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THE BATTLE OF SENTINUM
 THE peace made with the Samnites in 304
B.C. lasted for six years, after which
the third war with these hardy mountaineers began.
One of the Consuls at this time was Cornelius Scipio,
the great-grandfather of the famous Scipio who
Now the Samnites had persuaded the Gauls to join them
in their new attack upon Rome, and they, it is said,
surprised and slew one of Scipio's legions. So
dreadful was the slaughter that not a single soldier
escaped to tell the Consul, who was some distance off
with the main body of his army, what had happened.
Nor did the Romans know what had befallen their
comrades, until the Gauls, elated with victory,
galloped up to the camp of the enemy shouting their
war-cries and carrying on the point of their lances the
heads of those whom they had slain.
In 295 B.C. the Romans grew alarmed at
the forces that had united against them, for the
Samnites had now not only the Gauls, but also the
Etruscans and other tribes to strengthen them.
Fabius, whose courage had been tested in many a
difficult position, was therefore appointed Consul for
the fifth time, and sent with his colleague Decius to
The leader of the Samnites, Egnatius, was at Sentinum
in Umbria. He was anxious to fight without delay, for
he knew how quickly the Gauls were used to desert their
 So he, as well as his men, was pleased when they saw
that the Roman legions, with the two Consuls at their
head, had reached Sentinum.
Yet for two days no battle took place. But as the
armies faced one another, a stag chased by a wolf ran
in between the two forces.
The Gauls, in their barbarous way, threw their javelins
at the stag and killed it, while the Romans allowed the
wolf to run safely through their ranks, for the beast
was sacred to Mars, and its presence was to them a sign
"The Gauls have slain the stag which is sacred to
Diana," cried the Roman soldiers. "It is certain that
her wrath will fall upon them. As for us, the wolf
bids us remember Quirinus, our divine founder.
With his aid we have naught to fear."
The Consuls could no longer restrain the eagerness of
their legions, and they at once led them against the
Fabius commanded the right wings, and faced the
Samnites; Decius was opposite the Gauls. They, as was
their way, rushed with loud war-cries upon the foe,
spurring their horses forward with fury and driving
their war-chariots upon the Roman cavalry.
Startled by the noise of the heavy chariots and by
their strange appearance, the Roman horses turned and
fled. In their flight they encountered the infantry,
and dashing upon it, caused the legions to give way.
Decius tried in vain to rally his men. Then, in
despair, he determined to do as his father had done,
and yield himself up to death, that the army might be
So, spurring his steed, he rode headlong into the midst
of the Gallic warriors and was slain.
The soldiers, seeing that the Consul had sacrificed
himself for their sake, took courage and turned to face
the foe. Decius had, by his death, won a victory for
Fabius meanwhile, had routed the Samnites, who now
 added to the confusion by rushing past the Gauls, in a
desperate effort to reach their camp.
As the Samnites fled, the Gauls formed themselves into
a dense mass, for they feared that they would now be
attacked by Fabius.
The Consul, however, contented himself by sending a
detachment of his men to harass the Gauls in their
rear, and another to attack them in front.
Then vowing to build a temple to Jupiter and to offer
him all the spoil if he was victorious, Fabius himself
followed the Samnites and cut them down ruthlessly,
until at length Egnatius, their brave commander, fell.
Resistance was now at an end, yet those who were still
alive refused to surrender. Forming themselves into a
compact body, they marched away and struggled back to
their own country.
The Gauls too were utterly crushed, and the glory of
the battle of Sentinum belonged to Rome.