Many men and cattle having been lost thus wretchedly, when at length he had emerged from the marshes, he pitches his camp as soon as he could on dry ground. And here he received information, through the scouts sent in advance, that the Roman army was round the walls of Arretium.
Next the plans and temper of the consul, the situation of the country, the roads, the sources from which provisions might be obtained, and whatever else it was useful to know; all these things he ascertained by the most diligent inquiry.
The country was among the most fertile of Italy, the plains [p. 769]
of Etruria, between Faesulae and Arretium, abundant in its supply of corn, cattle, and every other requisite.
The consul was haughty from his former consulship, and felt no proper degree of reverence not only for the laws and the majesty of the fathers, but even for the gods. This temerity, inherent in his nature, fortune had fostered by a career of prosperity and success in civil and military affairs.
Thus it was sufficiently evident that, heedless of gods and men, he would act in all cases with presumption and precipitation; and, that he might fall the more readily into the errors natural to him, the Carthaginian begins to fret and irritate him;
and leaving the enemy on his left, he takes the road to Faesulae, and marching through the centre of Etruria, with intent to plunder, he exhibits to the consul, in the distance, the greatest devastation he could with fires and slaughters.
Flaminius, who would not have rested even if the enemy had remained quiet; then, indeed, when he saw the property of the allies driven and carried away almost before his eyes, considering that it reflected disgrace upon him that the Carthaginian now roaming at large through the heart of Italy, and marching without resistance to storm the very walls of Rome, though every other person in the council advised safe rather than showy measures, urging that he should wait for his colleague, in order
that, joining their armies, they might carry on the war with united courage and counsels;
and that, meanwhile, the enemy should be prevented from his unrestrained freedom in plundering by the cavalry and the light-armed auxiliaries; in a fury hurried out of the council, and at once gave out the signal for marching and for battle.
“Nay, rather,” says he, “let us lie before the walls of Arretium, for here is our country, here our household gods. Let Hannibal, slipping through our fingers, waste Italy through and through; and, ravaging and burning every thing, let him arrive at the walls of Rome; nor let us move hence till the fathers shall have summoned Flaminius from Arretium, as they did Camillus of old from Veii.”
While reproaching them thus, and in the act of ordering the standards to be speedily pulled up, when he had sprung upon his horse, the animal fell suddenly, and threw the unseated consul over his head. All the bystanders being alarmed at this as an unhappy
omen in the commencement of the affair, in addition word is brought, that the standard could [p. 770]
not be pulled up, though the standard-bearer strove with all his force.
Flaminius, turning to the messenger, says, “Do you bring, too, letters from the senate, forbidding me to act. Go, tell them to dig up the standard, if, through fear, their hands are so benumbed that they cannot pluck it up.”
Then the army began to march; the chief officers, besides that they dissented from the plan, being terrified by the two-fold prodigy; while the soldiery in general were elated by the confidence of their leader, since they regarded merely the hope he entertained, and not the reasons of the hope.