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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VII Chapter 16: Wars with Neighbouring Cities.[357 BC]
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Another measure, by no means so welcome to the patricians, was brought forward the following year, the consuls being Gaius Marcius and Gnaeus Manlius. Marcus Duilius and Lucius Menenius, tribunes of the plebs, were the proposers of this measure, which fixed the rate of interest at 8 and 1/3 per cent.; the plebs adopted it with much more eagerness than the Poetilian Law against canvassing. |
In addition to the fresh wars decided upon the previous year, the Faliscans had been guilty of two acts of hostility; their men had fought in the ranks of the Tarquinians, and they had refused to give up those who had fled after their defeat to Tarquinii, when the Fetials demanded their surrender. That campaign fell to Gnaeus Manlius; Marcius conducted the operations against Privernum. This district had remained uninjured during the long years of peace, and when Marcius led his army thither, they loaded themselves with plunder. Its value was enhanced by the munificence of the consul, for he appropriated none of it for the State, and so encouraged the efforts of the private soldier to increase his private means. (1)
The Privernates had formed a strongly entrenched camp in front of their walls, and before attacking it Marcius summoned his troops to assembly, and said: "If you promise me that you will do your duty bravely in battle and are quite as ready for fighting as for plunder, I give you now the camp and city of the enemy." With a mighty shout they demanded the signal for battle, and with heads erect and full of confidence they marched proudly into line. Sextus Tullius, who has been already mentioned, was in the front, and he called out, "See, General, how your army is fulfilling its promise to you," and with the word he dropped his javelin and drawing his sword charged the enemy. The whole of the front line followed him and at the very first onset defeated the Privernates and pursued them as far as the town, which they prepared to storm. When the scaling ladders were actually placed against the walls the place surrendered. A triumph was celebrated over the Privernates.
Nothing worth recording was done by the other consul, except his unprecedented action in getting a law passed in camp by the tribes levying 5% on the value of every slave who was manumitted (2). As the money raised under this law would be a handsome addition to the exhausted treasury, the senate confirmed it. The tribunes of the plebs, however, looking not so much to the law as to the precedent set, made it a capital offence for any one to convene the Assembly outside their usual place of meeting. If it were once legalised, there was nothing, however injurious to the people, which could not be carried through men who were bound by the military oath of obedience.
In this year Gaius Licinius Stolo was impeached by Marcus Popilius Laenas for having violated his own law; he and his son together occupied a thousand jugera of land, and he had emancipated his son in order to evade the law. He was condemned to pay a fine of 10,000 ases.
(1): The consul's action would do much to help them to pay off a large portion of the debt in which most of them were involved.
(2): "One of the consuls, Gnaeus Manlius, was in the field with a consular army to carry on the war against the Tarquiniensians and Faliscans: his colleague, Gaius Marcius Rutilus was engaged with the Privernatians and enriching his army, it is said, with the plunder of the enemy's country, for many years untouched by the ravages of war. It is probable that the soldiers on this occasion made prisoners of many Privernatian families and released them again on payment of a large ransom. But prisoners taken in war becoming, according to ancient law, the slaves of the captor, his release of a prisoner upon ransom was, in fact, the manumission of a slave. Accordingly Gnaeus Manlius called his soldiers together in the camp near Sutrium according to their tribes, and as they were assembled in regular comitia he proposed to them a law that 5% on the value of any emancipated slave should be paid by his master into the public treasury. It might be argued that the State ought not to lose all benefit from the plunder acquired by its soldiers; and that especially if a soldier set an enemy at liberty for the sake of his ransom some compensation should be made to his country whom his act might be supposed to injure. There was some plausibility in this, and the army of Manlius might have felt also some jealousy at the better fortune of their comrades, and might have known that their own general would not, like Gaius Marcius, give up to them the full benefit of such plunder as they might Etruscans."
-- Arnold's History of Rome, II. 78-9.