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Quote of the day: Equally vicious with his brother
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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book V Chapter 16: War with Tarquinii. -- The Answer of the Oracle.[397 BC]
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Previous to their return, and before any way of dealing with the Alban portent was discovered, the new consular tribunes entered upon office. They were Lucius Julius Julus, Lucius Furius Medullinus -- for the fourth time -- Lucius Sergius Fidenas, Aulus Postumius Regillensis, Publius Cornelius Maluginensis, and Aulus Manlius.

This year a new enemy arose. The people of Tarquinii saw that the Romans were engaged in numerous campaigns -- against the Volscians at Anxur, where the garrison was blockadeds; against the Aequi at Labici, who were attacking the Roman colonists, and, in addition to these, at Veii, Falerii, and Capenae, whilst, owing to the contentions between the plebs and the senate, things were no quieter within the walls of the City. Regarding this as a favourable opportunity for mischief, they despatched some light-armed cohorts to harry the Roman territory, in the belief that the Romans would either let the outrage pass unpunished to avoid having another war on their shoulders, or would resent it with a small and weak force. The Romans felt more indignation than anxiety at the raid, and without making any great effort, took prompt steps to avenge it. Aulus Postumius and Lucius Julius raised a force, not by a regular levy -- for they were obstructed by the tribunes of the plebs -- but consisting mostly of volunteers whom they had induced by strong appeals to come forward. With this they advanced by cross marches through the territory of Caere and surprised the Tarquinians as they were returning heavily laden with booty. They slew great numbers, stripped the whole force of their baggage, and returned with the recovered possessions from their farms to Rome. Two days were allowed for the owners to identify their property; what was unclaimed on the third day, most of it belonging to the enemy, was sold " under the spear," and the proceeds distributed amongst the soldiers.

The issues of the other wars, especially of that against Veii, were still undecided, and the Romans were already despairing of success through their own efforts, and were looking to the Fates and the gods, when the embassy returned from Delphi with the sentence of the oracle. It was in accord with the answer given by the Veientine soothsayer and ran as follows:-

"See to it, Roman, that the rising flood
At Alba flow not over its banks and shape.
Its channel seawards.
Harmless through thy fields
Shalt thou disperse it, scattered into rills.
Then fiercely press upon thy foeman's walls,
For now the Fates have given thee victory.
That city which long years thou hast besieged
Shall now be thine. And when the war hath end,
Do thou, the victor, bear an ample gift.s
Into my temple, and the ancestral rites
Now in disuse, see that thou celebrate
Anew with all their wonted pomp.

Events: Siege of Veii, 397 BC, War with Tarquinii, Mission to Delphi