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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 27: Secession of the Plebs and Fifth Sabine war[495 BC]
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After the defeat of the Auruncans, the Romans, who had, within a few days, fought so many successful wars, were expecting the fulfillment of the promises which the consul had made on the authority of the senate. Appius, partly from his innate love of tyranny and partly to undermine confidence felt in his colleague, gave the harshest sentences he could when debtors were brought before him. One after another those who had before pledged their persons as security were now handed over to their creditors, and others were compelled to give such security. |
A soldier to whom this happened appealed to the colleague of Appius. A crowd gathered round Servilius, they reminded him of his promises, upbraided him with their services in war and the scars they had received, and demanded that he should either get an ordinance passed by the senate, or, as consul, protect his people; as commander, his soldiers. The consul sympathised with them, but under the circumstances he was compelled to temporise; the opposite policy was so recklessly insisted on not only by his colleague but by the entire party of the nobility. By taking a middle course he did not escape the odium of the plebs nor did he win the favour of the patricians. These regarded him as a weak popularity-hunting consul, the plebeians considered him false, and it soon became apparent that he was as much detested as Appius.
A dispute had arisen between the consuls as to which of them should dedicate the temple of Mercury.
In addition to all this there were growing apprehensions of a Sabine war. A levy was decreed, but no one gave in his name. Appius was furious; he accused his colleague of courting the favour of the people, denounced him as a traitor to the common-wealth because he refused to give sentence where debtors were brought before him, and moreover he refused to raise troops after the senate had ordered a levy. Still, he declared, the ship of State was not entirely deserted nor the consular authority thrown to the winds; he, single-handed, would vindicate his own dignity and that of the senate.
Whilst the usual daily crowd were standing round him, growing ever bolder in licence, he ordered one conspicuous leader of the agitation to be arrested. As he was being dragged away by the lictors, he appealed. There was no doubt as to what judgment the people would give, and he would not have allowed the appeal had not his obstinacy been with great difficulty overcome more by the prudence and authority of the senate than by the clamour of the people, so determined was he to brave the popular odium. From that time the mischief became more serious every day, not only through open clamour but, what was far more dangerous, through secession and secret meetings.
At length the consuls, detested as they were by the plebs, went out of office -- Servilius equally hated by both orders, Appius in wonderful favour with the patricians.
(1). The connection of these various functions appears to be that Mercury, as the god of commerce (hence merchant, market would be the patron of the newly established guild of corn merchants, who would be especially connected with his new temple.
Event: The debts of the Plebs
|Fusis Auruncis, uictor tot intra paucos dies bellis Romanus promissa consulis fidemque senatus exspectabat, cum Appius et insita superbia animo et ut collegae uanam faceret fidem, quam asperrime poterat ius de creditis pecuniis dicere. Deinceps et qui ante nexi fuerant creditoribus tradebantur et nectebantur alii. Quod ubi cui militi inciderat, collegam appellabat. Concursus ad Seruilium fiebat; illius promissa iactabant; illi exprobrabant sua quisque belli merita cicatricesque acceptas. Postulabant ut aut referret ad senatum, aut auxilio esset consul ciuibus suis, imperator militibus. Mouebant consulem haec, sed tergiuersari res cogebat; adeo in alteram causam non collega solum praeceps erat sed omnis factio nobilium. Ita medium se gerendo nec plebis uitauit odium nec apud patres gratiam iniit. Patres mollem consulem et ambitiosum rati, plebes fallacem, breuique apparuit aequasse eum Appi odium. Certamen consulibus inciderat, uter dedicaret Mercuri aedem. Senatus a se rem ad populum reiecit: utri eorum dedicatio iussu populi data esset, eum praeesse annonae, mercatorum collegium instituere, sollemnia pro pontifice iussit suscipere. Populus dedicationem aedis dat M. Laetorio, primi pili centurioni, quod facile appareret non tam ad honorem eius cui curatio altior fastigio suo data esset factum quam ad consulum ignominiam. Saeuire inde utique consulum alter patresque; sed plebi creuerant animi et longe alia quam primo instituerant uia grassabantur. Desperato enim consulum senatusque auxilio, cum in ius duci debitorem uidissent, undique conuolabant. Neque decretum exaudiri consulis prae strepitu et clamore poterat, neque cum decresset quisquam obtemperabat. Vi agebatur, metusque omnis et periculum, cum in conspectu consulis singuli a pluribus uiolarentur, in creditores a debitoribus uerterant. Super haec timor incessit Sabini belli; dilectuque decreto nemo nomen dedit, furente Appio et insectante ambitionem collegae, qui populari silentio rem publicam proderet et ad id quod de credita pecunia ius non dixisset, adiceret ut ne dilectum quidem ex senatus consulto haberet; non esse tamen desertam omnino rem publicam neque proiectum consulare imperium; se unum et suae et patrum maiestatis uindicem fore. Cum circumstaret cotidiana multitudo licentia accensa, arripi unum insignem ducem seditionum iussit. Ille cum a lictoribus iam traheretur prouocauit; nec cessisset prouocationi consul, quia non dubium erat populi iudicium, nisi aegre uicta pertinacia foret consilio magis et auctoritate principum quam populi clamore; adeo supererant animi ad sustinendam inuidiam. Crescere inde malum in dies, non clamoribus modo apertis sed, quod multo perniciosius erat, secessione occultisque conloquiis. Tandem inuisi plebi consules magistratu abeunt, Seruilius neutris, Appius patribus mire gratus.|