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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 39: War with Etruria. Battle of lake Vadimonis[309 BC]
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The following day, after fresh auspices had been taken, the dictator [Note 1] was invested with his official powers. He took command of the legions which were raised during the scare connected with the expedition through the Ciminian forest, and led them to Longula. Here he took over the consul's troops and with the united force went into the field. The enemy showed no disposition to shirk battle, but while the two armies stood facing each other fully prepared for action, yet neither anxious to begin, they were overtaken by night. Their standing camps were within a short distance of each other, and for some days they remained quiet, not, however, through any distrust of their own strength or any feeling of contempt for the enemy. |
Meantime the Romans were meeting with success in Etruria, for in an engagement with the Umbrians the enemy were unable to keep up the fight with the spirit with which they began it, and, without any great loss, were completely routed. An engagement also took place at Lake Vadimonis, where the Etruscans had concentrated an army raised under a Lex Sacrata, in which each man chose his comrade. As their army was more numerous than any they had previously raised, so they exhibited a higher courage than they had ever shown before. So savage was the feeling on both sides that, without discharging a single missile, they began the fight at once with swords. The fury displayed in the combat, which long hung in the balance, was such that it seemed as though it was not the Etruscans who had been so often defeated that we were fighting with, but some new, unknown people. There was not the slightest sign of yielding anywhere; as the men in the first line fell, those in the second took their places, to defend the standards. At length the last reserves had to be brought up, and to such an extremity of toil and danger had matters come that the Roman cavalry dismounted, and, leaving their horses in charge, made their way over piles of armour and heaps of slain to the front ranks of the infantry. They appeared like a fresh army amongst the exhausted combatants, and at once threw the Etruscan standards into confusion. The rest of the men, worn out as they were, nevertheless followed up the cavalry attack, and at last broke through the enemy's ranks. Their determined resistance was now overcome, and when once their maniples began to give way, they soon took to actual flight.
That day broke for the first time the power of the Etruscans after their long-continued and abundant prosperity. The main strength of their army was left on the field, and their camp was taken and plundered.
Note 1: dictator = Papirius Cursor
|Dictator postero die auspiciis repetitis pertulit legem; et profectus cum legionibus ad terrorem traducti siluam Ciminiam exercitus nuper scriptis ad Longu lam peruenit acceptisque a Marcio consule ueteribus militibus in aciem copias eduxit. Nec hostes detractare uisi pugnam. Instructos deinde armatosque, cum ab neutris proelium inciperet, nox oppressit. Quieti aliquamdiu nec quis diffidentes uiribus nec hostem spernentes, statiua in propinquo habuere. Nam et cum Vmbrorum exercitu acie depugnatum est; fusi tamen magis quam caesi hostes, quia coeptam acriter non tolerarunt pugnam; et ad Vadimonis lacum Etrusci lege sacrata coacto exercitu, cum uir uirum legisset, quantis nunquam alias ante simul copiis simul animis dimicarunt; tantoque irarum certamine gesta res est ut ab neutra parte emissa sint tela. Gladiis pugna coepit et acerrime commissa ipso certamine, quod aliquamdiu anceps fuit, accensa est, ut non cum Etruscis totiens uictis sed cum aliqua noua gente uideretur dimicatio esse. Nihil ab ulla parte mouetur fugae; cadunt antesignani et, ne nudentur propugnatoribus signa, fit ex secunda prima acies. Ab ultimis deinde subsidiis cietur miles; adeoque ad ultimum laboris ac periculi uentum est ut equites Romani omissis equis ad primos ordines peditum per arma, per corpora euaserint. Ea uelut noua inter fessos exorta acies turbauit signa Etruscorum; secuta deinde impetum eorum, utcumque adfecta erat, cetera multitudo tandem perrumpit ordines hostium. Tunc uinci pertinacia coepta et auerti manipuli quidam; et, ut semel dedere hi terga, etiam <ceteri> certiorem capessere fugam. Ille primum dies fortuna uetere abundantes Etruscorum fregit opes; caesum in acie quod roboris fuit: castra eo impetu capta direptaque.|