The severity of the punishment however rendered the soldiers more obedient to the general; and besides that the guards and watches and the regulation of the posts w re every where more strictly attended to, such severity was also profitable in the final struggle when they came into the field of battle.
But the battle was very like to a civil war; so very similar was every thing among the Romans and Latins, except with respect to courage.
The Romans formerly used targets; afterwards, when they began to receive pay, they made shields instead of targets; and what before constituted phalanxes similar to the Macedonian, afterwards became a line drawn up in distinct companies.
At length they were divided into several centuries. A century contained sixty soldiers, two centurions, and one standard-bearer.
The spearmen (hastati) formed the first line in fifteen companies, with small intervals between them: a company had twenty light-armed soldiers, the rest wearing shields; those were called light who carried only a spear and short iron javelins.
This, which constituted the van in the field of battle, contained the youth in early bloom advancing towards the age of service. Next followed men of more robust age, in the same number of companies, who were called principes, all wearing shields, and distinguished by the completest armour.
This band of thirty companies they called antepilani, because there were fifteen others placed behind them with the standards; of which each company consisted of three divisions, and the first division of each they called a pilus.
Each company consisted of three ensigns, and contained one hundred and eighty-six men. The first ensign was at the head of the Triarii, veteran soldiers of tried bravery; the second, at the head of the Rorarii, men whose ability was less by reason of their age and course of service; the third, at the head of the Accensi, a body in whom very little confidence was reposed. For this reason also they were thrown [p. 514]
back to the rear.
When the army was marshalled according to this arrangement, the spearmen first commenced the fight. If the spearmen were unable to repulse the enemy, they retreated leisurely, and were received by the principes into the intervals of the ranks.
The fight then devolved on the principes; the spearmen followed. The Triarii continued kneeling behind the ensigns, their left leg extended forward, holding their shields resting on their shoulders, and their spears fixed in the ground, with the points erect, so that their line bristled as if enclosed by a rampart.
If the principes also did not make sufficient impression in the fight, they retreated slowly from the front to the Triarii. Hence, when a difficulty is felt, “Matters have come to the Triarii,” became a usual proverb.
The Triarii rising up, after receiving the principes and spearmen into the intervals between their ranks, immediately closing their files, shut up as it were the openings;
and in one compact body fell upon the enemy, no other hope being now left: that was the most formidable circumstance to the enemy, when having pursued them as vanquished, they beheld a new line suddenly starting up, increased also in strength.
In general about four legions were raised, each consisting of five thousand infantry and three hundred horse.
As many more were added from the Latin levy, who were at that time enemies to the Romans, and drew up their line after the same manner; and they knew that unless the ranks were disturbed they would have to engage not only standard with standard, spearmen with spearmen, principles with principes, but centurion also with centurion.
There were among the veterans two first centurions in either army, the Roman by no means possessing bodily strength, but a brave man, and experienced in the service; the Latin powerful in bodily strength, and a first-rate warrior;
they were very well known to each other, because they had always held equal rank.
The Roman, somewhat diffident of his strength, had at Rome obtained permission from the consuls, to select any one whom he wished, his own subcenturion, to protect him from the one destined to be his adversary; and this youth being opposed to him in the battle, obtained the victory over the Latin centurion.
They came to an engagement not far from the foot of Mount Vesuvius, where the road led to the Veseris. [p. 515]