As soon as the arms clashed at the first encounter, the enemy, from stratagem, not from fear, retreated.
There was a gentle acclivity in their rear, between the army and their camp; and because they had sufficient numbers, they had left in the camp several strong cohorts, armed and ready for action, which were to rush forth, when the battle was now commenced, and when the enemy had approached the rampart.
The Roman being drawn into disadvantageous ground by following the retreating enemy in disorder, became exposed to this sally. Terror therefore being turned on the victor, by reason of this new force, and the declivity of the valley, caused the Roman line to give way.
The Volscians, who made the attack from the camp, being fresh, press on them; those also who had given way by a pretended flight, renew the fight.
The Roman soldiers no longer recovered themselves; but unmindful of their recent presumption and former glory, were turning their backs in every direction, and with disorderly speed were making for their camp, when Camillus, being mounted on his horse by those around him, and hastily opposing the reserved troops to them, “Is this,” says he, “soldiers, the battle which ye called for? What man, what god is there, whom ye can blame? That was your rashness, this your [p. 422]
Having followed another leader, now follow Camillus; and as ye are accustomed to do under my leadership, conquer. Why do ye look to the rampart and camp? Not a man of you shall that camp receive, except as victor.”
Shame at first stopped their disorderly flight; then when they saw the standards wheel about, and a line formed to meet the enemy, and the general, besides being distinguished by so many triumphs, venerable also by his age, presented himself in front of the battalions, where the greatest toil and danger was, every one began to upbraid both himself and others, and mutual exhortation with a brisk shout pervaded the entire line.
Nor was the other tribune deficient on the occasion. Being despatched to the cavalry by his colleague, who was restoring the line of the infantry, not by rebuking them, (for which task his share in their fault had rendered him an authority of little weight,) but from command turning entirely to entreaties, he besought them individually and collectively, “to redeem him from blame, who was answerable for the events of that day.
Notwithstanding the repugnance and dissuasion of my colleague, I gave myself a partner in the rashness of all rather than in the prudence of one. Camillus sees his own glory in your fortune, whatever it be;
for my part, unless the battle is restored, I shall feel the result with you all, the infamy alone (which is most distressing).” It was deemed best that the horse should be transferred into the line whilst still unsteady, and that they should attack the enemy by fighting on foot. Distinguished by their arms and courage, they proceed in whatever direction they perceive the line of the infantry most pressed; nor among either the officers or soldiers is there any abatement observed from the utmost effort of courage.
The result therefore felt the aid of the bravery exerted; and the Volscians being put to real flight in that direction in which they had lately retreated under pretended fear, great numbers were slain both in the battle itself, and afterwards in flight; the others in the camp, which was taken in the same onset: more, however, were captured than slain.