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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book V Chapter 12: Trial of Sergius and Verginius. The First Plebeian Consular T[401-0 BC]
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The passions of the plebs were roused by these speeches, and they sentenced the accused to a fine of 10,000 ases each, in spite of Sergius' attempt to throw the blame on Fortune and the chances of war, and Verginius' appeal that he might not be more unfortunate at home than he had been in the field. |
The First Plebeian Consular Tribune.
The turning of the popular indignation in this direction threw into the shade the memories of the co-optation of tribunes and the evasion of the Trebonian Law. As a reward to the plebeians for the sentence they had passed, the victorious tribunes at once gave notice of an agrarian measure. They also prevented contributions being paid in for the war-tax, though pay was required for all those armies, and such successes as had been gained only served to prevent any of the wars from being brought to a close. The camp at Veii which had been lost was recaptured and strengthened with forts and men to hold them. The consular tribunes Manius Aemilius and Kaeso Fabius, were in command. Marcus Furius in the Faliscan territory and Gnaeus Cornelius in that of Capenae found no enemy outside his walls; booty was carried off and the territories were ravaged, the farms and crops being burnt. The towns were attacked, but not invested; Anxur, however, in the Volscian territory, and situated on high ground, defied all assaults, and after direct attack had proved fruitless, a regular investment by rampart and fosse was commenced. The conduct of the Volscian campaign had fallen to Valerius Potitus.
Whilst military affairs were in this position, internal troubles were more difficult to manage than the foreign wars. Owing to the tribunes, the war-tax could not be collected, nor the necessary funds remitted to the commanders; the soldiers clamoured for their pay, and it seemed as though the camp would be polluted by the contagion of the seditious spirit which prevailed in the City. Taking advantage of the exasperation of the plebs against the senate, the tribunes told them that the long wished for time had come for securing their liberties and transferring the highest office in the State from people like Sergius and Verginius to strong and energetic plebeians. They did not, however, get further in the exercise of their rights than to secure the election of one member of the plebs as consular tribune, viz., Publius Licinius Calvus -- the rest were patricians -- Publius Manlius, Lucius Titinus, Publius Maelius, Lucius Furius Medullinus, and Lucius Popilius Volscus. The plebeians were no less surprised at such a success than the tribune-elect himself; he had not previously filled any high office of State, and was only a senator of long standing, and now advanced in years. Our authorities are not agreed as to the reason why he was selected first and foremost to taste the sweets of this new dignity. Some believe that he was thrust forward to so high a position through the popularity of his brother, Gnaeus Cornelius, who had been consular tribune the previous year, and had given triple pay to the knights (1). Others attribute it to a well-timed speech he delivered on the agreement of the two orders, which was welcomed by both patricians and plebeians. In their exultation over this electoral victory, the tribunes of the plebs gave way over the war-tax, and so removed the greatest political difficulty. It was paid in without a murmur and remitted to the army.
(1): i. e., three times as much as the legionary or foot-soldier received.