But when the enemy's camp was pitched on the Vulturnus, and the most delightful country in Italy was being [p. 781]
consumed by fire, and the farm-houses, on all hands, were smoking from the flames, whilst Fabius led his troops along the heights of Mount Massicus, then the strife had nearly been kindled anew,
for they had been quiet for a few days, because, as the army had marched quicker than usual, they had supposed that the object of this haste was to save Campania from devastation;
but when they arrived at the extreme ridge of Mount Massicus, and the enemy appeared under their eyes, burning the houses of the Falernian territory, and of the settlers of Sinuessa, and no mention made of battle, Minucius exclaims, “Are we come here to see our allies butchered, and their property burned, as a spectacle to be enjoyed?
and if we are not moved with shame on account of any others, are we not on account of these citizens, whom our fathers sent as settlers to Sinuessa, that this frontier might be protected from the Samnite foe:
which now not the neighbouring Samnite wastes with fire, but a Carthaginian foreigner, who has advanced even thus far from the remotest limits of the world, through our dilatoriness and inactivity? What!
are we so degenerate from our ancestors as tamely to see that coast filled with Numidian and Moorish foes, along which our fathers considered it a disgrace to their government that the Carthaginian fleets should cruise? We, who erewhile, indignant at the storming of Saguntum, appealed not to men only, but to treaties and to gods, behold Hannibal scaling the walls of a Roman colony unmoved.
The smoke from the flames of our farm-houses and lands comes into our eyes and faces;
our ears ring with the cries of our weeping allies, imploring us to assist them oftener than the gods, while we here are leading our troops, like a herd of cattle, through shady forests and lonely paths, enveloped in clouds and woods.
If Marcus Furius had resolved to recover the city from the Gauls, by thus traversing the tops of mountains and forests, in the same manner as this modern Camillus goes about to recover Italy from Hannibal, who has been sought out for our dictator in our distress, on account of his unparalleled talents, Rome would be the possession of the Gauls; and I fear lest, if we are thus dilatory, our ancestors will so often have preserved it only for the Carthaginians and Hannibal;
but that man and true Roman, on the very day on which intelligence was [p. 782]
brought him to Veii, that he was appointed dictator, on the authority of the fathers and the nomination of the people, came down into the plain, though the Janiculum was high enough to admit of his sitting down there, and viewing the enemy at a distance;
and on that very day defeated the Gallic legions in the middle of the city, in the place where the Gallic piles are now, and on the following day on the Roman side of Gabii. What!
many years after this, when we were sent under the yoke at the Caudine forks by the Samnite foe, did Lucius Papirius Cursor take the yoke from the Roman neck and place it upon the proud Samnites, by traversing the heights of Samnium? or was it by pressing and besieging Luceria, and challenging the victorious enemy? A short time ago, what was it that gave victory to Caius Lutatius but expedition?
for on the day after he caught sight of the enemy, he surprised and overpowered the fleet, loaded with provisions, and encumbered of itself by its own implements and apparatus.
It is folly to suppose that the war can be brought to a conclusion by sitting still, or by prayers; the troops must be armed and led down into the plain, that you may engage man to man. The Roman power has grown to its present height by courage and activity, and not by such dilatory measures as these, which the cowardly only designate as cautious.”
A crowd of Roman tribunes and knights poured round Minucius, while thus, as it were, haranguing; his presumptuous expressions reached the ears of the common soldiers; and had the question been submitted to the votes of the soldiers, they showed evidently that they would have preferred Minucius to Fabius for their general.