Four military tribunes with consular powers1
were elected, Titus Quinctius Poenus, who had just been consul, Gaius Furius, Marcus Postumius, and Aulus Cornelius Cossus.
Of these, Cossus had charge [p. 359]
of the City; the three others held a levy and2
marching against Veii gave a demonstration how unprofitable it was in war to parcel out authority. By pursuing each his own counsels, one having this opinion, another that, they gave the enemy room to take them at a disadvantage;
for their army was confused when some bade sound the charge, while others commanded the recall; and at this favourable moment the Veientes fell upon them. The camp, which was close by, received the demoralized and fleeing men, and so they suffered more disgrace than actual harm.
The nation was filled with grief, for it was not used to being conquered; disgusted with the tribunes, people demanded a dictator: therein, they said, lay the hope of the state. And when they seemed likely to be thwarted in that also, by a scrupulous feeling that no one but a consul could name a dictator, the augurs were consulted and removed the impediment.
Aulus Cornelius named as dictator Mamercus Aemilius and was himself appointed by Mamercus master of the horse, so true is it that when the fortune of the state required real worth, the animadversion of the censor could by no means prevent men's seeking a director of their affairs in a house undeservedly stigmatized.3
The Veientes, elated by their success, dispatched envoys round about to the peoples of Etruria, boasting that they had routed three Roman commanders in one fight. Nevertheless they obtained no general support from the league, though they attracted volunteers from all quarters by the prospect of booty.
Only the people of Fidenae voted to renew the war; and, as though it were forbidden to commence war without a crime, as before in the blood [p. 361]
of the ambassadors, so now they imbued their swords4
in that of the new settlers, and joined the men of Veii.
Consultations followed between the leaders of the two nations whether they should take Veii or Fidenae for the headquarters of their campaign. Fidenae seemed the fitter; and accordingly the Veientes crossed the Tiber and transferred the war to Fidenae.
At Rome there was a wild alarm. The troops were recalled from Veii, though even their spirits were much daunted in consequence of their failure, and encamped before the Colline Gate. Armed men were disposed along the walls, a cessation of the courts was proclaimed in the Forum, the shops were closed, and everything assumed more the look of a camp than of a city.