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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 62: The Battle with the Sabines.[449 BC]
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The Romans had not only recovered their courage, but they were burning with indignation. The other army, they said, was about to return to the City in triumph, whilst they were exposed to the taunts of an insolent foe. When would they ever be a match for the enemy if they were not now? The consul [Note 1] became aware of these murmurings of discontent, and after summoning the soldiers to an assembly, addressed them as follows: "How the battle was fought on Algidus, soldiers, I suppose you have heard. The army behaved as the army of a free people ought to behave. The victory was won by the generalship of my colleague and the bravery of his soldiers. As far as I am concerned, I am ready to adopt that plan of operations which you, my soldiers, have the courage to execute. The war may either be prolonged with advantage, or brought to an early close. If it is to be protracted I shall continue the method of training which I have begun, so that your spirits and courage may rise day by day. If you want it brought to a decisive issue, come now, raise such a shout as you will raise in battle as a proof of your willingness and courage." After they had raised the shout with great alacrity, he assured them that, with the blessing of heaven, he would comply with their wishes and lead them out to battle on the morrow. The rest of the day was spent in getting their armour and weapons ready. |
No sooner did the Sabines see the Romans forming in order of battle the next morning than they also advanced to an engagement which they had long been eager for. The battle was such as would be expected between armies both of which were full of self-confidence -- the one proud of its old and unbroken renown, the other flushed with its recent victory. The Sabines called strategy to their aid, for, after giving their line an extent equal to that of the enemy, they kept 2000 men in reserve to make an impression on the Roman left when the battle was at its height. By this flank attack they had almost surrounded and were beginning to overpower that wing, when the cavalry of the two legions -- about 600 strong- -sprang from their horses and rushed to the front to support their comrades, who were now giving way. They checked the enemy's advance and at the same time roused the courage of the infantry by sharing their danger, and appealing to their sense of shame, by showing that whilst the cavalry could fight either mounted or on foot, the infantry, trained to fight on foot, were inferior even to dismounted cavalry.
Note 1: consul = Horatius
Event: War with Sabines and Aequi
Triumph:The highest honour to a general: clad like Jupiter he drove in a chariot drawn by four white horses. Before him walked the prisoners taken in the war, and the spoils of the captured cities, and in later times pictures of the conquered territories were carried before the general's chariot. He was followed by his troops, who sung songs, often extempore effusions, in honour of their commander.
Foot:a. part of the body (3379). b. infantry (6534).