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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 13: The Exile of Caeso.[461 BC]
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Over and above the general exasperation, one charge in particular weighed heavily against him. Marcus Volscius Fictor, who had some years previously been tribune of the plebs, had come forward to give evidence that not long after the epidemic had visited the City, he had met some young men strolling in the Subura. A quarrel broke out and his elder brother, still weak from illness, was knocked down by a blow from Caeso's fist, and carried home in a critical condition, and afterwards died, he believed, in consequence of the blow. He had not been allowed by the consuls, during the years that had elapsed, to obtain legal redress for the outrage. Whilst Volscius was telling this story in a loud tone of voice, so much excitement was created that Caeso was very near losing his life at the hands of the people. Verginius ordered him to be arrested and taken to prison. The patricians met violence by violence. Titus Quinctius called out that when the day of trial has been fixed for any one indicted on a capital charge and is near at hand, his personal liberty ought not to be interfered with before the case is heard and sentence given. The tribune replied that he was not going to inflict punishment upon a man not yet found guilty; but he should keep him in prison till the day of the trial, that the Roman people might be in a position to punish one who has taken a man's life. The other tribunes were appealed to, and they saved their prerogative by a compromise (1) they forbade him to be cast into prison, and announced as their decision that the accused should appear in court, and if he failed to do so, he should forfeit a sum of money to the people. The question was, what sum would it be fair to fix? The matter was referred to the senate, the accused was detained in the Assembly whilst the senators were deliberating. They decided that he should give sureties, and each surety was bound in 3000 ases." It was left to the tribunes to decide how many should be given; they fixed the number at ten. The prosecutor released the accused on that bail. Caeso was the first who gave securities on a state trial. After leaving the Forum, he went the following night into exile of amongst the Tuscans |
When the day for the trial came, it was pleaded in defence of his non-appearance that he had changed his domicile by going into exile. Verginius, nevertheless, went on with the proceedings, but his colleagues, to whom an appeal was made, dismissed the Assembly. The money was unmercifully extorted from the father, who had to sell all his property and live for some time like a banished man in an out-of-the-way hut on the other side of the Tiber.
(1): saved their prerogative -- The fact of an appeal being made to them by a patrician gave them the opportunity of magnifying their office, whilst, on the other hand, to have set him unconditionally at liberty would have weakened their influence with the plebs.