As soon as it was light, the Romans, who1
were fresh and had enjoyed a good sleep, were led out into line of battle.
The Volsci, weary from standing and from loss of sleep, were driven back at the first assault; though it was rather a retreat than a rout, for behind them were hills, to which, under cover of the first line, they withdrew safely and in good order. The consul ordered a halt when his army reached rising ground. The infantry could hardly be restrained, noisily demanding permission to press on after the fleeing enemy.
Still more ardent were the cavalry. They swarmed about the general, and shouted that [p. 433]
they were going on before the standards. While the2
consul was hesitating, feeling certain of the valour of his troops but doubtful of the ground, the men cried out that they were going, and instantly made good their word. Planting their spears in the ground, that they might be the lighter for the ascent, they went up at a run.
The Volsci, having discharged their javelins at the first onset, picked up the stones which lay about under their feet, and flung them at their enemies as they mounted. Confused by this rain of missiles from above, the left wing of the Romans was nearly overwhelmed, and had already begun to retreat, when the consul, reproaching them at once with rashness and with cowardice, succeeded in shaming them out of their fear.
First they made a resolute stand; then, after holding their ground and returning blow for blow, they even dared to press forward and, renewing their cheers, set their line in motion; then with another rush they struggled upward and scaled the height; and they were just emerging upon the summit of the ridge, when the enemy turned and fled.
Running at full speed, and almost in one body, the pursued and the pursuers reached the Volscian camp, which was captured in the panic. Those of the Volsci who succeeded in escaping made for Antium, and to Antium marched the Roman army also.
After a blockade of a few days the place surrendered; the besiegers had not delivered any new attack, but the Volsci had lost heart from the moment of their unsuccessful battle and the capture of their camp.