The news spreads to every part of the City1
and the Fabii are lauded to the skies. Men tell how a single family has taken upon its shoulders the burden of a state, how the war with Veii has been turned over to private citizens and private arms.
If there were two other clans of equal strength in the City, the one might undertake the Volsci, the other the Aequi, and the Roman People might enjoy the tranquillity of peace, while all the neighbouring nations were being subdued. On the following day the Fabii arm and assemble at the designated place.
The consul, coming forth in the cloak of a general,2
sees his entire clan drawn up in his vestibule, and being received into their midst gives the order to march.
Never did an army march through the City less in number or more distinguished by the applause and the wonder of men: three hundred and six soldiers, all patricians, all of one blood, no one of whom you would have rejected as a leader, and who would have made an admirable senate in any period, were going out to threaten the existence of the Veientine nation with the resources of a single house.
They were followed by a throng partly made up of people belonging to them, their kinsmen and close friends, whose thoughts were busy with no mean matters, whether of hope or of fear, but with boundless possibilities; partly of those who were moved with concern for the commonwealth, and were beside themselves with enthusiasm and amazement.
“Go,” they cry, “in your valour, go with good [p. 387]
fortune, and crown your undertaking with success as3
They bid them look forward to receiving consulships at their hands for this work, and triumphs, and all rewards and all honours. As they pass by the Capitol and the citadel and the other temples, they beseech whatever gods present themselves to their eyes and their thoughts to attend
that noble band with blessings and prosperity, and restore them soon in safety to their native land and their kindred. Their prayers were uttered in vain.
Setting out by the Unlucky Way,4
the right arch of the Porta Carmentalis, they came to the river Cremera, a position which seemed favourable for the erection of a fort.
Lucius Aemilius and Gaius Servilius were then chosen consuls. And so long as nothing more than plundering was afoot the Fabii were not only an adequate garrison for the fort, but in all that region where the Tuscan territory marches with the Roman they afforded universal security to their own countrymen and annoyance to the enemy, by ranging along the border on both sides.
Then came a brief interruption to these depredations, while the men of Veii, having called in an army from Etruria, attacked the post on the Cremera, and the Roman legions, led thither by Lucius Aemilius the consul, engaged them in a pitched battle;
though in truth the Veientes had scarcely time to draw up a battle-line, for at the first alarm, while the ranks were falling in behind the standards and the reserves were being posted, a division of Roman cavalry made a sudden charge on their flank and deprived them of the power not only of attacking first, but even of standing their ground.
And so they were driven back upon Saxa Rubra, where they had their camp, and sued for peace. It [p. 389]
was granted, but their instinctive fickleness caused5
them to weary of the pact before the Roman garrison was withdrawn from the Cremera.