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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IV Chapter 42: Trial of Sempronius.[423-2 BC]
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The plebs elected as their tribunes, in their absence, Sextus Tempanius, Aulus Sellius, Sextus Antistius, and Spurius Icilius, all of whom had, on the advice of Tempanius, been selected by the cavalry to act as centurions. (1) The exasperation against Sempronius made the very name of consul offensive, the senate therefore ordered consular tribunes to be elected. Their names were Lucius Manlius Capitolinus, Quintus Antonius Merenda, and Lucius Papirius Mugilanus. |
At the very beginning of the year, Lucius Hortensius, a tribune of the plebs, appointed a day for the trial of Gaius Sempronius, the consul of the previous year. His four colleagues begged him, publicly, in full view of the Roman people, not to prosecute their unoffending commander, against whom nothing but ill-luck could be alleged. Hortensius was angry, for he looked upon this as an attempt to test his resolution, he regarded the entreaties of the tribunes as meant simply to save appearances, and he was convinced that it was not to these the consul was trusting, but to their interposing their veto. Turning to Sempronius he asked: "Where is your patrician spirit and the courage which is supported by the consciousness of innocence? An ex-consul actually sheltering under the wing of the tribunes!" Then he addressed his colleagues: "You, what will you do, if I carry the prosecution through? Are you going to deprive the people of their jurisdiction and subvert the power of the tribunes?" They replied that the authority of the people was supreme over Sempronius and over everybody else; they had neither the will nor the power to do away with the people's right to judge, but if their entreaties on behalf of their commander, who was a second father to them, proved unavailing, they would appear by his side in suppliant garb. Then Hortensius replied: "The Roman plebs shall not see its tribunes in mourning; I drop all proceedings against Gaius Sempronius, since he has succeeded, during his command, in becoming so dear to his soldiers." Both plebeians and patricians were pleased with the loyal affection of the four tribunes, and quite as much so with the way in which Hortensius had yielded to their just remonstrances.
(1): The cavalry had dismounted in the battle and formed themselves into maniples of infantry, their officers for the time being therefore acted as centurions.
Event: War with the Volscians