The small tribes within whose bounds these colonies were instituted, the Umbrians who obstinately defended Nequinum, the Aequians who once more assailed Alba, and the Marsians who attacked Carsioli, could not arrest the course of Rome: the two strong curb-fortresses were inserted almost without hindrance between Samnium and Etruria.
No Italian stock remained exempt from this transmuting of old faith into new superstition. As the lore of entrails and of lightning was cultivated among the Etruscans, so the liberal art of observing birds and conjuring serpent? flourished luxuriantly among the Sabellians and more particularly the Marsians.
The revolt ran through the peninsula like the flame through the steppe. The brave and numerous people of the Marsians took the lead, in connection with the small but hardy confederacies in the Abruzzi the Paeligni, Marrucini, Frentani, and Vestini. The brave and sagacious Quintus Silo, already mentioned, was here the soul of the movement.
We are not exactly informed how far the Romans had carried out the dissolution of the larger Italian confederacies; but it is not improbable that the Marsians, the Paelignians, and perhaps even the Samnites and Lucanians still were associated in their old communal leagues, though these had lost their political significance and were in some cases probably reduced to mere fellowship of festivals and sacrifices.
In a second engagement the army of Marius and the corps of Sulla which belonged to the army of the south co-operated to inflict on the Marsians a still more considerable defeat, which cost them 6000 men; but the glory of this day remained with the younger officer, for, while Marius had given and gained the battle, Sulla had intercepted the retreat of the fugitives and destroyed them. Picenian War
Publius Scato with the Marsians confronted them; he had pitched his camp at the spot where Marius crossed the brook, but, before the passage took place, he had withdrawn thence, leaving behind the mere posts that guarded the camp, and had taken a position in ambush farther up the river. The consul in person and 8000 of his troops fell.
Indeed I should prefer ten times to read your letters than all the vines of Gaurus or the Marsians; for these Signian vines have grapes too rank and fruit too sharp in the taste, but I prefer wine to must for drinking. Besides, those grapes are nicer to eat dried than fresh-ripe; I vow I would rather tread them under foot than put my teeth in them.
Yet this passage of the river, and a victory at the same time obtained over the Paelignians by the general Servius Sulpicius, compelled the Marsians to draw their line of defence somewhat back, and Marius, who by decree of the senate succeeded Lupus as commander-in-chief, at least prevented the enemy from gaining further successes.
Silo threw himself on the fortress designed to hold in check the Marsians, the strong Alba, Mutilus on the Latin town of Aesernia established in the heart of Samnium: in both cases they encountered the most resolute resistance.
It was clear that the Greek and Latin or Latinized communities of Italy, since they had not been shaken in their allegiance by the day of Cannae, would not yield to terror, but only to force; and the desperate courage with which even in Southern Italy isolated little country towns, such as the Bruttian Petelia, maintained their forlorn defence against the Phoenicians, showed very plainly what awaited them among the Marsians and Latins.