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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 41: The Treason of Spurius Cassius.[486-5 BC]
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For the next year Spurius Cassius and Proculus Verginius were elected consuls. A treaty was concluded with the Hernici, two-thirds of their territory was taken from them. Of this Cassius intended to give half to the Latins and half to the Roman plebs. He contemplated adding to this a quantity of land which, he alleged, though State land, was occupied by private individuals. This alarmed many of the patricians, the actual occupiers, as endangering the security of their property. On public grounds, too, they felt anxious, as they considered that by this largess the consul was building up a power dangerous to liberty. Then for the first time an Agrarian Law was proposed, and never, from that day to the times within our own memory, has one been mooted without the most tremendous commotions.|
The other consul resisted the proposed grant. In this he was supported by the senate, whilst the plebs was far from unanimous in its favour. They were beginning to look askance at a boon so cheap as to be shared between citizens and allies, and they often heard the consul Verginius in his public speeches predicting that his colleague's gift was fraught with mischief, the land in question would bring slavery on those who took it, the way was being prepared for a throne. Why were the allies, he asked, and the Latin league? What necessity was there for a third part of the territory of the Hernici, so lately our foes, being restored to them, unless it was that these nations might have Cassius as their leader in place of Coriolanus?
The opponent of the Agrarian Law began to be popular. Then both consuls tried who could go furthest in humouring the plebs. Verginius said that he would consent to the assignment of the lands provided they were assigned to none but Roman citizens. Cassius had courted popularity amongst the allies by including them in the distribution and had thereby sunk in the estimation of his fellow-citizens. To recover their favour he gave orders for the money which had been received for the corn from Sicily to be refunded to the people. This offer the plebeians treated with scorn as nothing else than the price of a throne. Owing to their innate suspicion that he was aiming at monarchy, his gifts were rejected as completely as if they had abundance of everything.
It is generally asserted that immediately upon his vacating office he was condemned and put to death. Some assert that his own father was the author of his punishment, that he tried him privately at home, and after scourging him put him to death and devoted his private property to Ceres. From the proceeds a statue of Ceres was made with an inscription, "Given from the Cassian family." I find in some authors a much more probable account, viz., that he was arraigned by the quaestors Caeso Fabius and Lucius Valerius before the people and convicted of treason, and his house ordered to be demolished. It stood on the open space in front of the temple of Tellus. In any case, whether the trial was a public or a private one, his condemnation took place in the consulship of Servius Cornelius and Quintus Fabius.