Roman History, by Titus Livius (Livy)
John Henry Freese, Alfred John Church, and William Jackson Brodribb
With a Critical and Biographical Introduction and Notes by Duffield
The Decemvirate - 468-446 B.C.
Gaius Claudius, who, detesting the crimes of the decemvirs and, above all, incensed at the arrogant conduct of his brother's son, had retired to Regillum, the country of his forefathers, having now returned, though by this time advanced in years, to endeavour to avert the dangers impending over him, whose vices he had shunned, went about the forum, clad in a mourn- ing garment, with the members of his family and his clients, and solicited the interest of the citizens individually, begging them not to desire the Claudian family to be branded with such a disgrace as to be considered deserving of imprisonment and chains; that a man whose bust would be most highly honoured by posterity, the framer of their laws and the founder of Roman jurisprudence, should lie in chains among nightly thieves and robbers ! Let them turn away their thoughts from resentment for a while to examination and reflection; and rather pardon one at the entreaty of so many members of the Claudian family, than through a hatred of one spurn the entreaties of many; he himself also paid this tribute to the family and the name; nor had he been reconciled to him whose unfortunate situation he wished relieved; by valour lib- erty had been recovered: by clemency the harmony of the sev- eral orders might be established. Some there were whom he influenced more by his warm attachment to his family than by the cause of him for whom he pleaded. But Verginius begged that they would rather pity him and his daughter, and that they would listen to the entreaties, not of the Claudian family, which had allotted to its members a sort of sovereignty over the commons, but to those of the near friends of Verginia, the three tribunes, who, having been created to aid the commons, were now themselves imploring the protection and aid of that same commons. These laments appeared more justified. Ac- cordingly, all hope being cut off, Appius put an end to his life before the day appointed for his trial arrived. Immediately after, Spurius Oppius, the next object of public indignation, because he had been in the city when the unjust decision was given by his colleague, was arraigned by Publius Numitorius. However, a positive act of injustice committed by Oppius brought more odium on him, than the fact of his not having prevented the wrong committed by Appius. A witness was brought forward who, after reckoning up twenty campaigns, and who had been presented with a special reward of valour eight different times, and wearing these honours in the sight of the Roman people, tore open his garments and exhibited his back mangled with stripes, begging for nothing else but that, if the accused could name one single guilty act of his, he might, through a private individual, once more repeat his severity on him. Oppius was also thrown into prison, where he put an end to his life before the day of trial. The tribunes confiscated the property of Appius and Oppius. Their col- leagues left their homes to go into exile; their property was confiscated. Marcus Claudius, the claimant of Verginia, after a day had been appointed for his trial, was condemned: he was, however, discharged and went away into exile to Tibur, Verginius himself remitting the extreme penalty: 1 and the shade of Verginia, happier after death than she had been dur- ing life, after having roamed through so many families in quest of vengeance, at length rested in peace, no guilty person being left unpunished.
Great alarm had seized the patricians, and the faces of the tribunes were now the same as those of the decemvirs had been, when Marcus Duillius, tribune of the people, hav- ing put a salutary check upon their excessive power, said: "We have enjoyed sufficient liberty on our own part, and have taken sufficient vengeance on our enemies; wherefore for this year I do not intend to allow either a day of trial to be appointed for any one, or any person to be thrown into prison. For it is neither pleasing to me that old crimes now forgotten should be raked up again, seeing that the recent ones have been atoned for by the punishment of the decemvirs; and the unremitting care of both the consuls in defending your liber- ties, is a guarantee that nothing will be done of such a na- ture as to call for the intervention of the authority of the tribunes." This moderation on the part of the tribune first relieved the patricians of their fears and at the same time in- creased the feeling of ill-will toward the consuls, for they had been so devoted to the commons, that even a plebeian magis- trate was the first to take interest in the safety and political independence of the patricians, before one of patrician rank, and their enemies had become surfeited with inflicting punish- ments on them, before the consuls, to all appearance, would have resisted their licentious career. And there were many who said that sufficiently energetic measures had not been taken, inasmuch as the fathers had given their approbation to the laws proposed by them: nor was there any doubt that, in the troubled state of public affairs, they had yielded to the exi- gencies of the occasion.
Affairs in the city being thus arranged, and the rights of the commons firmly established, the consuls departed to their respective provinces. Valerius prudently deferred all warlike operations against the armies of the Aequans and the Volscians, which had now united at Algidum: whereas, if he had immediately intrusted the issue to fortune, I am inclined to think that, considering the feelings both of the Romans and of their enemies at that time, after the unfavourable auspices of the decemvirs, 1 the contest would have cost him heavy loss. Having pitched his camp at the distance of a mile from the enemy, he kept his men quiet. The enemy filled the space lying between the two camps with their army in order of battle, and not a single Roman made answer when they challenged them to fight. At length, wearied with standing and waiting in vain for a contest, the Aequans and Volscians, considering that the victory was almost yielded to them, went off, some to Hernican, others to Latin territory, to commit depredations. There was left in the camp rather a garrison for its defence than sufficient force for a contest. When the consul perceived this, he in turn inspired the terror which his own men had previously felt, and having drawn up his troops in order of battle on his side, provoked the enemy to fight. When they, conscious of their lack of forces, declined battle, the courage of the Romans immediately increased, and they considered them vanquished, as they stood panic-stricken within their rampart. Having stood throughout the day eager for the contest, they retired at night. And the Romans, now full of hope, set about refreshing themselves. The enemy, in by no means equal spirits, being now anxious, despatched messengers in every direction to recall the plundering parties. Those in the nearest places returned: those who were farther off were not found. When day dawned, the Romans left the camp, determined on assaulting the rampart, unless an opportunity of fighting presented itself; and when the day was now far advanced, and no movement was made by the enemy, the consul ordered an advance; and the troops being put in motion, the Aequans and Volscians were seized with indignation, at the thought that victorious armies had to be defended by a rampart rather than by valour and arms. Wherefore they also earnestly demanded the signal for battle from their generals, and received it. And now half of them had got out of the gates, and the others in succession were marching in order, as they went down each to his own post, when the Roman consul, before the enemy's line, supported by their entire strength, could get into close order, advanced upon them; and having attacked them before they were all as yet led forth, and before those, who were, had their lines properly drawn out, he fell upon them, a crowd almost beginning to waver, as they ran from one place to another, and gazed around upon themselves, and looked eagerly for their friends, the shouts and violent attack adding to the already panic-stricken condition of their minds. The enemy at first gave way; then, having rallied their spirits, when their generals on every side reproachfully asked them, whether they intended to yield to vanquished foes, the battle was restored.
On the other side, the consul desired the Romans to remember that on that day, for the first time, they fought as free men in defence of Rome, now a free city. That it was for themselves they were about to conquer, not to become, when victorious, the prize of the decemvirs. That it was not under the command of Appius that operations were being conducted, but under their consul Valerius, descended from the liberators of the Roman people, himself their liberator. Let them show that in former battles it had been the fault of the generals and not of the soldiers, that they did not conquer. That it was shameful to have exhibited more courage against their own countrymen than against their enemies, and to have dreaded slavery more at home than abroad. That Verginia was the only person whose chastity had been in danger in time of peace: that Appius had been the only citizen of dangerous lust. But if the fortune of war should turn against them, the children of all would be in danger from so many thousands of enemies: that he was unwilling to forebode what neither Jupiter nor their father Mars would be likely to suffer to befall a city built under such auspices. He reminded them of the Aventine and the Sacred Mount; that they should bring back dominion unimpaired to that spot, where their liberty had been won but a few months before: and that they should show that the Roman soldiers retained the same disposition after the expulsion of the decemvirs, as they had possessed before they were appointed, and that the valour of the Roman people had not deteriorated after the laws had been equalized. After he uttered these words among the battalions of the infantry, he hurried from them to the cavalry. " Come, young men," said he, " show yourselves superior to the infantry in valour, as you already are their superiors in honour and in rank. The infantry at the first onset have made the enemy give way*; now that they have given way, do you give reins to your horses and drive them from the field. They will not stand your charge: even now they rather hesitate than resist." They spurred on their horses, and charged at full speed against the enemy, who were already thrown into confusion by the attack of the infantry: and having broken through the ranks, some dashing on to the rear of their line, others wheeling about in the open space from the flanks, turned most of them away from the camp as they were now flying in all directions, and by riding beyond them headed them off. The line of infantry, the consul himself, and the whole onset of the battle was borne toward the camp, and having taken it with considerable slaughter, he got possession of still more considerable booty. The fame of this battle, carried not only to the city, but to the other army also in Sabine territory, was welcomed in the city with public rejoicing; in the camp, it inspirited the soldiers to emulate such glory. Horatius, by training them in sallies, and making trial of them in slight skirmishes, had accustomed them to trust in themselves rather than remember the ignominy incurred under the command of the decemvirs, and these trifling engagements had greatly contributed to the successful consummation of their hopes. The Sabines, elated at their success in the preceding year, ceased not to provoke and urge them to fight, constantly asking why they wasted time, sallying forth in small numbers and returning like marauders, and why they distributed the issue of a single war over a number of engagements, and those of no importance? Why did they not meet them in the field, and intrust to fortune the decision of the matter once and for all?
Besides that they had already of themselves recovered sufficient courage, the Romans were fired with exasperation at the thought that the other army would soon return victorious to the city; that the enemy were now wantonly affronting them with insolence: when, moreover, would they be a match for the enemy, if they were not so then? When the consul ascertained that the soldiers loudly expressed these sentiments in the camp, having summoned an assembly, he spoke as follows: "How matters have fared in Algidum, I suppose that you, soldiers, have already heard. As became the army of the free people to behave, so have they behaved; through the good judgment of my colleague, and the valour of the soldiers, the victory has been gained. For my part, I shall display the same judgment and determination as you yourselves, O soldiers, display. The war may either be prolonged with advantage, qr be brought to a speedy conclusion. If it is to be prolonged, I shall take care, by employing the same method of warfare with which I have begun, that your hopes and your valour may increase every day. If you have now sufficient courage, and it is your wish that the matter be decided, come, raise here a shout such as you will raise in the field of battle, in token both of your wishes and your valour." When the shout was raised with great alacrity, he assured them that he would comply with their wishes and so might Heaven prosper it and lead them next day into the field. The remainder of the day was spent in getting ready their arms. On the following day, as soon as the Sabines saw the Roman army being drawn up in order of battle, they too, having long since been eager for the encounter, advanced. The battle was one such as would be fought between two armies who both had confidence in themselves, the one on account of its long- standing and unbroken career of glory, the other recently elated by its unusual success. The Sabines aided their strength also by stratagem; for, having formed a line equal to that of the Romans, they kept two thousand men in reserve, to make an attack on the left wing of the Romans in the heat of the battle. When these, by an attack in flank, were on the point of overpowering that wing, now almost surrounded, about six hundred of the cavalry of two legions leaped down from their horses, and, as their men were giving way, rushed forward in front, and at the same time both opposed the advance of the enemy, and roused the courage of the infantry, first by sharing the danger equally with them, and then by arousing in them a sense of shame. It was a matter of shame that the cavalry should fight in their own proper fashion and in that of others, and that the infantry should not be equal to the cavalry even when dismounted.
They marched therefore to the fight, which had been suspended on their part, and endeavoured to regain the ground which they had lost, and in a moment not only was the battle restored, but one of the wings of the Sabines gave way. The cavalry, protected between the ranks of the infantry, remounted their horses; they then galloped across to the other division to announce their success to their party; at the same time also they charged the enemy, now disheartened by the discomfiture of their stronger wing. The valour of none shone forth more conspicuous in that battle. The consul provided for all emergencies; he applauded the brave, rebuked wherever the battle seemed to slacken. When reproved, they displayed immediately the deeds of brave men; and a sense of shame stimulated these, as much as praises the others. The shout being raised anew, all together making a united effort, drove the enemy back; nor could the Roman attack be any longer resisted.