Accordingly in the year following, Marcus Popilius [p. 460]
Laenas and Cneius Manlius being consuls, during the first silence of the night having set out from Tibur with an army prepared for action, they came to the city of Rome.
The suddenness of the thing, and the panic occurring at night, occasioned some terror among them on being suddenly aroused from sleep; further, the ignorance of many as to who the enemy were or whence they had come.
However they quickly ran to arms, and guards were posted at the gates, and the walls were secured with troops; and when daylight showed but an inconsiderable force before the walls, and that the enemy were none other than the Tiburtines, the consuls, having gone forth from the two gates, attack on either side the army of these now advancing up to the walls;
and it became obvious that they had come relying rather on the opportunity than on their valour, for they hardly sustained the first charge of the Romans.
Nay more, it was evident that their coming proved an advantage to the Romans, and that a disturbance just arising between the patricians and commons was checked by the dread of a war so near them.
In the next war there was another irruption of the enemy, more terrible to the country than to the city. The Tarquinians overran the Roman frontiers, committing depredations on that side more especially where they are contiguous to Etruria; and restitution being demanded in vain, the new consuls, Cneius Fabius and Caius Plautius, proclaimed war on them by order of the people; and that province fell to the lot of Fabius, the Hernicians to Plautius.
A rumour of a Gallic war also was gaining ground.
But amid their many terrors, they had some consolation from a peace granted to the Latins at their own request, as also from a considerable reinforcement of soldiers received from them in conformity with an old treaty, which they had for several years ceased to observe.
When the Roman cause was supported by this aid, the tidings that the Gauls had come to Praeneste and were encamped near to Pedum, were less heeded. It was determined that Caius Sulpicius should be appointed dictator. Caius Plautius the consul, being sent for for the purpose, nominated him; Marcus Valerius was assigned as master of the horse to the dictator.
These having selected the best of the soldiers out of the two consular armies, led them against the Gauls. This war was more tedious than was satisfactory to either party.
When at [p. 461]
first the Gauls only were desirous of fighting, afterwards the Roman soldiers considerably surpassed the ferocity of the Gauls in their ardour for arms and battle; it by no means met the approbation of the dictator when no urgent necessity existed to run any hazard against an enemy, whose strength time and inconvenient situation would daily impair, in total inactivity, without provisions previously laid up or any fortified situation; besides, being persons of such minds and bodies, that all their force lay in brisk exertion, whilst the same flagged by short delay.
On these considerations the dictator protracted the war, and denounced a severe penalty against any one who should fight against the enemy without orders. The soldiers, being much dissatisfied with this, first censured the dictator, in their conversation, when on guard and on the watches; sometimes they found fault with the patricians in general, for not having commanded the war to be conducted by the consuls.
“That an excellent general, an extraordinary commander, had been selected, who thinks that whilst he does nothing victory will fly down from heaven into his lap.” Afterwards they gave expression to these same sentiments openly during the day, and to others still more outrageous; that “they would either fight without the general's orders, or would proceed in a body to Rome.”
The centurions, too, began to mix with the soldiers; and they murmured not only in their own quarters, but now their observations began to be confounded together at head-quarters and at the general's tent, and the crowd increased to the magnitude of an assembly, and they now shouted from all quarters that “they should go forthwith to the dictator; that Sextus Tullius should speak in behalf of the army, so as became his courage.”