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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 26: War with the Aequi and Sabines. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus[458 BC]
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An immense body of Sabines came in their ravages almost up to the walls of the City. The fields were ruined, the City thoroughly alarmed. Now the plebeians cheerfully took up arms, the tribunes remonstrated in vain, and two large armies were levied. Nautius led one of them against the Sabines, formed an entrenched camp, sent out, generally at night, small bodies who created such destruction in the Sabine territory that the Roman borders appeared in comparison almost untouched by war. Minucius was not so fortunate, nor did he conduct the campaign with the same energy; after taking up an entrenched position not far from the enemy, he remained timidly within his camp, though he had not suffered any important defeat. As usual, the enemy were emboldened by the lack of courage on the other side. They made a night attack on his camp, but as they gained little by a direct assault they proceeded the following day to invest it. Before all the exits were closed by the circumvallation, five mounted men got through the enemies' outposts and brought to Rome the news that the consul and his army were blockaded. Nothing could have happened so unlooked for, so undreamed of; the panic and confusion were as great as if it had been the City and not the camp that was invested. The consul Nautius was summoned home, but as he did nothing equal to the emergency, they decided to appoint a dictator to retrieve the threatening position of affairs. By universal consent Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was called to the office.
It is worth while for those who despise all human interests in comparison with riches, and think that there is no scope for high honours or for virtue except where lavish wealth abounds to listen to this story.
The Story of Cincinnatus.
The one hope of Rome, Lucius Quinctius, used to cultivate a four-acre field on the other side of the Tiber, just opposite the place where the dockyard and arsenal are now situated; it bears the name of the Quinctian Meadows." There he was found by the deputation from the senate either digging out a ditch or ploughing, at all events, as is generally agreed, intent on his husbandry. After mutual salutations he was requested to put on his toga that he might hear the mandate of the senate, and they expressed the hope that it might turn out well for him and for the State. He asked them, in surprise, if all was well, and bade his wife, Racilia, bring him his toga quickly from the cottage. Wiping off the dust and perspiration, he put it on and came forward, on which the deputation saluted him as dictator and congratulated him, invited him to the City and explained the state of apprehension in which the army were. A vessel had been provided for him by the government, and after he had crossed over, he was welcomed by his three sons who had come out to meet him. They were followed by other relatives and friends, and by the majority of the senate. Escorted by this numerous gathering and preceded by the lictors, he was conducted to his house. There was also an enormous gathering of the plebs, but they were by no means so pleased to see Quinctius; they regarded the power with which he was invested as excessive, and the man himself more dangerous than his power. Nothing was done that night beyond adequately guarding the City.