Nor did the peace with Alba continue long. The dissatisfaction of the populace, because the fortune of the state had been hazarded on three soldiers, perverted the weak mind of the dictator; and because honourable measures had not turned out well, he began to conciliate their affections by perfidious means.
Accordingly, as one formerly seeking peace in war, so now seeking war in peace, because he perceived that his own state possessed more courage than strength, he stirs up other nations to make war openly and by proclamation:1 [p. 38]
for his own people he reserves treachery under the mask of alliance.
The Fidenates, a Roman colony, having gained over the Veientes as partisans in the confederacy, are instigated to declare war and take up arms under a compact of desertion on the part of the Albans.
When Fidenae had openly 2
revolted, Tullus, after summoning Mettus and his army from Alba, marches against the enemy. When he crossed the Anio, he pitches his camp at the 3
conflux of the rivers. Between that place and Fidenae, the army of the Veientes had crossed the Tiber.
These, in line of battle, occupied the right wing near the river; the Fidenates are posted on the left nearer the mountains. Tullus stations his own men opposite the Veientian foe; the Albans he opposes to the legion of the Fidenates. The Alban had not more courage than fidelity. Neither daring therefore to keep his ground, nor to desert openly, he files off slowly to the mountains.
After this, when he supposed he had gone far enough, he 4
halts his entire army; and being still irresolute in mind, in order to waste time, he opens his ranks. His design was, to turn his forces to that side to which fortune should give
success. At first the Romans who stood nearest were astonished, when they perceived their flanks were uncovered by the departure of their allies; then a horseman in full gallop announces to the king that the Albans were moving off. Tullus, in this perilous juncture, vowed twelve Salii, and temples to Paleness and
Panic. Rebuking the horseman in a loud voice, so that the enemy might hear him, he orders him to return to the fight, “that there was no occasion for alarm; that by his order the Alban army was marching round to fall on the unprotected rear of the
Fidenates.” He likewise commands him to order the cavalry to raise their spears aloft; this expedient intercepted from a great part of the Roman infantry the view of the Alban army retreating. Those who [p. 39]
saw it, believing what they had heard the king say, fought with the greater ardour. The alarm is now transferred to the enemy; they had both heard what had been pronounced so audibly, and a great part of the Fidenates, as having been joined as colonists to the Romans, understood
Latin. Therefore, that they might not be intercepted from the town by a sudden descent of the Albans from the hills, they take to flight. Tullus presses forward, and having routed the wing of the Fidenates, returned with greater fury against the Veientes, disheartened by the panic of the others: nor did they sustain his charge; but the river, opposed to them behind, prevented a precipitate
flight. Whither when their flight led, some, shamefully throwing down their arms, rushed blindly into the river; others, while they linger on the banks, doubting whether to fly or fight, were overpowered. Never before had the Romans a more desperate battle.