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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VI Chapter 12: The Volscian War.[385 BC]
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Although the dictator [Note 1] recognised that a more difficult contest lay before him at home than abroad, he enrolled his troops and proceeded to the Pomptine territory, which, he heard, had been invaded by the Volscians. Either he considered it necessary to take prompt military measures or he hoped to strengthen his hands as dictator by a victory and a triumph. |
I have no doubt that my readers will be tired of such a long record of incessant wars with the Volscians, but they will also be struck with the same difficulty which I have myself felt whilst examining the authorities who lived nearer to the period, namely, from what source did the Volscians obtain sufficient soldiers after so many defeats? Since this point has been passed over by the ancient writers, what can I do more than express an opinion such as any one may form from his own inferences? Probably, in the interval between one war and another, they trained each fresh generation against the renewal of hostilities, as is now done in the enlistment of Roman troops, or their armies were not always drawn from the same districts, though it was always the same nation that carried on the war, or there must have been an innumerable free population in those districts which are barely now kept from desolation by the scanty tillage of Roman slaves, with hardly so much as a miserably small recruiting ground for soldiers left. At all events, the authorities are unanimous in asserting that the Volscians had an immense army in spite of their having been so lately crippled by the successes of Camillus. Their numbers were increased by the Latins and Hernici, as well as by a body of Circeians, and even by a contingent from Velitrae, where there was a Roman colony.
On the day he arrived the dictator formed his camp. On the morrow, after taking the auspices and supplicating the favour of the gods by sacrifice and prayer, he advanced in high spirits to the soldiers who were already in the early dawn arming themselves according to orders against the moment when the signal for battle should be given. " Ours, soldiers," he exclaimed, "is the victory, if the gods and their interpreters see at all into the future. Let us then, as becomes men filled with sure hopes, who are going to engage an enemy who is no match for us, lay our javelins at our feet and arm ourselves only with our swords. I would not even have any running forward from the line; stand firm and receive the enemy's charge without stirring a foot. When they have hurled their ineffective missiles and their disordered ranks fling themselves upon you, then let your swords flash and let every man remember that it is the gods who are helping the Romans, it is the gods who have sent you into battle with favourable omens. You, Titus Quinctius, keep your cavalry in hand and wait till the fight has begun, but when you see the lines locked together, foot to foot, then strike with the terror of your cavalry those who are already overtaken with other terrors. Charge and scatter their ranks while they are in the thick of the fight." Cavalry and infantry alike fought in accordance with their instructions. The commander did not disappoint his soldiers, nor did Fortune disappoint the commander.
Note 1: dictator = Cornelius
Event: War with Volscians