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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 43: The Veientine and the Aequo-Volscian Wars.[483-80 BC]
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The next consuls were Quintus Fabius and Gaius Julius. During this year the civic dissensions were as lively as ever, and the war assumed a more serious form. The Aequi took up arms, and the Veientines made depredations on Roman territory. Amidst the growing anxiety about these wars Caeso Fabius and Spurius Furius were made consuls. The Aequi were attacking Ortona, a Latin city; the Veientines, laden with plunder, were now threatening to attack Rome itself. This alarming condition of affairs ought to have restrained, whereas it actually increased, the hostility of the plebs, and they resumed the old method of refusing military service. This was not spontaneous on their part; Spurius Licinius, one of their tribunes, thinking that it was a good time for forcing the Agrarian Law upon the senate through sheer necessity, had taken upon him the obstruction of the levy. |
All the odium, however, aroused by this misuse of the tribunitian power recoiled upon the author, his own colleagues were as much opposed to him as the consuls; through their assistance the consuls completed the enrolment.
An army was raised for two wars at the same time, one against the Veientines under Fabius, the other against the Aequi under Furius. In this latter campaign nothing happened worth recording. Fabius, however, had considerably more trouble with his own men than with the enemy. He, the consul, single handed sustained the common-wealth, while his army through their hatred of the consul were doing their best to betray it. For, besides all the other instances of his skill as a commander, which he had so abundantly furnished in his preparation for the war and his conduct of it, he had so disposed his troops that he routed the enemy by sending only his cavalry[(1)] against them. The infantry refused to take up the pursuit; not only were they deaf to the appeals of their bated general, but even the public disgrace and infamy which they were bringing upon themselves at the moment, and the danger which would come if the enemy were to rally, were powerless to make them quicken their pace, or, failing that, even to keep their formation. Against orders they retired, and with gloomy looks -- you would suppose that they had been defeated -- they returned to camp, cursing now their commander, now the work which the cavalry had done. Against this example of demoralisation the general was unable to devise any remedy; to such an extent may men of commanding ability be more deficient in the art of managing their own people than in that of conquering the enemy. The consul returned to Rome, but he had not enhanced his military reputation so much as he had aggravated and embittered the hatred of his soldiers towards him.
The senate, however, succeeded in keeping the consulship in the family of the Fabii; they made Marcus Fabius consul, Gnaeus Manlius was elected as his colleague.
(1): The cavalry , drawn from the patricians and wealthy plebeians, would naturally, from their aristocratic sympathies, be on the consul's side.