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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IV Chapter 9: The siege and Relief of Ardea.[443 BC]
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Whilst this was going on in Rome, ambassadors came from Ardea, appealing, in the name of the ancient alliance and recently renewed treaty, for help for their city which was almost destroyed. They were not allowed, they said, to enjoy the peace which in pursuance of the soundest policy they had maintained with Rome, owing to internal disputes. The origin and occasion of these is said to have been party struggles, which have been and will be more ruinous to the majority of States than external wars or famine and pestilence or whatever else is ascribed to the wrath of the gods as the last evil which a State can suffer. |
Two young men were courting a maiden of plebeian descent celebrated for her beauty. One of them, the girl's equal in point of birth, was encouraged by her guardians, who belonged to the same class; the other, a young noble captivated solely by her beauty, was supported by the sympathy and good-will of the nobility. Party feeling had even penetrated into the girl's home, for the mother, who wanted her daughter to make as splendid a match as possible, preferred the young noble, whilst the guardians, carrying their partisanship even into such a matter as this, were working for the man of their own class. As the matter could not be settled within the four walls of the house, they brought it into court. After hearing the appeals of the mother and of the guardians, the magistrates granted the disposal of the girl's hand in accordance with the mother's wishes. But violence won the day, for the guardians, after haranguing a number of their partisans in the Forum on the iniquity of the verdict, collected a body of men and carried off the maiden from her mother's house. They were met by a still more determined troop of nobles, assembled to follow their young comrade, who was furious at the outrage. A desperate fight ensued and the plebeians got the worst of it. In a very different spirit from the Roman plebs they marched fully armed, out of the city and took possession of a hill from which they raided the lands of the nobles and laid them waste with fire and sword. A multitude of artisans who had previously taken no part in the conflict, excited by the hope of plunder, joined them, and preparations were made to besiege the city. All the horrors of war were present in the city, as though it had been infected with the madness of the two young men who were seeking fatal nuptials out of their country's ruin.
Both sides felt the need of an addition to their strength; the nobles prevailed on the Romans to come to the relief of their beleaguered city; the plebs induced the Volscians to join them in attacking Ardea. The Volscians, under the leadership of Cluilius, the Aequian, were the first to come, and drew lines of circumvallation round the enemy's walls. When news of this reached Rome the consul Marcus Geganius at once left with an army and fixed his camp three miles distant from the enemy, and as the day was declining he ordered his men to rest. At the fourth watch he ordered an advance, and so expeditiously was the task undertaken and completed, that at sunrise the Volscians saw themselves enclosed by a stronger circumvallation than the one which they had themselves carried round the city (1). In another direction the consul constructed a covered way up to the wall of Ardea by which his friends in the city could go to and fro.
(1): This description is identical with the one in Book III. chap. xxviii. Even the name of the Volscian commander is the same.
Event: Siege and relief of Ardea
|Dum haec Romae geruntur, legati ab Ardea veniunt, pro veterrima societate renouataque foedere recenti auxilium prope euersae urbi implorantes. Frui namque pace optimo consilio cum populo Romano seruata per intestina arma non licuit; quorum causa atque initium traditur ex certamine factionum ortum, quae fuerunt eruntque pluribus populis exitio quam bella externa, quam fames morbiue quaeque alia in deum iras velut ultima publicorum malorum vertunt. Virginem plebeii generis maxime forma notam duo petiere iuvenes, alter virgini genere par, tutoribus fretus, qui et ipsi eiusdem corporis erant, nobilis alter, nulla re praeterquam forma captus. Adiuuabant eum optumatium studia, per quae in domum quoque puellae certamen partium penetravit. Nobilis superior iudicio matris esse, quae quam splendidissimis nuptiis iungi puellam volebat: tutores in ea quoque re partium memores ad suum tendere. Cum res peragi intra parietes nequisset, ventum in ius est. Postulatu audito matris tutorumque, magistratus secundum parentis arbitrium dant ius nuptiarum. Sed vis potentior fuit; namque tutores, inter suae partis homines de iniuria decreti palam in foro contionati, manu facta virginem ex domo matris rapiunt; adversus quos infestior coorta optumatium acies sequitur accensum iniuria iuvenem. Fit proelium atrox. Pulsa plebs, nihil Romanae plebi similis, armata ex urbe profecta, colle quodam capto, in agros optumatium cum ferro ignique excursiones facit; urbem quoque, omni etiam expertium ante certaminis multitudine opificum ad spem praedae evocata, obsidere parat; nec ulla species cladesque belli abest, velut contacta civitate rabie duorum iuvenum funestas nuptias ex occasu patriae petentium. Parum parti utrique domi armorum bellique est visum; optumates Romanos ad auxilium urbis obsessae, plebs ad expugnandam secum Ardeam Volscos excivere. Priores Volsci duce Aequo Cluilio Ardeam venere et moenibus hostium vallum obiecere. Quod ubi Romam est nuntiatum, extemplo M. Geganius consul cum exercitu profectus tria milia passuum ab hoste locum castris cepit, praecipitique iam die curare corpora milites iubet. Quarta deinde vigilia signa profert; coeptumque opus adeo adproperatum est, ut sole orto Volsci firmiore se munimento ab Romanis circumvallatos quam a se urbem viderent; et alia parte consul muro Ardeae brachium iniunxerat, qua ex oppido sui commeare possent.|