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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 44: War of Rome and Veii.[480 BC]
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This year also found a tribune advocating the Agrarian Law. It was Tiberius Pontificius. He adopted the same course as Spurius Licinius and for a short time stopped the enrolment (1). The senate were again perturbed, but Appius Claudius told them that the power of the tribunes had been overcome in the previous year, it was actually so at the present moment, and the precedent thus set would govern the future, since it had been discovered that its very strength was breaking it down. For there would never be wanting a tribune who would be glad to triumph over his colleague and secure the favour of the better party for the good of the State. If more were needed, more were ready to come to the assistance of the consuls, even one was sufficient, against the rest. The consuls and leaders of the senate had only to take the trouble to secure, if not all, at least some of the tribunes on the side of the common-wealth and the senate. |
The senators followed this advice, and whilst, as a body, they treated the tribunes with courtesy and kindness, the men of consular rank rank in each private suit which they instituted, succeeded, partly by personal influence, partly by the authority their rank gave them, in getting the tribunes to exert their power for the welfare of the State. Four of the tribunes were opposed to the one who was a hindrance to the public good; by their aid the consuls raised the levy.
Then they set out for the campaign against Veii. Succours had reached this city from all parts of Etruria, not so much out of regard for the Veientines as because hopes were entertained of the possible dissolution of the Roman State through intestine discord. In the public assemblies throughout the cities of Etruria the chiefs were loudly proclaiming that the Roman power would be eternal unless its citizens fell into the madness of mutual strife. This, they said, had proved to be the one poison, the one bane in powerful states which made great empires mortal. That mischief had been for a long time checked, partly by the wise policy of the senate, partly by the forbearance of the plebs, but now things had reached extremities. The one State had been severed into two, each with its own magistrates and its own laws. At first the enrolments were the cause of the quarrel, but when actually on service the men obeyed their generals. As long as military discipline was maintained the evil could be arrested, whatever the state of affairs in the City, but now the fashion of disobedience to the magistrates was following the Roman soldier even into the camp. During the last war, in the battle itself, at the crisis of the engagement, the victory was by the common action of the whole army transferred to the vanquished Aequi, the standards were abandoned, the commander left alone on the field, the troops returned against orders into camp. In fact, if matters were pressed, Rome could be vanquished through her own soldiers, nothing else was needful than a declaration of war, a show of military activity, the Fates and the gods would do the rest.
(1): stopped the enrolment -- This device was frequently adopted in those years by the tribunes in their struggles with the patricians. They "extended the protection of their sacred office to those of the plebeians who on public grounds resisted the sovereignty of the consuls by refusing to serve as soldiers" (Arnold).
Event: War of Rome with Veii