Besides that they had already of themselves recovered a sufficient degree of courage, the Romans were fired with exasperation “that the other army would soon return victorious to the city; that the enemy were now wantonly insulting them by contumelies; when would they be a match for the enemy, if they were not so then?”
When the consul ascertained that the soldiers gave expression to these sentiments in the camp, having summoned an assembly: “How matters have gone on in Algidum,” says he, “I suppose that you, soldiers, have already heard. As became the army of a free people to behave, so have they behaved: through the judicious conduct of my colleague and the valour of the soldiers, the victory has been gained. For my part, the plan and determination which I am to maintain, you yourselves shall suggest.
The war may be both prolonged with advantage, and be brought to a speedy conclusion.
If it is to be prolonged, I shall take care by the same discipline with which I have commenced, that your hopes and your valour may increase every day. If you have now sufficient courage, and it is your wish that the matter be decided, come on, raise here that shout such as you will raise in the field of battle, the index at once of your inclination and your valour.”
When the shout was raised with great alacrity, he assures them “that with the good favour of heaven, he would comply with their wishes and lead them next day to the field.” The remainder of the day is spent in preparing their arms. On the following day, as soon as the Sabines saw the Roman army being draw up in order of battle, they too, as being long since eager for the encounter, come forward.
The battle was such a one as may be expected between two armies confident in themselves, the one animated by the glory of former and uninterrupted glory, the other lately so by an unusual instance of success.
The Sabines aided their strength by stratagem also; for having formed a line equal (to that of the enemy,) they kept two thousand men in reserve, to make an attack on the left wing of the Romans in the heat of the battle.
When these, by an attack in flank, were overpowering that wing, now almost sur- rounded, about six hundred of the cavalry of two legions leap [p. 236]
down from their horses, and rush forward in front of their men, now giving way; and they at the same time both oppose the progress of the enemy, and incite the courage of the infantry, first sharing the danger equally with them, and then by arousing in them a sense of shame.
It was a matter of shame that the cavalry should fight in their own proper character and in that of others; and that the infantry should not be equal to the cavalry even when dismounted.