Rarely has the speech of a popular tribune been more agreeable to the plebs than was at that time this speech by the sternest of consuls.
Even the young men, who amid such alarms were wont to regard a refusal to enlist as their sharpest weapon [p. 235]
against the nobles, began to look forward to war1
and arms. And the flight of the country-people and the presence of those who had been plundered while on their farms and wounded, and who reported worse outrages than those which met the eyes of the citizens, filled all Rome with resentment.
When the senate had met, then in truth all turned to Quinctius, whom they looked on as the sole champion of Roman majesty. The foremost senators declared that his speech had been worthy of the consular authority, worthy of the many consulships he had held in the past, worthy of his whole life, crowded as it had been with honours which, often as he had received them, he had still oftener deserved.
Other consuls had either flattered the plebs by betraying the dignity of the patricians, or by harshly inforcing the rights of their order had exasperated the populace while seeking to subjugate them; Titus Quinctius had spoken without forgetting the dignity of the patricians, or the harmony of the orders, or —what was particularly important —the existing crisis.
They begged him and his colleague to undertake the guidance of the state; they besought the tribunes to unite with the consuls in a single-minded effort to repel their enemies from the walls of the City, and to cause the plebs to yield obedience to the patricians in so alarming a situation; the appeal to the tribunes came, they said, from their common country, which implored their assistance for its wasted fields and its well-nigh beleaguered City.
By general consent a levy was proclaimed and held. The consuls announced in the assembly that there was no time to consider excuses; that all the juniors should present [p. 237]
themselves at dawn of the following day in the Campus2
that they would take time when the war was over to listen to the excuses of those who had failed to hand in their names; and that any man whose excuse they did not approve would be treated as a deserter.
Next day the entire body of young men appeared. The cohorts each chose their own centurions, and two senators were put in command of every cohort. We are told that all these measures were carried out so promptly that the standards were fetched from the treasury by the quaestors that very day, and being carried to the Campus Martius, headed the line of march from the mustering ground at ten o'clock in the morning; and the newly recruited army, with the voluntary escort of a few cohorts of veterans, encamped over night at the tenth mile-stone.3
The following day brought the enemy into view, and the Roman camp was established close to theirs, near Corbio.
On the third day, the Romans being urged on by indignation, and the enemy, who had so often revolted, by the consciousness of their guilt and by despair, no attempt was made to delay the battle.