Nero set out on the night following the battle, and marching at a more rapid rate than when he came, arrived at his camp before the enemy on the sixth day.
As he was not preceded by a messenger, fewer people attended him on his march; but the joy felt was so great, that they were almost insane with delight.
Neither state of feeling at Rome can be well described or told, whether that in which the citizens were when in doubtful expectation of the issue, or when they received the intelligence of victory.
Every day, from the time that news arrived that the consul Claudius had set out, from sunrise to sunset, none of the senators ever quitted the senate-house, or did the people depart from the forum. The [p. 1159]
matrons, as they had themselves no means of affording assistance, had recourse to prayers and entreaties, and going about to all the temples, wearied the gods with vows and supplications.
While the city was in this state of solicitude and suspense, a vague report first arrived that two Narnian horsemen had come from the field of battle into the camp which stood as a defence in the entrance to Umbria, with intelligence that the enemy were cut to pieces.
At first they rather heard than credited this news, as being too great and too joyful for the mind to take in, or obtain a firm belief.
Even the very rapidity with which it had arrived formed an obstacle to its reception; for it was stated that the battle took place two days before. After this a letter was brought which had been sent by Lucius Manlius Acidinus, from his camp, on the subject of the arrival of the Narnian horsemen.
This letter being conveyed through the forum to the tribunal of the praetor, drew the senators out of the senate-house;
and with such eagerness and hurry did the people crowd to the doors of the senate-house, that the messenger could not approach, but was dragged off by persons who asked him questions, and demanded vociferously that the letter should be read on the rostrum before it was read in the senate. At length they were put back and restrained by the magistrates; and thus the joy was gradually dispensed to their overpowered spirits.
The letter was read first in the senate, and then in the assembly of the people.
The effect was various, according to the difference in the cast of men's minds, some thinking that there were already sure grounds for rejoicing, while others would place no confidence in the news, till they listened to ambassadors, or a letter from the consuls.