this year the armistice with Veii expired, and ambassadors and fetials2
were sent to demand satisfaction. When they reached the frontier they were met by a deputation from Veii, who begged them not to go there before they themselves had an audience of the Roman senate.
They obtained from the senate the withdrawal of the demand for satisfaction, owing to the internal troubles from which Veii was suffering. So far were the Romans from seeking their opportunity in the misfortunes of others!
A disaster was incurred on Volscian ground in the loss of the garrison at Verrugo.
So much depended here upon a few hours that the soldiers who were being besieged by the Volscians and begging for assistance could have been relieved if prompt measures had been taken. As it was, the relieving force only arrived in time to surprise the enemy, who, fresh from the massacre of the garrison, were scattered in quest of plunder.
The responsibility for the delay rested more with the senate than with the consular tribunes; they heard that the garrison were offering a most determined resistance, and they did not reflect that there are limits to human strength which no amount of courage can transcend.
The gallant soldiers were not unavenged either in their lives or their deaths.
The following year the consular tribunes were P. Cornelius Cossus, Cnaeus Cornelius Cossus, Numerius Fabius Ambustus, and L. Valerius Potitus.
Owing to the action of the senate of Veii, a war with that city was threatened.
The envoys whom Rome had sent to demand satisfaction received the insolent reply that unless they speedily departed from the city and crossed the frontiers the Veientines would give them what Lars Tolumnius had given.
The senate were indignant and passed a decree that the consular tribunes should bring before the people at the earliest possible day a proposal to declare war against Veii.
No sooner was the subject brought forward than the men who were liable for service protested.
They complained that the war with the Volscians had not been brought to a close, the garrisons of two forts had been annihilated, and the forts, though recaptured, were held with difficulty,
there was not a single year in which there was not fighting, and now, as if they had not enough work on hand, they were preparing for a fresh war with a most powerful neighbour who would rouse the whole of Etruria.
This disaffection amongst the plebs was fanned by their tribunes,
who were continually giving out that the most serious war was the one going on between the senate and the plebs, who were purposely harassed by war and exposed to be butchered by the enemy and kept as it were in banishment far from their homes lest the quiet of city life might awaken memories of their liberties and lead them to discuss schemes for distributing the State lands amongst colonists and securing a free exercise of their franchise.
They got hold of the veterans, counted up each man's campaigns and wounds and scars, and asked what blood was still left in him which could be shed for the State.
By raising these topics in public speeches and private conversations they produced amongst the plebeians a feeling of opposition to the projected war. The subject was therefore dropped for the time, as it was evident that in the then state of opinion it would, if brought forward, be rejected.