The consul having led out his troops to the summer encampment, and finding the Samnites quiet, resolved to purge the army of its troublemakers by discharging them.: Of some of them he said that they had served out their time; of others, that they were now too old or deficient in sturdiness.
To some he granted furlough, singling out individuals at first, but later dismissing certain cohorts, on the ground that they had passed the winter far from their homes and their affairs. Many, too, were sent off on some pretext of military employment, some one way, some another.
All these the other consul and the praetor detained at Rome, alleging a variety of reasons. And at first, not suspecting a trick, they were far from sorry to visit their homes again.
Later on, when they saw that the first to go failed to rejoin the colours, and that practically none were dismissed but those who had wintered in Campania, and particularly such of these as had encouraged the conspiracy, they marvelled at first, and presently began to entertain very definite fears that their designs had come to light:
soon there would be investigations, soon informations would be lodged, they would soon be punished in secret, one by one, and would be made to feel the unrestrained and cruel despotism with which the consuls and the senate governed them.
Such were the fears that were secretly put about by the soldiers [p. 501]
in the camp, for they saw that the sinews of their1
plot had been plucked out by the consul's artifice.
One cohort which was stationed not far from Anxur2
went into camp near Lautulae, in the narrow pass between the sea and the mountains, where they could intercept those whom the consul continued to dismiss, on one pretext or another, as has been said before.
They were soon a very numerous body, and lacked no essential element of an army except a general. And so, without order, and pillaging as they went, they proceeded as far as the Alban country, and under the ridge of Alba Longa encamped and threw up a rampart.
Having finished the work, they employed the remainder of the day in wrangling over the choice of a general, for they had no great confidence in anyone there present.
But whom could they summon from Rome? What patrician or plebeian was there who would wittingly expose himself to so great a danger, or to whom the cause of the army, maddened by its wrongs,3
could fitly be committed?
On the following day, while-they were debating the same question, certain of their roving foragers reported having learned that Titus Quinctius was living on a farm near Tusculum, with no thoughts of the City or its honours.
This man, who belonged to a noble family, had won great distinction in the wars, but a lameness in one of his feet, resulting from a wound, had put an end to his campaigning, and had determined him to take up his residence in the country, far from the Forum and from politics.
On hearing his name they remembered the man at once, and bade send for him, invoking a blessing on this step. But there being little prospect that [p. 503]
he would voluntarily assist them, they resolved on4
employing threats and violence.
Coming therefore to his farm-house in the silence of the night, those who had been dispatched upon this errand caught Quinctius sound asleep, and offering him no choice but authority and rank, or death, —with which, when he held back, they threatened him, unless he would go along with them —they carried him off to the camp.
Once there they immediately hailed him General, and dazed as he was by the astounding suddenness of it all, conferred on him the insignia of that office and bade him lead them to the City.
Then, more on their own impulse than by the counsel of their general, they pulled up their standards and marched in warlike array as far as the eighth milestone, on what is now the Appian Way;
whence they would at once have gone on to the City, had they not learned that an army was coming to oppose them, under Marcus Valerius Corvus, who had been created dictator for that purpose, with Lucius Aemilius Mamercus as master of the horse.