As the consuls were parting, the lieutenants-general and tribunes of Appius's army gathered round them. Some entreated their own general that he would not reject the voluntary offer of his colleague's assistance, which ought to have been solicited in the first instance:
the greater number used their endeavours to stop Volumnius, beseeching him “not, through a peevish dispute with his colleague, to abandon the interest of the commonwealth;
and represented to him, that in case any misfortune should happen, the blame would fall on the person who forsook the other, not on the one forsaken; that the state of affairs was such, that the credit and discredit of every success and failure in Etruria would be attributed to Lucius Volumnius: for no one would inquire, what were the words of Appius, but what the situation of the army.
Appius indeed had dismissed him, but the commonwealth, and the army, required his stay. Let him only make trial of the inclinations of the soldiers.”
By such admonitions and entreaties they, in a manner, dragged the consuls, who almost resisted, to an assembly. There, longer discourses were made to the same purport, as had passed before in the presence of a few.
And when Volumnius, who had the advantage of the argument, showed himself not' deficient in oratory, in despite of the extraordinary eloquence of his colleague;
Appius observed with a sneer, that “they ought to acknowledge themselves indebted to him, in having a consul who possessed eloquence also, instead of being dumb and speechless, when in their former consulate, particularly during the first months, he was not able so much as to open his lips; but now, in his harangues, even aspired after popularity.”
Volumnius replied, “How much more earnestly do I wish, that you had learned from me to act with spirit, than I from you to speak with elegance: that now he made a final proposal, which would determine, not which is the better orator, for that is not what the public wants, but which is the better commander.
The [p. 652]
provinces are Etruria and Samnium: that he might select which he preferred; that he, with his own army, will undertake to manage the business either in Etruria or in Samnium.”
The soldiers then, with loud clamours, requested that they would, in conjunction, carry on the war in Etruria;
when Volumnius perceiving that it was the general wish, said, “Since I have been mistaken in apprehending my colleague's meaning, I will take care that there shall be no room for mistake with respect to the purport of your wishes.
Signify by a shout whether you choose that I should stay or depart.” On this, a shout was raised, so loud, that it brought the enemy out of their camp: they snatched up their arms, and marched down in order of battle.
Volumnius likewise ordered the signal to be sounded, and the standard to be advanced from the camp. It is said that Appius hesitated, perceiving that, whether he fought or remained inactive, his colleague would have the victory; and that, afterwards, dreading lest his own legions also should follow Volumnius, he also gave the signal, at the earnest desire of his men.
On neither side were the forces drawn up to advantage: for, on the one, Gellius Egnatius, the Samnite general, had gone out to forage with a few cohorts, and his men entered
on the fight as the violence of their passions prompted, rather than under any directions or orders.
On the other, the Roman armies neither marched out together, nor had time sufficient to form: Volumnius began to engage before Appius came up to the enemy, consequently the engagement commenced, their front in the battle being uneven; and by some accidental interchange of their usual opponents, the Etrurians fought against Volumnius; and the Samnites, after delaying some time on account of the absence of their general, against Appius.
We are told that Appius, during the heat of the fight, raising his hands toward heaven, so as to be seen in the foremost ranks, prayed thus, “Bellona, if thou grantest us the victory this day, I vow to thee a temple.” And that after this vow, as if inspirited by the goddess, he displayed a degree of courage equal to that of his colleague and of the troops.
The generals performed every duty, and each of their armies exerted, with emulation, its utmost vigour, lest victory should commence on the other side.
They therefore routed and put to flight the enemy, who were ill able to withstand a force so much superior to any with which they had been accustomed [p. 653]
then pressing them as they gave ground, and pursuing them closely as they fled, they drove them into their camp. There, by the interposition of Gellius and his Samnite cohorts, the fight was renewed for a little time.
But these being likewise soon dispersed, the camp was now stormed by the conquerors; and whilst Volumnius, in person, led his troops against one of the gates, Appius, frequently invoking Bellona the victorious, inflamed the courage of his men, they broke in through the rampart and trenches.
The camp was taken and plundered, and an abundance of spoil was found, and given up to the soldiers. Of the enemy seven thousand three hundred were slain; and two thousand one hundred and twenty taken.