The following year had military tribunes with consular authority, Caius Servilius Ahala a third time, Quintus Servilius, Lucius Virginius, Quintus Sulpicius, Aulus Manlius a second time, Manius Sergius a second time.
During their tribuneship, whilst the solicitude of all was directed to the Veientian war, the garrison at Anxur was neglected in consequence of the absence of the soldiers on leave, and from the indiscriminate admission of Volscian traders was overpowered, the guards at the gates being suddenly betrayed.
Less of the soldiers perished, because they were all trafficking through the country and city like suttlers.
Nor were matters conducted more successfully at Veii, which was then the chief object of all public solicitude. For both the Roman commanders had more quarrels among themselves, than spirit against the enemy; and the severity of the war was exaggerated by the sudden arrival of the Capenatians and the Faliscians.
These two states of Etruria, because they were contiguous in situation, judging that in case Veii was conquered, they should be next to the attacks of the Romans in war;
the Faliscians also, incensed from a cause affecting themselves, because they had already on a former occasion mixed themselves up in a Fidenatian war, being bound together by an oath by reciprocal embassies, marched unexpectedly with their armies to Veii. It so happened, they attacked the camp in that quarter where Manius Sergius, military tribune, commanded, and occasioned great alarm; because the Romans imagined that all Etruria was aroused and were advancing in a great mass.
The same opinion aroused the Veientians in the city. Thus the Roman camp was attacked on both sides;
and crowding together, whilst they wheeled round their battalions from one post to another, they were unable either to confine the Veientians within their fortifications, or repel the assault from their own works, and to defend themselves from the enemy on the outside. The only hope was, if succour could be brought from the greater camp, that the different legions should fight, some against the Capenatians and Faliscians, others against the sallies of the townsmen.
But Virginius had the command of that camp, who, from personal grounds, was hateful to and incensed [p. 333]
This man, when word was brought that most of the forts were attacked, the fortifications sealed, and that the enemy were pouring in on both sides, kept his men under arms, saying that if there was need of assistance, his colleague would send to him.
His arrogance was equalled by the obstinacy of the other; who, that he might not appear to have sought any aid from an adversary, preferred being defeated by an enemy to conquering through a fellow-citizen. His men were for a long time cut down between both: at length, abandoning their works, a very small number made their way to the principal camp; the greater number, with Sergius himself, made their way to Rome.
Where, when he threw the entire blame on his colleague, it was resolved that Virginius should be sent for from the camp, and that lieutenant-generals should take the command in the mean time.
The affair was then discussed in the senate, and the dispute was carried on between the colleagues with (mutual) recriminations. But few took up the interests of the republic, (the greater number) favoured the one or the other, according as private regard or interest prejudiced each.