The first conflicts of this war brought great victories and also great disasters to the Romans, and led to no sure and final conclusion; but at last Flaminius and Furius, the consuls, led forth large forces against the Insubrians. At the time of their departure, however, the river that flows through Picenum was seen to be running with blood, and it was reported that at Ariminum three moons had appeared in the heavens,
and the priests who watched the flight of birds at the time of the consular elections insisted that when the consuls were proclaimed the omens were inauspicious and baleful for them. At once, therefore, the senate sent letters to the camp, summoning the consuls to return to the city with all speed and lay down their office, and forbidding them, while they were still consuls, to take any steps against the enemy.
On receiving these letters, Flaminius would not open them before he had joined battle with the Barbarians, routed them, and overrun their country. Therefore, when he returned with much spoil, the people would not go out to meet him, but because he had not at once listened to his summons, and had disobeyed the letters, treating them with insolent contempt, they came near refusing him his triumph, and after his triumph, they compelled him to renounce the consulship with his colleague, and made him a private citizen.
To such a degree did the Romans make everything depend upon the will of the gods, and so intolerant were they of any neglect of omens and ancestral rites, even when attended by the greatest successes, considering it of more importance for the safety of the city that their magistrates should reverence religion than that they should overcome their enemies.