Meanwhile the Chaeroneians, over whom Ericius had been placed in command by Sulla, made their way unnoticed around Thurium and then showed themselves suddenly, producing great confusion and rout among the Barbarians, and slaughter at one another's hands for the most part. For they did not hold their ground, but rushed down the steeps, falling upon their own spears and crowding one another down the precipices, while their enemies pressed upon them from above and smote their exposed bodies, so that three thousand of them fell on Thurium.
Of the fugitives, some were met by Murena, who had already formed his array, and were cut off and slain; others pushed their way towards the camp of their friends, and falling pell-mell upon their lines, filled the greater part of them with terror and confusion, and inflicted a delay upon their generals which was especially harmful to them. For Sulla promptly charged upon them while they were in confusion, and by abridging the space between the armies with the speed of his approach, robbed the scythe-bearing chariots of their efficiency.
For these are of most avail after a long course, which gives them velocity and impetus for breaking through an opposing line, but short starts are ineffectual and feeble, as in the case of missiles which do not get full propulsion. And this proved true now in the case of the Barbarians. The first of their chariots were driven along feebly and engaged sluggishly, so that the Romans, after repulsing them, clapped their hands and laughed and called for more, as they are wont to do at the races in the circus.
Thereupon the infantry forces engaged, the Barbarians holding their pikes before them at full length, and endeavouring, by locking their shields together, to keep their line of battle intact; while the Romans threw down their javelins, drew their swords, and sought to dash the pikes aside, that they might get at their enemies as soon as possible, in the fury that possessed them.
For they saw drawn up in front of the enemy fifteen thousand slaves, whom the king's generals had set free by proclamation in the cities and enrolled among the men-at-arms. And a certain Roman centurion is reported to have said that it was only at the Saturnalia,1
so far as he knew, that slaves participated in the general license.
These men, however, owing to the depth and density of their array, and the unnatural courage with which they held their ground, were only slowly repulsed by the Roman men-at-arms; but at last the fiery bolts and the javelins which the Romans in the rear ranks plied unsparingly, threw them into confusion and drove them back.