In a state where the greatest anxiety prevailed, in consequence of the very critical situation in which the war stood, and where all events, prosperous or adverse, were attributed to the interposition of the gods, accounts of many prodigies were received;
that the temple of Jupiter at Tarracina, and that of Mater Matuta at Satricum, had been struck by lightning. The people of Satricum were no less terrified by two snakes gliding into the temple of Jupiter by the very doors.
A report was brought from Antium, that bloody ears of corn had been seen by the reapers. At Caere a pig with two heads had been littered, and a lamb yeaned which was both male and female.
Intelligence was brought that two suns ha been seen at Alba, and that light had suddenly appeared luring night at Fregellae. An ox was reported to have spoken in the Roman territory.
A copious perspiration was said to [p. 1176]
have exuded from the altar of Neptune, in the Flaminian circus; and the temples of Ceres, Safety, and Quirinus were said to have been struck by lightning.
The consuls were directed to expiate these prodigies with victims of the larger sort, and to make a supplication for one day. These things were executed according to a decree of the senate. The extinction of the fire in the temple of Vesta struck more terror upon the minds of men than all the prodigies which were reported from abroad, or seen at home; and the vestal, who had the guarding of it for that night, was scourged by the command of Publius Licinius the pontiff.
Although this event was not appointed by the gods as a portent, but had happened through human neglect, yet it was thought proper that it should be expiated with victims of the larger sort, and that a supplication should be made at the temple of Vesta.
Before the consuls set out for the campaign, they were cautioned by the senate to take care that the common people should be brought back into the country; for since, through the goodness of the gods, the war was removed from the city of Rome and Latium, the country might be inhabited without fear. That it was most inconsistent that greater care should be taken in cultivating Sicily than Italy.
But it was a matter by no means easy for the people, the free labourers having been cut off by war, and there being a scarcity of slaves, their cattle having been carried off as booty, and the farmhouses pulled down or burnt.
A large number, however, compelled by the authority of the consuls, returned into the country. The mention of this affair had been occasioned by ambassadors of Placentia and Cremona, who complained that their lands were being invaded and laid waste by the neighbouring Gauls; that a large portion of their settlers had dispersed; that their cities were thinly inhabited, and their lands devastated and deserted.
Mamilius the praetor was charged with the protection of the colonies from the enemy. The consuls, in conformity with a decree of the senate, issued an edict that all who were citizens of Cremona and Placentia should return to those colonies before a certain day; after which, in the beginning of spring, they set out for the campaign.
Quintus Caecilius, the consul, received the army from Caius Nero; Lucius Veturius received his from Quintus Claudius the proprietor, filling it up with new- [p. 1177]
raised soldiers, whom he had himself enlisted.
The consuls marched their army into the territory of Consentia, and devastating the country on all hands, when the troops were loaded with plunder, they were thrown into such confusion by some Bruttians and Numidian spearmen, who attacked them in a narrow defile, that not only the booty but the troops were in danger.
There was more of confusion, however, than fighting; and sending the booty in advance, the legions themselves also escaped into a place free from danger.
Proceeding thence into Lucania, the whole of that people returned, without a contest, into subjection to the Roman people.