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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 37: War with Etruria. Battle of the Ciminian forest.[309 BC]
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This expedition did not bring the war to a close, it only extended it. The whole country lying below the Ciminian range had felt the effect of his devastations, and they roused the indignation of the cantons of Etruria and of the adjoining districts of Umbria. A larger army than had ever assembled before was marched to Sutrium. Not only did they advance their camp beyond the edge of the forest, but they showed such eagerness that they marched down in battle order on to the plain as soon as possible. After advancing some distance they halted, leaving a space between them and the Roman camp for the enemy to form his lines. When they became aware that their enemy declined battle, they marched up to the rampart of the camp and, on seeing that the outposts retired within the camp, they loudly insisted upon their generals ordering the day's rations to be brought down to them from their camp, as they intended to remain under arms and attack the hostile camp, if not by night, at all events at dawn. The Romans were quite as excited at the prospect of battle, but they were kept quiet by their commander's [Note 1] authority. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when the general ordered the troops to take food, and instructed them to remain under arms and in readiness at whatever hour he gave the signal, whether by day or by night. In a brief address to his men he drew a contrast between the military qualities of the Samnites and those of the Etruscans, speaking highly of the former and disparaging the latter, saying that there was no comparison between them as regarded either their courage or their numbers. They would learn in time that he had another weapon in reserve, meanwhile he must keep silence. By these dark hints he made his men believe that the enemy were being betrayed, and this helped to restore the courage which had quailed at the sight of such an immense multitude. This impression was confirmed by the absence of any intention on the part of the enemy to entrench the ground they were occupying. |
After the troops had had dinner, they rested until about the fourth watch. Then they rose quietly and armed themselves. A quantity of mattock-headed axes were distributed to the camp-followers, with which they were to dig away the rampart and fill up the fosse with it The troops were formed up within their entrenchments, and picked cohorts were posted at the exits of the camp. Then a little before dawn -- in summer nights the time for deepest sleep -- the signal was given, the men crossed the levelled rampart in line and fell upon the enemy, who were lying about in all directions. Some were killed before they could stir, others only half awake as they lay, most of them whilst wildly endeavouring to seize their arms. Only a few had time to arm themselves, and these, with no standards under which to rally, no officers to lead them, were routed and fled, the Romans following in hot pursuit. Some sought their camp, others the forest. The latter proved the safer refuge, for the camp, situated in the plain below, was taken the same day. The gold and silver were ordered to be brought to the consul; the rest of the spoil became the property of the soldiers. The killed and prisoners amounted to 60,000.
Some authors assert that this great battle was fought beyond the Ciminian forest, at Perusia, and that fears were felt in the City lest the army, cut off from all help by that terrible forest, should he overwhelmed by a united force of Tuscans and Umbrians. But wherever it was fought, the Romans had the best of it. As a result of this victory, Perusia, Cortona, and Arretium, which were at that time the three leading cantons of Etruria, sent to Rome for a treaty of peace. A thirty years' truce was granted them.
Note 1: commander = Fabius
Event: War with Etruria.