During the term of these magistrates,1
Fidenae, a Roman colony, revolted to Lars Tolumnius and the Veientes.
To their defection they added a worse crime, for when Gaius Fulcinius, Cloelius Tullus, Spurius Antius, and Lucius Roscius, Roman envoys, came to inquire the reason of this new policy, at the command of Tolumnius they put them to death.
Some persons seek to palliate the king's act, saying that an ambiguous expression of his upon a lucky throw of dice, which made him seem to order them to kill the envoys, was heard by the Fidenates and was responsible for the men's death.
But it is quite incredible that the king on being interrupted by the Fidenates, his new allies, come to consult him about a murder that would violate the law of nations, should not have withdrawn his attention from the game, and that the attribution of the crime to a mistake did not come later.
It is easier to believe that he wished the people of Fidenae to be involved by the consciousness of so heinous a deed, that it might be impossible for them to hope for any reconciliation with the Romans.
The envoys who had been slain at Fidenae were honoured, at the public cost, with statues on the Rostra.2
With the Veientes and Fidenates, not only because they were neighbouring peoples, but also in consequence of the nefarious act with which they had begun the war, a bitter struggle now impended. [p. 315]
Accordingly, out of regard for the general welfare,3
the plebeians and their tribunes kept quiet, and raised no opposition to the election as consuls of Marcus Geganius Macerinus (for the third time) and Lucius Sergius Fidenas.
I suppose that the name was given him from the war which he then waged; for he was the first who fought a successful battle on this side the Anio with the king of the Veientes; but he gained no bloodless victory, and so there was more grief for the citizens who were lost than rejoicing over the defeat of the enemy; and the senate, as is usual in an alarming situation, commanded the appointment of a dictator, Mamercus Aemilius.
He named as his master of the horse a man who had been his colleague the year before, when they had both been military tribunes with consular authority, namely Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, a young man worthy of his father.
To the troops which the consuls levied were added veteran centurions experienced in war, and the losses of the last battle were made good. The dictator bade Titus Quinctius Capitolinus and Marcus Fabius Vibulanus follow him as his lieutenants.
The high authority of the dictatorship, in the hands of one who was equal to it, drove the enemy out of Roman territory and across the Anio. They withdrew their camp and pitched upon the hills between Fidenae and the Anio; nor did they descend into the plains until the forces of the Faliscans had come to their support.
Then, and not till then, did the Etruscans encamp before the walls of Fidenae. The Roman dictator likewise went into camp not far off, on the banks of both rivers, at their confluence, and threw up a rampart between his army and the enemy, where he [p. 317]
was able to span the interval with intrenchments.4 5
Next day he formed up in line of battle.