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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 26: War with the Aequi and Sabines. Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus[458 BC]
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An immense body of Sabines came in their ravages almost up to the walls of the City. The fields were ruined, the City thoroughly alarmed. Now the plebeians cheerfully took up arms, the tribunes remonstrated in vain, and two large armies were levied. Nautius led one of them against the Sabines, formed an entrenched camp, sent out, generally at night, small bodies who created such destruction in the Sabine territory that the Roman borders appeared in comparison almost untouched by war. Minucius was not so fortunate, nor did he conduct the campaign with the same energy; after taking up an entrenched position not far from the enemy, he remained timidly within his camp, though he had not suffered any important defeat. As usual, the enemy were emboldened by the lack of courage on the other side. They made a night attack on his camp, but as they gained little by a direct assault they proceeded the following day to invest it. Before all the exits were closed by the circumvallation, five mounted men got through the enemies' outposts and brought to Rome the news that the consul and his army were blockaded. Nothing could have happened so unlooked for, so undreamed of; the panic and confusion were as great as if it had been the City and not the camp that was invested. The consul Nautius was summoned home, but as he did nothing equal to the emergency, they decided to appoint a dictator to retrieve the threatening position of affairs. By universal consent Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was called to the office. |
It is worth while for those who despise all human interests in comparison with riches, and think that there is no scope for high honours or for virtue except where lavish wealth abounds to listen to this story.
The Story of Cincinnatus.
The one hope of Rome, Lucius Quinctius, used to cultivate a four-acre field on the other side of the Tiber, just opposite the place where the dockyard and arsenal are now situated; it bears the name of the Quinctian Meadows." There he was found by the deputation from the senate either digging out a ditch or ploughing, at all events, as is generally agreed, intent on his husbandry. After mutual salutations he was requested to put on his toga that he might hear the mandate of the senate, and they expressed the hope that it might turn out well for him and for the State. He asked them, in surprise, if all was well, and bade his wife, Racilia, bring him his toga quickly from the cottage. Wiping off the dust and perspiration, he put it on and came forward, on which the deputation saluted him as dictator and congratulated him, invited him to the City and explained the state of apprehension in which the army were. A vessel had been provided for him by the government, and after he had crossed over, he was welcomed by his three sons who had come out to meet him. They were followed by other relatives and friends, and by the majority of the senate. Escorted by this numerous gathering and preceded by the lictors, he was conducted to his house. There was also an enormous gathering of the plebs, but they were by no means so pleased to see Quinctius; they regarded the power with which he was invested as excessive, and the man himself more dangerous than his power. Nothing was done that night beyond adequately guarding the City.
|Vis Sabinorum ingens prope ad moenia urbis infesta populatione uenit; foedati agri, terror iniectus urbi est. Tum plebs benigne arma cepit; reclamantibus frustra tribunis magni duo exercitus scripti. Alterum Nautius contra Sabinos duxit, castrisque ad Eretum positis, per expeditiones paruas, plerumque nocturnis incursionibus, tantam uastitatem in Sabino agro reddidit ut comparati ad eam prope intacti bello fines Romani uiderentur. Minucio neque fortuna nec uis animi eadem in gerendo negotio fuit; nam cum haud procul ab hoste castra posuisset, nulla magnopere clade accepta castris se pauidus tenebat. Quod ubi senserant hostes, creuit ex metu alieno, ut fit, audacia, et nocte adorti castra postquam parum uis aperta profecerat, munitiones postero die circumdant. Quae priusquam undique uallo obiectae clauderent exitus quinque equites inter stationes hostium emissi Romam pertulere consulem exercitumque obsideri. Nihil tam inopinatum nec tam insperatum accidere potuit. Itaque tantus pauor, tanta trepidatio fuit quanta si urbem, non castra hostes obsiderent. Nautium consulem arcessunt. In quo cum parum praesidii uideretur dictatoremque dici placeret qui rem perculsam restitueret, L. Quinctius Cincinnatus consensu omnium dicitur. Operae pretium est audire qui omnia prae diuitiis humana spernunt neque honori magno locum neque uirtuti putant esse, nisi ubi effuse afluant opes. Spes unica imperii populi Romani, L. Quinctius trans Tiberim, contra eum ipsum locum ubi nunc naualia sunt, quattuor iugerum colebat agrum, quae prata Quinctia uocantur. Ibi ab legatis—seu fossam fodiens palae innixus, seu cum araret, operi certe, id quod constat, agresti intentus—salute data in uicem redditaque rogatus ut, quod bene uerteret ipsi reique publicae, togatus mandata senatus audiret, admiratus rogitansque 'satin salue?' Togam propere e tugurio proferre uxorem Raciliam iubet. Qua simul absterso puluere ac sudore uelatus processit, dictatorem eum legati gratulantes consalutant, in urbem uocant; qui terror sit in exercitu exponunt. Nauis Quinctio publice parata fuit, transuectumque tres obuiam egressi filii excipiunt, inde alii propinqui atque amici, tum patrum maior pars. Ea frequentia stipatus antecedentibus lictoribus deductus est domum. Et plebis concursus ingens fuit; sed ea nequaquam tam laeta Quinctium uidit, et imperium nimium et uirum ipso imperio uehementiorem rata. Et illa quidem nocte nihil praeterquam uigilatum est in urbe.|