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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IV Chapter 46: War with the Aequi. Defeat of the Romans.[418 BC]
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It was decided that the levy should not be raised from the whole population indiscriminately; ten tribes were drawn by lot; from these the two tribunes enlisted the men of military age and led them to the war. The quarrels which had begun in the City became much more heated in the camp through the same eagerness to secure the command. They agreed on no single point, they fought for their own opinions, each wanted his own plans and orders carried out exclusively, they felt mutual contempt for each other. At length, through the remonstrances and reproofs of the lieutenants-general, matters were so far arranged that they agreed to hold the command in chief on alternate days. When this state of things was reported at Rome it is said that Quintus Servilius, taught by years and experience, offered up a solemn prayer that the disagreement of the tribunes might not prove more hurtful to the State than it had been at Veii; then, as though disaster were undoubtedly impending, he urged his son [Note 1] to enrol troops and prepare arms. He was not a false prophet. |
Defeat of the Romans.
It happened to be the turn of Lucius Sergius to hold command, and the enemy by a pretended flight had drawn his troops on to unfavourable ground close to their camp, in the vain hope of storming it. Then the Aequi made a sudden charge and drove them down a steep valley where numbers were overtaken and killed in what was not so much a flight as a tumbling over each other. It was with difficulty that they held their camp that day; the next day, after the enemy had surrounded a considerable part of it, they evacuated it in a disgraceful flight through the rear gate. The commanders and lieutenants-general and as much of the army as remained with the standards made for Tusculum, the others, straggling in all directions through the fields, hurried on to Rome and spread the news of a more serious defeat than had been actually incurred. There was less consternation felt because the result was what every one had feared and the reinforcements which they could look to in the hour of danger had been got ready beforehand by the consular tribune. By his orders, after the excitement had been allayed by the inferior magistrates, scouting parties were promptly sent out to reconnoitre, and they reported that the generals and the army were at Tusculum, and that the enemy had not shifted his camp. What did most to restore confidence was the nomination, by a senatorial decree, of Quintus Servilius Priscus as dictator. The citizens had had previous experience of his political foresight in many stormy crises, and the issue of this war afforded a fresh proof, for he alone suspected danger from the differences of the tribunes before the disaster occurred. He appointed as his Master of the Horse the tribune by whom he had been nominated dictator, namely, his own son. This at least is the statement of some authorities, others say that Ahala Servilius was Master of the Horse that year. With his fresh army he proceeded to the seat of war, and after recalling the troops who were at Tusculum, he selected a position for his camp two miles distant from the enemy.
Event: Second war with the Aequi