None of these circumstances were unknown to the Volscians, and they pressed on with so much the more vigour, hoping that the Roman army would entertain the same spirit of opposition against Appius, which they had formerly entertained against the consul Fabius.
But they were much more violent against Appius than against Fabius. For they were not only unwilling to conquer, like Fabius' army, but they wished to be conquered. When led out to the field, they made for their camp in an ignominious flight, nor did they stand their ground until they saw the Volscians advancing to their fortifications, and making dreadful havoc on the rear of their army.
Then the obligation to fight was wrung from them, in order that the victorious enemy should be dislodged from [p. 151]
their lines; yet it was sufficiently plain that the Roman soldiers were only unwilling that their camp should be taken; some of them gloried in their own defeat and disgrace.
When the determined spirit of Appius, undaunted by these things, wished to exercise severity still further, and he summoned a meeting, the lieutenant-generals and tribunes flock around him, advising him “that he would not determine on venturing a trial of an authority, the entire strength of which lay in the acquiescence of those who were to obey.
That the soldiers generally refused to come to the assembly, and that their clamours were heard in every direction demanding that the camp should be removed from the Volscian territory. That the victorious enemy were but a little time ago almost at the very gates and rampart; and that not merely a suspicion, but a manifest indication of a grievous disaster presented itself to their eyes.”
Yielding at length, (since they would gain nothing save a delay of punishment,) having prorogued the assembly, after he had given orders that their march should be proclaimed for the following day, he, at the first dawn, gave the signal for departure by sound of trumpet.
When the army, having just got clear of the camp, were forming themselves, the Volscians, as being aroused by the same signal, fall upon those in the rear; from whom the alarm spreading to the van, confounded both the battalions and ranks with such consternation, that neither the generals' orders could be distinctly heard, nor the lines be drawn up, no one thinking of any thing but flight.
In such confusion did they make their way through heaps of dead bodies and of arms, that the enemy ceased to pursue sooner than the Romans to fly.
The soldiers being at length collected from their scattered rout, the consul, after he had in vain followed his men for the purpose of rallying them, pitched his camp in a peaceful part of the country; and an assembly being convened, after inveighing not without good reason against the army, as traitors to military discipline, deserters of their posts, frequently asking them, one by one, where were their standards, where their arms;
he first beat with rods and then beheaded those soldiers who had thrown down their arms, the standard-bearers who
had lost their standards, and moreover the centurions, and those with the double allowance, who had left their ranks. With respect to the rest of the multitude, every tenth man was drawn by lot for punishment. [p. 152]