were assigned, one fourth of an acre being further added, in consideration of the distance. Of the Latins the Laurentians were exempted from punishment, as also the horsemen of the Campanians, because they had not revolted. An order was issued that the treaty should be renewed with the Laurentians; and it is renewed every year since, on the tenth day after the Latin festival. The rights of citizenship were granted to the Campanian horsemen; and that it might serve as a memorial, they hung up a brazen tablet in the temple of Castor at Rome. The Campanian state was also enjoined to pay them a yearly stipend of four hundred and fifty denarii each; their number amounted to one thousand six hundred.