While such was the situation of affairs in Samnium, all the states of Etruria, except the Arretians, had taken arms, and vigorously commenced hostilities, by laying siege to Sutrium; which city, being in alliance with the Romans, served as a barrier against Etruria.
Thither the other consul, Aemilius, came with an army to deliver the allies from the siege. On the arrival of the Romans, the Sutrians conveyed a plentiful supply of provisions into their camp, which was pitched before the city.
The Etrurians spent the first day in deliberating whether they should expedite or protract the war. On the day following, when the speedier plan pleased the leaders in preference to the safer, as soon as the sun rose the signal for battle was displayed, and the troops marched out to [p. 604]
which being reported to the consul, he instantly commanded notice to be given, that they should dine, and after taking refreshment, then appear under arms.
The order was obeyed; and the consul, seeing them armed and in readiness, ordered the standards to be carried forth beyond the rampart, and drew up his men at a small distance from the enemy.
Both parties stood a long time with fixed attention, each waiting for the shout and fight to begin on the opposite side; and the sun had passed the meridian before a weapon was thrown by either side. Then, rather than leave the place without something being done, the shout was given by the Etrurians, the trumpets sounded, and the battalions advanced.
With no less alertness do the Romans commence the fight: both rushed to the fight with violent animosity; the enemy were superior in numbers, the Romans in valour.
The battle being doubtful, carries off great numbers on both sides, particularly the men of greatest courage; nor did victory declare itself, until the second line of the Romans came up fresh to the front, in the place of the first, who were much fatigued.
The Etrurians, because their front line was not supported by any fresh reserves, fell all before and round the standards, and in no battle whatever would there have been seen less disposition
to run, or a greater effusion of human blood, had not the night sheltered the Etrurians, who were resolutely determined on death; so that the victors, not the vanquished, were the first who desisted from fighting.
After sunset the signal for retreat was given, and both parties retired in the night to their camps. During the remainder of the year, nothing memorable was effected at Sutrium; for, of the enemy's army, the whole first line had been cut off in one battle, the reserves only being left, who were scarce sufficient to guard the camp;
and, among the Romans, so numerous were the wounds, that more wounded men died after the battle than had fallen in the field.