While these matters passed at Rome, Marcus Junius and Aulus Manlius, the consuls of the preceding year, after remaining during the winter at Aquileia, led their army early in the spring into the Istrian territories;
where when they spread their depredations through a great part of the country, grief and indignation, rather than any well-grounded hope of being able to make head against these joint forces, roused the Istrians, on perceiving the plunder of their property.
A hasty levy of their young men being made from all their cantons, this raw and tumultuary army made its first onset with more vigour than perseverance. About four thousand of them were slain in the field; and the rest, giving over the war, fled in different directions to their respective states.
Soon after, they sent ambassadors to the Roman camp to sue for peace, and then delivered up the hostages required of them.
When these transactions were made known at Rome, by letters from the proconsul, Caius Claudius, the consul, fearing that this proceeding might, perhaps, take the province and the army out of his hands, without offering vows, without assuming the military habit, and unaccompanied by his lictors, having acquainted his colleague alone with his intention, set out in the night, and with the utmost speed hastened to the province, where he conducted himself even with less prudence than he had shown in coming.
For, in an assembly which he called, after making severe remarks on Manlius's running away from the camp, which were very offensive to the ears of the soldiers, as they themselves had begun the flight, and after railing at Marcus Junius, as having made himself a sharer in the disgrace of his colleague, he at last ordered both of them to quit the province.
And when they replied, that when the consul should come, in the regular manner, agreeably to ancient practice; when he should set out from the city, after offering vows in the Capitol, attended by his lictors and dressed in the military habit, then they would obey his orders. Maddened by anger, he summoned the person who acted as quaestor to Manlius, and ordered him to bring fetters, threatening to send Junius and Manlius to Rome in chains.
The consul's command was slighted by this man too; and the sur- [p. 1931]
rounding crowd of soldiers, who favoured the cause of their commanders, and were incensed against the consul, supplied him with resolution to refuse obedience.
At last the consul, overpowered by the reproaches of individuals and the scoffs of the multitude, for they even turned him into ridicule, went back to Aquileia in the same ship in which he had come.
Thence he wrote to his colleague, desiring him to give notice to that part of the
new-raised troops who were enlisted for Istria, to assemble at Aquileia, in order that he should have no delay at Rome, but set out, in the military habit, as soon as the ceremony of offering vows was finished. These directions his colleague punctually executed, and an early day was appointed for the assembling of the troops.
Claudius almost overtook his own letter. On his arrival he called an assembly, that he might represent the conduct of Manlius and Junius;
and, staying only three days in Rome, he offered his vows in the Capitol, put on the military habit, and, attended by his lictors, set out to his province with the same rapid speed which he had used in the former journey.