The embassy was a mild one, had it not been consigned to ambassadors too hot in temper, and who resembled Gauls more than Romans.
To whom, after they delivered their commission in the assembly of the Gauls, the following answer is returned: Though the name of the Romans was new to their ears, yet they believed them to be brave men, whose aid was implored by the Clusians in their perilous conjuncture.
And since they chose to defend their allies against them by negociation rather than by arms, that they on their part would not reject the pacific terms which they propose, if the Clusians would give up to the Gauls in want of land, a portion of their territories which they possessed to a greater extent than they could cultivate;
otherwise peace could not be obtained: that they wished to receive an answer in presence of he Romans; and if the land were refused them, that the would decide the matter with the sword in presence of the sane Romans; that they might have an opportunity of carrying home an account how much the Gauls excelled all other mortals in bravery.
On the Romans asking what right they had to demand land from the possessors, or to threaten war [in case of refusal], and what business the Gauls had in Etruria, and on their fiercely replying, that they carried their right in their swords, that all things were the property of the brave, with minds inflamed on both sides they severally have recourse to arms, and the battle is commenced.
Here, fate now pressing [p. 368]
hard on the Roman city, the ambassadors, contrary to the law of nations, take up arms; nor could this be done in secret, as three of the noblest and bravest of the Roman youth fought in the van of the Etrurians; so conspicuous was the valour of the foreigners.
Moreover Quintus Fabius, riding out beyond the line, slew a general of the Gauls who was furiously charging the very standards of the Etrurians, having run him through the side with his spear: and the Gauls recognised him when stripping him of his spoils; and a signal was given throughout the entire line that he was a Roman ambassador.
Giving up therefore their resentment against the Clusians, they sound a retreat, threatening the Romans. Some gave it as their opinion that they should proceed forthwith to Rome.
The seniors prevailed, that ambassadors should be sent to complain of the injuries done them, and to demand that the Fabii should be given up to them in satisfaction for having violated the law of nations. When the ambassadors had stated matters, according to the instructions given to them, the conduct of the Fabii was neither approved by the senate, and the barbarians seemed to them to demand what was just: but in the case of men of such station party favour prevented them from decreeing that which they felt to be right.
Wherefore lest the blame of any misfortune, which might happen to be received in a war with the Gauls, should lie with them, they refer the consideration of the demands of the Gauls to the people, where influence and wealth were so predominant, that those persons, whose punishment was under consideration, were elected military tribunes with consular power for the ensuing year.
At which proceeding the Gauls being enraged, as was very natural, openly menacing war, return to their own party. With the three Fabii the military tribunes elected were Quintus Sulpicius Longus, Quintus Servilius a fourth time, Servius Cornelius Maluginensis.