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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