A report had reached Praeneste that no army had been raised in Rome and no commander-in-chief selected, and that the patricians and plebeians had turned against one another.
Seizing the opportunity, their generals had led their army by rapid marches through fields which they had utterly laid waste and appeared before the Colline Gate. There was wide-spread alarm in the City.
A general cry arose, ‘To arms!’ and men hurried to the walls and gates. At last, abandoning sedition for war, they nominated T. Quinctius Cincinnatus as Dictator.
He named A. Sempronius Atratinus as his Master of the Horse. No sooner did they hear of this —so great was the terror which a Dictatorship inspired —than the enemy retired from the wails, and the men liable for active service assembled without any hesitation at the Dictator's orders.
Whilst the army was being mobilised in Rome, the camp of the enemy had been fixed not far from the Alia. From this point they spread devastation far and wide, and congratulated themselves that they had chosen a position of fatal import for the City of Rome; they expected that there would be the same panic and flight as in the Gaulish war.
For, they argued if the Romans regarded with horror even the day which took its name from that spot and was under a curse, how much more would they dread the Alia itself, the memorial of that great disaster. They would most assuredly have the appalling sight of the Gauls before their eyes and the sound of their voices in their ears.
Indulging in these idle dreams, they placed all their hopes in the fortune of the place.
The Romans, on the other hand, knew perfectly well that wherever he was, the Latin enemy was the same as the one who had been conquered at Lake Regillus and kept in peaceable subjection for a hundred years.
The fact that the place was associated with the memories of their great defeat would sooner stimulate them to wipe out the recollection of that disgrace than make them feel that any place on earth could be of ill omen for their success.
Even if the Gauls them- selves were to appear there, they would fight just as they fought when they recovered their City, just as they fought the next day at Gabii, when they did not leave a single enemy who had entered Rome to carry the news of their defeat and the Roman victory to their countrymen.