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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 69: War with Aequi and Volscians. The levy.[446 BC]
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Seldom if ever was speech of popular tribune more favourably received by the plebeians than that of this stern consul. The men of military age who in similar emergencies had made refusal to be enrolled their most effective weapon against the senate, began now to turn their thoughts to arms and war. The fugitives from the country districts, those who had been plundered and wounded in the fields, reported a more terrible state of things than what was visible from the walls, and filled the whole City with a thirst for vengeance. When the senate met, all eyes turned to Quinctius as the one man who could uphold the majesty of Rome. The leaders of the House declared his speech to be worthy of the position he held as consul, worthy of the many consulships he had previously held, worthy of his whole life, rich as it was in honours, many actually enjoyed, many more deserved. Other consuls, they said, had either flattered the plebs by betraying the authority and privileges of the patricians, or, by insisting too harshly upon the rights of their order, had intensified the opposition of the masses. Titus Quinctius, in his speech, had kept in view the authority of the senate, the concord of the two orders, and, above all, the circumstances of the hour. They begged him and his colleague to take over the conduct of public affairs, and appealed to the tribunes to be of one mind with the consuls in wishing to see the war rolled back from the walls of the City, and inducing the plebs, at such a crisis, to yield to the authority of the senate. Their common fatherland was, they declared, calling on the tribunes and imploring their aid now that their fields were ravaged and the City all but attacked. |
By universal consent a levy was decreed and held. The consuls gave public notice that there was no time for investigating claims for exemption, and all the men liable for service were to present themselves the next day in the Campus Martius. When the war was over they would give time for inquiry into the cases of those who had not given in their names, and those who could not prove justification would be held to be deserters. All who were liable to serve appeared on the following day.
Each of the cohorts selected their own centurions, and two senators were placed in command of each cohort. We understand that these arrangements were so promptly carried out that the standards, which had been taken from the treasury and carried down to the Campus Martius by the quaestors in the morning, left the Campus at 10 o'clock that same day, and the army, a newly-raised one with only a few cohorts of veterans following as volunteers, halted at the tenth milestone. The next day brought them within sight of the enemy, and they entrenched their camp close to the enemy's camp at Corbio. The Romans were fired by anger and resentment; the enemy, conscious of their guilt after so many revolts, despaired of pardon. There was consequently no delay in bringing matters to an issue.