The levy completed, the consuls waited a few days, till the allies of the Latin confederacy arrived.
At this time the soldiers were bound by an oath, which had never before been the case, dictated by the military tribunes, that they would assemble at the command of the consuls, and not depart without orders;
for up to that time the military oath only had been employed; and further, when the soldiers met to divide into decuries or centuries, the cavalry being formed into decuries and the infantry into centuries, all swore together,
amongst themselves, of their own accord, that they would not depart or quit their ranks for flight or fear, except for the purpose of taking up or fetching a weapon, and either striking an enemy or saving a countryman.
This, from being a voluntary compact among the soldiers themselves, was converted into the legal compulsion of an oath by the tribunes.
Before the standards were moved from the city, the harangues of Varro were frequent and furious, protesting that the war had been invited into Italy by the nobles, and that it would continue fixed in the bowels of the state if it employed any more such generals as Fabius;
that he would bring the war to conclusion on the very day he got sight of the enemy.
His colleague Paulus made but one speech, on the day before they set out from the city, which was more true than gratifying to the people, in which nothing was said severely against Varro, except this only.
“That he wondered how any general, before he knew any thing of his own army, or that of the enemy, the situation of the places, or the nature of the country, even now while in the city, and with the gown on, could
tell what he must do when in arms, and could even foretell the day on which he would fight standard to standard with the enemy.
That, for his own part, he would not, before the time arrived, prematurely anticipate those measures which circumstances imposed on men, rather than men on circumstances. He could only wish that those measures which were taken with due caution and deliberation might turn out prosperously.
That temerity, setting aside its folly, had hitherto been also unsuccessful.”
This obviously appeared, that he would prefer safe to precipitate counsels; but that he might persevere the more constantly [p. 808]
in this, Quintus Fabius Maximus is reported to have thus addressed him on his departure.