But the peace with Alba did not last long. The discontent of the people, who criticized the dictator for having confided the nation's welfare to three soldiers, broke down his weak character, and since honest measures had proved unsuccessful, [p. 97]
he resorted to evil ones to regain the favour of his1
Accordingly, just as in war he had sought peace, so now in time of peace he desired war. But seeing that his own state was richer in courage than in strength, he stirred up other tribes to make war openly after due declaration; while for his own people he reserved the part of the traitor under the disguise of friendship.
The men of Fidenae, a Roman colony, and the Veientes, whom they admitted to a share in their designs, were induced to commence hostilities by a promise that the Albans would go over to their side.
Fidenae having openly revolted, Tullus summoned Mettius and his army from Alba, and led his forces against the enemy. Crossing the Anio, he pitched his camp at the confluence of the rivers. The Veientine army had crossed the Tiber between that place and Fidenae.
These troops, drawn up next the river, formed the right wing; on the left the Fidenates were posted, nearer the mountains. Tullus marshalled his own men against the Veientine enemy; the Albans he posted opposite the army of Fidenae. The Alban commander was as wanting in courage as in loyalty. Not daring, therefore, either to hold his ground or openly to desert, he drew off by imperceptible degrees in the direction of the mountains.
Then, when he thought he had got near enough to them, he brought up his whole battle-line to an elevated position, and still irresolute, deployed his ranks with the object of consuming time. His purpose was to swing his forces to the side which fortune favoured.
At first the Romans posted next to the Albans were amazed when they perceived that their flank was being uncovered by the withdrawal of their allies; then a [p. 99]
horseman galloped up to the king, and told him that2
the Albans were marching off. In this crisis Tullus vowed to establish twelve Salian priests,3
and to build shrines to Pallor and Panic.
The horseman he reprimanded in a loud voice, that the enemy might overhear him, and ordered him to go back and fight; there was no occasion for alarm; it was by his own command that the Alban army was marching round, that they might attack the unprotected rear of the Fidenates.
He also ordered the cavalry to raise their spears. This manœuvre hid the retreat of the Alban army from a large part of the Roman foot-soldiers; those who had seen it, believing what the king had been heard to say, fought all the more impetuously. The enemy in their turn now became alarmed; they had heard Tullus's loud assertion, and many of the Fidenates, having had Romans among them as colonists, knew Latin.
And so, lest the Albans should suddenly charge down from the hills and cut them off from their town, they beat a retreat. Tullus pressed them hard, and having routed the wing composed of the Fidenates, returned, bolder than ever, to the Veientes, who were demoralized by the panic of their neighbours.
They, too, failed to withstand his attack, but their rout was stopped by the river in their rear When they had fled thus far, some basely threw away their arms and rushed blindly into the water, others hesitated on the bank and were overtaken before they had made up their minds whether to flee or resist. Never before had the Romans fought a bloodier battle.