When the embassy had returned and the senate had heard its report, it was felt that the city was tossing on the billows of a great tempest, and therefore the last and sacred anchor was let down. A decree was passed that all the priests of the gods, and the celebrants or custodians of the mysteries, and those who practised the ancient and ancestral art of divination from the flight of birds,—that all these should go to Marcius, arrayed as was the custom of each in the performance of their sacred rites, and should urge him in the same manner as before to put a stop to the war, and then to confer with his fellow-citizens regarding the Volscians.
He did, indeed, admit this embassy into his camp, but made no other concession, nor did he act or speak more mildly, but told them to make a settlement on his former terms, or else accept the war.1
Accordingly, when the priests had returned, it was decided to remain quietly in the city, guarding its walls, and repulsing the enemy, should he make an attack.
They put their hopes in time especially, and in the vicissitudes of fortune, since they knew not how to save themselves by their own efforts, but turmoil, terror, and rumours of evil possessed the city. At last something happened that was like what Homer often mentions, although people generally do not wholly believe it.
For when some great and unusual deed is to be done, that poet declares in his stately manner:—
He then was inspired by the goddess, flashing-eyed Athene;2
But some immortal turned his mind by lodging in his heart
A fear of what the folk would say;3
Either through some suspicion, or else a god so bade him do;4
but people despise Homer and say that with his impossible exploits and incredible tales he makes it impossible to believe in every man's power to determine his own choice of action.
This, however, is not what Homer does, but those acts which are natural, customary, and the result of reasoning, he attributes to our own volition, and he certainly says frequently:—
But I formed a plan within my lordly heart;5
So he spake, and Peleus' son was sore distressed, and his heart
Within his shaggy breast between two courses was divided;6
But him no whit
Could she persuade from his integrity, the fiery hearted Bellerophon;7
while in exploits of a strange and extraordinary nature, requiring some rush of inspiration, and desperate courage, he does not represent the god as taking a way, but as prompting, a man's choice of action; nor yet as creating impulses in a man, but rather conceptions which lead to impulses, and by these his action is not made involuntary, but his will is set in motion, while courage and hope are added to sustain him.
For either the influence of the gods must be wholly excluded from all initiating power over our actions, or in what other way can they assist and co-operate with men? They certainly do not mould our bodies by their direct agency, nor give the requisite change to the action of our hands and feet, but rather, by certain motives, conceptions, and purposes, they rouse the active and elective powers of our spirits, or, on the other hand, divert and check them.