When they had finished with the levy, the consuls waited a few days for the soldiers from the allies and the Latins to come in.
An oath was then administered to the soldiers by their tribunes — which was a thing that they had never done before.
For until that day there had only been the general oath1
to assemble at the bidding of the consuls and not depart without their orders; then, after assembling, they would exchange a voluntary pledge amongst themselves —the cavalrymen in their decuries and the infantry in their centuries —that
they would not abandon their ranks for flight or fear, but only to take up or seek a weapon, either to smite an enemy or to save a fellow citizen.
This voluntary agreement amongst the men themselves was replaced by an oath administered formally by the tribunes. [p. 327]
Before the troops marched from the City, the2
consul Varro uttered many truculent harangues.
He declared that the war had been brought into Italy by the nobles, and would not cease to prey upon the nation's vitals, if they had many generals like Fabius; but that he himself would put an end to it on the day when he came within sight of the enemy.
His colleague Paulus spoke but once, on the day before he left the City.
His words were more truthful than agreeable to the people; but he said nothing harsh against Varro, except this: that he marvelled —and indeed how should he not? —that a general, who before he knew either his own or the enemy's army or the lie of the land or the character of the country, was already certain, ere he had yet laid aside the
dress of a civilian, what measures he must adopt when in the field —he
marvelled that such a general should even be able to predict the very day on which he would be giving battle to the enemy!
For himself, he would not anticipate, before they ripened, those plans with which circumstances provided men but which men could not well impose on circumstances.
He hoped that what was done with care and caution would turn out for the best: rashness was not only foolish but had hitherto been unfortunate as well It was quite apparently his own intention to choose a safe course rather than a hasty one;
and, to confirm him in this resolution, Quintus Fabius Maximus is said to have addressed him, on his setting out, to this effect: —