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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 54: The Assassination of Genucius.[474 BC]
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Lucius Furius and Gaius Manlius were the next consuls. The Veientines fell to Manlius as his province. There was no war, however; a forty years' truce was granted on their request; they were ordered to furnish corn and pay for the troops. Peace abroad was at once followed by discord at home. The tribunes employed the Agrarian Law to goad the plebs into a state of dangerous excitement. The consuls, nowise intimidated by the condemnation of Menenius or the danger in which Servilius had stood, resisted them with the utmost violence. On their vacating office the tribune Genucius impeached them. |
They were succeeded by Lucius Aemilius and Opiter Verginius. I find in some annals Vopiscus Julius instead of Verginius. Whoever the consuls were, it was in this year that Furius and Manlius, who were to be tried before the people, went about in mourning garb amongst the younger members of the senate quite as much as amongst the plebs. They urged them to keep clear of the high offices of state and to regard the " consular fasces," the " praetexta," and the curule chair as nothing but the pomp of death, for when invested with these insignia they were like victims adorned for sacrifice. If the consulship possessed such attractions for them, they must clearly understand that this office had been captured and crushed by the tribunician power; the consul had to do every thing at the beck and call of the tribune just as if he were his apparitor. If he took an active line, if he showed any regard for the patricians, if he thought that anything besides the plebs formed part of the common-wealth, he should keep before his eyes the banishment of Gnaeus Marcius, the condemnation and death of Menenius. Fired by these appeals the senators held meetings, not in the Senate-house but in private, only a few being invited. As the one point on which they were agreed was that the two who were impeached were to be rescued, by lawful or unlawful means, the most desperate plan was the most acceptable, and men were found who advocated the most daring crime.
Accordingly, on the day of the trial, whilst the plebs were standing in the Forum on the tiptoe of expectation, they were surprised that the tribune did not come down to them. Further delay made them suspicious; they believed that he had been intimidated by the leaders of the senate, and they complained that the cause of the people had been abandoned and betrayed. At last some who had been waiting in the vestibule of the tribune's house sent word that he had been found dead in his house. As this news spread throughout the assembly, they at once dispersed in all directions, like a routed army that has lost its general. The tribunes especially were alarmed, for they were warned by their colleague's death how absolutely ineffective the Sacred Laws were for their protection. The patricians, on the other hand, showed extravagant delight; so far was any one of them from regretting the crime, that even those who had taken no part in it were anxious to appear as though they had, and it was openly asserted that the tribunitian power must be chastised into submission.
Event: The Assasination of Genucius