As soon as they came within sight of one another and recognized one another's arms and ensigns, all were at once reminded of their fatherland, and their anger cooled.
Men were not yet so hardy in shedding the blood of countrymen; they knew no wars but those with outside nations, and thought that frenzy could go no further than secession from their people.
And so on either side both the leaders and their men began to seek for ways to meet and confer together. For Quinctius was sated with war, even war in behalf of his country, to say nothing of fighting against it; [p. 505]
and the affection of Corvinus embraced all his1
fellow-citizens, particularly the soldiers, and above all others, his own army.
He now came forward to parley, and being recognized, was instantly accorded a silent attention, in which his opponents showed as great respect for him as did his followers.
“Soldiers,” he began, “as I was setting forth from the City, I adored your gods and mine, and humbly besought them of their goodness to vouchsafe to me the glory of reconciling, not of conquering you.
There have been wars in plenty, and will be others, where men may win renown: in this crisis we must seek for peace.
The petition which I made to the immortal gods, as I offered up my prayer, you are able of yourselves to grant me, if you are willing to reflect that your camp is pitched not in Samnium nor among the Volsci, but on Roman soil; that those hills which you see are in your native land; that this army is made up of your fellow-citizens; that I am your consul, under whose command and auspices you twice last year defeated the Samnite legions, and twice stormed their camp.
I am Marcus Valerius Corvus, soldiers, whose patrician blood has declared itself in kindnesses done you, not in injuries; I have urged no insolent law against you, no cruel senatorial resolution; in every position of authority I have been sterner to myself than to you.
And in truth if any man's family, if any man's own worth, if any man's dignities and honours have been able to inspire pride in him, my birth was such, I had given such proof of my capacity, and had achieved so young the highest magistracy, that I might easily, on becoming consul at the age of three and twenty, [p. 507]
have been overbearing even towards the nobles, not2
merely towards the plebs.
But what have you heard that I said or did, when consul, more tyrannical than my words and deeds as tribune? In that same spirit I administered two subsequent consulships; in that same spirit shall this dictatorship with its dread power be administered; so that I shall be no gentler to these my soldiers and the soldiers of my country, than to you —I shudder to say the word, —our enemies.
You shall therefore sooner draw sword on me than I on you. It is on your side that the trumpets will sound, on your side that the battle-cry will be raised and the attack begin, if fight we must.
Steel your hearts to do that which neither your fathers nor yet your grandfathers could resolve upon —neither those who seceded to the Sacred Mount, nor those who later encamped upon the Aventine.3
Wait until to each of you —as once to Coriolanus4
—your mothers and wives come forth from the City with dishevelled hair. On that day the legions of the Volsci ceased fighting, because they had a Roman leader: will you, an army of Romans, not relinquish this impious war?
Titus Quinctius, whatever be your position over there —whether you have taken it voluntarily or against your will, —if we must do battle, do you retire to the rear; you will even flee with less discredit, turning your back upon your fellow-citizens, than you will incur in fighting against your country.
Now, however, to make peace you will stand with honour and credit amongst the foremost, and will be a salutary mediator at this conference. Let your men ask what is reasonable, and receive it; yet must we rather put up with what is not, than join together in impious strife.”
Titus Quinctius turned with streaming eyes and5
addressed his people: “I, too, soldiers, if I am of any use to you, can better lead you to peace than into war.
For it was no Volscian or Samnite that just spoke those words, but a Roman. It was your consul, your general, soldiers. You have proved his auspices in your own behalf; seek not to prove their worth against you.
The senate had other leaders who would have made more ruthless war on you; but they have chosen him who would deal most mercifully with you, his men; one in whom, as in your general, you might place the most utter confidence.
Peace is the goal desired even by those who are able to conquer: what then ought our desire to be?
Nay, let us abandon wrath and hope —deceitful counsellors —and commit ourselves and all our cause to a man of known fidelity!”