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THE ROMAN ARMY IN A TRAP
 WHILE the Romans were at war with the Volscians, another
tribe, called the Æquians, poured down from their
mountain fastnesses and plundered and destroyed their
In 459 B.C. peace was made with these
fierce mountaineers, and Rome hoped that her borders
would no longer be disturbed.
But the Æquians were a restless people. They soon
broke the treaty, and, led by their chief Clœlius,
pitched their camp on one of the spurs of the Alban
hills, and began to burn and plunder as of old.
The Romans, furious at this breach of faith, sent an
embassy to demand redress.
But Clœlius mocked at the Roman ambassadors, and
laughingly bade them lay their complaints before the
oak-tree, under which his tent was pitched.
The angry ambassadors took the oak and all the gods to
witness that it was not they but the Æquians who
had broken the treaty and begun the war. Then
hastening back to Rome, they told how insolently they
had been treated.
An army, with the Consul Minucius at its head, was at
once dispatched to punish the Æquians.
Clœlius was a skilful general, and as the Roman army
advanced he slowly retreated into a narrow valley. The
Romans foolishly followed the retreating Æquians,
as Clœlius intended that they should.
When the enemy was in the midst of the valley, hemmed
 in by steep hills on either side, Clœlius ordered a
band of soldiers to guard the end by which the Romans
had entered. Minucius was caught in a trap.
But before the Æquian general had secured the end
of the valley, five Roman soldiers had escaped, and
these, putting spurs to their horses, rode swiftly to
Rome to tell how the Consul and his army were ensnared.
As the terrible news spread, Rome was stricken with
panic. She feared the enemy would soon be at her very
gates, and their second Consul was far away, fighting
against the Sabines.
In their dismay, the Senate determined to appoint a
Dictator, who would have supreme authority as long as
the country was in danger.
Neither the Senate nor the people had any doubt as to
whom they should turn to in their trouble. There was
one man only who could save the country. He was a
noble patrician who had already held positions of trust
in the State, and he was, too, a proved and experienced
Cincinnatus, or the Crisp-Haired, was the name of the
man to whom the Senate now determined to send. This
strange name had been given to him because his hair
clustered in curls around his head. The family of the
Cæsars also received their name from their curls.
When the messengers from Rome reached the home of the
patrician it was still early morning, but Cincinnatus
was already at work in his fields. For he, as many a
noble Roman in the olden days, cultivated his own
estate. As the heat was great, Cincinnatus had thrown
aside his toga, and was digging with bare arms.
One of this household ran to the fields to tell that
messengers had arrived from Rome and wished to speak
So, putting on his toga that he might receive the
messengers of the State in suitable guise, the
simple-minded patrician hastened to the house.
 No sooner did he hear that his country was in danger,
and that he had been chosen Dictator, than he speedily
went to Rome, where the people greeted him with shouts
Cincinnatus lost no time in assembling a new army.
Going to the Forum, he ordered that the shops should be
closed, and all business cease until Rome was safe.
All who could bear arms were told to assemble without
delay on the Field of Mars, bringing with them twelve
stakes for ramparts and food for five days.
That same evening, before the sun sank to rest, the new
army had left Rome, and by midnight it was close to the
valley in which Minucius, with his legions, lay
Here the Dictator commanded his men to halt and throw
their baggage in a heap. Then he ordered trenches to
be dug round the enemy's camp, as noiselessly as might
be, and the stakes they had brought with them to be
driven into the ground.
When this was done, Cincinnatus bade his soldiers shout
with all their strength. The noise aroused the
Æquians, who sprang to their feet, and in terror
seized their arms.
But the legions of Minucius also heard the shouts, and
recognizing their own war-cry, they also grasped their
weapons and attacked the Æquians.
They, seeing that they were surrounded by the enemy,
with no way of escape possible, surrendered to the
Dictator, begging him to be merciful.
Cincinnatus spared the lives of Clœlius and his
soldiers, but he made the men pass under the yoke,
after which they were allowed to find their way back to
their mountain retreats.
The yoke was formed of three spears, and as the
soldiers stooped to pass beneath this rough erection
they had to lay aside their cloaks and surrender their
Clœlius and the other leaders of the Æquians were
 Then the Dictator having freed his country from danger,
returned in triumph to Rome. At the end of sixteen
days he resigned the Dictatorship, and went back to his
home, honoured by the people and crowned with glory.
Soon he was again to be seen digging or ploughing in
his fields, contented as of yore.