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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VII Chapter 13: War with the Gauls. The army wants to attack.[358 BC]
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Tullius was now first centurion for the seventh time, and there was not in the whole army amongst the infantry officers a more distinguished soldier. He led the procession to the tribunal, and Sulpicius was not more surprised at seeing the gathering than at seeing Tullius at the head of it. |
He began: "Do not be surprised, dictator, at my being here. The whole army is under the impression that it has been condemned by you for cowardice and to mark its disgrace has been deprived of its arms. It has asked me to plead its cause before you. Even if we could be charged with deserting our ranks and turning our backs to the enemy, or with the disgraceful loss of our standards, even then I should think it only fair for you to allow us to amend our fault by courage and to wipe out the memory of our disgraceful conduct by winning fresh glory. Even the legions which were routed at the Alia marched out afterwards from Veii and recovered the City which they had lost through panic. For us, thanks to the goodness of the gods and the happy fortune which attends on you and on Rome, our fortunes and our honour remain unimpaired. And yet I hardly dare mention the word "honour" whilst the enemy ventures to mock us with every kind of insult, as if we were hiding ourselves like women behind our rampart, and -- what grieves us much more -- even you our commander have made up your mind that your army is without courage, without weapons, without hands to use them, and before you have put us to the proof have so despaired of us that you look upon yourself as the commander of cripples and weaklings. What other reason can we believe there to be, why you, a veteran commander, a most gallant soldier, should be as they say sitting with your arms folded? However the case may be, it is more true to say that you appear to doubt our courage than that we doubt yours."
"But if this is not your doing, but a piece of State policy, if it is some concerted scheme of the patricians and not war with the Gauls that is keeping us in banishment from the City and from our household gods, then I ask you to regard what I am now going to say as addressed not by soldiers to their commander but to the patricians by the plebs, who say that as you have your projects so they will have theirs. Who could possibly be angry with us for regarding ourselves as your soldiers, not your slaves, sent to war not into banishment, ready, if any one gives the sign and leads us into battle, to fight as becomes men and Romans, equally ready, if there is no need for arms, to live a life of peace and quietness in Rome rather than in camp? This is what we would say to the patricians."
"But you are our commander, and we your soldiers implore you to give us a chance of fighting. We are eager to win a victory, but to win it under your leadership; it is on you that we want to bestow the laurels of glory, it is with you that we desire to enter the City in triumphal procession, it is behind your chariot that we would go with joyous thanksgivings up to the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus."
This speech of Tullius' was followed by earnest requests from the whole army that he would give the signal and order them to arm.
Event: Second war with the Gauls
|Septimum primum pilum iam Tullius ducebat neque erat in exercitu, qui quidem pedestria stipendia fecisset, uir factis nobilior. Is praecedens militum agmen ad tribunal pergit mirantique Sulpicio non turbam magis quam turbae principem Tullium, imperiis oboedientissimum militem, "si licet, dictator" inquit, "condemnatum se uniuersus exercitus a te ignauiae ratus et prope ignominiae causa destitutum sine armis orauit me ut suam causam apud te agerem. Equidem, sicubi loco cessum, si terga data hosti, si signa foede amissa obici nobis possent, tamen hoc a te impetrari aequum censerem ut nos uirtute culpam nostram corrigere et abolere flagitii memoriam noua gloria patereris. Etiam ad Alliam fusae legiones eandem quam per pauorem amiserant patriam profectae postea a Veiis uirtute reciperauere. Nobis deum benignitate, felicitate tua populique Romani, et res et gloria est integra; quamquam de gloria uix dicere ausim, si nos et hostes haud secus quam feminas abditos intra uallum omnibus contumeliis eludunt, et tu imperator noster—quod aegrius patimur—exercitum tuum sine animis, sine armis, sine manibus iudicas esse et, priusquam expertus nos esses, de nobis ita desperasti ut te mancorum ac debilium ducem iudicares esse. Quid enim aliud esse causae credamus, cur ueteranus dux, fortissimus bello, compressis, quod aiunt, manibus sedeas? Vtcumque enim se habet res, te de nostra uirtute dubitasse uideri quam nos de tua uerius est. Sin autem non tuum istuc sed publicum est consilium, et consensus aliqui patrum, non Gallicum bellum, nos ab urbe, a penatibus nostris ablegatos tenet, quaeso, ut ea quae dicam non a militibus imperatori dicta censeas sed a plebe patribus—quae si, ut uos uestra habeatis consilia, sic se sua habituram dicat, quis tandem suscenseat?—milites nos esse non seruos uestros, ad bellum non in exsilium missos; si quis det signum, in aciem educat, ut uiris ac Romanis dignum sit, pugnaturos: si nihil armis opus sit, otium Romae potius quam in castris acturos. Haec dicta sint patribus. Te, imperator, milites tui oramus ut nobis pugnandi copiam facias; cum uincere cupimus, tum te duce uincere, tibi lauream insignem deferre, tecum triumphantes urbem inire, tuum sequentes currum Iouis optimi maximi templum gratantes ouantesque adire." Orationem Tulli exceperunt preces multitudinis et undique, ut signum daret, ut capere arma iuberet, clamabant.|