A large body of Sabines, committing dreadful devastation, approached very close to the walls of the city. The fields were laid waste, the city was struck with terror. Then the commons cheerfully took up arms; two large armies were raised, the tribunes remonstrating to no purpose.
Nautius led the one against the Sabines; and having pitched his camp at Eretum, by small detachments, generally by nightly incursions, he effected such desolation in the Sabine land, that, when compared to it, the Roman territories seemed intact by an enemy.
Minucius had neither the same success nor the same energy of mind in conducting his business; for after he had pitched his camp at no great distance from the enemy, without having experienced any considerable loss, he kept himself through fear within the camp.
When the enemy perceived this, their boldness increased, as sometimes happens, from others' fears; and having attacked his camp by night, when open force did not succeed well, they on the following day drew lines of circumvallation around it. Before these could close up all the passes, by a vallum being thrown up on all sides, five horsemen being despatched between the enemies' posts, brought the account to Rome, that the consul and his army were besieged. Nothing could have happened so unexpected, nor so unlooked-for.
Accordingly the panic and the alarm was as great as if the enemy besieged the city, not the camp. They send for the consul Nautius;
in whom when there seemed to be but insufficient protection, and they were determined that a dictator should be appointed to retrieve their embarrassed affairs, Lucius Quintius Cincinna- [p. 191]
tus is appointed by universal consent.
It is worth those persons' while to listen, who despise all things human in comparison with riches, and who suppose that there i no room for exalted honour, nor for virtue, unless where riches abound in great profusion. Lucius Quintius, the sole hope of the Roman people, cultivated a farm of four acres, at the other side of the Tiber, which are called the Quintian meadows, opposite to the very place where the dock-yard now is.
There, whether leaning on a stake in a ditch which he was digging, or in the employment of ploughing, engaged at least on some rural
work, as is certain, after mutual salutations had passed, being requested by the ambassadors to put on his gown, and listen to the commands of the senate, (with wishes) that it might be happy both to him and to the commonwealth, being astonished, and asking frequently “whether all was safe,” he bids his wife Racilia immediately to bring his toga from his hut.
As soon as he put this on and came forward, after first wiping off the dust and sweat, the ambassadors, congratulating him, unite in saluting him as dictator: they call him into the city; explain to him what terror now exists in the army.
A vessel was prepared for Quintius by order of government, and his three sons having come out to meet him, receive him on his landing at the other side; then his other relatives and friends; then the greater part of the patricians. Accompanied by this numerous attendance, and the lictors going before him, he was conducted to his residence.
There was a numerous concourse of the commons also; but they by no means looked on Quintius with equal pleasure, considering both the extent of his authority as too great, and the man vested with such authority rather arbitrary. And during that night in deed nothing was done in the city besides posting guards.