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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 30: War against Sabines and Aequi[494 BC]
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To many the sentiments which Appius uttered seemed cruel and monstrous, as they really were. On the other hand, the proposals of Verginius and Larcius would set a dangerous precedent, that of Larcius at all events, as it would destroy all credit. The advice given by Verginius was regarded as the most moderate, being a middle course between the other two. But through the strength of his party, and the consideration of personal interests which always have injured and always will injure public policy, Appius won the day. He was very nearly being himself appointed dictator, an appointment which would more than anything have alienated the plebians, and that too at a most critical time when the Volscians, the Aequi, and the Sabines were all in arms together. The consuls and the older patricians, however, took care that a magistracy clothed with such tremendous powers should be entrusted to a man of moderate temper. They created Marcus Valerius, the son of Volesus, dictator. Though the plebeians recognised that it was against them that a dictator had been created, still, as they held their right of appeal under a law which his brother had passed, they did not fear any harsh or tyrannical treatment from that family. Their hopes were confirmed by an edict issued by the dictator, very similar to the one made by Servilius. That edict had been ineffective, but they thought that more confidence could be placed in the person and power of the dictator, so, dropping all opposition, they gave in their names for enrolment. Ten legions, were formed, a larger army than had ever before been assembled. Three of them were assigned to each of the consuls, the dictator took command of four. |
The war could no longer be delayed. The Aequi had invaded the Latin territory. Envoys sent by the Latins asked the senate either to send help or allow them to arm for the purpose of defending their frontier. It was thought safer to defend the unarmed Latins than to allow them to rearm themselves. The consul Vetusius was despatched, and that was the end of the raids. The Aequi withdrew from the plains, and trusting more to the nature of the country than to their arms, sought safety on the mountain ridges.
The other consul advanced against the Volscians, and to avoid loss of time, he devastated their fields with the object of forcing them to move their camp nearer to his and so bringing on an engagement. The two armies stood facing each other, in front of their respective lines, on the level space between the camps. The Volscians had considerably the advantage in numbers, and accordingly showed their contempt for their foe by coming on in disorder. The Roman consul kept his army motionless, forbade their raising an answering shout, and ordered them to stand with their spears fixed in the ground, and when the enemy came to close quarters, to spring forward and make all possible use of their swords. The Volscians, wearied with their running and shouting, threw themselves upon the Romans as upon men benumbed with fear, but when they felt the strength of the counter-attack and saw the swords flashing before them, they retreated in confusion just as if they had been caught in an ambush, and owing to the speed at which they had come into action, they had not even strength to flee. The Romans, on the other hand, who at the beginning of the battle had remained quietly standing, were fresh and vigorous, and easily overtook the exhausted Volscians, rushed their camp, drove them out, and pursued them as far as Velitrae, victors and vanquished bursting pell-mell into the city. A greater slaughter of all ranks took place there than in the actual battle; a few who threw down their arms and surrendered received quarter.
|Multis, ut erat, horrida et atrox uidebatur Appi sententia; rursus Vergini Largique exemplo haud salubres, utique Largi [putabant sententiam], quae totam fidem tolleret. Medium maxime et moderatum utroque consilium Vergini habebatur; sed factione respectuque rerum priuatarum, quae semper offecere officientque publicis consiliis, Appius uicit, ac prope fuit ut dictator ille idem crearetur; quae res utique alienasset plebem periculosissimo tempore, cum Volsci Aequique et Sabini forte una omnes in armis essent. Sed curae fuit consulibus et senioribus patrum, ut imperium sua ui uehemens mansueto permitteretur ingenio: M". Valerium dictatorem Volesi filium creant. Plebes etsi aduersus se creatum dictatorem uidebat, tamen cum prouocationem fratris lege haberet, nihil ex ea familia triste nec superbum timebat; edictum deinde a dictatore propositum confirmauit animos, Seruili fere consulis edicto conueniens; sed et homini et potestati melius rati credi, omisso certamine nomina dedere. Quantus nunquam ante exercitus, legiones decem effectae; ternae inde datae consulibus, quattuor dictator usus. Nec iam poterat bellum differri. Aequi Latinum agrum inuaserant. Oratores Latinorum ab senatu petebant ut aut mitterent subsidium aut se ipsos tuendorum finium causa capere arma sinerent. Tutius uisum est defendi inermes Latinos quam pati retractare arma. Vetusius consul missus est; is finis populationibus fuit. Cessere Aequi campis, locoque magis quam armis freti summis se iugis montium tutabantur. Alter consul in Volscos profectus, ne et ipse tereret tempus, uastandis maxime agris hostem ad conferenda propius castra dimicandumque acie exciuit. Medio inter castra campo ante suum quisque uallum infestis signis constitere. Multitudine aliquantum Volsci superabant; itaque effusi et contemptim pugnam iniere. Consul Romanus nec promouit aciem, nec clamorem reddi passus defixis pilis stare suos iussit: ubi ad manum uenisset hostis, tum coortos tota ui gladiis rem gerere. Volsci cursu et clamore fessi cum se uelut stupentibus metu intulissent Romanis, postquam impressionem sensere ex aduerso factam et ante oculos micare gladios, haud secus quam si in insidias incidissent, turbati uertunt terga; et ne ad fugam quidem satis uirium fuit, quia cursu in proelium ierant. Romani contra, quia principio pugnae quieti steterant, uigentes corporibus, facile adepti fessos, et castra impetu ceperunt et castris exutum hostem Velitras persecuti uno agmine uictores cum uictis in urbem inrupere; plusque ibi sanguinis promiscua omnium generum caede quam in ipsa dimicatione factum. Paucis data uenia, qui inermes in deditionem uenerunt.|