It was now growing light and everything lay open to view. Fabius had delivered his attack with the cavalry and the consul had made a sortie against the enemy, who were now wavering.
The Dictator from the other side had attacked the second line of reserves, and whilst the enemy faced about to meet the sudden charges and confused shouts, he had thrown his victorious horse and foot across their front.
They were now hemmed in, and would, to a man, have paid the penalty for renewing the war, had not a Volscian, Vettius Messius, a man more distinguished by his exploits than by his pedigree, remonstrated loudly with his comrades, who were being rolled up into a helpless mass. ‘Are you going,’ he shouted, ‘to make yourselves a mark for the enemies' javelins, unresisting, defenceless?
Why then have you got arms, why did you begin an unprovoked war; you who are ever turbulent in peace and laggards in war? What do you expect to gain by standing here? Do you suppose that some deity will protect you and snatch you out of danger? A path must be made by the sword.
Come on in the way you see me go. You who are hoping to visit your homes and parents and wives and children, come with me. It is not a wall or a stockade which is in your way; arms are met by arms. Their equals in courage, you are their superiors by force of necessity, which is the last and greatest weapon.’
He then rushed forward and his men followed him, raising again their battle-shout, and flung the weight of their charge where Postumius Albus had interposed his cohorts. They forced the victors back, until the Dictator came up to his retreating men, and all the battle rolled to this part of the field.
The fortunes of the enemy rested solely on Messius. Many were wounded, many killed in all directions. By this time even the Roman generals were not unhurt.
Postumius, whose skull was fractured by a stone, was the only one who left the field. The Dictator was wounded in the shoulder, Fabius had his thigh almost pinned to his horse, the consul had his arm cut off, but they refused to retire while the battle was undecided.