Whilst these matters are transacting at Rome, ambassadors come from Ardea, imploring aid for their city, which was nearly destroyed, in consideration of their very ancient alliance, and of the treaty recently renewed.
For by intestine wars they were not allowed to enjoy the peace with Rome, which they had by the soundest policy preserved; the cause and origin of which is said to have arisen from a struggle between factions;
which have proved and ever will prove more a cause of destruction to several states, than foreign wars, famine, or disease, or any of the other evils which men refer to the anger of heaven, as the severest of public calamities.
Two young men courted a maiden of a plebeian family, highly distinguished for beauty: one of them on a level with the maid in point of birth, and favoured by her guardians, who were themselves of the same rank; the other of noble birth, captivated by nothing but her beauty.
The latter was aided by the good wishes of the nobles, through which party disputes made their way even into the girl's family. The nobleman was preferred in the judgment of the mother, who was anxious that her daughter should have the most splendid match possible: the guardians, mindful of party even in that transaction, strove for the person of their own order.
As the matter could not be settled within the walls of the house, they proceeded to a court of justice. On hearing the claim of the mother and of the guardians, the magistrate decides the right of marriage in conformity with the wish of the mother.
But violence was the more powerful. For the guardians, having harangued openly in the forum among persons of their own faction, on the injustice of the decree, collected a party and carry off the girl from her mother's house: against whom a body of nobles having arisen more incensed than before, attends the young man rendered furious by the outrage.
A desperate battle takes place; the commons in no respect like to the Roman commons were worsted, and having set out from [p. 261]
the city in arms, and taken possession of a hill, make excursions into the lands of the nobles with fire and swore.
The city too, which had been previously free from all contest, they set about besieging, having induced, by the hope of plunder, a multitude of artisans to join them:
nor was any appearance or calamity of war absent; as if the whole state were infested by the mad rage of the two young men, who sought the accomplishment of the fatal match through their country's ruin.
The arms and war at home seemed insufficient to both parties. The nobles called in the Romans to the relief of their besieged city; the commons called upon the Volscians to join them in storming Ardea.
The Volscians, under the command of Claelius, an Aequan, came first to Ardea, and drew a line of circumvallation around the enemy's walls.
When news of this was brought to Rome, Marcus Geganius, the consul, having set out immediately at the head of an army, selected a place for his camp about three miles from the enemy; and the day being now fast declining, he orders his soldiers to refresh themselves; then at the fourth watch he puts his troops in motion; and the work, once commenced, was expedited in such a manner, that at sun-rise the Volscians found themselves enclosed by the Romans with stronger works than the city was by themselves.
The consul had also at another place connected an arm to the wall of Ardea, through which his friends might pass to and from the town.