When the Roman army first reached the lake Timavus, the Istrians took post behind a hill, where they could not be seen; and on its march thence followed it through by-ways, watching attentively for some opportunity that might give them an advantage;
nor did any thing that was done, either on land or sea, escape their observation.
When they saw that the advanced guards of the Romans were weak, and that the market-place was filled with an unarmed crowd of persons trafficking between the camp and the sea, and that they had not fortified themselves either by works on land, or by the help of ships, they made an assault on two of their posts at once, that of the Placentine cohort, and that of the two companies of the second legion.
A morning fog concealed their design; and when this began to disperse as the sun grew warm, the light piercing through it in some degree, yet still being far from clear, and, as usual in such cases, magnifying the appearance of every thing, deceived the Romans, and made the army of the enemy appear much greater to them than it really was.
And when the troops in both the posts, terrified, had fled in the utmost confusion to the camp, there they caused much greater alarm than that which they were under themselves: for they could neither tell what made them fly, nor answer any question that was asked.
Then a shouting was heard at all the gates, since there were no guards at them which could withstand an attack: and the crowding together of the soldiers, who fell one against the other in the [p. 1922]
dark, raised a doubt as to whether the enemy was within the rampart.
One only cry was heard, that of those urging to the sea. This cry uttered by one, and without an object and by chance, resounded every where throughout the entire camp.
At first, therefore, a few with their arms and a greater part without them, as if they had received orders so to do, ran off to the sea shore; then followed more, and at length almost the whole of the army, and the consul himself, when, having attempted in vain to call back the fugitives, he had effected nothing by commands, advice, and, at last, by entreaties.
Marcus Licinius Strabo, a military tribune of the third legion, with three companies alone, remained, being left behind by his legion. The Istrians having made an attack on the empty camp, after that no other had met them in arms, came upon him while he was drawing up and encouraging his men at the general's quarters; the fight was maintained with more resolution than might be anticipated, from the small number of the defenders;
nor did it cease until the tribune, and those who stood round him, were all slain. The enemy then, tearing down the general's tent, and seizing on all they could find, went on to the quaestor's quarters, and the adjoining forum, called Quintana.
Thereupon, when they found all kinds of food dressed and laid out in
the quaestor's tent, and the couches placed in order, their chieftain lay down and began to feast.
Presently all the rest, thinking no more of fighting or of the enemy, did the same; and being unaccustomed to any sort of rich food, they greedily gorged themselves with meat and wine.