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76. The latter people busily employed the six years' interval between their second and third great struggle with Rome, in forming and strengthening the "Italian League." Etruscans, Umbrians, and Gauls, on the north, were allied with Lucanians, Apulians, most of the Greek cities, and the Samnites, on the south. Rome had the advantage in compactness, numbers, and wealth; her own or her allies' territory extended across Italy from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic, and divided the states of her enemies.
The war broke out in 298 B. C., but no important movement was made until, in 295 B. C., the combined armies of the four northern nations advanced toward Rome. The plan of the consuls was at once bold and sagacious. One army awaited the invaders, while another marched directly into Etruria. This movement exposed the weakness of the league, for the Etruscans and Umbrians, deserting their allies, drew off to defend their own territories. The Samnites and Gauls crossed the Apennines to Senti'num, where they were overtaken by the first Roman army. In the battle which followed, the Gallic war-chariots had nearly driven from the field the legions of Decius, the consul, when, remembering the example of his father at Vesuvius, he, likewise, devoted himself to the powers of death for the deliverance of Rome. The legions were at length triumphant; 25,000 of the enemy lay dead upon the field.
77. The Gauls now withdrew from the league, but the Samnites continued the war with unabated resolution. Twenty-eight years after his great victory at the Caudine Forks, Pontius again defeated a Roman army under Fabius Gurges. The Romans were so exasperated by this defeat where they were confident of victory, that they would have deprived the consul of his command, had not his old father, Fabius Maximus, offered to serve as his lieutenant.
A great victory was now gained, in which Pontius was captured, and made to walk, loaded with chains, in the triumph of the consul. When the procession reached the ascent to the Capitol, he was led aside and beheaded in the Mamertine prison-he who, thirty years before, had spared the lives and liberty of two Roman armies, and even generously released the officers when given over to his vengeance! This base treatment of a brave foe has been called the greatest stain in the Roman annals. The war was ended with the complete submission of Samnium, and the Romans established a colony of 20,000 people at Venu'sia, to hold the conquered territory in awe, B. C. 290.
78. In the same year, the consul, Curius Denta'tus, began and ended another war against the Sabines, who had come to the aid of their Samnite kinsmen. They were subdued, and their extensive country, rich in oil, wine, and forests of oak, fell into the possession of the Romans. The commons at Rome suffered greatly, nevertheless, from the burdens
of the war. Their farms had been neglected during their absence with the army, and those who had the misfortune to have been taken prisoners, had to be ransomed at a cost ruinous to small fortunes.
Curius, the conqueror of the Sabines, proposed a new Agrarian law for the division of their lands among the poor of Rome. A political contest of several years ensued, during which the mass of the people seceded again to the Janiculum. A rumor of foreign invasion induced the Senate to yield and appoint Hortensius, a plebeian of ancient family, to be dictator. By his wise and conciliatory counsels, peace was restored. He convened all the people in a grove of oaks without the walls, and by the solemn oaths of the whole assembly passed the Hortensian laws, which ended the civil strife of Rome for 150 years. Every citizen received an allotment of land, and certain invidious marks of distinction between patricians and plebeians were effaced, B. C. 286.
The Hellenized Samnites ask the aid of Rome against their highland countrymen. The First Samnite War, B. C. 343-341, opens with success to the Romans. Sedition of troops in Campania. The Latins revolt against Rome and join the Campanians and Volscians. The Romans make peace and alliance with the Samnites for the Latin War, B. C. 340-338. In the battle of Vesuvius, Decius, the consul, devotes himself to death, and the Romans are victorious. The Latin League suppressed, and the supremacy of Rome established. An invasion of Italy by Alexander of Epirus, is followed by the Second Samnite War, B. C. 326-304. The Romans defeated at the Caudine Forks, B. C. 321, but at last completely victorious. They conquer the Æqui, B. C. 304. Third Samnite War, and Italian League against Rome, B. C. 298–290. Great victory at Sentinum over Gauls, Samnites, Etruscans, and Umbrians. Capture of Pontius, B. C. 292, and end of the Samnite wars. Sabine territories conquered and divided among the people, by Hortensian laws.
WAR WITH PYRRHUS.
79. Within three years (B. C. 283), the Romans were menaced by a new danger, in a powerful coalition formed by the Tarentines, and including nearly all the nations of Italy. The storm gathered swiftly and burst from all quarters at once. In the south, the Samnites, Lucanians, and Bruttians were in arms; in the north, the Etruscans and Umbrians, with hordes of Gallic mercenaries, were pouring into the field. Arre'tium alone stood firmly by the Roman alliance, and was besieged by an army of Etruscans and Gauls. The consul, Metellus, marching to its relief, was defeated with the total loss of his army. Embassadors, sent to remonstrate with the Seno'nian Gauls for the infringement of their treaty with Rome, were murdered, and their bodies hewed to pieces and cast out without burial. This outrage, which the laws of the rudest savages pronounced sacrilege, provoked a speedy vengeance. Dolabella, the
consul, marched into the Gallic territory with his army, killed every man who was found, carried off the women and children as slaves, and reduced every village to a heap of ashes and rubbish.
80. The Boian Gauls took up arms to avenge their brethren, and, joining the Etruscans, met the Roman forces in the valley of the Tiber, near the little lake Vad'imon. They were defeated so thoroughly that very few escaped from the field. The consul Fabricius, the following year, defeated the Samnites, Lucanians, and Bruttians in several great battles, broke up the coalition in the south, and collected an amount of spoils which enabled him to pay all the war expenses of the year, and, beside allowing a liberal share to every soldier, to leave half a million of dollars in the treasury. Tarentum, the prime mover of the war, had never drawn a sword, but had left all its burdens and losses to her allies. To punish this passive but mischievous policy, a Roman fleet was now sent to cruise around the eastern and southern coasts of Italy. It was defeated and sunk by the Tarentines in their own harbor. They then seized Thurii, expelled the Roman garrison, and, in the name of all the Italian Greeks, sent to Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, for aid.
81. This accomplished and ambitious prince was glad of a new field of enterprise. He hastened into Italy with a well-appointed army of 25,500 men, drilled and equipped in the Macedonian fashion, and supplied with twenty elephants. The gay and self-indulgent Tarentines, quite willing that another should fight their battles for them, forgot their promises of service and subsidies; but Pyrrhus showed them that he was master by stopping the sports of the circus and theaters, and the banquets of the clubs, and keeping the citizens under arms from morning to night. Even with inferior forces he was able to defeat the Roman legions at Heracle'a, on the Siris. Seven times the Epirotes and Greeks. were driven from the field, and seven times regained it; but when the last Italian reserve was engaged, Pyrrhus brought on his elephants, till then unknown in Italy, and they put to flight the Roman horse. The rout was complete; the Romans did not stay to defend their camp, but fled to Venu'sia, leaving Pyrrhus master of the field.
82. He was now joined by many allies, some of whom had even been subjects or friends of Rome; but the advantage of his victory was not sufficient to balance his loss in officers and men-losses the more serious as Greece was now overrun by the Gauls, and there was little hope of recruits. In these circumstances, Pyrrhus sent to Rome his embassador, Cin'eas, an orator of such brilliant talent, that he was said to have won more cities by his tongue than Pyrrhus by his sword. A large party was inclined to listen to his proposals of " peace, friendship, and alliance.” But Appius Claudius-thirty years ago censor, now a blind old man heard in his house that Rome was making peace, with a victorious enemy
still upon Italian soil. He caused himself to be carried in a litter through the Forum to the Senate-house. When he arrived, all his sons and sons-in-law went out to meet him and lead him to his ancient place. All the Senate listened in breathless silence as the old man rose to speak, protesting against the dishonor of his country. When he ceased, it was voted that no peace should be made while any foreign foe was in Italy, and that the orator who had so nearly persuaded them should leave the city that very day.
83. The war went on between the consummate genius of Pyrrhus and the unconquerable will of the Roman people. They were fighting for existence, while Pyrrhus fought for glory; and though in every pitched battle he was victorious, fresh armies were always ready to oppose him. Still hoping to make peace with Rome, he refused to ransom or exchange the multitude of prisoners whom he had taken, but he allowed them all to return to Rome for the winter holidays-the Saturnalia -on their simple promise to return if the Senate refused a treaty. The Senate refused, and every man returned. In his second campaign, Pyrrhus gained another brilliant victory, at As'culum, over the Romans and their allies. But his restless ambition now turned to a new field, and he departed into Sicily, where the Greek cities had implored his aid against the Carthaginians. Once master of that fertile island, he believed that he could attempt the conquest of Italy with better resources, and he left troops to hold Tarentum and Locri for his base of future operations in the peninsula.
84. In Sicily his genius and valor for a time drove all before him. The strong town of Eryx was taken, Pyrrhus himself being the first to mount the scaling-ladders. The Carthaginians implored peace, offering ships and money as the conditions of an alliance. Pyrrhus haughtily refused; but a reverse which he afterward suffered at Lilybæ'um, encouraged his enemies and alienated his allies. After two years he returned into Italy, pursued by a Carthaginian fleet, which defeated him with a loss of seventy ships. On landing, he was met by a body of Mamertines, * who had crossed the straits from Sicily, and whom he defeated only by a sharp and costly battle. He arrived at Tarentum with an army equal in numbers, but far inferior in character, to that with which he had come from Epirus four years earlier. His faithful Epirotes were slain, and in their places were ill-trained Italian mercenaries, who would serve only as long as pay and plunder abounded.
*The Mamertines, Children of Mars," were a troop of Italian freebooters, formerly in the pay of Syracuse, but who had seized Messa'na and other fortresses in the north-east of Sicily, massacred the people, and made themselves independent.
85. Being in great want of money to satisfy these unruly followers, Pyrrhus yielded to the advice of his Epicurean courtiers, and appropriated the treasures of the temple of Proserpina, at Locri. The money was embarked by sea for Tarentum, but a storm drove the sacrilegious vessel back upon the coasts of Locri; and Pyrrhus was so affected by remorse, that he restored the gold and put to death the counselors. He believed that he was ever after haunted by the wrath of Proserpina, which dragged him down to ruin. The following year he was totally defeated near Beneventum, by Curius Dentatus, the consul. Toward the end of the year he passed over into Greece, still leaving a garrison at Tarentum, in token of his unconquered resolution to return.
During the first invasion by Pyrrhus, the Eighth Legion, stationed at Rhegium, and composed chiefly of Campanian mercenaries, had, like the Mamertines in Sicily, thrown off their allegiance, slaughtered the Greek inhabitants, and held the town as an independent military post. They were now reduced, and most of the garrison put to the sword; the rest, consisting of the original soldiers of the legion, were tried at Rome, scourged, and beheaded.
86. Roman supremacy was now speedily established both in northern and southern Italy. Picenum was conquered, and half her inhabitants were forcibly removed to the shores of the Gulf of Salerno. Umbria submitted B. C. 266, the chief cities of Etruria followed, and the entire peninsula south of the Macra and Rubicon became subject to Rome. Hitherto the Romans, like the Spartans, had prided themselves upon the homeliness of their manners. When the Samnites sent envoys to M. Curius to bespeak his kind offices with the Senate, and offer him a present of gold, they found the ex-consul seated by his fire and roasting turnips in the ashes, with a wooden platter before him. To their proffered gift he replied, "I count it my glory not to possess gold myself, but to have power over those who do."
The eleven years following the departure of Pyrrhus were a period of the greatest prosperity ever enjoyed by the common people of Rome, and the wealth arising from the conquest of Italy materially changed their manner of living. Every freeman received a fresh grant of seven jugera of land or a portion of money. The property of the displaced governments went, of course, to the Roman state, and thus valuable possessions of mines, quarries, forests, fisheries, and public lands were added to its domains. The administration of the public revenues demanded a greatly increased number of officials, and the rich, as well as the poor, profited by the results of war.
87. The new territories were secured by that system of colonies which, in later times, served to establish the Roman power from the Atlantic to the Euphrates. The colonies were of two kinds. Most favored were