It was then that the Caerites realized for the first time the full danger of war, as if the words of their enemies conveyed a more emphatic hint of it than their own acts, though they had pillaged the Romans and harried them. Beginning then to perceive how inadequate was their strength to such a quarrel, they repented of their raid, and cursed the Tarquinienses, who had encouraged them to fall away.
Nobody made ready his arms and prepared for war, but one and all bade dispatch ambassadors to Rome, to beg forgiveness for their error. The envoys, having approached the senate, were sent by them to be dealt with by the people.
Calling on the gods whose sacred emblems they had received and religiously protected in the Gallic war, they besought them to inspire the Romans in their prosperity with such compassion for the men of Caere as they themselves had formerly shown for Rome in her time of tribulation.1
Then, turning to the shrine of Vesta, they invoked the flamens and Vestals whom they had [p. 425]
entertained with a pure and scrupulous hospitality.2
Could anyone, they asked, believe that those who had deserved so well of the Romans had suddenly turned enemies without reason?
or that if they had in fact committed an act of hostility, it had been deliberately planned, and had not rather been owing to a fit of madness? Would they undo their own kindness of old, especially kindness to such grateful friends, with new misdeeds; and choose to be enemies of the Roman People in their flourishing state and at the height of their success in war, when they had sought their friendship in the hour of their adversity? Let them not give the name of “purpose” to what should properly be called “force” and “necessity.”
The Tarquinienses, marching in hostile array through their territories, had sought nothing of them save permission to pass, but had drawn certain rustics after them in their train, who had borne a part in the pillaging with which the people of Caere were now taxed.
If it pleased the Romans that these men should be surrendered, they would surrender them; if they would have them punished, they should be made to suffer. But Caere, the sanctuary of the Roman People, the hostel of its priests and refuge of the Roman religion, let them preserve intact and unstained by the imputation of making war, for the sake of the hospitality it had shown their Vestals and the reverence it had paid their gods.
The people were moved, not so much by their present claims as by their ancient merits, and chose rather to forget an injury than a kindness. So peace was granted to the people of Caere, and it was resolved that a truce of a hundred years be made, and recorded on a table of bronze.
The [p. 427]
brunt of the war was turned against the Faliscans,3
who lay under the same accusation; but the enemy were nowhere encountered. Having ranged over their lands and laid them waste, the Romans refrained from attacking their cities, and led their legions home. The rest of the year was consumed in repairing the walls and towers, and a temple was dedicated to Apollo.