Sp. and L. Papirius, the new consular tribunes, marched with the legions to Velitrae. Their four colleagues, Ser. Cornelius Maluginensis, Q. Servilius, C. Sulpicius, and L. Aemilius were left to defend the City and to meet any fresh movement in Etruria, for danger was suspected everywhere on that side.
At Velitrae, where the auxiliaries from Praeneste were almost more numerous than the colonists themselves, an engagement took place in which the Romans soon won the day, for as the city was so near, the enemy took to flight early in the battle and made for the city as their one refuge. The tribunes abstained from storming the place, for they were doubtful of success and did not think it right to reduce the colony to ruin.
The dispatches to the senate announcing the victory were more severe on the Praenestines than on the Veliternians. Accordingly, by a decree of the senate confirmed by the people, war was declared against Praeneste The Praenestines joined forces with the Volscians and in the following year took by storm the Roman colony of Satricum, after an obstinate defence, and made a brutal use of their victory.
This incident exasperated the Romans.
They elected M. Furius Camillus as consular tribune for the sixth time, and gave him four colleagues, A. and L. Postumius Regillensis, L. Furius, L. Lucretius, and M. Fabius Ambustus . By a special decree of the senate the war with the Volscians was entrusted to M. Furius Camillus; the tribune chosen by lot as his coadjutor was L. Furius, not so much, as it turned out, in the interest of the State, as in the interest of his colleague, for whom he served as the means of gaining fresh renown.
He gained it on public grounds by restoring the fortunes of the State which had been brought low by the other's rashness, and on private grounds, because he was more anxious to win the other's gratitude after retrieving his error than to win glory for himself.
Camillus was now advanced in age, and after being elected was prepared to make the usual affidavit declining office on the grounds of health, but the people refused to allow him. His vigorous breast was still animated by an energy unweakened by age, his senses were unimpaired, and his interest in political affairs was lost in the prospect of war.
Four legions were enrolled, each consisting of 4000 men The army was ordered to muster the next day at the Esquiline Gate and at once marched for Satricum.
Here the captors of the colony awaited him, their decided superiority of numbers inspiring them with complete confidence. When they found that the Romans were approaching they advanced at once to battle, anxious to bring matters to a decisive issue as soon as possible.
They imagined that this would prevent the inferiority in numbers of their opponents from being in any way aided by the skill of their commander, which they looked upon as the sole ground of confidence for the Romans.