In 321 BC, the Roman won a victory over the Samnites. The Samnites admitted defeat and wished to make atonement for a war they felt they had prosecuted against the will of the gods. They made some reasonable proposals including an undertaking to hand over to the Romans both the spoils of war and those on their side guilty of starting the war. The Romans rejected the terms, bent on continuing the war. The Samnites returned to arms.
As a result of Samnite tactics and the carelessness of the Roman consuls, the Roman army found itself trapped between two mountain passes at a place known as 'the Caudine Forks', between Capua and Beneventum. They made hopeless attempts to scale the steep surrounding slopes before finally resigning themselves to suing for peace with the Samnites. The proposals that the Samnites put to the Roman ambassadors was according with the customs of warfare between cities. The Romans would acknowledge their defeat, they would hand back those Samnite territories they had conquered and on which they had set up colonies, they would leave with the Samnites as hostages the officers of the army and 600 cavalry (equestrians), and then they would sign an alliance with the Samnites.
To save their army the Roman consuls accepted the Samnite terms, passed under the yoke with their entire army, stripped of their armour and weapons.
The defeat was a total one to the Romans. The worst defeat in Rome's history. Not so much because they had lost. Rome did not win every one of its battles. The humiliation lay far more in the nature of the defeat. One had lost without a fight.
The army returned home a sorry sight. The soldiers arrived back in Rome one evening with the look of prisoners of war. They hid themselves away in their houses. Not one of them showed his face at the forum. The consuls relinquished their offices. No longer soldiers in war, they no longer deemed themselves citizens in peace.
But the peace didn't last for long. Soon after the senate realized a possibility of questioning the validity of the terms. For only the consuls, when trapped in the Caudine Forks, had agreed to them, not Rome. In due course the consuls would handed over to the Samnites and the war resumed, the Samnites eventually being utterly defeated.