The next two consuls, Marcus Fabius Ambustus a second time, and Marcus Popillius Laenas a second time, had two wars on their hands.
The one with the Tiburtians was easy, [p. 467]
which Licinius managed, who drove the enemy into their city, and laid waste their lands. The Faliscians and Tarquinians routed the other consul in the commencement of the fight.
From these parties the utmost terror was raised, in consequence of their priests, who, by carrying before them lighted torches and the figures of serpents, and advancing with the gait of furies, disconcerted the Roman soldiers by their extraordinary appearance;
and then indeed they ran back to their entrenchments, in all the hurry of trepidation, as if frenzied or thunderstruck; and then when the consul, and lieutenant-generals, and tribunes began to ridicule and chide them for being frightened like children at mere sights, shame suddenly changed their minds; and they rushed, as if blindfold, on those very objects from which they had fled.
Having, therefore, dissipated the idle contrivance of the enemy having attacked those who were in arms, they drove their whole line before them, and having got possession of the camp also on that day, and obtained great booty, they returned victorious, uttering military jests, both on the stratagem of the enemy as also on their own panic.
Then the whole Etruscan nation is aroused, and under the conduct of the Tarquinians and Faliscians, they come to Salinae. To meet this alarm, Caius Marcius Rutilus, being appointed dictator, the first plebeian who was so, named Caius Plautius, also a plebeian, master of the horse.
This was deemed an indignity by the patricians, that the dictatorship also was now become common, and with all their exertions they prevented any thing from either being decreed or prepared for the dictator, for the prosecution of that war.
With the more promptitude, on that account, did the people order things, as proposed by the dictator. Having set out from the city, along both sides of the Tiber, and transporting his army on rafts
whithersoever his intelligence of the enemy led him, he surprised many of them straggling about in scattered parties, laying waste the lands. Moreover, he suddenly attacked their camp and took it; and eight thousand of the enemy being made.
prisoners, all the rest being either slain or driven out of the Roman territory, he triumphed by order of the people, without the sanction of the senate.
Because they neither wished that the consular elections should be held by a plebeian dictator or consul, and the other consul, Fabius, was detained by the war, matters came to an interregnum. There [p. 468]
were then interreges in succession, Quintus Servilius Ahala, Marcus Fabius, Cneius Manlius, Caius Fabius, Caius Sulpicius, Lucius Aemilius, Quintus Servilius, Marcus Fabius Ambustas.
In the second interregnum a dispute arose, because two patrician consuls were elected: and the tribunes protesting, Fabius the interrex said, that “it was a law in the twelve tables, that whatever the people ordered last should be law and in force; that the suffrages of the people were their orders.”
When the tribunes by their protest had been able to effect nothing else than to put off the elections, two patricians were chosen consuls, Caius Sulpicius Peticus a third time, Marcus Valerius Publicola; and on the same day they entered into office.