Immediately on his arrival in Rome, Fabius addressed the senate and also the Assembly on the subject of the war. His tone was calm and temperate, he did not exaggerate, nor did he underrate the difficulties. If, he said, he accepted a colleague's assistance it would be more out of consideration for other people's fears than to provide against any danger either to himself or to the republic.
If, however, they did give him a coadjutor to be associated with him in the command, how could he possibly overlook P. Decius, who had been so frequently his colleague, and whom he knew so well?
There was no one in the world whom he would sooner have; if Decius were with him he should always find his forces sufficient for the work and never find the enemy too numerous for him to deal with.
If his colleague preferred some other arrangement they might give him L. Volumnius.
The people, the senate, and his own colleague all agreed that Fabius should have a perfectly free hand in the matter, and when Decius made it clear that he was ready to go either to Samnium or to Etruria, there was universal joy and congratulation. Victory was already regarded as certain, and it looked as though a triumph, and not a serious war, had been decreed to the consuls.
I find it stated in some authorities that Fabius and Decius both started for Etruria immediately on entering office, no mention being made of their not deciding their provinces by lot, or of the quarrel between the colleagues which I have described.
Some, on the other hand, were not satisfied with simply narrating the dispute, but have given in addition certain charges which Appius brought against the absent Fabius before the people, and the bitter attacks he made upon him in his presence, and mention is made of a second quarrel between the colleagues caused by Decius insisting that each should keep the province assigned to him.
We find more agreement amongst the authorities from the time that both consuls left Rome for the scene of war.
But before the consuls arrived in Etruria the Senonian Gauls came in immense numbers to Clusium with the intention of attacking the Roman camp and the legion stationed there.
Scipio was in command, and thinking to assist the scantiness of his numbers by taking up a strong position, he marched his force on to a hill which lay between his camp and the city.
The enemy had appeared so suddenly that he had had no time to reconnoitre the ground, and he went on towards the summit after the enemy had already seized it, having approached it from the other side.
So the legion was attacked in front and rear and completely surrounded. Some authors say that the entire legion was wiped out there, not a man being
left to carry the tidings, and that though the consuls were not far from Clusium at the time, no report of the disaster reached them until Gaulish horsemen appeared with the heads of the slain hanging from their horses' chests and fixed on the points of their spears, whilst they chanted war-songs after their manner.
According to another tradition they were not Gauls at all, but Umbrians, nor was there a great disaster; a foraging party commanded by L. Manlius Torquatus, a staff officer, was surrounded, but Scipio sent assistance from the camp, and in the end the Umbrians were defeated and the prisoners and booty recovered.
It is more probable that this defeat was inflicted by Gauls and not by Umbrians, for the fears of an irruption of Gauls which had been so often aroused were especially present to the minds of the citizens this year, and every precaution was taken to meet it.
The force with which the consuls had taken the field consisted of four legions and a large body of cavalry, in addition to 1000 picked Campanian troopers detailed for this war, whilst the contingents furnished by the allies and the Latin League formed an even larger army than the Roman army.
But in addition to this large force two other armies were stationed not far from the City, confronting Etruria; one in the Faliscan district, another in the neighbourhood of the Vatican. The propraetors, Cnaeus Fulvius and L. Postumius Megellus, had been instructed to fix their standing camps in those positions.