But when Hannibal had encamped by the river Volturnus, and the fairest district in all Italy was in flames, and the smoke went curling up from burning farm-houses, while Fabius continued to march along the ridges of Mount Massicus, there was almost a new outburst of sedition.
For the disaffected had kept quiet for several days, believing that the army, which had been moving more rapidly than usual, was hastening to preserve Campania [p. 247]
But when they reached the1
of the range, and saw the enemy down below them setting fire to the farms of the Falernian district and the colony of Sinuessa, and yet no word was uttered about fighting, Minucius cried, “Are we come here as to a spectacle, that we may gratify our eyes with the slaughter of our friends and the burning of their homes?
If nothing else can awaken us to a sense of shame, do we feel none when we behold these fellow citizens of ours whom our fathers sent as colonists to Sinuessa to secure this frontier from the Samnite enemy?
It is not our Samnite neighbours who are wasting it now, but Phoenician invaders, who have been suffered to come all this way, from the farthest, limits of the world, by our delays and slothfulness. So greatly, alas!
do we degenerate from our fathers that we behold overrun with enemies and in the possession of Numidians and Moors that coast past which they
could not see the Punic navies cruising without feeling that their empire was disgraced.
When, a little while ago, Saguntum was besieged, we appealed indignantly, not to men only, but to treaties and to the gods; but now that Hannibal is scaling the walls of a Roman colony, we look on with indifference.
The smoke from burning farm-houses and fields comes into our eyes and mouths; our ears are ringing with the lamentations of our allies, who invoke our aid more often than that of Heaven; and here we are, leading our army —like a flock of sheep —through summer pastures and by devious mountain trails, and hiding ourselves in clouds and forests.
If Marcus Furius had tried to recover Rome from the Gauls by wandering thus over [p. 249]
mountain heights and passes, even as this new3
Camillus, this wonderful dictator to whom we have turned in our distress, is planning to recover Italy from Hannibal, the Gauls would be in Rome to-day; and I fear that if we linger thus, our fathers will so often have preserved it only for Hannibal and the Phoenicians.
But that brave man and true Roman, on the day that the news was brought to Veii of his being appointed dictator, by command of the people in pursuance of a senatorial resolution —though
Janiculum was high enough for him to have sat there and enjoyed a prospect of the enemy —came down into the plain, and on that very day, in the midst of the City —where now the Gallic Pyres4
are —and again on the following day, this side of Gabii, cut the legions of the Gauls to
pieces. What! When, many years later, at the Caudine Forks, our Samnite foe had sent us under the yoke,5
was it, pray, by scouring the heights of Samnium, or by pressing Luceria hard and laying siege to it, and by challenging the victorious enemy, that Lucius Papirius Cursor struck off the yoke from Roman necks and imposed it on the
haughty Samnite? What else was it than swiftness that gave the victory, not long since,6
to Gaius Lutatius, who bore down upon the enemy's fleet, laden deep with stores and hampered with its own munitions and equipment, on the day after he
sighted it? It is folly to think that a war can be won by sitting still or making vows; you must arm and go down into the field, and do battle, man to man! Rome's greatness has come from daring and [p. 251]
from doing; not from these sluggish policies that7
term cautious.” When Minucius held forth in this fashion, like a general encouraging his troops, a crowd of tribunes and Roman knights would gather round him, and his fiery words even reached the ears of the common soldiers; and if the election of their general had rested with the men, they showed unmistakably that Minucius would have been preferred to Fabius.