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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book X Chapter 19: Clash of the consuls.[296 BC]
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As the consuls were parting from each other, the staff-officers and military tribunes stood round them; some of them implored their own commander not to reject the assistance of his colleague, assistance which he himself ought to have invited and which was now spontaneously offered; many of the others tried to stop Volumnius as he was leaving and appealed to him not to betray the safety of the republic through a wretched quarrel with his colleague. They urged that if any disaster occurred the responsibility for it would fall on the one who abandoned the other, not on the other who was abandoned; it came to this -- all the glory of success and all the disgrace of failure in Etruria was transferred to Volumnius. People would not inquire what words Appius had used, but what fortune the army was meeting with; he may have been dismissed by Appius, but his presence was demanded by the republic and by the army. He had only to test the feelings of the soldiers to find this out for himself. |
Amidst appeals and warnings of this character they almost dragged the reluctant consuls into a Council of war. There the dispute which had previously been witnessed by only a few went on at much greater length. Volumnius had not only the stronger case, but he showed himself by no means a bad speaker, even when compared with the exceptional eloquence of his colleague. Appius remarked sarcastically that they ought to look upon it as due to him that they had a consul who was actually able to speak, instead of the dumb inarticulate man he once was. In their former consulship, especially during the first months of office, he could not open his lips, now he was becoming quite a popular speaker. Volumnius observed, "I would much rather that you had learnt from me to act with vigour and decision than that I should have learnt from you to be a clever speaker." He finally made a proposal which would settle the question who was -- not the better orator, for that was not what the republic needed, but -- the better commander. Their two provinces were Etruria and Samnium; Appius might choose which he preferred, he, Volumnius, was willing to conduct operations either in Etruria or in Samnium.
On this the soldiers began to clamour; they insisted that both consuls should carry on the war in Etruria. When Volumnius saw that this was the general wish he said, "Since I have made a mistake in interpreting my colleague's wishes I will take care that there shall be no doubt as to what it is that you want. Signify your wishes by acclamation; do you wish me to stay or to go?" Such a shout arose in reply that it brought the enemy out of their camp; seizing their arms they came down to the battle-field. Then Volumnius ordered the battle signal to be sounded and the standards to be carried out of the camp. Appius, it is said, was for some time undecided, as he saw that whether he fought or remained inactive the victory would be his colleague's, but at last, fearing lest his legions also should follow Volumnius, he yielded to their loud demands and gave the signal for battle.
Defeat of the Allies.
On both sales the dispositions were far from complete. The Samnite captain-general Gellius Egnatius, had gone off with a few cohorts on a foraging expedition, and his troops commenced the battle in obedience to their own impulses rather than to any word of command. The Roman armies again were not both led to the attack at the same time, nor was sufficient time allowed for their formation. Volumnius was engaged before Appius reached the enemy, so the battle began on an irregular front, and the usual opponents happened to be interchanged, the Etruscans facing Volumnius and the Samnites, after a short delay owing to their leader's absence, closing with Appius. The story runs that he lifted up his hands to heaven so as to be visible to those about the foremost standards and uttered this prayer: Bellona! if thou wilt grant us victory to-day, I, in return, vow a temple to thee." After this prayer it seemed as though the goddess had inspired him, he displayed a courage equal to his colleague's, or indeed to that of the whole army. Nothing was lacking on the part of the generals to ensure success, and the rank and file in each of the consular armies did their utmost to prevent the other from being the first to achieve victory.
The enemy were quite unable to withstand a force so much greater than any they had been accustomed to meet, and were in consequence routed and put to flight. The Romans pressed the attack when they began to give ground, and when they broke and fled, followed them up till they had driven them to their camp. There the appearance of Gellius and his cohorts led to a brief stand being made; soon, however, these were routed and the victors attacked the camp. Volumnius encouraging his men by his own example led the attack upon one of the gates in person, whilst Appius was kindling the courage of his troops by repeatedly invoking "Bellona the victorious." They succeeded in forcing their way through rampart and fosse; the camp was captured and plundered, and a very considerable amount of booty was discovered and given to the soldiery; 6900 of the enemy were killed, 2120 made prisoners.
|Digredientes iam consules legati tribunique ex Appiano exercitu circumsistunt. Pars imperatorem suum orare ne collegae auxilium, quod acciendum ultro fuerit, sua sponte oblatam sperneretur; plures abeunti Volumnio obsistere; obtestari ne prauo cum collega certamine rem publicam prodat: si qua clades incidisset, desertori magis quam deserto noxae fore; eo rem adductam ut omne rei bene aut secus gestae in Etruria decus dedecusque ad L. Volumnium sit delegatum; neminem quaesiturum quae uerba Appi sed quae fortuna exercitus fuerit; dimitti ab Appio eum sed a re publica et ab exercitu retineri; experiretur modo uoluntatem militum. Haec monendo obtestandoque prope restitantes consules in contionem pertraxerunt. Ibi orationes longiores habitae in eandem ferme sententiam, in quam inter paucos certatum uerbis fuerat; et cum Volumnius, causa superior, ne infacundus quidem aduersus eximiam eloquentiam collegae uisus esset, cauillansque Appius sibi acceptum referre diceret debere, quod ex muto atque elingui facundum etiam consulem haberent—priore consulatu, primis utique mensibus, hiscere eum nequisse, nunc iam populares orationes serere—, "quam mallem" inquit Volumnius, "tu a me strenue facere quam ego abs te scite loqui didicissem." postremo condicionem ferre, quae decretura sit, non orator—neque enim id desiderare rem publicam—sed imperator uter sit melior. Etruriam et Samnium prouincias esse; utram mallet eligeret; suo exercitu se uel in Etruria uel in Samnio rem gesturum. Tum militum clamor ortus, ut simul ambo bellum Etruscum susciperent. Quo animaduerso consensu Volumnius "quoniam in collegae uoluntate interpretanda" inquit "erraui, non committam ut quid uos uelitis obscurum sit: manere an abire me uelitis clamore significate." tum uero tantus est clamor exortus ut hostes e castris exciret. Armis arreptis in aciem descendunt. Et Volumnius signa canere ac uexilla efferri castris iussit; Appium addubitasse ferunt cernentem seu pugnante seu quieto se fore collegae uictoriam; deinde ueritum ne suae quoque legiones Volumnium sequerentur, et ipsum flagitantibus suis signum dedisse. Ab neutra parte satis commode instructi fuerunt; nam et Samnitium dux Gellius Egnatius pabulatum cum cohortibus paucis ierat suoque impetu magis milites quam cuiusquam ductu aut imperio pugnam capessebant et Romani exercitus nec pariter ambo ducti nec satis temporis ad instruendum fuit. Prius concurrit Volumnius quam Appius ad hostem perueniret; itaque fronte inaequali concursum est; et uelut sorte quadam mutante adsuetos inter se hostes Etrusci Volumnio, Samnites parumper cunctati, quia dux aberat, Appio occurrere. Dicitur Appius in medio pugnae discrimine, ita ut inter prima signa manibus ad caelum sublatis conspiceretur, ita precatus esse: "Bellona, si hodie nobis uictoriam duis, ast ego tibi templum uoueo." haec precatus uelut instigante dea et ipse collegae et exercitus uirtutem aequauit ducis: imperatoria opera exsequuntur et milites; ne ab altera parte prius uictoria incipiat adnituntur. Ergo fundunt fugantque hostes, maiorem molem haud facile sustinentes quam cum qua manus conserere adsueti fuerant. urgendo cedentes insequendoque effusos compulere ad castra; ibi interuentu Gelli cohortiumque Sabellarum paulisper recruduit pugna. His quoque mox fusis iam a uictoribus castra oppugnabantur; et cum Volumnius ipse portae signa inferret, Appius Bellonam uictricem identidem celebrans accenderet militum animos, per uallum, per fossas inruperunt. Castra capta direptaque; praeda ingens parta et militi concessa est. Septem milia octingenti hostium occisi, duo milia et centum uiginti capti.|