The consuls having gone to Pontius to confer with him, when he talked, in the strain of a conqueror, of a treaty, they declared that such could not be concluded without an order of the people, nor without the ministry of the heralds, and the other customary rites.
Accordingly the Caudine peace was not ratified by settled treaty, as is commonly believed, and even asserted by Claudius, but by conventional sureties.
For what occasion would there be either for sureties or hostages in the former case, where the ratification is performed by the imprecation, “that whichever nation shall give occasion to the said terms being violated, may Jupiter strike that nation in like manner as the swine is struck by the heralds.”
The consuls, lieutenants-general, quaestors, and military tribunes, became sureties; and the names of all these who became sureties are extant; where, had the business been transacted by treaty, none would have appeared but those of the two heralds.
On account of the necessary delay of the treaty, six hundred horsemen were demanded as hostages, who were to suffer death if the compact were not fulfilled; a time was then fixed for delivering up the hostages, and sending away the troops disarmed.
The return of the consuls renewed the general grief in the camp, insomuch that the men hardly refrained from offering violence to them, “by whose rashness,” they said, “they had been brought into such a situation; and [p. 566]
through whose cowardice they were likely to depart with greater disgrace than they came.
They had employed no guide through the country, nor scouts; but were sent on blindly, like beasts into a pitfall.”
They cast looks on each other, viewed earnestly the arms which they must presently surrender; while their persons would be subject to the will of the enemy: figured to themselves the hostile yoke, the scoffs of the conquerors, their haughty looks, and finally, thus disarmed, their march through the midst of an armed foe.
In a word, they saw with horror the miserable journey of their dishonoured band through the cities of the allies; and their return into their own country, to their parents, whither themselves, and their ancestors, had so often come in triumph.
Observing, that “they alone had been conquered without a fight, without a weapon thrown, without a wound; that they had not been permitted to draw their swords, nor to engage the enemy. In vain had arms, in vain had strength, in vain had courage been given them.”
While they were giving vent to such grievous reflections, the fatal hour of their disgrace arrived, which was to render every circumstance still more shocking in fact, than they had preconceived it in their imaginations.
First, they were ordered to go out, beyond the rampart, unarmed, and with single garments; then the hostages were surrendered, and carried into custody.
The lictors were next commanded to depart from the consuls, and the robes of the latter were stripped off. This excited such a degree of commiseration in the breasts of those very men, who a little before, pouring execrations upon them, had proposed that they should be delivered
up and torn to pieces, that every one, forgetting his own condition, turned away his eyes from that degradation of so high a dignity, as from a spectacle too horrid to behold.