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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VIII Chapter 6: The Revolt of the Latins and Campanians. The war begins.[340 BC]
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This outburst was followed by the indignant protest of the senate, and it is recorded that whilst on all hands appeals were being made to the gods, whom the consuls were continually invoking as the guardians of treaties, the voice of Annius was heard pouring contempt upon the divine majesty of the Jupiter of Rome. At all events when, in a storm of passion he was flinging himself out of the vestibule of the temple, he slipped down the steps and struck his head so heavily against the bottom step that he became unconscious. The authorities are not agreed as to whether he was actually killed, and I leave the question undecided, as also the statement that during the appeals to the gods to avenge the breach of treaties, a storm burst from the sky with a terrific roar; for they may either be true or simply invented as an appropriate representation of the wrath of the gods. |
Torquatus was sent by the senate to conduct the envoys away, and when he saw Annius lying on the ground he exclaimed, loud enough to be heard by the senators and populace alike: "It is well. The gods have commenced a just and righteous war! There is a divine power at work; thou, O Great Jupiter, art here. Not in vain have we consecrated this to be thine abode, O Father of gods and men . Why do you hesitate, Quirites, and you, senators, to take up arms when the gods are your leaders? I will lay the legions of the Latins low, just as you see their envoy lying here."
The consul's words were received by the people with loud applause and raised them to such a pitch of excitement that when the envoys took their departure they owed their safety more to the care of the magistrates who, on the consul's order, accompanied them to protect them from the attacks of the angry people than to any respect felt for the law of nations.
War having been decided upon by senate as much as people, the consuls enrolled two armies and proceeded through the territories of the Marsi and Paeligni, where they were joined by an army of Samnites. They fixed their camp at Capua, where the Latins and their allies had assembled. It is said that whilst they were there each consul had the same vision in the quiet of the night. A form greater and more awful than any human form appeared to them and announced that the commander of the one army and the army itself on the other side were destined as a sacrifice to the Dii Manes and to Mother Earth. In whichever army the commander should have devoted the legions of his enemies and himself as well to those deities, that army, that people would have the victory. When the consuls compared these visions of the night together, they decided that victims should be slain to avert the wrath of the gods, and further, that if, on inspection, they should portend the same as the vision had announced, one of the two consuls should fulfill his destiny. When the answers of the soothsayers, after they had inspected the victims, proved to correspond with their own secret belief in the vision, they called up the superior officers and told them to explain publicly to the soldiers what the gods had decreed, in order that the voluntary death of a consul might not create a panic in the army. They arranged with each other that when either division began to give way, the consul in command of it should devote himself "on behalf of the Roman people and the Quirites." The Council of war also decided that if ever any war had been conducted with the strict enforcement of orders, on this occasion certainly, military discipline should be brought back to the ancient standard. Their anxiety was increased by the fact that it was against the Latins that they had to fight, a people resembling them in language, manners, arms, and especially in their military organisation. They had been colleagues and comrades, as soldiers, centurions, and tribunes, often stationed together in the same posts and side by side in the same maniples. That this might not prove a source of error and confusion, orders were given that no one was to leave his post to fight with the enemy.