The senators were now therefore not1
more forward than the plebeians in choosing Caeso Fabius to be consul, along with Titus Verginius. On taking office his first concern was neither war nor the raising of troops nor anything else, save that the prospect of harmony which had been already partly realized should ripen at the earliest possible moment into a good understanding between the patricians and the plebs.
He therefore proposed at the outset of his term that before one of the tribunes should rise up and advocate a land-law, the Fathers themselves should anticipate him by making it their own affair and bestowing the conquered territory upon the plebs with the utmost impartiality; for it was right that they should possess it by whose blood and toil it had been won.
The senators scorned the proposal, and some even complained that too much glory was spoiling and dissipating that vigorous intellect which Caeso had once possessed.
In the sequel there were no outbreaks of strife and faction in the City, but the Latins were plagued with incursions of the Aequi. Thither Caeso was dispatched with an army, and passed over into the Aequians' own country to lay it waste. The Aequi retired to their towns and kept within their walls. For this reason there was no memorable battle.
But the Veientes inflicted a defeat on the Romans owing to the rashness of the other consul; and the [p. 383]
army would have been destroyed if Caeso Fahius2
had not come, in the nick of time, to its rescue. Thenceforward there was neither peace nor war with the Veientes, but something very like freebooting.
In the face of the Roman legions they would retreat into their city; when they perceived the legions to be withdrawn they would make raids upon the fields, evading war by a semblance of peace, and peace in turn by war. Hence it was impossible either to let the whole matter go or to end it. Other wars, too, were immediately threatening —like the one with the Aequi and the Volsci, who would observe peace only so long as the suffering involved in their latest defeat was passing away, —or were soon to be begun, by the always hostile Sabines and all Etruria.
But the enmity of the Veientes, persistent rather than perilous, and issuing in insults oftener than in danger, kept the Romans in suspense, for they were never permitted to forget it or to turn their attention elsewhere.
Then the Fabian clan went before the senate, and the consul said, speaking for the clan: “A standing body of defenders rather than a large one is required, Conscript Fathers, as you know, for the war with Veii. Do you attend to the other wars, and assign to the Fabii the task of opposing the Veientes. We undertake that the majesty of the Roman name shall be safe in that quarter.
It is our purpose to wage this war as if it were our own family feud, at our private costs: the state may dispense with furnishing men and money for this cause.” The thanks of the Fathers were voted with enthusiasm.
The consul came out from the senate-house, and escorted by a column of the Fabii, who had halted in the vestibule of the curia while awaiting [p. 385]
the senate's decision, returned to his house. After3
receiving the command to present themselves armed next day at the consul's threshold, they dispersed to their homes.