Chapter 844: The Commotion on Mons Capitolinus
Why had they done that? The reason is simple: When the senators and nobles led the Romans to retreat to Mons Capitolinus, although the Theonian army only sealed it off and did not attack it, they would often send people to shout at the hill, such as ‘We had repelled your army that had gone to Hernici and returned to attack Rome… We had captured Caisra and Veii… We had defeated the Roman army led by Camillus in Ostia…’
At first, it was just a handful of Latins shouting, but later on, a surprising number of the families of the Roman plebeians joined and would add something else to their shouting. For example, “We are now living in your comfortable houses…we now own the land that was yours…”
Despite the senators repeatedly refuting it, saying, “These are all the Theonian's lie meant to deceive you and sow discord among us!…”
But as they listen to the shout from below the hill and see many, many people in Roman plebeian attire talking to the black-helmeted, black-armoured Theonian soldiers in the Roman Forum in a seemingly cordial conversation during the day, and then one by one left holding large bags of things(they were the Roman citizens who applied for Theonian citizenship and going to the Roman Forum every day to receive rations), had inevitably made them feel suspicious. With the addition of their predicament on the hill, some chaos occurred.
So, the senators finally ordered the blockade of this cliff that had a clear view of the Roman Forum.
In the dimly lit rear hall of the Temple of Jupiter, hundreds of Roman senators who had just watched the Triumphant Return from the clifftop sat with a sombre expression, which created a somewhat heavy atmosphere.
“Cough! Cough!…” In the silent hall, Potitus' coughing became particularly clear as it attracted everyone's attention to him. However, he only coughed because of his weak body and did not have the desire to be the first to speak.
It was only after some time had passed that Ambustus, the temporary leader in Mons Capitolinus appointed by the Senate, broke the silence, “Esteemed senators, I would like to remind you that although the people couldn't see the situation on the Roman Forum today, they still could hear the shouting. I believe this will cause them great distress again, so I would like you to return to your families and followers and have them mind their business! Scipio, you must also remain vigilant and have the soldiers maintain order!”
“You can rest assured, as I have already sent more soldiers,” replied the older Scipio.
“Wait!” Apuleius shouted suddenly. Then, after seeing everyone stare at him, he stood up and said loudly, ”Almost ten days had passed since we hid here up on the hill! Could the Theonians have really defeated Camillus' army as they claimed?!”
Many senators shivered unconsciously upon hearing that, which was the issue they were most afraid of hearing.
“Cough…with more than seventy thousand soldiers outside the city and Camillus as its commander, and with many Latin allies and our colonies supporting them, how could they possibly suffer a disastrous defeat!” Potitus tried to reassure everyone.
Maluginensis had warned Apuleius since hiding on the hill to unite against the enemy, “Don't cause unnecessary panic by attacking the dictator indiscriminately in a time of crisis,” but the prolonged stress caused Apuleius to finally burst again, “Where are Camillus and his army then if they hadn't lost?! Or have they run away?!”
Maluginensis immediately shouted, “Stop talking nonsense! Don't believe the rumours the enemy spouted about them defeating our army! On the contrary, this rumour revealed that Camillus might have led his army to attack Ostia!”
The senators with rich war experience, such as Potitus, Maluginensis and the older Scipio, had made reasonable speculations about why Camillus hadn't attacked Rome even after such a long time had passed, and many senators had accepted this explanation.
But Apuleius insisted, “Why did he attack Ostia instead of Rome?! Could it be that Camillus got confused and thought we were hiding in the small city of Ostia?!”
“With Rome’s tall and thick walls and was heavily guarded, it isn't as easy to attack as Ostia. Camillus reason for attacking Ostia is to either consume the Theonian soldiers, block them inland, force them to leave the city for a decisive battle or negotiate a truce… Apuleius, I explained these to you yesterday, so don't let me repeat it!” Maluginensis gazed sharply at Apuleius; the man he had supported suddenly became somewhat disobedient, which made him furious.
Apuleius finally stopped speaking.
But someone suddenly raised his doubts, “Camillus might be correct in his strategy of attacking Ostia, but we have all heard what the enemy has said about them taking Veii and Caisra. Yesterday, they also said that Sutrium and Cosa have also surrendered to them, and even our allies, the Etruscans, have allied with them… If all of those are true, I am afraid it would be useless even if we recaptured Ostia.”
These statements immediately aroused discussion among the senators.
Maluginensis saw that the one speaking was Lucretius. Despite resenting this elder for bringing out a subject everyone was worried about so openly and making him question Lucretius’ sanity, he still had scruples, considering the elder's many decades of experience in the Senate. Thus, he responded perfunctorily, “I had already told you all of it are lies told by the enemy, so there is no need to believe it!”
“Why don't we send someone to investigate? Just like what Pantheus had done back then! We and everyone else would be much more reassured if we could confirm that all of those are the enemy’s lies.”
Maluginensis finally couldn't hold himself from angrily saying, “Lucretius, the only thing you do besides praying for Jupiter is to sleep. Have you ever attended any meetings or participated in any affairs seriously?! Scipio, tell him the measures we have taken!”
“Until now, we had sent five soldiers to sneak down the hill and inquire about the situation. However, they still haven't returned.” Scipio continued with seriousness, “The Celts had a loose discipline when they occupied Rome and didn't blockade Mons Capitolinus tightly, whereas the Theonians…you can see by looking at the camps they have built at the bottom of the hill that it is very difficult to sneak through.”
“Anyway, Camillus will do everything in his power as the dictator of Rome to repel the Theonians, just as he did when he defeated the Celts!” Ambustus interjected to prevent Lucretius from being embarrassed too much and starting a verbal fight, “Let's concern ourselves with the critical issues that affect us first! Our food supply is only enough to last us for twenty days, and we would starve if Camillus failed to retake Rome within that time.
There is also a problem with the drinking water. Despite having a spring on the hillside not far from the Temple of Juno, it isn't enough for more than five thousand people to drink. Fortunately, the rainy season had just passed and had several rains in the past ten days, allowing the several temples to store a lot of water. However, if it doesn't rain for five consecutive days, it will become hard for everyone to have enough water to drink…
Furthermore, diseases showed up. Our hurried retreat has left us with insufficient herbs, and the crowded conditions, coupled with inadequate rest, nutrition, and the weight of depression, have led to the onset of illness in some individuals. Unfortunately, their recovery has been hindered due to the lack of proper treatment.”
Ambustus' words made the senators even more anxious.
“Sigh!” Potitus exclaimed and said, “We only had a few hundred people to retreat here when the Celts invaded, but the number is more than ten times than at that time, so we naturally consume much more supplies…”
“Should we expel many of them off Mons Capitolinus?!” asked an Elder anxiously.
His statement naturally caused an uproar in the temple.
Ambustus said hurriedly, “We don't need to do that! What I mean is…we need to keep a tight rein on our food and water consumption while preventing epidemics so that we could hold on to Mons Capitolinus for much longer until Camillus comes with his soldiers to repel the Theonians and take back Rome…”
Before the senators could finally begin the meeting, a man stood up in the crowd and said loudly, “Esteemed senators, I am sceptical of Camillus' ability to retake Rome! You had all seen the Theonians' Triumphant Return just now, with so many plebeians joining in their celebration; what does that tell us? Those plebeians had betrayed us and supported those Theonian invaders! With the support of those plebeians, the Theonians will have more soldiers to defend Rome, and the army led by Camillus-”
“Nonsense!” Maluginensis exclaimed. He glared fiercely at the man who spoke, “Apuleius, are you crazy?!”
Apuleius had begun to speak without regard, “I am not crazy! My mind is clear, as are you all! But you are all running away from reality! When Rome fell, so many people had gotten left inside the city, and we could still see and hear the sound of fighting in the city for the first few days, and even fires and smoke…but now! How many days since we last heard the sound of fighting? Instead, the Roman Forum became even more and more lively, and I am afraid the Theonians have completely-”
“Guards! Guards! Take him away and lock him up!” Maluginensis roared in a fit of anger.
The older Scipio hesitated for a moment since this violates the rules of the Senate. However, when he saw several respected senators, such as Potitus, Ambustus and Lucretius, nodding, he immediately called in the guards.