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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VII Chapter 17: Wars with Tiburtines, Faliscans and Tarquinians.[356-5 BC]
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The new consuls were Marcus Fabius Ambustus and Marcus Popilius Laenas, each for the second time. They had two wars on hand. The one which Laenas waged against the Tiburtines presented little difficulty; after driving them into their city he ravaged their fields. The other consul, who was operating against the against Faliscans and Tarquinians, met with a defeat in the first battle. What mainly contributed to it and produced a real terror amongst the Romans was the extraordinary spectacle presented by their priests who, brandishing lighted torches and with what looked like snakes entwined in their hair, came on like so many Furies. At this sight the Romans were like men distraught or thunder-struck and rushed in a panic-stricken mass into their entrenchments. The consul and his staff officers and the military tribunes laughed at them and scolded them for being terrified by conjuring tricks like a lot of boys. Stung by a feeling of shame, they suddenly passed from a state of terror to one of reckless daring, and they rushed like blind men against what they had just fled from. When, after scattering the idle pageantry of the enemy, they got at the armed men behind, they routed the entire army. The same day they gained possession of the camp, and after securing an immense amount of booty returned home flushed with victory, jesting as soldiers do, and deriding the enemy's contrivance and their own panic. |
This led to a rising of the whole of Etruria, and under the leadership of the Tarquinians and Faliscans they marched to the salt-works. In this emergency Gaius Marcius Rutilus was nominated dictator -- the first dictator nominated from the plebs -- and he appointed as Master of the Horse Gaius Plautius, also a plebeian. The patricians were indignant at even the dictatorship becoming common property, and they offered all the resistance in their power to any decree being passed or any preparations made to help the dictator in prosecuting that war. This only made the people more ready to adopt every proposal which the dictator made. On leaving the City he marched along both banks of the Tiber, ferrying the troops across in whichever direction the enemy were reported to be; in this way he surprised many of the raiders scattered about the fields. Finally he surprised and captured their camp; 8ooo prisoners were taken, the rest were either killed or hunted out of the Roman territory. By an order of the people which was not confirmed by the senate a triumph was awarded him.
As the senate would not have the elections conducted by a plebeian dictator or a plebeian consul, they fell back on an interregnum. There was a succession of interreges -- Quintus Servilius Ahala, Marcus Fabius, Gnaeus Manlius, Gaius Fabius, Gaius Sulpicius, Lucius Aemilius, Quintus Servilius, and Marcus Fabius Ambustus. In the second of these interregna a contest arose because two patrician consuls were elected. When the tribunes interposed their veto and appealed to the Licinian Law, Fabius, the interrex, said that it was laid down in the Twelve Tables that whatever was the last order that the people made that should have the force of law, and the people had made an order by electing the two consuls. The tribunes' veto only availed to postpone the elections, and ultimately two patrician consuls were elected, namely Gaius Sulpicius Peticus (for the third time) and Marcus Valerius Publicola. They entered upon their office the day they were elected.