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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book V Chapter 13: Recovery of Anxur -- Pestilence in Rome -- Battle before Veii[399 BC]
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The Volscian Anxur was recaptured owing to the laxity of the guard during a festival. |
The year was remarkable for such a cold and snowy winter that the roads were blocked and the Tiber rendered unnavigable. There was no change in the price of corn, owing to a previous accumulation of supplies.
Publius Licinius had won his position without exciting any disturbance, more to the delight of the people than to the annoyance of the senate, and he discharged his office in such a way that there was a general desire to choose the consular tribunes out of the plebeians at the next election. The only patrician candidate who secured a place was Marcus Veturius. The rest, who were plebeians, received the support of nearly all the centuries. Their names were Marcus Pomponius, Gnaeus Duilius, Volero Publilius, and Gnaeus Genucius. In consequence either of the unhealthy weather occasioned by the sudden change from cold to heat, or from some other cause, the severe winter was followed by a pestilential summer, which proved fatal to man and beast. As neither a cause nor a cure could be found for its fatal ravages, the senate ordered the Sibylline Books to be consulted. The priests who had charge of them appointed for the first time in Rome a lectisternium. Apollo and Latona, Diana and Hercules, Mercury and Neptune were for eight days propitiated on three couches decked with the most magnificent coverlets that could be obtained. Solemnities were conducted also in private houses. It is stated that throughout the City the front gates of the houses were thrown open and all sorts of things placed for general use in the open courts, all comers, whether acquaintances or strangers, being brought in to share the hospitality. Men who had been enemies held friendly and sociable conversations with each other and abstained from all litigation, the manacles even were removed from prisoners during this period, and afterwards it seemed an act of impiety that men to whom the gods had brought such relief should be put in chains again.
In the meanwhile, at Veii there was increased alarm, created by the three wars being combined in one. For the men of Capenae and Falerii had suddenly arrived to relieve the city, and as on the former occasion, the Romans had to fight a back to back battle round the entrenchments against three armies. What helped them most of all was the recollection of the condemnation of Sergius and Verginius. From the main camp, where on the former occasion there had been inaction, forces were rapidly brought round and attacked the Capenates in the rear while their attention was concentrated on the Roman lines. The fighting which ensued created panic in the Faliscan ranks also, and whilst they were wavering, a well-timed charge from the camp routed them, and the victors, following them up, caused immense losses amongst them. Not long afterwards the troops who were devastating the territory of Capenae came upon them whilst straggling in disorder as though safe from attack, and those whom the battle had spared were annihilated. Of the Veientines also, many who were fleeing to the city were killed in front of the gates, which were closed to prevent the Romans from breaking in, and so the hindmost of the fugitives were shut out.