The helpless commonwealth, deprived of its head and all its strength, was saved by its guardian deities and the fortune of the City, who made the Volscians and Aequi think more of plunder than of their enemy.
For they had no hope of even approaching the walls of Rome
, still less of effecting its capture. The distant view of its houses and its hills, so far from alluring them repelled them.
Everywhere throughout their camp angry remonstrances arose: ‘Why were they idly wasting their time in a waste and deserted land amid plague stricken beasts and men while they could find places free from infection in the territory of Tusculum
with its abundant wealth?’ They hastily plucked up their standards,1
and by cross-marches through the fields of Labici
they reached the hills of Tusculum
. All the violence and storm of war was now turned in this direction.
Meantime the Hernici and Latins joined their forces and proceeded to Rome
They were actuated by a feeling not only of pity but also of the disgrace they would incur if they had offered no opposition to their common foe while he was advancing to attack Rome
, or had brought no succour to those who were their allies.
Not finding the enemy there, they followed up their traces from the information supplied them, and met them as they were descending from the hills of Tusculum
into the valley of Alba. Here a very one-sided action was fought, and their fidelity to their allies met with little success for the time.
The mortality in Rome
through the epidemic was not less than that of the allies through the sword. The surviving consul died; amongst other illustrious victims were M. Valerius and T. Verginius Rutilus, the augurs, and Ser. Sulpicius, the ‘Curio Maximus.’
Amongst the common people the violence of the epidemic made great ravage. The senate, deprived of all human aid, bade the people betake themselves to prayers; they with their wives and children were ordered to go as suppliants and entreat the gods to be
gracious. Summoned by public authority to do what each man's misery was constraining him to do, they crowded all the temples. Prostrate matrons, sweeping with their dishevelled hair the temple floors, were everywhere imploring pardon from offended heaven, and entreating that an end might be put to the pestilence.