Meanwhile, at Rome, the siege, in general, was slow, and there was quiet on both sides, the Gauls being intent only on this, that none of the enemy should escape from between their posts; when, on a sudden, a Roman youth drew on himself the admiration both of his countrymen and the enemy.
There was a sacrifice solemnized at stated times by the Fabian family on the Quirinal hill. To perform this Caius Fabius Dorso having descended from the Capitol, in the Gabine cincture, carrying in his hands the sacred utensils, passed out through the midst of the enemy's post, without being at all moved by the calls or threats of any of them, and reached the Quirinal hill;
and after duly performing there the solemn rites, coming back by the same way with the same firm countenance and gait, confident that the gods [p. 379]
were propitious, whose worship he had not even neglected when prohibited by the fear of death, he returned to the Capitol to his friends, the Gauls being either astounded at such an extraordinary manifestation of boldness, or moved even by religious considerations, of which the nation is by no means regardless.
In the mean time, not only the courage, but the strength of those at Veii increased daily, not only those Romans repairing thither from the country who had strayed away after the unsuccessful battle, or the disaster of the city being taken, but volunteers also flowing in from Latium, to come in for share of the spoil. It now seemed high time that their country should be recovered and rescued from the hands of the enemy.
But a head was wanting to this strong body. The very spot put them in mind of Camillus, and a considerable part consisted of soldiers who had fought successfully under his guidance and auspices:
and Caedicius declared that he would not give occasion that any one, whether god or man, should terminate his command rather than that, mindful of his own rank, he would himself call (for the appointment of) a general.
With universal consent it was resolved that Camillus should be sent for from Ardea, but not until the senate at Rome were first consulted: so far did a sense of propriety regulate every proceeding, and so carefully did they observe the distinctions of things in their almost desperate circumstances. They had to pass at great risk through the enemy's guards.
For this purpose a spirited youth, Pontius Cominius, offered his services, and supporting himself on cork was carried down the Tiber to the city.
From thence, where the distance from the bank was shortest, he makes his way into the Capitol over a portion of the rock that was craggy, and therefore neglected by the enemy's guard: and being conducted to the magistrates, he delivers the instructions received from the army.
Then having received a decree of the senate, both that Camillus should be recalled from exile at the comitia curiata, and be forthwith appointed dictator by order of the people, and that the soldiers should have the general whom they wished, he passed out the same way and proceeded with his despatches to Veii;
and deputies being sent to Camillus to Ardea, conducted him to Veii: or else the law was passed by the curiae, and he was nominated dictator in his absence; for I am more inclined to believe that he did not set out [p. 380]
from Ardea until he found that the law was passed; because he could neither change his residence without an order of the people, nor hold the privilege of the auspices in the army until he was nominated dictator.