in those days the Ciminian Forest was more impassable and appalling than were lately the wooded defiles of Germany,1
and no one —not even a trader —had up to that time visited it. to enter it was a thing that hardly anyone but the general himself was bold enough to do: with all the rest the recollection of the Caudine Forks was still too vivid.
then one of those present, the consul's brother Marcus Fabius, —some say that it was Caeso Fabius, others Gaius Claudius, a son of the same mother as the consul —offered to explore and return in a short time with definite information about everything.
he had been educated at Caere in the house of family friends, and from this circumstance was learned in Etruscan writings and knew the Etruscan [p. 303]
language well. i have authority for believing that2
in that age Roman boys were regularly wont to be schooled in Etruscan literature, as nowadays they are trained in Greek; but it seems more probable that this man possessed some exceptional qualification to induce him to venture amongst enemies in so daring a disguise.
it is said that his only companion was a slave, brought up with him, and hence acquainted, like his master, with the language.
they set out, after acquiring no more than a summary knowledge of the nature of the region they must enter and the names of the chief men in those tribes, to save them from being detected in conversation by boggling at any well —known fact.
they went dressed as shepherds and armed with rustic weapons, namely billhooks and a brace of javelins apiece. but neither their familiarity with the tongue nor the fashion of their dress and weapons was so great a protection to them as the fact that it was repugnant to belief that any stranger would enter the Ciminian defiles.
they are said to have penetrated as far as Camerinum in Umbria, where the Roman, having ventured to tell who they were, was introduced into the senate, and treated with them in the consul's name for friendship and an alliance.
having then been hospitably entertained, lie was bidden to carry word back to the Romans that thirty days' provisions for their army would be waiting for them, if they came into that region, and that the young men of the Umbrian Camertes would be armed and ready to obey their orders.
on their success being made known to the consul, he sent the baggage ahead, in the first watch, and directed the legions to follow the baggage.
he [p. 305]
himself stopped behind with the cavalry, and at3
dawn of the following day made a demonstration against the enemy's outposts, which had been stationed at the entrance to the pass. having kept the enemy in play for a sufficient time, he retired within his camp, and emerging from it by the opposite gate overtook the column before night.
next day, with the first rays of light, he was on the crest of the Ciminian mountain and, looking thence over the rich ploughlands of Etruria, sent his soldiers to plunder.
The Romans had already brought away out enormous booty when certain improvised bands of Etruscan peasants, called together in hot haste by the chief men of that country, encountered them, but with so little discipline that in seeking to regain the spoils they had nearly been made a spoil themselves.
having slain or driven off these men and wasted the country far and wide, the Romans returned to their camp, victorious and enriched with all manner of supplies.
there, as it happened, they found five legates, with two tribunes of the plebs,4
who had come to order Fabius in the name of the senate not to cross the Ciminian Forest. rejoicing that they had come too late to be able to hinder the campaign, they returned to Rome with tidings of victory.