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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VI Chapter 24: Wars with the Volscians and Latins. Camillus.[381 BC]
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No sooner had their arms clashed together at the first onset than the enemy began to retire, not through fear but for tactical reasons. Behind them the ground rose gently up to their camp, and owing to their preponderance in numbers they had been able to leave several cohorts armed and drawn up for action in their camp. After the battle had begun these were to make a sortie as soon as the enemy were near their entrenchments. In pursuing the retiring enemy the Romans had been drawn on to the rising ground and were in some disorder. Seizing their opportunity the enemy made their charge from the camp. It was the victors' turn now to be alarmed, and this new danger and the uphill fighting made the Roman line give ground. Whilst the Volscians who had charged from the camp pressed home their attack, the others who had made the pretended flight renewed the contest. At last the Romans no longer retired in order; forgetting their recent battle-ardour and their old renown they began to flee in all directions, and in wild disorder were making for their camp. Camillus, after being assisted to mount by those around, hastily brought up the reserves and blocked their flight. "Is this, soldiers," he cried, "the battle which you were clamouring for? Who is the man, who is the god that you can throw the blame upon? Then you were foolhardy; now you are cowards. You have been following another captain [Note 1], now follow Camillus and conquer, as you are accustomed to do, under my leadership. Why are you looking at the rampart and the camp? Not a man of you shall enter there unless you are victorious." A feeling of shame at first arrested their disorderly flight, then, when they saw the standards brought round and the line turning to face the enemy, and their leader, illustrious through a hundred triumphs and now venerable through age, showing himself amongst the foremost ranks where the risk and toil were greatest, mutual reproaches mingled with words of encouragement were heard through the whole field till finally they burst into a ringing cheer. |
The other tribune did not show himself wanting to the occasion. Whilst his colleague was rallying the infantry he was sent to the cavalry. He did not venture to censure them -- his share in their fault left him too little authority for that -- but dropping all tone of command be implored them one and all to clear him from the guilt of that day's misfortunes. " In spite," he said, "of the refusal and opposition of my colleague I preferred to associate myself with the rashness of all rather than with the prudence of one. Whatever your fortunes may be, Camillus sees his own glory reflected in them; I, unless the day is won, shall have the utter wretchedness of sharing the fortunes of all but bearing the infamy alone."
As the infantry were wavering it seemed best for the cavalry, after dismounting and leaving their horses to be held, to attack the enemy on foot. Conspicuous for their arms and dashing courage they went wherever they saw the infantry force pressed. Officers and men emulated each other in fighting with a determination and courage which never slackened. The effect of such strenuous bravery was shown in the result; the Volscians who a short time before had given ground in simulated fear were now scattered in real panic. A large number were killed in the actual battle and the subsequent flight, others in the camp, which was carried in the same charge; there were more prisoners, however, than slain.
Note 1: captain = Lucius Furius
|Simul primo concursu concrepuere arma, hostis dolo non metu pedem rettulit. lenis ab tergo cliuus erat inter aciem et castra; et, quod multitudo suppeditabat, aliquot ualidas cohortes in castris armatas instructasque reliquerant, quae inter commissum iam certamen, ubi uallo appropinquasset hostis, erumperent. Romanus cedentem hostem effuse sequendo in locum iniquum pertractus opportunus huic eruptioni fuit; uersus itaque in uictorem terror et nouo hoste et supina ualle Romanam inclinauit aciem. instant Volsci recentes qui e castris impetum fecerant; integrant et illi pugnam qui simulata cesserant fuga. iam non recipiebat se Romanus miles sed immemor recentis ferociae ueterisque decoris terga passim dabat atque effuso cursu castra repetebat, cum Camillus subiectus ab circumstantibus in equum et raptim subsidiis oppositis 'haec est' inquit, 'milites, pugna quam poposcistis? quis homo, quis deus est, quem accusare possitis? uestra illa temeritas, uestra ignauia haec est. secuti alium ducem sequimini nunc Camillum et quod ductu meo soletis uincite. quid uallum et castra spectatis? neminem uestrum illa nisi uictorem receptura sunt'. pudor primo tenuit effusos; inde, ut circumagi signa obuertique aciem uiderunt in hostem et dux, praeterquam quod tot insignis triumphis, etiam aetate uenerabilis inter prima signa ubi plurimus labor periculumque erat se offerebat, increpare singuli se quisque et alios, et adhortatio in uicem totam alacri clamore peruasit aciem. neque alter tribunus rei defuit sed missus a collega restituente peditum aciem ad equites, non castigando—ad quam rem leuiorem auctorem eum culpae societas fecerat—sed ab imperio totus ad preces uersus orare singulos uniuersosque ut se reum fortunae eius diei crimine eximerent: 'abnuente ac prohibente collega temeritati me omnium potius socium quam unius prudentiae dedi. Camillus in utraque uestra fortuna suam gloriam uidet; ego, ni restituitur pugna, quod miserrimum est, fortunam cum omnibus, infamiam solus sentiam.' optimum uisum est in fluctuante acie tradi equos et pedestri pugna inuadere hostem. eunt insignes armis animisque qua premi parte maxime peditum copias uident. nihil neque apud duces neque apud milites remittitur a summo certamine animi. sensit ergo euentus uirtutis enixae opem et Volsci, qua modo simulato metu cesserant, ea in ueram fugam effusi, magna pars et in ipso certamine et post in fuga caesi, ceteri in castris quae capta eodem impetu sunt; plures tamen capti quam occisi.|