As soon as they came in sight and recognised the arms and standards, instantly the recollection of their country softened the resentment of all.
Not yet were they so hardy as to shed the blood of their countrymen, nor had they known any but foreign wars, and secession from their own was deemed the extreme of rage. Accordingly now the generals, now the soldiers sought a meeting for a negotiation.
Quinctius, who was satiated with arms [taken up] even in defence of his country, much more so against it; Corvus, who entertained a warm affection for all his countrymen, chiefly the soldiers, and above others, for his own army, advanced to a conference.
To him, being immediately recognised, silence was granted with no less respect by his adversaries, than by [p. 499]
his own party: he says, “Soldiers, at my departure from the city, I prayed to the immortal gods, your public deities as well as mine, and earnestly implored their goodness so, that they would grant me the glory of establishing concord among you, not victory over you.
There have been and there will be sufficient opportunities, whence military fame may be obtained: on this occasion peace should be the object of our wishes.
What I earnestly called for from the immortal gods when offering up my prayers, you have it in your power to grant to me, if you will remember, that you have your camp not in Samnium, nor among the Volscians, but on Roman ground; that those hills which you behold are those of your country, that this is the army of your countrymen; that I am your own consul, under whose guidance and auspices ye last year twice defeated the legions of the Samnites, twice took their camp by storm.
Soldiers, I am Marcus Valerius Corvus, whose nobility ye have felt by acts of kindness towards you, not by ill-treatment; the proposer of no tyrannical law against you, of no harsh decree of the senate; in every post of command more strict on myself than on you.
And if birth, if personal merit, if high dignity, if public honours could suggest arrogance to any one, from such ancestors have I been descended, such a specimen had I given of myself, at such an age did I attain the consulship, that when but twenty-three years old I might have been a proud consul, even to the patricians, not to the commons only.
What act or saying of mine, when consul, have ye heard of more severe than when only tribune? With the same tenor did I administer two successive consulships; with the same shall this uncontrollable office, the dictatorship, be administered. So that I shall be found not more indulgent to these my own soldiers and the soldiers of my country, than to you, I shudder to call you so, its enemies.
Ye shall therefore draw the sword against me, before I draw it against you.
On that side the signal shall be sounded, on that the shout and onset shall begin, if a battle must take place. Determine in your minds, on that which neither your fathers nor grandfathers could; neither those who seceded to the Sacred Mount, nor yet those who afterwards posted themselves on the Aventine.
Wait till your mothers and wives come out to meet you from the city with dishevelled hair, as they did formerly to Coriolanus. At that [p. 500]
time the legions of the Volscians, because they had a Roman for their leader, ceased from hostilities; will not ye, a Roman army, desist from an unnatural war?
Titus Quinctius, under whatever circumstances you stand on that side, whether voluntarily or reluctantly, if there must be fighting, do you then retire to the rear. With more honour even will you fly, and turn your back to your countryman, than fight against your country.
Now you will stand with propriety and honour among the foremost to promote peace; and may you be a salutary agent in this conference.
Require and offer that which is just; though we should admit even unjust terms, rather than engage in an impious combat with each other.” Titus Quinctius, turning to his party with his eyes full of tears, said, “In me too, soldiers, if there is any use of me, ye have a better leader for peace than for war.
For that speech just now delivered, not a Volscian, nor a Samnite expressed, but a Roman: your own consul, your own general, soldiers: whose auspices having already experienced for you, do not wish to experience them against you.
The senate had other generals also, who would engage you with more animosity; they have selected the one who would be most indulgent to you, his own soldiers, in whom as your general you would have most confidence.
Even those who can conquer, desire peace: what ought we to desire?
Why do we not, renouncing resentment and hope, those fallacious advisers, resign ourselves and all our interests to his tried honour?”