Camillus, having returned to the City distinguished by a far better kind of glory than when he had entered it in triumph drawn by white horses —for he had conquered his enemies by justice and fair-dealing —uttered no reproaches, but the senators were ill-at-ease till they should free him, without delay, from the obligation of his vow.
And so, to carry the golden bowl as a gift to Apollo at Delphi, they appointed Lucius Valerius, Lucius Sergius, and Aulus Manlius, who, being dispatched in a single warship, were captured by Liparaean pirates not far from the Sicilian Straits and carried to Liparae.
It was the manner of that people to divide up the booty which they had obtained by a kind of public piracy, but it chanced that year that one Timasitheus was chief magistrate, a man more resembling the Romans than his own countrymen;
who, himself revering the title of the envoys and1
their gift, as well as the god to whom it was being sent and the cause of the oblation, imbued also the people, who are almost always like their ruler, with a due sense of religious awe; and after entertaining the ambassadors in the guest-house of the state, even sent ships to convoy them to Delphi, and thence brought them safely back to Rome.
A covenant of hospitality was made with him by decree of the senate, and gifts were presented him in the name of the state.
The same year there was a war with the Aequi, of so varied fortune that it was not clear, either at the front itself or in Rome, whether the upshot had been victory or defeat.
The Roman generals were two of the military tribunes, Gaius Aemilius and Spurius Postumius. At first they exercised the command conjointly; afterwards, when they had routed the enemy in battle, they arranged that Aemilius should hold Verrugo with a garrison, while Postumius should lay waste the country.
As he was leading his troops in irregular formation, somewhat carelessly in consequence of his success, the Aequi fell upon them and throwing them into confusion drove them to the nearest hills, whence the panic spread even to Verrugo, to the other army.
Postumius having rallied his men in a position of safety, called them together and chid them for their alarm and flight, telling them they had been discomfited by the most craven and fugitive of foes. Whereat the army cried out as one man, that they deserved his reproaches, and confessed the enormity of their misconduct, but promised that they would themselves mend it, and that their [p. 101]
enemies' joy should be short-lived.
be led forthwith against the camp of the Aequi — which was in full sight in the plain where they had pitched it —they professed themselves willing to undergo any punishment if they should not have stormed it before nightfall.
Postumius commended them and bade them sup and be ready at the fourth watch. The enemy, too, that they might cut off any retreat by night along the road to Verrugo, from the hill where the Romans lay, were afield and met them, and the battle began before daylight, but there was a moon all night.
They could see to fight as well as in the daytime; but the shouts were heard in Verrugo, the soldiers believed the Roman camp was being attacked, and so great was their consternation that, despite the efforts of Aemilius to check them and despite his appeals, they fled in a scattered rout to Tusculum.
From thence a rumour was carried to Rome that Postumius and the army were destroyed. But Postumius, as soon as the first rays of light had removed all fear of ambuscades in case of a wide-spread pursuit, rode down the line, reminding his men of the promises they had given him, and inspired such ardour that the Aequi could no longer withstand their charge, and were slaughtered while they fled (as happens when rage is more concerned than valour), till their army was clean destroyed;
and the gloomy tidings from Tusculum which had thrown the City into a needless fright, were succeeded by a laurel-wreathed letter from Postumius, announcing the victory of the Roman People and the annihilation of the Aequian army.