Caius Sempronius Atratinus, Quintus Fabius Vibulanus were elected consuls. An affair in a foreign country, but one deserving of record, is stated to have happened in that year. Vulturnum, a city of the Etrurians, which is now Capua, was taken by the Samnites; and was called Capua from their leader, Capys, or, what is more probable, from its champaign grounds.
But they took possession of it, after having been admitted into a share of the city and its lands, when the Etrurians had been previously much harassed in war; afterwards the new-comers attacked and massacred during the night the old inhabitants, when on a festival day they had become heavy with wine and sleep.
After those transactions the consuls whom we have mentioned entered on office on the ides of December.
Now not only those who had been expressly sent, reported that a Volscian war was impending; but ambassadors also from the Latins and Hernicians brought word, “that never at any former period were the Volscians more intent either in selecting commanders, or in levying an army;
that they commonly observed either that arms and war were to be for ever consigned to oblivion, and the yoke to be submitted to; or that they must not yield to those, with whom they contended for empire, either in valour, perseverance, or military discipline.”
The accounts they brought were not unfounded; but neither the senate were so much affected by the circumstance; and Caius Sempronius, to whom the province fell by lot, [p. 293]
relying on fortune, as if a most constant object, because he was the leader of a victorious state against one frequent y vanquished, executed all his measures carelessly and remissly;
so that there was more of the Roman discipline in the Volscian than in the Roman army. Success therefore, as on many other occasions, attended merit.
In the first battle, which was entered on by Sempronius without either prudence or caution, they met, without their lines being strengthened by reserves, or their cavalry being properly stationed The shout was the first presage which way the victory would incline;
that raised by the enemy was louder and more continued; that by the Romans, being dissonant, uneven, and frequently repeated in a lifeless manner, betrayed the prostration of their spirits.
The enemy advancing the more boldly on this account, pushed with their shields, brandished their swords; on the other side the helmets drooped, as the men looked around, and disconcerted they waver, and keep close to the main body.
The ensigns at one time standing their ground are deserted by their supporters, at another time they retreat between their respective companies. As yet there was no absolute flight, nor was there victory. The Romans rather covered themselves than fought. The Volscians advanced, pushed against their line, saw more of the enemy slain than running away.