By the unanimous vote of the states, the conduct of the war was entrusted to Attius Tullius and Cn. Marcius, the Roman exile, on whom their hopes chiefly rested.
He fully justified their expectations, so that it became quite evident that the strength of Rome
lay in her generals rather than in her army.
He first marched against Cerceii, expelled the Roman colony and handed it over to the Volscians as a free city.
Then he took: Satricum
, Longula, Polusca, and Corioli, towns which the Romans had recently acquired. Marching across country into the Latin road, he recovered Lavinium
, and then, in succession, Corbio, Vetellia, Trebium Labici, and Pedum.
Finally, he advanced from Pedum against the City.
He entrenched his camp at the Cluilian Dykes, about five miles distant, and from there he ravaged the Roman territory. The raiding parties were accompanied by men whose business it was to see that the lands of the patricians were not touched;
a measure due either to his rage being especially directed against the plebeians, or to his hope that dissensions might arise between them and the patricians.
These certainly would have arisen —to such a pitch were the tribunes exciting the plebs by their attacks on the chief men of the State —had not the fear of the enemy outside —the strongest bond of union —brought men together in spite of their mutual suspicions and aversion.
On one point they disagreed; the senate and the consuls placed their hopes solely in arms, the plebeians preferred anything to war.
Sp. Nautius and Sex.
Furius were now consul. Whilst they were reviewing the legions and manning the walls and stationing troops in various places, an enormous crowd gathered together. At first they alarmed the consuls by seditious shouts, and at last they compelled them to convene the senate and submit a motion for sending ambassadors to Cn. Marcius. As the courage of the plebeians was evidently giving way, the senate accepted the motion, and a deputation was sent to Marcius with proposals for peace.
They brought back the stern reply: If the territory were restored to the Volscians, the question of peace could be discussed;
but if they wished to enjoy the spoils of war at their ease, he had not forgotten the wrongs inflicted by his country-men nor the kindness shown by those who were now his hosts, and would strive to make it clear that his spirit had been roused, not broken, by his exile.
The same envoys were sent on a second mission, but were not admitted into the camp. According to the tradition, the priests also in their robes went as suppliants to the enemies' camp, but they had no more influence with him than the previous deputation.