To these questions Tempanius is said to have replied in homely terms but with a soldierly dignity, in which was neither self-praise nor self-complacent criticism of others.
Touching the degree of skill in military matters possessed by Gaius Sempronius, it [p. 389]
was not for a soldier, he said, to appraise a general:1
that had been the Roman People's business when it elected Sempronius consul at the comitia.
It was not, therefore, to him that they must address inquiries concerning the strategy of commanders and the qualifications of consuls; even the weighing of such abilities demanded great mental and intellectual powers.
But that which he had seen he was able to report; and he had seen the consul, before he had himself been cut off from the main army, fighting in the front line, encouraging his men, and moving about amidst the standards of the Romans and the enemy's missiles.
He had afterwards been carried out of sight of his friends; but still, from the din and shouting, he had made out that the struggle had been prolonged till nightfall, and he did not believe that it had been possible to break through to the hillock which he himself had held, in view of the enemy's numbers.
Where the army was, he did not know; he supposed that, just as he himself had protected himself and his men by taking up a strong position, so likewise the consul, in order to save his army, had occupied a place of greater security than the camp.
And he did not believe that the Volsci were any better off than the Roman People; chance and darkness had at every point confused both armies.
On his going on to beg that they would not detain him, exhausted by toil and wounds, it is said that he was dismissed with the highest praise, no less for his moderation than for his bravery. Meanwhile the consul had already reached the shrine of Quies2
on the Labican road. Thither wagons and beasts of burden were dispatched from the City, and brought the soldiers back, weary from fighting and the [p. 391]
A little later the consul entered the City,3
and showed no less concern to extol Tempanius with well-merited praise than to clear himself of blame.
While the citizens were grieving over their defeat, and were filled with resentment against their commanders, Marcus Postumius, who had been military tribune with consular authority at Veii, was brought before them for trial and condemned to pay a fine of ten thousand pounds of bronze.4
Titus Quinctius his colleague, having been victorious both in the Volscian country, when consul under the auspices of the dictator Postumius Tubertus, and at Fidenae, as lieutenant to the other dictator, Mamercus Aemilius, shifted all the blame for the present campaign upon his colleague who had already been condemned, and was acquitted by all the tribes.
It is said that the memory of his father Cincinnatus, whom the people venerated, was a help to him, and also the fact that Quinctius Capitolinus, now well-stricken in years, supplicated and implored them not to suffer him, who had but a little time to live, to be the bearer of such sad news to Cincinnatus.