Lucius Papirius Cursor was a Roman general who was five times Roman consul and twice dictator. He was a member of the patrician gens Papiria of ancient Rome. Cursor's strictness was proverbial; he was a man of immense bodily strength, while his bravery was beyond dispute. He was surnamed Cursor from his swiftness of foot.
In 325 BC he was appointed dictator to carry on the second Samnite War. His quarrel with Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, his magister equitum, is well known. The latter had engaged the enemy against the orders of Cursor, by whom he was condemned to death, and only the intercession of his father, the senate, and the people saved his life.
His cognomen, Cursor, means "The Runner", as he was able to walk over 50 Roman miles a day in full marching order and demanded the same from his soldiers. Legend says that when cavalry veterans came to him asking for some privileges, he gave them but one privilege:
That you may not say I never excuse you anything, I excuse you from rubbing your horses' backs when you dismount.
Such harshness to his soldiers allowed them to be defeated initially. But later he had regained their good-will by more lenient treatment and lavish promises of booty; they fought with enthusiasm and gained a complete victory.
After the disaster of the Caudine Forks, Cursor to some extent wiped out the disgrace by compelling Lucera (which had revolted) to surrender. He delivered the Roman hostages who were held in captivity in the town, recovered the standards lost at Caudium, and made 7000 of the enemy pass under the yoke.
In 309 BC, when the Samnites again rose, Cursor was appointed dictator for the second time, and gained a decisive victory at Longula, in honour of which he celebrated a magnificent triumph.
His son of the same name, also a distinguished general, completed the subjection of Samnium (272 BC). He set up a sundial, the first of its kind in Rome, in the temple of Quirinus.
Named Lucio Papirio or Lucio Papirio dittatore, he is the subject of several Baroque operas.