In the following year, Q. Servilius —for he was consul with Sp. Postumius —was sent against the Aequi, and fixed his entrenched camp on Latin territory. His army was attacked by an epidemic and compelled to remain inactive.
The war was protracted into the third year, when Quinctius Fabius and T. Quinctius were the consuls. As Fabius after his victory had granted peace to the Aequi, they were by special edict assigned to him as his sphere of operation.
He set out in the firm belief that the renown of his name would dispose them to peace; accordingly he sent envoys to their national council who were instructed to carry a message from Q. Fabius the consul to the effect that as he had brought peace from the Aequi to Rome
, so now he was bringing war from Rome
to the Aequi, with the same right hand, now armed, which he had formerly given to them as a pledge of peace.
The gods were now the witnesses and would soon be the avengers of those through whose perfidy and perjury this had come about.
In any case, however, he would rather that the Aequi should repent of their own accord than suffer at the hands of an enemy; if they did repent they could safely throw themselves on the clemency they had already experienced, but if they
found pleasure in perjuring themselves, they would be warring more against the angered gods than against earthly foes.
These words, however, had so little effect that the envoys barely escaped maltreatment, and an army was despatched to Mount Algidus against the Romans. On this being reported at Rome
, feelings of indignation rather than apprehension of danger hurried the other consul out of the City.
So two armies under the command of both consuls advanced against the enemy in battle formation, to bring about an immediate engagement. But, as it happened, not much daylight remained, and a soldier called out from the enemies outposts: ‘This, Romans, is making a display of war, not waging it.
You form your line when night is at hand; we need more daylight for the coming battle. When tomorrow's sun is rising, get into line again. There will be an ample opportunity of fighting, do not fear!’
Smarting under these taunts the soldiers were marched back into camp, to wait for the next day. They thought the coming night a long one, as it delayed the contest; after returning to camp they refreshed themselves with food and sleep.
When the next day dawned the Roman line was formed some time before that of the enemy. At length the Aequi advanced.
The fighting was fierce on both sides; the Romans fought in an angry and bitter temper; the Aequi, conscious of the danger in which their misdoing had involved them, and hopeless of ever being trusted in the future, were compelled to make a desperate and final effort.
They did not, however, hold their ground against the Roman army, but were defeated and forced to retire within their frontiers. The spirit of the rank and file of the army was unbroken and not a whit more inclined to peace.
They censured their generals because they staked all on one pitched battle, a mode of fighting in which the Romans excelled, whereas the Aequi, they said, were better at destructive forays and raids; numerous bands acting in all directions would be more successful than if massed in one great army.