In the same year the consul Valerius advanced with an army against the Aequi, but failing to draw the enemy into an engagement he commenced an attack on their camp. A terrible storm, sent down from heaven, of thunder and hail prevented him from continuing the attack. The surprise was heightened when after the retreat had been sounded, calm and bright weather returned. He felt that it would be an act of impiety to attack a second time a camp defended by some divine power. His warlike energies were turned to the devastation of the country. The other consul, Aemilius, conducted a campaign amongst the Sabines. There, too, as the enemy kept behind their walls, their fields were laid waste. The burning not only of scattered homesteads but also of villages with numerous populations roused the Sabines to action. They met the depredators, an indecisive action was fought, after which they moved their camp into a safer locality. The consul thought this a sufficient reason for leaving the enemy as though defeated, and coming away without finishing the war. LXIII. T. Numicius Priscus and A. Verginius were the new consuls. The domestic disturbance continued through these wars, and the plebeians were evidently not going to tolerate any further delay with regard to the Agrarian Law, and were pre-paring for extreme measures, when the smoke of burning farms and the flight of the country folk announced the approach of the Volscians. This checked the revolution which was now ripe and on the point of breaking out. The senate was hastily summoned, and the consuls led the men liable for active service out to the war, thereby making the rest of the plebs more peaceably disposed. The enemy retired precipitately, having effected nothing beyond filling the Romans with groundless fears. Numicius advanced against the Volscians to Antium
, Verginius against the Aequi. Here he was ambushed and narrowly escaped a serious defeat; the valour of the soldiers restored the fortunes of the day, which the consul's negligence had imperilled.
More skillful generalship was shown against the Volscians; the enemy were routed in the first engagement and driven in flight to Antium
, which was, for those days, a very wealthy city. The consul did not venture to attack it, but he took Caeno
from the Antiates, not by any means so wealthy a place. Whilst the Aequi and Volscians were keeping the Roman armies engaged, the Sabines extended their ravages up to the gates of the City. In a few days the consuls invaded their territory, and, attacked fiercely by both armies, they suffered heavier losses than they had inflicted. LXIV. Towards the close of the year there was a short interval of peace, but, as usual, it was marred by the struggle between the patricians and the plebeians. The plebs, in their exasperation, refused to take any part in the election of consuls; T. Quinctius and Q. Servilius were elected consuls by the patricians and their clients. They had a year similar to the previous one: agitation during the first part, then the calming of this by foreign war. The Sabines hurriedly traversed the plains of Crustumerium, and carried fire and sword into the district watered by the Anio, but were repulsed when almost close to the Colline gate and the walls of the City. They succeeded, however, in carrying off immense spoil both in men and cattle.
The consul Servilius followed them up with an army bent on revenge, and though unable to come up with their main body in the open country, he carried on his ravages on such an extensive scale that he left no part unmolested by war, and returned with spoil many times greater than that of the enemy. Amongst the Volscians also the cause of Rome
was splendidly upheld by the exertions of general and soldiers alike. To begin with, they met on level ground and a pitched battle was fought with immense losses on both sides in killed and wounded. The Romans, whose paucity of numbers made them more sensible of their loss, would have retreated had not the consul called out that the enemy on the other wing were in flight, and by this well-timed falsehood roused the army to fresh effort. They made a charge and converted a supposed victory into a real one. The consul, fearing lest by pressing the attack too far he might force a renewal of the combat, gave the signal for retiring. For the next few days both sides kept quiet, as though there were a tacit understanding. During this interval, an immense body of men from all the Volscian and Aequan cities came into camp, fully expecting that when the Romans heard of their arrival they would make a nocturnal retreat. Accordingly, about the third watch they moved out to attack the camp. After allaying the confusion caused by the sudden alarm, Quinctius ordered the soldiers to remain quietly in their quarters, marched out a cohort of Hernicans to the outposts, mounted the buglers and trumpeters on horseback, and ordered them to sound their calls and keep the enemy on the alert till dawn.
For the remainder of the night all was so quiet in the camp that the Romans even enjoyed ample sleep. The sight of the armed infantry whom the Volscians took to be Romans and more numerous than they really were, the noise and neighing of the horses, restless under their inexperienced riders and excited by the sound of the trumpets, kept the enemy in constant apprehension of an attack. LXV. At daybreak the Romans, fresh from their undisturbed sleep, were led into action, and at the first charge broke the Volscians, worn out as they were with standing and want of sleep. It was, however, a retreat rather than a rout, for in their rear there were hills to which all behind the front ranks safely retired. When they reached the rising ground, the consul halted his army. The soldiers were with difficulty restrained, they clamoured to be allowed to follow up the beaten foe. The cavalry were much more insistent, they crowded round the general and loudly declared that they would go on in advance of the infantry. While the consul, sure of the courage of his men, but not reassured as to the nature of the ground, was still hesitating, they shouted that they would go on, and followed up their shouts by making an advance. Fixing their spears in the ground that they might be more lightly equipped for the ascent, they went up at a run. The Volscians hurled their javelins at the first onset, and then flung the stones lying at their feet upon the enemy as they came up. Many were hit, and through the disorder thus created they were forced back from the higher ground.
In this way the Roman left wing was nearly overwhelmed, but through the reproaches which the consul cast upon his retreating men for their rashness as well as their cowardice, he made their fear give way to the sense of shame. At first they stood and offered a firm resistance, then when by holding their ground they had recovered their energies they ventured upon an advance. With a renewed shout the whole line went forward, and pressing on in a second charge they surmounted the difficulties of the ascent, and were just on the point of reaching the summit when the enemy turned and fled. With a wild rush, pursuers and fugitives almost in one mass dashed into the camp, which was taken. Those of the Volscians who succeeded in escaping made for Antium
; thither the Roman army was led. After a few days' investment the place was surrendered, not owing to any unusual efforts on the part of the besiegers, but simply because after the unsuccessful battle and the loss of their camp the enemy had lost heart.