Then having placed watch-guards, he commands the ticket to be issued to all the rest, that when the signal had been given by the trumpet of the second watch, they should assemble to him in silence fully armed.
Whither when they had assembled in silence according to the orders issued, “Soldiers,” says he, “this silence is to be observed in listening to me, waving the military mode of expressing assent. When I shall have thoroughly explained my sentiments to you, then such of you as shall approve the same, will pass over; we will follow that line of conduct which shall meet the judgment of the majority.
Now hear what I meditate in mind. The enemy have surrounded you, not brought hither in flight, nor left behind through cowardice. By valour you seized this ground; by valour you must make your way from it.
By coming hither you have saved a valuable army of the Roman people; by forcing your way hence, save yourselves. You have proved yourselves worthy, though few in number, of affording aid to multitudes, whilst you yourselves stand in need of aid from no one.
You have to do with that enemy, who on yesterday, through their supineness, availed themselves not of the fortunate opportunity of destroying our whole army, who did not see this hill so advantageously situate hanging over their heads, until it was seized on by us;
who with so many thousand men did not prevent us so few from the ascent, and did not surround us with a rampart when in possession of the ground, though so much of the day still remained.
That enemy which with their eyes open and awake you so baffled, it is incumbent on you now to beguile, buried, as they are, in sleep; nay, it is absolutely necessary. For our affairs are in that situation, [p. 492]
that I am rather to point out to you your necessity than to propose advice.
For whether you are to remain or to depart hence, can no longer be matter of deliberation, since, with the exception of your arms, and courage mindful of those arms, fortune has left you nothing, and we must die of famine and thirst, if we are more afraid of the sword than becomes men and Romans.
Therefore our only safety is to sally forth from this and to depart. That we must do either by day or by night.
But lo! another point which admits of less doubt; for if daylight be waited for, what hope is there, that the enemy, who have now encompassed the hill on every side, as you perceive, with their bodies exposed at disadvantage, will not hem us in with a continued rampart and ditch? If night then be favourable for a sally, as it is, this is undoubtedly the most suitable hour of night.
You assembled here on the signal of the second watch, a time which buries mortals in the profoundest sleep. You will pass through their bodies lulled to sleep, either in silence unnoticed by them, or ready to strike terror into them, should they perceive you, by a sudden shout.
Only follow me, whom you have followed. The same fortune which conducted us hither, will I follow. Those of you to whom these measures seem salutary, come on, pass over to the right.”