During their office Fidenae, a Roman colony, revolted to Lars Tolumnius, king of the Veientians, and to the Veientians.
To the revolt a more heinous crime was added. By order of Tolumnius they put to death Caius Fulcinius, Claelius Tullus, Spurius Antius, Lucius Roscius, Roman ambassadors, who came to inquire into the reason of this new line of conduct.
Some palliate the guilt of the king; that an ambiguous expression of his, during a lucky throw of dice, having been mistaken by the Fidenatians, as if it seemed to be an order for their execution, had been the cause of the ambassadors' death.
An incredible tale; that his thoughts should not have been drawn away from the game on the arrival of the Fidenatians, his new allies, when consulting him on a murder tending to violate the law of nations; and that the act was not afterwards viewed by him with horror.
It is more probable that [p. 270]
he wished the state of the Fidenatians to be so compromised by their participation in so great a crime, that they might not afterwards look to any hope from the Romans.
Statues of the ambassadors, who were slain at Fidenae, were set up in the rostra at the public expense. A desperate struggle was coming on with the Veientians and Fidenatians, who, besides that they were neighbouring states, had commenced the war with so heinous a provocation.
Therefore, the commons and their tribunes being now quiet, so as to attend to the general welfare, there was no dispute with respect to the electing of Marcus Geganius Macerinus a third time, and Lucius Sergius Fidenas, as consuls; so called, I suppose, from the war which he afterwards conducted.
For he was the first who fought a successful battle with the king of the Veientians on this side of the Anio, nor did he obtain an unbloody victory. Greater grief was therefore felt from the loss of their countrymen, than joy from the defeat of the enemy: and the senate, as in an alarming crisis, ordered Mamercus Aemilius to be appointed dictator.
He appointed as his master of the horse from the college of the preceding year, in which there had been tribunes of the soldiers with consular power, Lucius Quintius Cincinnatus, a youth worthy of his parent.
To the levy held by the consuls were added the old centurions well versed in war, and the number of those lost in the late battle was made up. The dictator ordered Lucius Quintius Capitolinus and Marcus Fabius Vibulanus to attend him as his lieutenants-general.
Both the higher powers, and the man suitable to such powers, caused the enemy to move from the Roman territory to the other side of the Anio, and continuing their retrograde movement, they took possession of the hills between Fidenae and the Anio, nor did they descend into the plains until the troops of the Faliscians came to their aid; then at length the camp of the Etrurians was pitched before the walls of Fidenae.
The Roman dictator took his post at no great distance from thence at the conflux on the banks of both rivers, lines being run across between them, as far as he was able to follow by a fortification. Next day he marched out his army into the field.