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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 59: War with the Volscians and Aequi (Cont.)[471 BC]
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|None of this escaped the notice of the Veientines, and they pressed on more vigorously in the hope that the Roman army would show the same spirit of disaffection towards Appius which it had shown towards Fabius. But it was much more violent towards Appius than it had been towards Fabius, for the soldiers not only refused to conquer, like the army of Fabius, but they wished to be conquered. When led into action they broke into a disgraceful flight and made for their camp, and offered no resistance till they saw the Volscians actually attacking their entrenchments and doing frightful execution in their rear. Then they were compelled to fight, in order that the victorious enemy might be dislodged from their rampart; it was, however, quite evident that the Roman soldiers only fought to prevent the capture of the camp; otherwise they rejoiced in their ignominious defeat. Appius' determination as in no way weakened by this, but when he was meditating more severe measures and ordering an assembly of his troops, the officers of his staff and the military tribunes gathered round him and warned him on no account to try how far he could stretch his authority, for its force wholly depended upon the free consent of those who obeyed it. They said that the soldiers as a body refused to come to the assembly, and demands were heard on all sides for the camp to be removed from the Volscian territory; only a short time before the victorious enemy had all but forced his way into the camp. There were not only suspicions of a serious mutiny, the evidence was before their eyes. Appius yielded at last to their remonstrances. He knew that they would gain nothing but a delay of punishment, and consented to forego the assembly. Orders were issued for an advance on the morrow, and the trumpet gave the signal for starting at dawn. When the army had got clear of the camp and was forming in marching order, the Volscians, aroused, apparently, by the same signal, fell upon the rear. The confusion thus created extended to the leading ranks, and set up such a panic in the whole army that it was impossible for either orders to be heard or a fighting line to be formed. No one thought of anything but flight. They made their way over heaps of bodies and arms in such wild haste that the enemy gave up the pursuit before the Romans abandoned their flight. At last, after the consul had vainly endeavoured to follow up and rally his men, the scattered troops were gradually got together again, and he fixed his camp on territory undisturbed by war. He called up the men for an assembly, and after inveighing, with perfect justice, against an army which had been false to military discipline and had deserted its standards, he asked them individually where he standards were, where their arms were. The soldiers who had thrown away their arms, the standard-bearers who had lost their standards, and in addition to these the centurions and duplicarii who had deserted their ranks, he ordered to be scourged and beheaded. Of the rank and file every tenth man was drawn by lot for punishment.||
Standard:When an army was in camp, they were fixed in the ground, each marking the station of the cohort to which it belonged; when they were taken up it was the signal for breaking up the camp and commencing the march.