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date: 06 August 2020

Lucius Papiriuslocked

  • Dale E. Monson

Extract

Libretto subject popular in the 18th century.

Operas on the subject have been entitled Lucio Papirio and also Quinto Fabio. Livy, not the most reliable of the Roman historians, gives a unique account (vi.29–35) of a conflict between Lucius Papirius Cursor, military dictator during the second Samnite war, and Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, his Master of Horse (c 325 bc). Papirius left the field of battle briefly to retake the auguries in Rome, and though he left clear orders with Quintus Fabius neither to leave his post nor to engage the enemy, the youthful leader took advantage of the enemy’s laxity and attacked, winning a great victory. Papirius, learning of those events, declared his will breached and military discipline at danger; he condemned Fabius to death. Fleeing first to the Roman Senate with his father (and former Roman dictator) Marcus Fabius, then pleading his case to the Roman people, Quintus Fabius sought to escape the dictator’s wrath. In this he was supported by the army (the soldiers unsympathetic towards the merciless dictator) and the voice of the populace, but only when both father and son showed humility and pleaded for mercy did Papirius at last relent....

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