Many men and beasts had perished miserably,1
when at last he got out from the marshes, and pitching his camp on the first dry ground available, ascertained from scouts whom he had sent on ahead that the Roman army lay around the walls of Arretium.
He then went to work with all possible diligence to learn the plans and temper of the consul, the lie of the land and the roads, his resources for provisioning the army —everything, in short, which it was important to find out.
The district was one of the most fertile in Italy, for the Etruscan plains between Faesulae and Arretium abound in corn and flocks and all sorts of provisions. The consul had been proud and headstrong since his former consulship,2
and lacked all proper reverence, not only for the laws and for the senate's majesty, but even for the gods.
This native rashness had been nourished by the success which Fortune had bestowed on him in political and military enterprises.3
It was therefore sufficiently apparent that, seeking no counsel, either divine or human, he would manage everything with recklessness and headlong haste; but to make him incline the more towards his characteristic faults, the Phoenician planned to provoke and exasperate him.
Leaving the enemy therefore on his left,4
and looking out for an
opportunity to ambush him, he proceeded to lay waste the heart of Etruria and exhibited to the consul from afar all the havoc that fire and sword could possibly effect.
Flaminius, even had his enemy sat still, was not [p. 211]
the man to have sat still himself; but now, when5
he saw the farms of the allies being harried and pillaged almost under his own eyes, he felt it as a personal disgrace that the Phoenician should be roaming through the midst of Italy, and marching, with no one to dispute his passage, to assault the very walls of Rome.
In the council of war the rest were all for safe in preference to showy measures: he should wait, they said, for his colleague to come up, in order that they might unite their forces and conduct the war with a common policy and resolution;
meantime, he should employ his cavalry and skirmishers to check the enemy's widespread, unrestricted pillaging.
Enraged by this advice, Flaminius flung out of the council, and having given the signal at once for marching and for fighting, exclaimed, “Ay, truly! Let us sit still under the walls of Arretium, for here are our native city and our household gods; let Hannibal slip through our fingers and ravage Italy, and, laying waste and burning everything, march clear to Rome; and let us not move from this spot, till the Fathers, as once they summoned Camillus from Veii, shall summon Gaius Flaminius from Arretium.”
Uttering these scornful words he bade pluck up the standards quickly, and vaulted upon his horse, when suddenly the charger stumbled, and unseating the consul threw him over his head. The dismay which this occasioned in all who were present,
as an evil omen for beginning the campaign, was intensified on its being reported that, although the standard-bearer was exerting all his might, the standard could not be pulled up.
Rounding upon [p. 213]
the messenger the consul cried, “Do you bring me6
a dispatch too from the senate, forbidding me to fight? Go, tell them to dig
the standard out, if their hands are too numb with fear to pull
The column then began to advance, though the higher officers, besides disapproving of the consul's plan, were terrified by the double prodigy. The soldiers, most of them, rejoiced in the temerity of their commander: their hopes ran high: the grounds for hoping they did not scrutinize.