When this arm of the service had been enlarged, a second battle was fought with the Sabines. And in this, besides being increased in strength, the Roman army was further helped by a stratagem, for men were secretly dispatched to light a great quantity of firewood lying on the bank of the Anio, and throw it into the river. A favouring wind set the wood in a blaze, and the greater part of it lodged against the boats and piles, where it stuck fast and [p. 135]
set the bridge on fire.
This was another source of1
alarm to the Sabines during the battle, and upon their being routed the same thing hindered their flight, so that many of them escaped the Romans only to perish in the stream; while their shields floated down the Tiber toward the City, and, being recognized, gave assurance that a victory had been won almost sooner than the news of it could be brought.
In this battle the cavalry particularly distinguished themselves. They were posted on either flank of the Romans, and when the centre, composed of infantry, was already in retreat, they are said to have charged from both sides, with such effect that they not only checked the Sabine forces, which were pressing hotly forward as their enemy gave way, but suddenly put them to flight.
The Sabines made for the mountains in a scattered rout, and indeed a few gained that refuge. Most of them, as has been said before, were driven by the cavalry into the river.
Tarquinius thought it proper to follow up his victory while the other side was panic-stricken; he therefore sent the booty and the prisoners to Rome, and after making a huge pile of the captured arms and setting fire to it, in fulfilment of a vow to Vulcan, pushed forward at the head of his army into the enemy's country.
Although defeat had been the portion of the Sabines, and another battle could not be expected to result in better success, still, as the situation allowed no room for deliberation, they took the field with what soldiers they could hastily muster, and being then routed a second time and fairly reduced to extremities, they sued for peace.