The letters of the consul and the proprietor having been read, they resolved that Marcus Claudius, who commanded the fleet stationed at Ostia, should be sent to the army to Canusium; and a letter be written to the consul, to the effect that, having delivered the army to the praetor, he should return to Rome the first moment he could, consistently with the interest of the republic. They were terrified also, in addition to these disasters, both with other prodigies, and also because two vestal virgins, Opimia and Floronia, were that year convicted of incontinence; one of whom was, according to custom, buried alive at the Colline gate; the other destroyed herself.
Lucius Cantilius, secretary of the
pontiff, whom they now call the lesser pontiffs, who had debauched Floronia, was beaten by rods in the comitium, by order of the chief pontiff, so that he expired under the stripes.
This impiety being converted into a prodigy, as is usually the case when happening in the midst of so many calamities, the decemviri were desired to consult the sacred books.
Quintus Fabius Pictor was also sent to Delphi, to inquire of the oracle by what prayers and offerings they might appease the gods, and what termination there would be to such great distresses.
Meanwhile certain extraordinary sacrifices were performed, according to the directions of the books of the fates; among which a Gallic man and woman, and a Greek man and woman, were let down alive in the cattle market, into a place fenced round with stone, which had been already polluted with human victims, a rite by no means Roman.
The gods being, as they supposed, sufficiently appeased, Marcus Claudius Marcellus sends from Ostia to Rome, as a garrison for the city, one thousand five hundred soldiers, which he had with him, levied for the fleet.
He himself sending before him a marine legion, (it was the third legion,) under the command of the military tribunes, to Teanum Sidicinum, and delivering the fleet to Publius Furius Philus, his colleague, after a few days, proceeded by long marches to Canusium.
Marcus Junius, created dictator on the authority of the senate, and Titus Sempronius, master of the horse, proclaiming a levy, enrol the younger men from the age of seventeen, and [p. 827]
some who wore the toga praetexta: of these, four legions and a thousand horse were formed. They send also to the allies and the Latin confederacy, to receive the soldiers according to the terms of the treaty.
They order that arms, weapons, and other things should be prepared; and they take down from the temples and porticoes the old spoils taken from the enemy.
They adopted also another and a new form of levy, from the scarcity of free persons, and from necessity: they armed eight thousand stout youths from the slaves, purchased at the public expense, first inquiring of each whether he was willing to serve.
They preferred this description of troops, though they had the power of redeeming the captives at a less expense.