Porsena being repulsed in his first attempt, having changed his plans from a siege to a blockade, after he had placed a garrison in Janiculum, pitched his camp in the plain and on the banks of the Tiber.
Then sending for boats from all parts, both to guard the river, so as not to suffer any provision to be conveyed to Rome, and also to transport his soldiers across the river, to plunder different places as occasion required;
in a short time he so harassed the entire country round Rome, that not only every thing else from the country, but even their cattle, was driven into the city, and nobody durst venture thence without the gates.
This liberty of action was granted to the Etrurians, not more through fear than from policy; for Valerius, intent on an opportunity of falling unawares upon a number of them, and when straggling, a remiss avenger in trifling matters, reserved the weight of his vengeance for more important occasions.
Wherefore, to decoy the pillagers, he ordered his men to drive their cattle the next day out at the Esquiline gate, which was farthest from the enemy, presuming that they would get intelligence of it, because during the blockade and famine some slaves would turn traitors and desert.
Accordingly they were informed of it by a deserter, and parties more numerous than usual, in hopes of seizing the entire body, crossed the river. [p. 93]
Then P. Valerius commanded T. Herminius, with a small body of
men, to lie concealed two miles from the city, on the Gabian road, and Sp. Lartius, with a party of light-armed troops, to post himself at the Colline gate till the enemy should pass by, and then to throw himself in their way so that there may be no return to the river.
The other consul, T. Lucretius, marched out of the Naevian gate with some companies of soldiers; Valerius himself led some chosen cohorts down from the Cœlian mount, and they were first descried by the enemy.
Herminius, when he perceived the alarm, rose out of the ambush and fell upon the rear of the Tuscans, who had charged Valerius. The shout was returned on the right and left, from the Colline gate on the one hand, and the Naevian on the other.
By this stratagem the plunderers were put to the sword between both, they not being a match in strength for fighting, and all the ways being blocked up to prevent escape: this put an end to the Etrurians strolling about in so disorderly a manner.