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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 37: Third War against the Volscians. Preliminaries[490 BC]
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The senate decreed that the Games should be celebrated on the most splendid scale.|
At the suggestion of Attius Tullius, a large number of Volscians came to them. In accordance with a previous arrangement with Marcius, Tullius came to the consuls, before the proceedings commenced, and said that there were certain matters touching the State which he wished to discuss privately with them. When all the bystanders had been removed he began: "It is with great reluctance that I say anything to the disparagement of my people. I do not come however to charge them with having actually committed any offence but to take precautions against their committing one. The character of our citizens is more fickle than I should wish; we have experienced this in many defeats, for we owe our present security not to our own deserts but to your forbearance. Here at this moment are a great multitude of Volscians, the Games are going on, the whole City will be intent on the spectacle. I remember what an outrage was committed by the young Sabines on a similar occasion, I shudder lest any ill-advised and reckless incident should occur. For our sakes, and yours, consuls, I thought it right to give you this warning. As far as I am concerned, it is my intention to start at once for home, lest, if I stay, I should be involved in some mischief either of speech or act." With these words he departed.
These vague hints, uttered apparently on good authority, were laid by the consuls before the senate. As generally happens, the authority rather than the facts of the case induced them to take even excessive precautions. A decree was passed that the Volscians should leave the City, criers were sent round ordering them all to depart before nightfall. Their first feeling was one of panic as they ran off to their respective lodgings to take away their effects, but when they had started a feeling of indignation arose at their being driven away from the Games, from a festival which was in a manner a meeting of gods and men, as though they were under the curse of heaven and unfit for human society.