Whether it was that the gods graciously answered prayer or that the unhealthy season had passed, people gradually threw off the influence of the epidemic and the public health became more satisfactory.
Attention was once more turned to affairs of State, and after one or two interregna had expired, P. Valerius Publicola, who had been interrex for two days, conducted the election of L. Lucretius Tricipitmus and T. Veturius Geminus or Vetusius as consuls.
They entered office on August II, and the State was now strong enough not only to defend its frontiers, but to take the offensive.
Consequently, when the Hernici announced that the enemy had crossed their frontiers, help was promptly sent. Two consular armies were enrolled.
Veturius was sent to act against the Volsci, Tricipitinus had to protect the country of the allies from predatory incursions, and did not advance beyond the Hernican frontier.
In the first battle Veturius defeated and routed the enemy. Whilst Lucretius lay encamped amongst the Hernici, a body of plunderers evaded him by marching over the mountains of Praeneste
, and descending into the plains devastated the fields of the Praenestines and Gabians, and then turned off to the hills above Tusculum
Great alarm was felt in Rome
, more from the surprising rapidity of the movement than from insufficiency of strength to repel any attack. Quintus Fabius was prefect of the City. By arming the younger men and manning the defences, he restored quiet and security everywhere.
The enemy did not venture to attack the City, but returned by a circuitous route with the plunder they had secured from the neighbourhood. The greater their distance from the City the more carelessly they marched, and in this state they fell in with the consul Lucretius, who had reconnoitred the route they were taking and was in battle formation, eager to engage.
As they were on the alert and ready for the enemy, the Romans, though considerably fewer in numbers, routed and scattered the vast host, whom the unexpected attack had thrown into confusion, drove them into the deep valleys and prevented their escape.
The Volscian nation was almost wiped out there. I find in some of the annals that 13,470 men fell in the battle and the pursuit, and 1750 were taken prisoners, whilst twenty-seven military standards were captured.
Although there may be some exaggeration, there certainly was a great slaughter. The consul, after securing enormous booty, returned victorious to his camp. The two consuls then united their camps; the Volscians and Aequi also concentrated their shattered forces. A third battle took place that year; again fortune gave the victory to the Romans, the enemy were routed and their camp taken.