consular tribunes for the following year were C. Servilius Ahala —for the third time —Q. Servilius, Lucius Verginius, Q. Sulpicius, Aulus Manlius —for the second time —and Manius Sergius —also for the second time.
During their term of office, whilst every one was preoccupied with the Veientine war, Anxur was lost. The garrison had become weakened through the absence of men on furlough, and Volscian traders were admitted indiscriminately, with the result that the guard before the gates were surprised and the fortified post taken.
The loss in men was slight, as with the exception of the sick, they were all scattered about the fields and neighbouring towns, driving bargains like so many camp-followers.
At Veii, the chief point of interest, things went no better.
Not only were the Roman commanders opposing one another more vigorously than they opposed the enemy, but the war was rendered more serious by the sudden arrival of the Capenates and the Faliscans.
As these two States were nearest in point of distance, they believed that if Veii fell they would be the next on whom Rome would make war.
The Faliscans had their own reasons for fearing hostilities, since they were mixed up in the previous war against Fidenae. So both States, after mutually despatching commissioners for the purpose, swore alliance with each other, and their two armies arrived unexpectedly at Veii.
It so happened that they attacked the entrenchments on the side where Manius Sergius was in command, and they created great alarm, for the Romans were convinced that all Etruria had risen and was present in great force. The same conviction roused the Veientines in the city to action, so the Roman lines of investment were attacked from within and from without.
Rushing from side to side to meet first the one attack, then the other, they were unable to confine the Veientines sufficiently within their fortifications or repel the assault from their own works and defend themselves from the enemy outside. Their only hope was if help came from the main camp so that the legions might fight back to back, some against the Capenates and Faliscans, and others against the sortie from the town.
But Verginius was in command of that camp, and he and Sergius mutually detested each other.
When it was reported to him that most of the forts had been attacked and the connecting lines surmounted, and that the enemy were forcing their way in from both sides, he kept his men halted under arms, and repeatedly declared that if his colleague needed assistance he would send to him.
This selfishness on his part was matched by the other's obstinacy, for Sergius, to avoid the appearance of having sought help from a personal foe, preferred defeat at the hands of the enemy rather than owe success to a fellow-countryman.
For some time the soldiers were being slaughtered between the two attacking forces; at last a very small number abandoned their lines and reached the main camp; Sergius himself, with the greatest part of his force, made his way to Rome. Here he threw all the blame on his colleague, and it was decided that Verginius should be summoned from the camp and his lieutenants put in command during his absence.
The case was then discussed in the senate; few studied the interests of the republic, most of the senators supported one or other of the disputants as their party feeling or private sympathy prompted them.