The Roman consuls before leading their troops into battle offered sacrifices. it is said that the soothsayer pointed out to Decius that the head of the liver was wounded on the friendly side; but that the victim was in all other respects acceptable to the gods,1
and that the sacrifice of Manlius had been greatly successful.
“it is well enough,” said Decius, “if my colleague has received favourable tokens.” in the formation already described they advanced into the field. Manlius commanded the right wing, Decius the left.
in the beginning the strength of the combatants and their ardour were equal on both sides; but after a time the Roman [p. 37]hastati
on the left, unable to withstand the pressure2
of the Latins, fell back upon the principes.
in the confusion of this movement Decius the consul called out to Marcus Valerius in a loud voice: “we have need of Heaven's help, Marcus Valerius.3
come therefore, state pontiff of the Roman People, dictate the words, that I may devote myself to save the legions.”
The pontiff bade him don the purple —bordered toga, and with veiled head and one hand thrust out from the toga and touching his chin, stand upon a spear that was laid under his feet, and say as follows:
“janus, Jupiter, Father Mars, Quirinus, Bellona, Lares, divine Novensiles, divine Indigites,4
ye gods in whose power are both we and our enemies, and you, divine Manes, —I
invoke and worship you, I beseech and crave your favour, that you prosper the might and the victory of the Roman People of the Quirites, and visit the foes of the Roman People of the Quirites with fear, shuddering, and death.
as I have pronounced the words, even so in behalf of the republic of the Roman People of the Quirites, and of the army, the legions, the auxiliaries of the Roman People of the Quirites, do I devote the legions and auxiliaries of the enemy, together with myself, to the divine Manes and to Earth.”
having uttered this prayer he bade the lictors go to Titus Manlius and lose no time in announcing to his colleague that he had devoted himself for the good of the army.
he then girded himself with the Gabinian cincture,5
and vaulting, armed, upon [p. 39]
his horse, plunged into the thick of the enemy, a6
conspicuous object from either army and of an aspect more august than a man's, as though sent from heaven to expiate all anger of the gods, and to tum aside destruction from his people and bring it on their adversaries.
thus every terror and dread attended him, and throwing the Latin front into disarray, spread afterwards throughout their entire host.
this was most clearly seen in that, wherever he rode, men cowered as though blasted by some baleful star; but when he fell beneath a rain of missiles, from that instant there was no more doubt of the consternation of the Latin cohorts, which everywhere abandoned the field in flight.
at the same time the Romans —their spirits relieved of religious fears —pressed on as though the signal had just then for the first time been given, and delivered a fresh attack;
for the rorarii
were running out between the antepilani
and were joining their strength to that of the hastati
and the principles,
and the triarii,
kneeling on the right knee, were waiting till the consul signed to them to rise.