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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VII Chapter 23: Defeat of the Gauls.[350 BC]
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Marcus Popilius Laenas was the consul elected from the plebs, Lucius Cornelius Scipio, the one from the patricians. Fortune conferred the greater distinction upon the plebeian consul, for upon the receipt of information that an immense army of Gauls had encamped in the territory of Latium, the conduct of that war, owing to Scipio's serious illness at the time, was entrusted by special arrangement to Popilius. He promptly raised an army, and ordered all who were liable for active service to meet under arms outside the Capene Gate, the temple of Mars; the quaestors were ordered to carry the standards from the treasury to the same place. After bringing up four legions to full strength, he handed over the rest of the troops to Publius Valerius Publicola, the praetor, and advised the senate to raise a second army to protect the republic against any emergency. |
When all preparations were completed and everything in readiness, he advanced towards the enemy. With the view of ascertaining their strength before testing it in a decisive action, he seized some rising ground as near to the camp of the Gauls as possible and began to construct the rampart. When the Gauls saw the Roman standards in the distance they formed their line, prepared, with their usual impulsiveness and instinctive love of fighting, to engage at once. Observing, however, that the Romans did not come down into the plain and were trusting to the protection of their position and their rampart, they imagined that they were smitten with fear, and at the same time would be more open to attack whilst they were occupied in the work of entrenchment. So raising a wild shout they advanced to the attack. The triarii, who formed the working party, were not interrupted, for they were screened by the hastati and principes who were posted in front and who began the fighting. Their steady courage was aided by the fact that they were on higher ground, for the pila and hastae were not thrown ineffectively as often happens on level ground, but being carried forward by their weight they reached their mark. The Gauls were borne down by the weight of the missiles which either pierced their bodies or stuck in their shields, making them extremely heavy to carry. They had almost reached the top of the hill in their charge when they halted, uncertain what to do. The mere delay raised the courage of the Romans and depressed that of the enemy. Then the Roman line swept down upon them and forced them back; they fell over each other and caused a greater loss in this way than that inflicted by the enemy; so headlong was their flight that more were crushed to death than were slain by the sword.
Event: Third war with the Gauls