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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 5: War of Aequi and Volscians Cont.[464 BC]
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Numerous maneuvers and skirmishes took place during these days, because the enemy with his superior numbers was able to attack the Romans from many points and so wear out their strength, as they were not able to meet them everywhere. Whilst one part of their army attacked the camp, another was sent to devastate the Roman territory, and, if a favourable opportunity arose, to make an attempt on the City itself. Lucius Valerius was left to guard the City, the consul Postumius was sent to repel the raids on the frontier. No precaution was omitted, no exertion spared; detachments were posted in the City, bodies of troops before the gates, veterans manned the walls, and as a necessary measure in a time of such disturbance, a cessation of public business was ordered for some days. In the camp, meanwhile, the consul Furius, after remaining inactive during the first days of the siege, made a sortie from the decuman gate and surprised the enemy, and though he could have pursued him, he refrained from doing so, fearing lest the camp might be attacked from the other side. Furius, a staff officer and brother of the consul, was carried too far in the charge, and did not notice, in the excitement of the pursuit, that his own men were returning and that the enemy were coming upon him from behind. Finding himself cut off, after many fruitless attempts to cut his way back to camp, he fell fighting desperately. The consul, hearing that his brother was surrounded, returned to the fight, and whilst he plunged into the thick of the fray was wounded, and with difficulty rescued by those round him. This incident damped the courage of his own men and raised that of the enemy, who were so inspirited by the death of a staff officer and the wound of the consul that the Romans, who had been driven back to their camp and again besieged, were no longer a match for them either in spirits or fighting strength. Their utmost efforts failed to keep the enemy in check, and they would have been in extreme danger had not Titus Quinctius come to their assistance with foreign troops, an army composed of Latin and Hernican contingents. As the Aequi were directing their whole attention to the Roman camp and exultingly displaying the staff officer's head he attacked them in rear, whilst at a signal given by him a sortie was made simultaneously from the camp and a large body of the enemy were surrounded. |
Amongst the Aequi who were in the Roman territory there was less loss in killed and wounded, but they were more effectually scattered in flight. Whilst they were dispersed over the country with their plunder, Postumius attacked them at various points where he had posted detachments. Their army was thus broken up into scattered bodies of fugitives, and in their flight they fell in with Quinctius, returning from his victory, with the wounded consul. The consul's army fought a brilliant action and avenged the wounds of the consuls and the slaughter of the staff officer and his cohorts.
During those days great losses were inflicted and sustained by both sides. In a matter of such antiquity it is difficult to make any trustworthy statement as to the exact number of those who fought or those who fell. Valerius of Antium, however, ventures to give definite totals. He puts the Romans who fell in Hernican territory at 5800, and the Antiates who were killed by Aulus Postumius whilst raiding the Roman territory at 2400. The rest who fell in with Quinctius whilst carrying off their plunder got off with nothing like so small a loss; he gives as the exact number of their killed, 4230.
On the return to Rome, the order for the cessation of all public business was revoked. The sky seemed to be all on fire, and other portents were either actually seen, or people in their fright imagined that they saw them. To avert these alarming omens, public intercessions were ordered for three days, during which all the temples were filled with crowds of men and women imploring the protection of the gods. After this the Latin and Hernican cohorts received the thanks of the senate for their services and were dismissed to their homes. The thousand soldiers from Antium who had come after the battle, too late to help, were sent back almost with ignominy.
Event: War with Aequi and Volscians
Decuman gate (Porta Decumana):The gate on the rear side of the standard camp of the Roman army