But so far no action had been taken by the consuls to give an opening for obstruction and the wresting of the desired concessions from the patricians. By a marvellous piece of good luck, news came that the Volscians and Aequi had made a predatory inroad into the Latin and Hernican territories.
The senate decreed a levy for this war, but when the consuls began to raise it the tribunes vigorously opposed them, and declared that they themselves and the plebs had now got their opportunity.
There were three of them, all very energetic, who might be considered of good family as far as plebeians could be. Two of them assumed the task of keeping a close watch on each of the consuls; to the third was assigned the duty of alternately restraining and urging on the plebeians by his harangues.
The consuls could not get through with the levy, nor the tribunes with the election which they were so anxious for.
Fortune at last took the side of the plebs, for tidings came that whilst the troops who were holding the citadel of Carventum were dispersed in quest of plunder, the Aequi had attacked it, and after killing the few left on guard, had cut to pieces some who were hastening back and others whilst straggling in the fields. This incident, so unfortunate for the State, strengthened the hands of the tribunes.
Fruitless attempts were made to induce them in this emergency to desist from opposing the war, but they would not give way either in view of the threatening danger to the State or the odium which might fall upon themselves, and finally succeeded in forcing the senate to pass a decree for the election of consular tribunes.
It was, however, expressly stipulated that none of the present tribunes of the plebs should be eligible for that post, or should be re-elected as plebeian tribunes for the next year.
This was undoubtedly aimed at the Icilii, whom the senate suspected of aiming at the consulship as a reward for their exertions as tribunes.
Then, with the consent of both orders, the levy was raised and preparations for war commenced. Authorities differ as to whether both consuls proceeded to the citadel of Carventum, or whether one remained behind to conduct the elections. There is no dispute, however, as to the Romans retiring from the citadel of Carventum after a long and ineffectual siege, and recovering Verrugo after committing great depredations and securing much booty in both the Volscian and Aequian territories.