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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 46: War of Rome and Veii (Cont.)[480 BC]
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The battle-line was formed; neither the Veientines nor the legions of Etruria declined the contest. They were almost certain that the Romans would no more fight with them than they fought with the Aequi, and they did not despair of something still more serious happening, considering the state of irritation they were in and the double opportunity which now presented itself (1). Things took a very different course, for in no previous war had the Romans gone into action with more grim determination, so exasperated were they by the insults of the enemy and the procrastination of the consuls. |
The Etruscans had scarcely time to form their ranks when, after the javelins had in the first confusion been flung at random rather than thrown regularly, the combatants came to a hand-to-hand encounter with swords, the most desperate kind of fighting. Amongst the foremost were the Fabii, who set a splendid example for their countrymen to behold. Quintus Fabius -- the one who had been consul two years previously -- charged, regardless of danger, the massed Veientines, and whilst he was engaged with vast numbers of the enemy, a Tuscan of vast strength and splendidly armed plunged his sword into his breast, and as he drew it out Fabius fell forward on the wound. Both armies felt the fall of this one man, and the Romans were beginning to give ground, when Marcus Fabius, the consul, sprang over the body as it lay, and holding up his buckler, shouted, "Is this what you swore, soldiers, that you would go back to camp as fugitives? Are you more afraid of this cowardly foe than of Jupiter and Mars, by whom you swore? I, who did not swear, will either go back victorious, or will fall fighting by you, Quintus Fabius." Then Caeso Fabius, the consul of the previous year, said to the consul, "Is it by words like these, my brother, that you think you will make them fight? The gods, by whom they swore, will do that; our duty as chiefs, if we are to be worthy of the Fabian name, is to kindle our soldiers' courage by fighting rather than haranguing." So the two Fabii dashed forward with levelled spears, and carried the whole line with them.
(1): double opportunity -- First murdering the consul and then going over to the enemy.
Event: War of Rome with Veii
|Instruitur acies, nec Veiens hostis Etruscaeque legiones detractant. Prope certa spes erat non magis secum pugnaturos quam cum Aequis; maius quoque aliquod in tam inritatis animis et occasione ancipiti haud desperandum esse facinus. Res aliter longe euenit; nam non alio ante bello infestior Romanus—adeo hinc contumeliis hostes, hinc consules mora exacerbauerant—proelium iniit. Vix explicandi ordinis spatium Etruscis fuit, cum pilis inter primam trepidationem abiectis temere magis quam emissis, pugna iam in manus, iam ad gladios, ubi Mars est atrocissimus, uenerat. Inter primores genus Fabium insigne spectaculo exemploque ciuibus erat. Ex his Q. Fabium—tertio hic anno ante consul fuerat—principem in confertos Veientes euntem ferox uiribus et armorum arte Tuscus, incautum inter multas uersantem hostium manus, gladio per pectus transfigit; telo extracto praeceps Fabius in uolnus abiit. Sensit utraque acies unius uiri casum, cedebatque inde Romanus cum M. Fabius consul transiluit iacentis corpus obiectaque parma, "hoc iurastis" inquit, "milites, fugientes uos in castra redituros? Adeo ignauissimos hostes magis timetis quam Iouem Martemque per quos iurastis? At ego iniuratus aut uictor reuertar aut prope te hic, Q. Fabi, dimicans cadam." Consuli tum Caeso Fabius, prioris anni consul: "uerbisne istis, frater, ut pugnent, te impetraturum credis? Di impetrabunt per quos iurauere; et nos, ut decet proceres, ut Fabio nomine est dignum, pugnando potius quam adhortando accendamus militum animos." Sic in primum infensis hastis prouolant duo Fabii, totamque mouerunt secum aciem.|