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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 61: Aequi and Volscians beaten.[449 BC]
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On the other side the consul bade the Romans remember that on that day for the first time they were fighting as free men on behalf of a free Rome. It was for themselves that they would conquer, the fruits of their victory would not go to decemvirs. The battle was not being fought under an Appius, but under their consul Valerius, a descendant of the liberators of the Roman people, and a liberator himself. They must show that it was owing to the generals, not to the soldiers, that they had failed to conquer in former battles; it would be a disgrace if they showed more courage against their own citizens than against a foreign foe, or dreaded slavery at home more than abroad. It was only Verginia whose chastity was imperilled, only Appius whose licentiousness was dangerous, in a time of peace, but if the fortune of war should turn against them, every one's children would be in danger from all those thousands of enemies. He would not forebode disasters which neither Jupiter nor Mars their Father would permit to a City founded under those happy auspices. He reminded them of the Aventine and the Sacred Hill, and besought them to carry back unimpaired dominion to that spot where a few months before they had won their liberties. They must make it clear that Roman soldiers possessed the same qualities now that the decemvirs were expelled which they had before they were created, and that Roman courage was not weakened by the fact that the laws were equal for all. |
After this address to the infantry, he galloped up to the cavalry. "Come, young men," he shouted, "prove yourselves superior to the infantry in courage, as you are superior to them in honour and rank. They dislodged the enemy at the first onset, do you ride in amongst them and drive them from the field. They will not stand your charge, even now they are hesitating rather than resisting." With slackened rein, they spurred their horses against the enemy already shaken by the infantry encounter, and sweeping through their broken ranks were carried to the rear. Some, wheeling round in the open ground, rode across and headed off the fugitives who were everywhere making for the camp. The line of infantry with the consul in person and the whole of the battle rolled in the same direction; they got possession of the camp with an immense loss to the enemy, but the booty was still greater than the carnage.
The news of this battle was carried not only to the City, but to the other army amongst the Sabines. In the City it was celebrated with public rejoicings, but in the other camp it fired the soldiers to emulation. By employing them in incursions and testing their courage in skirmishes, Horatius had trained them to put confidence in themselves instead of brooding over the disgrace incurred under the leadership of the decemvirs, and this had gone far to make them hope for ultimate success. The Sabines, emboldened by their success of the previous year were incessantly provoking them and urging them to fight, and wanting to know why they were wasting their time in petty incursions and retreats like bandits, and frittering away the effort of one decisive action in a number of insignificant engagements. Why, they tauntingly asked, did they not meet them in a pitched battle and trust once for all to the fortune of war?
Event: War with Sabines and Aequi