The consuls were parting, when the lieutenants and tribunes from the army of Appius gathered round them. some of them besought their general not to spurn his colleague's help —which
ought even to have been asked for —now that it was proffered voluntarily; the greater number threw themselves in the way of Volumnius, as he turned to go, and conjured him not to betray the welfare of the state by an unworthy quarrel with his colleague:
if any [p. 427]
disaster should occur, the blame would lie more1
with the deserter than the deserted; to such a pass had matters come that the entire credit or disgrace of success or failure in Etruria was referred to Lucius Volumnius;
no one would enquire what the words of Appius had been, but what the fortune of the army; he was being dismissed by Appius, but retained by the republic and the army; let him but test the wishes of the soldiers.
thus admonishing and entreating them they dragged the all but resisting consuls to the place of assembly.
there they spoke at greater length, but substantially to the same effect as they had argued before in the hearing of a few; and when Volumnius, besides having the better cause, likewise showed himself to be no mean orator in opposing the rare
eloquence of his colleague, Appius jeeringly remarked that they ought to give himself the credit, for that instead of a mute and tongue —tied consul they had got one who was actually fluent, since in his former consulship, at all events in its early months, he had been incapable of opening his mouth, but was now delivering popular orations.
— “how I could wish,” exclaimed Volumnius, “that you might rather have learnt from me to act with vigour than that I should have learnt to speak cleverly from you!” in conclusion he proposed a compact which would determine, not which was the better orator —for this was not what the republic wanted —but the better general.2
Etruria and Samnium were the nations to be conquered; let Appius choose which he liked; with his own army he would campaign either in Etruria or in Samnium.
then the soldiers began to cry out that both [p. 429]
should undertake the Etruscan war together.
them to be of one mind in this, Volumnius said, “since I erred in interpreting my colleague's wishes, I will not make the blunder of leaving yours in doubt: do you signify by a shout whether you would have me stay or go.”
then in truth they cheered so loud that the enemy were drawn out from their camp, and snatching up their arms went down4
into line of battle. Volumnius, too, bade sound the signal and advance the banners from the camp.
Appius, they say, was uncertain what to do, perceiving that, whether he fought or refrained from fighting, the victory would be his colleague's; then, fearing that even his own legions would follow Volumnius, he, too, gave his men the signal for which they were clamouring.
on neither side had the forces been very advantageously marshalled; for the Samnite commander Gellius Egnatius had taken a few cohorts and gone off to forage, and his soldiers were entering the battle more as their own impulse guided them than under
anybody's leadership or orders, and the Roman armies were not both led out together nor had they sufficient time to form.
Volumnius was engaged before Appius came within reach of the enemy, and the line of attack was accordingly uneven. moreover, as though lots had been cast, there was a shifting of the customary opponents, the Etruscans confronting Volumnius, and the Samnites —after a little hesitation, owing to the absence of their general —meeting Appius.
it is said that when the conflict was at its hottest, Appius was seen to lift up his hands5
in the very forefront of the standards and utter this petition: “Bellona, [p. 431]
if to —day thou grant us the victory, then do I vow6
thee a temple.” having pronounced this prayer, as though the goddess were inspiring him, he kept pace with the courage of his colleague and the army kept pace with his.
and now the generals were quitting themselves like true commanders, and the soldiers were striving that victory might not come first on the other wing.
they therefore routed and put to flight the enemy, who found it no easy task to withstand a greater force than they had been wont to engage with.
pressing hard upon them when they faltered and pursuing where they fled, the Romans drove them to their camp. there, on the appearance of Gellius and the Sabellian cohorts, the battle was renewed for a little while;
but presently, when these too had been dispersed, the conquering troops assailed the camp, and while Volumnius himself led a charge against the gate, and Appius, calling from time to time on Bellona, goddess of victory, inspirited his soldiers, they burst through the trenches and the rampart.
The camp was taken and pillaged, and the vast booty found there was given over to the soldiers. seven thousand eight hundred of the enemy were slain, two thousand one hundred and twenty taken prisoners.