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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VII Chapter 8: War with the Hernici (Cont.)[362 BC]
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Then the struggle was kept up by the foremost men of each nation. Whatever losses the common chances of battle inflicted on each side were many times greater than could have been expected from their numbers. The rest of the soldiers stood like a crowd of spectators, leaving the fighting to their chiefs as if it were their special privilege, and placing all their hopes of victory on the courage of others. Many fell on both sides, still more were wounded. At length the cavalry began to ask each other somewhat bitterly, "What was left for them to do if after failing to repulse the enemy when mounted they could make no impression on them whilst fighting on foot. What third mode of fighting were they looking for? Why had they dashed forward so eagerly in front of the standards to fight in a position which was not their proper one?" Urged on by these mutual reproaches, they raised their battle shout again and pressed forward. Slowly they compelled the enemy to give ground, then they drove them back more rapidly, and at last fairly routed them. It is not easy to say what gave the advantage where the two sides were so evenly matched, unless it be that the Fortune which ever watches over each nation had the power to raise and to depress their courage. |
The Romans followed up the fleeing Hernici as far as their camp; but they abstained from attacking it, as it was late in the day. They offered sacrifices the next morning for a long time without obtaining any favourable omen, and this prevented the dictator [Note 1] from giving the signal for attack before noon; the fight consequently went on into the night. The next day they found the camp abandoned; the Hernici had fled and left some of their wounded behind. The people of Signium saw the main body of the fugitives streaming past their walls with their standards few and far between, and sallying out to attack them they scattered them in headlong flight over the fields. The victory was anything but a bloodless one for the Romans; they lost a quarter of their whole force, and by no means the smallest loss fell on the cavalry, a considerable number of whom perished.
Event: War with the Hernici