The elections were then held, and Lucius1
Aebutius and Publius Servilius were chosen consuls. On the first of August, then the beginning of the year, they entered office.2
It was the sickly season, and chanced to be a year of pestilence both in the City and in the country, for beasts as well as men; and the people increased the virulence of the disease, in their dread of pillage, by receiving flocks and country-folk into the City.
This conflux of all kinds of living things distressed the citizens with its strange smells, while the country-people, being packed into narrow quarters, suffered greatly from the heat and want of sleep; and the exchange of ministrations and mere contact spread the infection.
The Romans could scarce endure the calamities which pressed hard upon them, when suddenly envoys from the Hernici appeared, announcing that the Aequi and the Volsci had joined forces and established a camp in their territory, from which base they were devastating their land with an enormous army.
Not only did the reduced numbers of the senate show their allies that the nation was prostrated by the pestilence, but they also returned a melancholy answer to [p. 23]
their suit, that the Hernici, namely, with the help3
of the Latins, must defend their own possessions; for the City of Rome, in a sudden visitation of divine displeasure, was being ravaged by disease; if there should come any respite from their suffering, they would help their friends, as they had done the year before and on every other occasion.
The allies departed, bearing home, in return for their sad tidings, a reply that was even sadder, since it meant that their people must sustain by themselves a war which they could hardly have sustained with the powerful assistance of the Romans.
No longer did the enemy confine themselves to the country of the Hernici; they proceeded thence to invade the Roman fields, which had been made desolate even without the violence of war. Encountering no one there, not even an unarmed man, and passing through a country wholly destitute not only of defenders but also of cultivation, they came to the third milestone on the Gabinian Way.
Death had taken Aebutius, the Roman consul; for his colleague Servilius there was little hope, though he still breathed; the disease had attacked most of the leading men, the greater part of the senators, and almost all of military age, so that their numbers were not only insufficient for the expeditions which so alarming a situation called for, but were almost too small for mounting guard.
The watchmen's duty was performed by those of the senators themselves whose years and strength admitted of it; the rounds were made and the watches supervised by the plebeian aediles;4
into their hands had passed the supreme control, and the majesty of consular authority. [p. 25]