In that year, since the term of the truce1
with Veii had run out, steps were taken to demand restitution, through ambassadors and fetials.
Arriving at the frontier, these men were met by an embassy of the Veientes, who asked them not to proceed to Veii until they themselves should have gone before the Roman senate. The senate, considering that the Veientes were in the throes of civil discord, agreed not to demand a settlement of them; so far were they from taking advantage of another people's difficulties.
And in the Volscian country the Romans suffered a disaster, in the loss of their garrison at Verrugo. On that occasion the element of time was of such moment that, although the troops who were being besieged there by the Volsci appealed for help and might have been relieved if their friends had made haste, yet the army dispatched for that purpose only arrived in season to surprise [p. 447]
the enemy as they were dispersed in quest of booty,2
just after putting the garrison to the sword.
The delay was due quite as much to the tribunes as to the senate, for they got reports that the garrison was making a strenuous resistance and failed to consider that no valour can transcend the limits of human endurance.
But the heroic soldiers were not unavenged, living or dead.
The following year, when Publius and Gnaeus Cornelius Cossus, Numerius Fabius Ambustus, and Lucius Valerius Potitus were consular tribunes, war broke out with Veii on account of the insolent reply of the Veientine senate, who, when envoys demanded restitution of them, bade them be
answered that unless they got quickly out from their city and their borders, they would give them what Lars Tolumnius had given the others.3
This angered the Fathers, and they decreed that the military tribunes should propose to the people a declaration of war on the Veientes at the earliest possible day.
As soon as this was promulgated, the young men protested loudly that the Volscian war was not yet brought to a conclusion; two garrisons had just been destroyed, and the other outposts were being held at great risk; not a year went by without a pitched battle;
and as though they had not troubles enough, a new war was being started with a neighbouring and very powerful people, who were sure to raise all Etruria against them.
This smouldering discontent was fanned into a blaze by the plebeian tribunes.
They persistently declared that it was the plebs with whom the senators were chiefly at war;
them they deliberately plagued with campaigning and exposed to be [p. 449]
slaughtered by the enemy; them they kept at a4
distance from the City, and assigned to foreign service, lest they might have thoughts, if they remained peaceably at home, of liberty and colonies, and might agitate for public lands or the free use of their votes.
And laying hold of veteran soldiers, they enumerated the campaigns of each and his wounds and scars; asking where one could now find a whole place on their bodies to receive fresh wounds, or what blood they had left to shed for their country.
When the tribunes by repeating these arguments in their talk and in their speeches had produced in the plebs a reluctance to undertake the war, the authors of the bill put off the time for voting on it, since it was clear that if subjected to the storm of disapproval it would fail to pass.