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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book V Chapter 3: War in the winter. Speech of Appius Claudius.[403 BC]
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He [Note 1] was not only a man of ready and versatile mind, but by this time an experienced debater. He delivered the following speech on this occasion: -- |
"If, Quirites, there has ever been any doubt as to whether it was in your interest or their own that the tribunes have always been the advocates of sedition, I feel quite certain that this year all doubt has ceased to exist. Whilst I rejoice that an end has at last been put to a long-standing delusion, I congratulate you, and on your behalf the whole State, that its removal has been effected just at the time when your circumstances are most prosperous. Is there any one who doubts that whatever wrongs you may have at any time suffered, they never annoyed and provoked the tribunes so much as the generous treatment of the plebs by the senate, in establishing the system of pay for the soldiers? What else do you suppose it was that they were afraid of at that time, and would today gladly upset, except the harmony of the two orders, which they look upon as most of all calculated to destroy their power? They are, really, like so many quack doctors looking for work, always anxious to find some diseased spot in the republic that there may be something which you can call them in to cure." Then, turning to the tribunes, "Are you defending or attacking the plebs? Are you trying to injure the men on service or are you pleading their cause? Or perhaps this is what you are saying, "Whatever the senate does, whether in the interest of the plebs or against them, we object to." Just as masters forbid strangers to hold any communication with their slaves, and think it right that they should abstain from showing them either kindness or unkindness, so you interdict the patricians from all dealings with the plebs, lest we should appeal to their feelings by our graciousness and generosity and secure their loyalty and obedience. How much more dutiful it would have been in you, if you had had a spark -- I will not say of patriotism, but -- of common humanity, to have viewed with favour, and as far as in you lay, to have fostered the kindly feelings of the patricians and the grateful goodwill of the plebeians! And if this harmony should prove to be lasting, who would not be bold enough to guarantee that this empire will in a short time be the greatest among the neighbouring States?"
Note 1: He = Appius Claudius