Towards the close of the year there was some peace, but, as frequently at other times, disturbed by contests between the patricians and commons.
The exasperated commons refused to attend the consular elections: Titus Quintius, Quintus Servilius, were elected consuls by the patricians and their dependents: the consuls have a year similar to the preceding, the commencement embroiled, and afterwards tranquil by external war.
The Sabines marching across the plains of Crustuminum with great rapidity, after carrying fire and sword along the banks of the Anio, being repulsed when they had come up nearly to the Colline gate and the walls, drove off however great booty of men and cattle:
the consul Servilius, having pursued them with a determined army, was unable to come up with the main body itself on the champaign country; he carried his devastation however so extensively, that he left nothing unmolested by war, and returned after obtaining plunder much exceeding that carried off by the enemy.
The public interest was supported extremely well against the Volscians also by the exertions as well of the general as of the soldiers. First they fought a pitched battle, on equal ground, with great slaughter and much bloodshed on both sides:
and the Romans, because the fewness of their numbers was more likely to make the loss felt, would have given way, had not the consul, by a well-timed fiction, re-animated the army, crying out that the enemy were flying on the other wing; making a charge, they, by supposing that they were victorious, became so.
The consul, fearing lest by pressing too far he might renew the contest, gave the signal for a retreat.
A few days intervened; rest being taken on both sides as if by a tacit suspension of arms; during these days a vast number of persons from all the states of the Volscians and Aequans came to the camp, certain that the Romans would depart during the night, if they should perceive them.
Accordingly about the third watch they come to attack the camp. Quintius having allayed the confusion which the sudden panic had occasioned, after ordering the soldiers to remain quiet in their tents, leads out a cohort of the Hernician for an advance guard:
the trumpeters and horneteers he mounts on horseback, and commands them to sound their trumpets before the rampart, and to keep the enemy in suspense till daylight: during the rest of the night every thing was so quiet [p. 156]
in the camp, that the Romans had even the advantage of sleep.
The sight of the armed infantry, whom they both considered to be more numerous than they were, and to be Romans, the bustle and neighing of the horses, which became restless, both from the strange riders placed on them, and moreover from the sound of the trumpets frightening them, kept the Volscians intently awaiting an attack of the enemy.