New consuls now came in, Marcus Fabius1
Ambustus and Marcus Popilius Laenas, each for the second time. They had two wars.
One of these was easy; it was waged by Laenas against the Tiburtes, and he shut up the enemy within their city and pillaged their fields. The other consul was routed by the Faliscans and Tarquinienses in his first engagement.
The panic was chiefly due to this, that their priests, bearing serpents and blazing torches before them, came rushing on like Furies, and utterly dismayed the Roman soldiers with the extraordinary sight. At first they were like men frantic and distraught, and flung themselves in a disordered mob into their own works.
Then when the consul, the lieutenants and the tribunes laughed at them and upbraided them for being scared like children at idle tricks, shame caused a sudden revulsion in their feelings, and they rushed, as if blinded, on the very objects from which they had fled.
In this spirit they brushed aside the enemy's vain paraphernalia, and hurling themselves on his real fighting men, they routed the whole army, and even captured the camp that day. As they returned victorious with the rich plunder they had won, they jested in soldier-fashion and scoffed not only at the enemy's devices but at their own fright as well.
All who bore the Etruscan name then rose in arms, and led by the men of Tarquinii and Falerii, advanced as far as Salinae. To meet this fearful danger Gaius Marcius Rutulus was made dictator, the first that was ever appointed from the plebs, and he named a plebeian also, Gaius Plautius, to be master of the horse.
But the patricians thought it shameful that even the dictatorship should now [p. 415]
be common; and they exerted all their influence2
to prevent anything being decreed or made ready for the dictator, to carry on that war.
For which reason the people voted the more promptly everything that the dictator proposed. Marching out from the City and setting his army across the Tiber by means of rafts, wherever a rumour
of the enemy called him, he surprised many straggling pillagers as they roamed about the fields, on both sides of the river; he also captured their camp in a surprise attack, and with it eight thousand soldiers;
and having slain the rest, or driven them out of Roman territory, was granted a triumph by the people, but without the authorization of the senate.3
The patricians were not willing that a consular election should be held by a plebeian, whether dictator or consul, and the other consul being detained by the war, the state relapsed into an interregnum. The office of interrex was held successively by Quintus Servilius Ahala, Marcus Fabius,4
Gnaeus Manlius, Gaius Fabius, Gaius Sulpicius, Lucius Aemilius, Quintus Servilius, and Marcus Fabius Ambustus.
In the second interregnum a controversy arose because two patricians were on the point of being named as consuls; and when the tribunes sought to veto the announcement, the interrex Fabius declared that the Twelve Tables enacted that whatsoever the people decreed last should have the binding force of law, and their votes were also a decree.
The tribunes gained nothing more by their intervention than a postponement of the comitia, and two patrician consuls were elected, namely Gaius Sulpicius Peticus (for the third time) and Marcus Valerius Publicola. They entered office that very day,5