Porsinna, repulsed in his first attempt, gave up the plan of storming the City, and determined to lay siege to it. Placing a garrison on Janiculum, he pitched his camp in the plain by the banks of the Tiber.
He collected ships from every quarter, both for guarding the river, to prevent any corn from being brought into the City, and also to send his troops across for plundering, as the opportunity might present itself at one point or another;
and in a short time he made all the territory of the Romans so unsafe that not only were they forced to bring all their other property inside the walls, but even their flocks too, nor did anybody dare to drive them outside the gates.
This great degree of licence was permitted to the Etruscans not so much from timidity as design. For Valerius the consul, who was eager for an opportunity of assailing a large number at once, when they should be scattered about and not expecting an attack, cared little to avenge small aggressions, and reserved his punishment for a heavier blow.
Accordingly, to lure forth plunderers, he issued orders to his people that on the following day a large number of them should drive out their flocks by the [p. 255]
Esquiline Gate, which was the most remote from the1
enemy, believing that they would hear of it, since the blockade and famine were causing desertions on the part of faithless slaves.
And in fact the enemy did hear of it from a deserter's report, and crossed the river in much greater force than usual, in the hope of making a clean sweep of the booty.
Consequently Publius Valerius directed Titus Herminius to lie in ambush with a small force two miles out on the Gabinian Way, and Spurius Larcius with a body of light-armed youths to take post at the Colline Gate, until the enemy should pass, and then to throw themselves between him and the river, cutting off his retreat.
Of the two consuls, Titus Lucretius went out by the Naevian Gate with several maniples of soldiers, Valerius himself led out some picked cohorts by way of the Caelian Mount.2
These last were the first to be seen by the enemy.
Herminius had no sooner perceived that the skirmish was begun than he rushed in from his ambush and fell upon the rear of the Etruscans, who had turned to meet Valerius. On the right hand and on the left,3
from the Naevian Gate and from the Colline, an answering shout was returned.
Thus the raiders were hemmed in and cut to pieces, for they were no match for the Romans in fighting strength, and were shut off from every line of retreat. This was the last time the Etruscans roamed so far afield.