Marcus Popillius Laenas was chosen consul on the part of the commons, Lucius Cornelius Scipio on that of the patricians.
Fortune even rendered the plebeian consul more distinguished; for when news was brought that a vast army of the Gauls had pitched their camp in the Latin territory, Scipio being attacked with a serious fit of illness, the Gallic war was intrusted out of course to Popillius.
He having raised an army with great energy, after he had ordered the younger citizens to assemble in arms outside the Capuan gate, and the quaestors to carry the standards from the treasury to the same place, having completed four legions, he gave the surplus of the men to the praetor Publius Valerius Publicola, recommending to the senate to raise
another army, which might be a reserve to the state against the sudden contingencies of war.
He himself, after sufficiently preparing and arranging every thing, proceeds towards the enemy; and in order to ascertain their strength before he should hazard a decisive action, he commenced drawing an intrenchment on a hill, the nearest he could select to the camp of the Gauls.
They being a fierce race and of an eager turn for fighting, when, on descrying the standards of the Romans at a distance, they drew out their forces, as expecting to commence the battle forthwith, when they perceived that neither the opposite army descended into the plain, and that the Romans were protected both by the height of the ground and also by the entrenchments, supposing that they were dismayed with fear, and also more exposed to attack, because they were intent on the work, they advance with a furious shout.
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the Romans neither the works were interrupted, (it was the triarii who were employed at them,) but the battle was commenced by the hastati and the principes, who stood in front of the workmen armed and prepared for the fight.
Besides their own valour, the higher ground aided them, so that all the spears and javelins did not fall ineffectual, as when thrown on the same level, (as is generally the case,) but being steadied by their own weight they took effect;
and the Gauls weighed down by the weapons, with which they had their bodies transfixed, or their shields rendered too cumbrous by those sticking in them.
When they advanced almost up the steep at a run, becoming irresolute, they at first halted; then when the very delay shook the courage of the one party, and raised that of the enemy, being then pushed backwards they fell one upon the other, and produced a carnage among themselves more shocking than the carnage [caused by the enemy]. For more were crushed by the precipitate rout, than there were slain by the sword.