Publius Decius Mus (340 BC)


Publius Decius Mus (340 BC)

Publius Decius Mus, son of Quintus, of the plebeian Decia, was a Roman consul in the year 340 BC.

He first enters history in 352 BC as an appointed official, one of the "quinqueviri mensarii," public bankers charged with relieving citizen debts to some extent.

He served with distinction in the First Samnite War under Marcus Valerius Corvus Arvina. In 343 BC, Corvus, leading his army through the mountain fastnesses of Samnium, became trapped in a valley by the Samnites. Decius, taking 1,600 men, seized a strong point through which the Samnites were obliged to pass, and held it against them until nightfall; breaking through their lines, he re-joined the main body of the army, which had gained the summit of the mountain and relative safety. The army then swept into the Samnites, gaining a complete victory and the spoils of the enemy camp. [William Smith, editor. "Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology", p. 1123. (1870)] For the rescue of the trapped army he was awarded the Grass Crown by both his own army as by the army he relieved.

In 340 he was raised to the consular rank as co-consul with Titus Manlius Torquatus, when they allied themselves with their former enemies against the Latins in the Latin War. When during his consulate, an oracle announced that an army and the opposite army's general both would go to their deaths, Mus devoted himself and his foes to the Dii Manes and mother Earth to give his army the victory in the Battle of Vesuvius, in which he was slain and the enemy annihilated.

The Livian account has it this way: marching near Capua, it was given to the two consuls in mutual dreams that the army whose general pledged himself and his foemen's host to the Dii Manes and Earth, would be victorious. Upon confirmation from the haruspices the two divulged a plan to their senior officers and their army, that they may not lose heart, for they intended that whosoever's wing should falter first, should so pledge his life to the gods of the underworld and the Earth.

Once the battle was engaged, the left wing began to falter and Decius Mus called upon the Pontifex Maximus, M. Valerius, to tell him the means by which to save the army. Following that worthy's instructions, he stood on a spear, wrapped his toga praetexta around his head, put his hand against his chin, and called out to the pantheon of Rome and the gods of the dead and mother Earth to fulfill their promises, calling out:

:"Iane, Iuppiter, Mars pater, Quirine, Bellona, Lares, Divi Novensiles, Di Indigetes, Divi, quorum est potestas nostrorum hostiumque, Dique Manes, vos precor veneror, veniam peto feroque, uti populo Romano Quiritium vim victoriam prosperetis hostesque populi Romani Quiritium terrore formidine morteque adficiatis. Sicut verbis nuncupaui, ita pro re publica Quiritium, exercitu, legionibus, auxiliis populi Romani Quiritium, legiones auxiliaque hostium mecum Deis Manibus Tellurique devoveo." [Titus Livius, "Ab Urbe Condita", 8.9.6 ff]

So saying, in full armor, he plunged his horse into the enemy with such supernatural vigor and violence that the awe-struck Latins soon refused to engage him, eventually bringing him down with darts. Even then, the Latins avoided his body, leaving a large space around it; and so the left wing of the Romans, once faltering, now swept into this weakness in the enemy lines. Manlius, conducting the right wing, held fast, allowing the Latins to use up their reserves, before crushing the enemy host between the renewed left and Samnite foederati at their flank, leaving only a quarter of the enemy to flee. [Titus Livius, "Ab Urbe Condita", 8.10]

The account of Joannes Zonaras has it that Decius Mus was rather a devoted victim, sacrificed by one of his men.

He was the father of Publius Decius P.f. Mus, consul in 312 BC, 308 BC, 297 BC, and 295 BC and the grandfather of Publius Decius P.f. Mus, consul in 279 BC.

In popular culture

At the behest of Franco Cattaneo, a Genoese businessman, Peter Paul Reubens created a series of eight paintings, modelli for tapestry weavers to recreate, commemorating Decius Mus.

C. J. Cherryh, a science fiction author and classics teacher, used Decius Mus as a minor character in her Bangsian fantasy novel "Legions of Hell", as Julius Caesar's Jeep driver.

References


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  • Publius Decius Mus (312 BC) — Publius Decius Mus, (d. 295 BC) of the plebeian Decia, was a Roman consul in the years 312 BC, 308 BC, 297 BC and 295 BC. He was a member of a family that was renowned for sacrificing themselves on the battlefield for Rome.First and second… …   Wikipedia

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  • Publius Decius Mus (consul en -340) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Publius Decius Mus. La mort de Publius Decius Mus vue par Rubens (1617). Publius Decius Mus est un …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Publius Decius Mus (consul en -312) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Publius Decius Mus. Publius Decius Mus était un homme politique romain. C est le fils de Publius Decius Mus l ancien (consul en 340 av. J. C.). et le père de Publius Decius Mus (consul en 279 av. J. C.).… …   Wikipédia en Français

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