F Heritage History | Story of the Romans by Helene Guerber
Contents 
Front Matter The First Settlers Escape from the Burning City The Clever Trick The Boards Are Eaten The Wolf and the Twins Romulus Builds Rome The Maidens Carried Off Union of Sabines and Romans Death of Romulus Strange Signs of the Romans The Quarrel with Alba The Horatii and Curiatii Tarquin and the Eagle The Roman Youths The King Outwitted The Murder of Tarquin The Ungrateful Children The Mysterious Books Tarquin's Poppies The Oracle of Delphi The Death of Lucretia The Stern Father A Roman Triumph A Roman Triumph (Cont.) Defense of the Bridge The Burnt Hand The Twin Gods The Wrongs of the Poor Fable of the Stomach The Story of Coriolanus The Farmer Hero The New Laws Death of Virginia Plans of a Traitor A School-Teacher Punished Invasion of the Gauls The Sacred Geese Two Heroes of Rome Disaster at Caudine Forks Pyrrhus and His Elephants The Elephants Routed Ancient Ships Regulus and the Snake Hannibal Crosses the Alps The Romans Defeated The Inventor Archimedes The Roman Conquests Destruction of Carthage Roman Amusements The Jewels of Cornelia Death of Tiberius Gracchus Caius Gracchus Jugurtha, King of Numidia The Barbarians The Social War The Flight of Marius The Proscription Lists Sertorius and His Doe Revolt of the Slaves Pompey's Conquests Conspiracy of Catiline Caesar's Conquests Crossing of the Rubicon Battle of Pharsalia The Death of Caesar The Second Triumvirate The Vision of Brutus Antony and Cleopatra The Poisonous Snake The Augustan Age Death of Augustus Varus Avenged Death of Germanicus Tiberius Smothered The Wild Caligula Wicked Wives of Claudius Nero's First Crimes Christians Persecuted Nero's Cruelty Two Short Reigns The Siege of Jerusalem The Buried Cities The Terrible Banquet The Emperor's Tablets The Good Trajan Trajan's Column The Great Wall Hadrian's Death Antoninus Pius The Model Pagan Another Cruel Emperor An Unnatural Son The Senate of Women The Gigantic Emperor Invasion of the Goths Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra A Prophecy Fulfulled First Christian Emperor Roman Empire Divided An Emperor's Penance Sieges of Rome End of the Western Empire

Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber




The Disaster at the Caudine Forks

Valerius was not the only Roman who gained a name from meeting a Gaul in single combat. Another was a member of the Manlius family, to which, as you know, the savior of the Capitol belonged.

Manlius, like Valerius, succeeded in killing his enemy, and, as a trophy, he took from the dead body the torque, or necklace of twisted gold, which was generally worn by Gallic chiefs. Because he liked to appear with this ornament around his neck, the Romans surnamed him Torquatus, which means "the man with the necklace."

Torquatus in time was elected consul, and thus had command of the Roman troops. He thought that the soldiers were badly trained, and that the discipline was poor; so he made up his mind to reform the army. He therefore gave strict orders that every soldier should obey promptly, and added that he would put to death any man who ventured to rush into battle without waiting for the signal.

Each Roman soldier was anxious to distinguish himself, and some of the men did not like this command. In the very next battle the general's own son was so eager to begin the fight that he was the first to disobey the orders just given.

Knowing that discipline must be maintained at any price, Torquatus sent for his son as soon as the fighting was over. Then, true to his promise, he had the offender executed in the presence of the whole army.

This example of military justice so awed the Romans that none of them ever dared to disobey their general again. Order and discipline were restored, and the army returned to Rome victorious. There the senate congratulated Torquatus, not only upon his success, but also upon the courage he had shown in keeping his word even at the sacrifice of his own son's life.

The senate never failed to compliment and reward a victorious general, but these same men always considered it a great disgrace when their army was defeated, and they often visited their displeasure upon its unlucky commander.

Therefore, when Spurius Posthumius, one of their consuls, fell into an ambush during a war with the Samnites, they were greatly displeased. The Romans were caught in a mountain defile, called the Caudine Forks, and, being surrounded on all sides, were forced to surrender. Then the whole army had to submit to the humiliation of passing under the yoke, and the consul was made to promise that Rome would never renew the war.

When Posthumius came back to Rome, he was severely reproved by the senators, who were very angry indeed because he had agreed to fight no more. In their wrath, they vowed that his promise to the Samnites should never be kept. Then Posthumius told them that, since they disapproved of his conduct so greatly, they had better bind him hand and foot, and send him back to the Samnites.

Strange to relate, the senate took advantage of this generosity, and Posthumius, bound like a criminal, was led to the Samnite camp. When the enemy heard that, although bound so securely, he had come there only by his own free will, they were struck with admiration for his courage. They knew that the Romans were going to continue the war, but they refused to take vengeance on Posthumius, and sent him home unharmed.

We are told that another Roman, also, showed great patriotism during the wars against the Samnites. This was the consul Decius, who overheard the augurs say that the victory would belong to the army whose commander was generous enough to sacrifice his life for his country's sake.

As soon as the signal was given, therefore, Decius rushed into the very midst of the foe. Without attempting to strike a single blow, or to defend himself, he sank beneath the blows of the enemy.

The soldiers, fired by the example of Decius, fought so bravely for their country's sake that they soon won a brilliant victory, and could return home in triumph.

Many wars were thus waged by the Romans during the years which followed the visit of the Gauls. They took many towns, gradually extended the boundaries of the Roman state, and, after waging three wars against their principal foes, the Samnites, they hoped to have peace.

The Samnites, who had thrice risen up against the Romans, were a powerful people, and were very brave. They lived in the country east and southeast of Latium, and one of their principal towns was Herculaneum, about which you will hear some very interesting things a little later.