Papirius Cursor, a Roman family of the Papiria gens, supposed to have derived its name from the fleetness of foot of its founder. The following are its chief members.
Lucius, master of the horse under the dictator L. Papirius Orassus in 340 B. C, the date of the first historic mention of his name. In 333 he was consul with Poetelius Libo, and according to some authorities held the consulship again in 326. In the second year of the second Samnite war (325) he was made dictator during the illness of Lucius Camillus, the consul. He had taken the field, and was about to engage the enemy, when some reason arising to throw doubt upon the auspices which he had taken before opening the campaign, he returned temporarily to Rome, giving strict orders to Q. Fabius Maximus, his master of the horse, not to join battle in his absence. Fabius violated the order, and won the signal victory of Imbrinium. Papirius, a strict disciplinarian, and unpopular with the army on this account, hastened back to punish his disobedient lieutenant; but the latter was sustained by the troops, and, on appealing to them, by the senate and people. The ill feeling of the army toward Papirius caused his defeat in his first battle, but, having conciliated his soldiers, he conducted the rest of the campaign with great success, and received a triumph.
In 320, when consul for the second or third time, he again conducted a campaign against the Samnites in Apulia, which, though he was at one time hard pressed, was ultimately successful, Luceria being captured. He received a second triumph; and he was afterward thrice reelected consul, the Samnite war continuing through all his terms. In 309 he was again made dictator under very peculiar circumstances, his old lieutenant Fabius, naturally hostile to him, being ordered to nominate him for the post. Fabius sacrificed his personal hate and made the nomination; and Papirius hastened to the relief of the hard-pressed Roman army under Marcius in Apulia. After some little manoeuvring he gained a decisive and final victory over the Samnites, and, returning to Rome, celebrated a third triumph of peculiar magnificence. His death is believed to have occurred soon after.
Lucius, son of the preceding) possessed military talents hardly inferior to his father's; and, having been made consul in 293, conducted much of the third Samnite war, as his father had of the second. He ended a successful campaign in Campania by great victories near Aquilonia, and celebrated a triumph. Soon afterward he dedicated a temple erected by his father in honor of Quirinus, and placed near it the first sun dial set up at Rome. In 272 he was elected consul a second time, subdued the Bruttians and Lucanians, and was granted the honor of a second triumphal entry into the city.