The speech which Tempanius made in reply is said to have been unpolished, but marked by soldierly dignity, free from the vanity of self-praise, and showing no pleasure in the inculpation of others.
‘It was not,’ he said, ‘a soldier's place to criticise his commander, or judge how much military skill he possessed; that was for the Roman people to do when they elected him consul.
They must not therefore demand of him what tactics a commander should adopt, or what military capacity a consul should display; these were matters which even great minds and intellects would have to weigh very carefully. He could, however, relate what he saw.
Before he was cut off from the main body he saw the consul fighting in the front line, encouraging his men, going to and fro between the Roman standards and the missiles of the enemy.
After he, the speaker, was carried out of sight of his comrades, he knew from the noise and shouting that the combat was kept up till night; and he did not believe that a way could have been made to the eminence which he had occupied, owing to the numbers of the enemy.
Where the army was he knew not; he thought that as he found protection for himself and his men at a moment of extreme peril in the nature of the ground, so the consul had selected a stronger position for his camp, to save his army.
He did not believe that the Volscians were in any better plight than the Romans; the varying fortunes of the fight and the fall of night had led to all sorts of mistakes on both sides.’
He then begged them not to keep him any longer, as he was exhausted with his exertions and his wounds, and thereupon was dismissed amidst loud praises of his modesty no less than his courage.
Whilst this was going on the consul had reached the Labican road and was at the chapel of Quies
Wagons and draught-cattle were despatched thither from the City for the conveyance of the army, who were worn out by the battle and night march. Shortly afterwards the consul entered the City, quite as anxious to give Tempanius the praise he so
well deserved as to remove the blame from his own shoulders.
Whilst the citizens were mourning over their reverses and angry with their generals, M. Postumius, who as consular tribune had commanded at Veii, was brought before them for trial.
He was sentenced to a fine of 10,000 ‘ases
.’ His colleague, T. Quinctius, who had been successful against the Volscians under the auspices of the Dictator Postumius Tubertus, and at Fidenae as second in command under the other Dictator, Mam. Aemilius, threw all the blame for the disaster at Veii on his colleague who had been previously sentenced. He was acquitted by the unanimous vote of the tribes.
It is said that the memory of his venerated father, Cincinnatus, stood him in good stead, as also did the now aged Capitolinus Quinctius, who earnestly entreated them not to allow him, with so brief a span of life left to him, to be the bearer of such sad tidings to Cincinnatus.