Quintus Servilius, being sent against the Aequi1
in the following year —when he and Spurius Postumius were consuls —made a permanent camp in the Latin country, where the army was attacked by a pestilence which deprived it of the power to act.
The war dragged on into its third year, the consulship of Quintus Fabius and Titus Quinctius. To Fabius was given the command against the Aequi, without the customary drawing of lots, since he had been victorious over them and had granted them peace.
Setting out in the full expectation that the glory of his name would bring the enemy to terms, he sent envoys to their national council and bade them announce that Quintus Fabius the consul said that [p. 7]
he had brought peace from the Aequi to Rome, and2
was then bringing war from Rome to the Aequi in the same right hand, now armed, which he had formerly given them in friendship.
Whose faithlessness and perjury were responsible for this, the gods were even then witnesses, and would presently punish the offenders. Yet however that might be, he would himself prefer that the Aequi should even now freely repent, instead of suffering the penalties of war.
If they did so, they could count on a safe refuge in the clemency they had already proved; but if they rejoiced in perjury, it was rather with the angry gods than with their enemies that they would be at war.
So far were these words from having the slightest effect on anyone, that the envoys narrowly escaped violation, and an army was dispatched to Algidus against the Romans.
On the arrival of this news at Rome, the insult, rather than the danger, brought the other consul out from the City. And so two consular armies approached the enemy, drawn up in line of battle, that they might instantly engage them.
But since it happened to be near the end of the day, a man called out to them from an outpost of the enemy, “This, Romans, is making a parade of war, not waging it.
When night is about to fall, you draw up your battle-line; we need more hours of daylight for the struggle which is close at hand. To-morrow at sunrise form your battle-line again; there will be opportunity for fighting, never fear!”
Galled by these words the troops were led back to their camp to await the morrow; the night would be a long one, they felt, that must intervene before the combat. Meanwhile they refreshed themselves with food and [p. 9]
sleep. When it grew light next morning, the Roman3
army took the field, some time before the enemy. At last the Aequi too came out.
The battle raged fiercely on both sides, for the Romans fought with exasperation and hatred, while the Aequi were conscious that the danger in which they were involved was due to their own fault, and this, with their despair of ever being trusted again, incited them to the last degree of daring and exertion.
Nevertheless they were unable to withstand the attack of the Romans. And yet, when they had been defeated and had fallen back to their own territory, the warlike soldiers, their spirit as little inclined to peace as ever, complained against their generals for having staked the cause on a pitched battle, a species of fighting in which the Romans excelled;
the Aequi, they said, were better at pillaging and raiding, and a number of scattered bands could make war more effectively than the great mass of a single army.