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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VI Chapter 16: The Treason of Marcus Manlius Capitolinus. Discussions.[385 BC]
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The dictator [Note 1], ordered him to drop all subterfuge, and insisted upon his either adducing trustworthy evidence or admitting that he had been guilty of concocting false accusations against the senate and exposing them to odium on a baseless charge of theft. He refused, and said he would not speak at the bidding of his enemies, whereupon the dictator ordered him to be taken to prison. When apprehended by the officer he exclaimed: Jupiter Optimus Maximus, queen Juno, Minerva, all ye gods and goddesses who dwell in the Capitol, do ye suffer your soldier and defender to be thus persecuted by his enemies? Shall this right hand with which I drove the Gauls from your shrines be manacled and fettered?" None could endure to see or hear the indignity offered him, but the State, in its absolute submission to lawful authority, had imposed upon itself limits which could not be passed; neither the tribunes of the plebs nor the plebeians themselves ventured to cast an angry look or breathe a syllable against the action of the dictator. It seems pretty certain that after Manlius was thrown into prison, a great number of plebeians went into mourning; many let their hair grow, and the vestibule of the prison was beset by a depressed and sorrowful crowd. |
The dictator celebrated his triumph over the Volscians, but his triumph increased his unpopularity; men complained that the victory was won at home, not in the field, over a citizen, not over an enemy. One thing alone was lacking in the pageant of tyranny, Manlius was not led in procession before the victor's chariot.
Matters were rapidly drifting towards sedition, and the senate took the initiative in endeavouring to cause the prevailing unrest. Before any demand had been put forward they ordered that 2000 Roman citizens should be settled as colonists at Satricum, and each receive two and a half jugera of land. This was regarded as too small a grant, distributed amongst too small a number; it was looked upon, in fact, as a bribe for the betrayal of Manlius, and the proposed remedy only inflamed the disease.
By this time the crowd of Manlian sympathisers had become conspicuous for their dirty garments (1) and dejected looks. It was not till the dictator laid down his office after his triumph and so removed the terror which he inspired that the tongues and spirits of men were once more free.
(1): All the garments of both sexes were for many centuries made exclusively of wool, and undyed. The cleansing of these -- especially the outer garments, the men's toga and the women's palla -- was an important and elaborate piece of work. But, as in the present case, the neglect of personal cleanliness was one means of appealing to the sympathies of the public, the grief-stricken wearers of the dirty garments had no heart to look after their personal appearance.
Note 1: dictator = Aulus Cornelius