After thus subduing the enemy by his justice and good faith, Camillus returned to the City invested with a much nobler glory than when white horses drew him through it in his triumph. The senate could not withstand the delicate reproof of his silence, but at once proceeded to free him from his vow.
L. Valerius, L. Sergius, and A. Manlius were appointed as a deputation to carry the golden bowl, made as a gift to Apollo, to Delphi, but the solitary warship in which they were sailing was captured by Liparean pirates not far from the Straits of Sicily, and taken to the islands of Liparae.
Piracy was regarded as a kind of State institution, and it was the custom for the government to distribute the plunder thus acquired. That year the supreme magistracy was held by Timasitheus, a man more akin to the Romans in character than to his own countrymen.
As he himself reverenced the name and office of the ambassadors, the gift they had in charge and the god to whom it was being sent, so he inspired the multitude, who generally share the views of their ruler, with a proper religious sense of their duty. The deputation were conducted to the State guest-house, and from there sent on their way to Delphi with a protecting escort of ships, he then brought them back safe to Rome.
Friendly relations were established with him on the part of the State, and presents bestowed upon him.
this year there was war with the Aequi of so undecided a character that it was a matter of uncertainty, both in the armies themselves and in Rome, whether they were victorious or vanquished.
The two consular tribunes, C. Aemilius and Spurius Postumius, were in command of the Roman army.
At first they carried on joint operations; after the enemy had been routed in the field, they arranged that Aemilius should hold Verrugo whilst Postumius devastated their territory.
Whilst he was marching somewhat carelessly after his success, with his men out of order, he was attacked by the Aequi, and such a panic ensued that his troops were driven to the nearest hills, and the alarm spread even to the other army at Verrugo.
After they had retreated to a safe position, Postumius summoned his men to assembly and severely rebuked them for their panic and flight, and for having been routed by such a cowardly and easily defeated foe. With one voice the army exclaimed that his reproaches were deserved; they had, they confessed, behaved disgracefully, but they would themselves repair their fault, the enemy would not long have cause for rejoicing.
They asked him to lead them at once against the enemy's camp —it was in full view down in the plain —and no punishment would be too severe if they failed to take it before nightfall.
He commended their eagerness, and ordered them to refresh themselves and to be ready by the fourth watch. The enemy, expecting the Romans to attempt a nocturnal flight from their hill, were posted to cut them off from the road leading to Verrugo. The action commenced before dawn, but as there was a moon all night, the battle was as clearly visible as if it had been fought by day.
The shouting reached Verrugo, and they believed that the Roman camp was being attacked. This created such a panic that in spite of all the appeals of Aemilius in his efforts to restrain them, the garrison broke away and fled in scattered groups to Tusculum.
Thence the rumour was carried to Rome that Postumius and his army were slain.
As soon as the rising dawn had removed all apprehensions of a surprise in case the pursuit was carried too far, Postumius rode down the ranks demanding the fulfilment of their promise.
The enthusiasm of the troops was so roused that the Aequi no longer withstood the attack. Then followed a slaughter of the fugitives, such as might be expected where men are actuated by rage even more than by courage; the army was destroyed. The doleful report from Tusculum and the groundless fears of the City were followed by a laurelled despatch2
from Postumius announcing the victory of Rome and the annihilation of the Aequian army.