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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VI Chapter 15: Arrest of Manlius.[385 BC]
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Whilst matters were in this state of suspense the dictator had been summoned from the army and arrived in the City. After satisfying himself as to the state of public feeling he called a meeting of the senate for the following day and ordered them to remain in constant attendance upon him. He then ordered his chair of office to be placed on the tribunal in the Comitium and, surrounded by the senators as a body-guard, sent his officer to Marcus Manlius. On receiving the dictator's summons, Manlius gave his party a signal that a conflict was imminent, and appeared before the tribunal with an immense crowd round him. On the one side the senate, on the other side the plebs, each with their eyes fixed on their respective leaders, stood facing one another as though drawn up for battle. |
After silence was obtained, the dictator said: "I wish the senate and myself could come to an understanding with the plebs on all other matters as easily as, I am convinced, we shall about you and the subject on which I am about to examine you. I see that you have led your fellow-Citizens to expect that all debts can be paid without any loss to the creditors out of the treasure recovered from the Gauls, which you say the leading patricians are secreting. I am so far from wishing to hinder this project that, on the contrary, I challenge Marcus Manlius, to take off from their hidden hordes those who, like sitting hens, are brooding over treasures which belong to the State. If you fail to do this, either because you yourself have your part in the spoils or because your charge is unfounded, I shall order you to be thrown into prison and will not suffer the people to be excited by the false hopes which you have raised."
Manlius said in reply that he had not been mistaken in his suspicions; it was not against the Volscians who were treated as enemies whenever it was in the interest of the patricians so to treat them, nor against the Latins and Hernici whom they were driving to arms by false charges, that a dictator had been appointed, but against him and the Roman plebs. They had dropped their pretended war and were now attacking him; the dictator was openly declaring himself the protector of the usurers against the plebeians; the gratitude and affection which the people were showing towards himself were being made the ground for charges against him which would ruin him. He proceeded: The crowd which I have round me is an offence in your eyes, Aulus Cornelius, and in yours, senators. Then why do you not each of you withdraw it from me by acts of kindness by offering security, by releasing your fellow-citizens from the stocks, by preventing them from being adjudged to their creditors, by supporting others in their necessity out of the superabundance of your own wealth? But why should I urge you to spend your own money? Be content with a moderate capital, deduct from the principal what has already been paid in interest, then the crowd round me will be no more noticeable than that round any one else."
"But do I alone show this anxiety for my fellow-citizens? I can only answer that question as I should answer another - Why did I alone save the Capitol and the Citadel? Then I did what I could to save the body of citizens as a whole, now I am doing what I can to help individuals. As to the gold of the Gauls, your question throws difficulties round a thing which is simple enough in itself. For why do you ask me about a matter which is within your own knowledge? Why do you order what is in your purse to be shaken out from it rather than surrender it voluntarily, unless there is some dishonesty at bottom? The more you order your conjuring tricks to be detected, the more, I fear, will you hoodwink those who are watching you. It is not I who ought to be compelled to discover your plunder for you, it is you who ought to be compelled to publicly produce it."