Marcellus, after they had returned to camp, made a speech to the soldiers which was so savage and bitter that, although they had borne the battle all day long without success, the angry general's speech was more ferocious to them.
“The immortal gods,” he said, “have my praises and thanks, so far as one can be grateful now, because the victorious enemy, when you were throwing yourselves in such fright upon the earthwork and the gates, did not attack the camp itself. You would surely have deserted the camp in terror, just as in terror you abandoned the battle.
What fright is this, what terror, that have taken possession of your minds, what sudden forgetting who you are and in battle with whom? Of course these are the same enemies in defeating whom, and in pursuing them when defeated, you have spent last summer, the same men whom you have pressed hard
in these days, as they were fleeing day and night, whom you have wearied by slight engagements, whom yesterday you did not allow either to march or to pitch camp. I pass over the things of which you can boast.
I shall mention something for which you ought also to feel shame [p. 261]
and regret; namely, you broke off the battle1
yesterday while it was undecided.2
What has this night, what has this day brought?
Have your troops been reduced, or their forces increased in that time? For my part I do not seem to be speaking with my army nor with Roman soldiers. It is merely your bodies and weapons that are the same. Can it be that, if you had had the same spirit, the enemy would have seen your backs?
And would he have taken standards from any maniple or cohort?3
Till now his boasting was in the slaughter of Roman legions: you have this day given him for the first time the distinction of putting an army to flight.”
Then they began to shout that he should pardon them for that day, and afterwards, whenever he wished, he should test the spirit of his soldiers. “I will indeed test them, soldiers,” said he, “and to-morrow I will lead you out into battle-line, that as victors, rather than as vanquished, you may gain the pardon for which you ask.”
To the cohorts which had lost their standards he ordered barley to be issued, and as for the centurions of the maniples whose standards had been lost, he made them stand aside with drawn swords and no belts; and he ordered that on the morrow they should all, infantry and cavalry, present themselves under arms.
So the assembly was dismissed, as the men confessed that they had been upbraided with good reason and deservedly, and that on that day in the Roman line no one had been a man except the general alone, whom they must satisfy either by dying or by a glorious victory.
The next day they presented themselves according to orders armed and equipped. The general [p. 263]
praised them warmly and declared that he would.4
lead out into the first line the men with whom the flight had begun the day before, and the cohorts which had lost their standards; that now he proclaimed that they must all fight and win, and strive singly and collectively to prevent news of yesterday's flight from reaching Rome before that of to-day's victory.
They were then bidden to strengthen themselves by eating, so that, if the battle should be prolonged, they might have sufficient endurance. When everything had been said and done that could arouse the soldiers' spirits, they advanced into line.