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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book V Chapter 5: War with Veii. Speech of Appius Claudius. Cont.[403 BC]
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"Are these the men with whom war ought to be carried on in a half-hearted and dilatory fashion? If such just reasons for resentment have no force with us, do not the following considerations, I [Note 1] pray you, possess any weight? The city is hemmed in by immense siege-works which confine the enemy within his walls. He has not tilled his land, and what was tilled before has been devastated by war. If we bring our army back again, has anybody the slightest doubt that they will invade our territory not only from a thirst for revenge, but also through the sheer necessity they are under of plundering other people's property since they have lost their own? If we adopt your policy we do not postpone the war, we simply carry it within our own frontiers." |
"Well, now, what about the soldiers in whom these worthy tribunes have suddenly become interested after vainly endeavouring to rob them of their pay; what about them? They have carried a rampart and a fosse -- each requiring enormous labour -- over all that extent of ground; they have built forts, few at first, but after the army was increased, very numerous; they have raised defences not only against the city, but also as a barrier against Etruria in case any succours came from there. What need to describe the towers, the vineae, the testudines, and the other engines used in storming cities? Now that so much labour has been spent and the work of investment at last completed, do you think that they ought to be abandoned in order that by next summer we may be again exhausted by the toil of constructing them all afresh ? How much less trouble to defend the works already constructed, to press on and persevere, and so bring our cares and labours to an end! For assuredly the undertaking is not a lengthy one, if it is carried through by one continuous effort, if we do not by our own interruptions and stoppages delay the fulfilment of our hopes."
I have been speaking of the work and the loss of time. Now there are frequent meetings of the national Council of Etruria to discuss the question of sending succours to Veii. Do these allow us to forget the danger we incur by prolonging the war? As matters now stand, they are angry, resentful, and say that they will not send any -- Veii may be captured, as far as they are concerned. But who will guarantee that if the war is prolonged they will continue in the same mind? For if you give the Veientines a respite they will send a more numerous and influential embassy, and what now gives such displeasure to the Etruscans, namely, the election of a king, may after a time be annulled either by the unanimous act of the citizens in order to win the sympathies of Etruria, or by voluntary abdication on the part of the king himself, through his unwillingness to allow his crown to endanger the safety of his people."
"See how many disastrous consequences follow from the policy you recommend -- the sacrifice of works constructed with so much trouble; the threatening devastation of our borders; a war with the whole of Etruria instead of one with Veii alone."
This, tribunes, is what your proposals amount to; very much, upon my word, as if any one were to tempt a sick person, who by submitting to strict treatment could speedily recover, to indulge in eating and drinking, and so lengthen his illness and perhaps make it incurable.
Note 1: I = Appius Claudius
Vineae:Movable shelters, open at both ends, pushed along on wheels, and made of stout wattling, covered with leather. As the name suggests, the earliest were probably constructed of interlaced vine stems. Under their protection battering-rams could be worked, mines commenced, and other siege operations conducted.