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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IV Chapter 21: Conquest of Fidenae.[436 BC]
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Cornelius Maluginensis and Lucius Papirius Crassus were the next consuls. Armies led into the territories of the Veientines and Faliscans and men and cattle were carried off. The enemy was nowhere found in the open, nor was there any opportunity of fighting. Their cities, however, were not attacked, for the people were visited by an epidemic. |
Spurius Maelius, a tribune of the plebs, tried to get up disturbances, but failed to do so. Relying upon the popularity of the name he bore, he had impeached Minucius and brought forward a proposal for the confiscation of the property of Servilius Ahala on the plea that Maelius had been the victim of false charges by Minucius, whilst Servilius had been guilty of putting a citizen to death without trial (1). The people paid less attention to these accusations than even to their author; they were much more concerned about the increasing virulence of the epidemic and the terrifying portents; most of all about the reports of frequent earthquakes which laid the houses in the country districts in ruins. A solemn supplication, therefore, was offered up by the people, led by the duumvirs.
The following year, in which the consuls were Gaius Julius, for the second time, and Lucius Verginius, was still more fatal, and created such alarming desolation in town and country that no plundering parties left Roman territory, nor did either senate or plebs entertain any idea of taking the offensive. The Fidenates, however, who had at first confined themselves to their mountains and walled villages, actually came down into the Roman territory and ravaged it. As the Faliscans could not be induced to renew the war, either by the representations of their allies or by the fact that Rome was prostrated by the epidemic, the Fidenates sent to invite the Veientine army, and the two States crossed the Anio and displayed their standards not far from the Colline gate. The alarm was as great in the City as in the country districts. The consul Julius disposed his troops on the rampart and the walls; Verginius convened the senate in the temple of Quirinus. They decreed that Quintus Servilius should be nominated dictator. According to one tradition he was surnamed Priscus, according to another, Structus. Verginius waited till he could consult his colleague; on gaining his consent, he nominated the dictator at night. The dictator appointed Postumius Aebutius Helva as Master of the Horse.
(1): The Maelius whom Ahala had killed was regarded by the plebs as a martyr to their cause.