Of the methods which have been noticed, the Romans, in preference to all others, used this last; and for four hundred and fifty years made it their aim to wear out their neighbours by invasion and by defeat in the open field, while endeavouring, as I have elsewhere said, to establish their influence over them by treaties and conventions. It was to this method of warfare therefore that they always mainly trusted, because, after trying all others, they found none so free from inconvenience and disadvantage—the procedure by siege involving expense and delay, that by assault, difficulty and danger, and that by secret practice, uncertainty and doubt. They found, likewise, that while in subduing one obstinate city by siege many years might be wasted, a kingdom might be gained in a single day by the defeat of a hostile army in the field.
In reading this History of Titus Livius with a view to profit by it, I think that all the methods of conduct followed by the Roman people and senate merit attention. And among other things fit to be considered, it should be noted, with how ample an authority they sent forth their consuls, their dictators, and the other captains of their armies, all of whom we find clothed with the fullest powers: no other prerogative being reserved to itself by the senate save that of declaring war and making peace, while everything else was left to the discretion and determination of the consul. For so soon as the people and senate had resolved on war, for instance on a war against the Latins, they threw all further responsibility upon the consul, who might fight or decline battle as he pleased, and attack this or the other city as he thought fit.
That this was so, is seen in many instances, and especially from what happened during an expedition made against the Etruscans. For the consul Fabius having routed that people near Sutrium, and thinking to pass onward through the Ciminian forest into Etruria, so far from seeking the advice of the senate, gave them no hint whatever of his design, although for its execution the war had to be carried into a new, difficult, and dangerous country. We have further witness to the same effect, in the action taken in respect of this enterprise by the senate, who being informed of the victory obtained by Fabius, and apprehending that he might decide to pass onward through the aforesaid forest, and deeming it inexpedient that he should incur risk by attempting this invasion, sent two messengers to warn him not to enter Etruria. These messengers, however, did not come up with the consul until he had already made his way into that country and gained a second victory; when, instead of opposing his further advance, they returned to Rome to announce his good fortune and the glory which he had won.