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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 46: The Aedileship of Cnaeus Flavius.[304 BC]
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It was during this year that Gnaeus Flavius, the son of a freedman, born in a humble station of life, but a clever plausible man, became curule aedile. I find in some annalists the statement that at the time of the election of aediles he was acting as apparitor to the aediles, and when he found that the first vote was given in his favour, and was disallowed on the ground that he was a clerk, he laid aside his writing-tablet and took an oath that he would not follow that profession. Licinius Macer, however, attempts to show that he had given up the clerk's business for some time as he had been a tribune of the plebs, and had also twice held office as a triumvir, the first time as a Triumvir Nocturnus, and afterwards as one of the three commissioners for settling a colony. However this may be, there is no question that he maintained a defiant attitude towards the nobles, who regarded his lowly origin with contempt. He made public the legal forms and processes which had been hidden away in the closets of the pontiffs; he exhibited a calendar written on whitened boards in the Forum, on which were marked the days on which legal proceedings were allowed; to the intense disgust of the nobility he dedicated the temple of Concord on the Vulcanal. At this function the Pontifex Maximus, Cornelius Barbatus, was compelled by the unanimous voice of the people to recite the usual form of devotion in spite of his insistence that in accordance with ancestral usage none but a consul or a commander-in-chief could dedicate a temple. It was in consequence of this that the senate authorised a measure to be submitted to the people providing that no one should presume to dedicate a temple or an altar without being ordered to do so by the senate or by a majority of the tribunes of the plebs. I will relate an incident, trivial enough in itself, but affording a striking proof of the way in which the liberties of the plebs were asserted against the insolent presumption of the nobility. Flavius went to visit his colleague, who was ill. Several young nobles who were sitting in the room had agreed not to rise when he entered, on which he ordered his curule chair to be brought, and from that seat of dignity calmly surveyed his enemies, who were filled with unutterable disgust. |
The elevation of Flavius to the Aedileship was, however, the work of a party in the Forum who had gained their power during the censorship of Appius Claudius. For Appius had been the first to pollute the senate by electing into it the sons of freedmen, and when no one recognised the validity of these elections and he failed to secure in the Senate-house the influence which he had sought to gain in the City, he corrupted both the Assembly of Tribes and the Assembly of Centuries by distributing the dregs of the populace amongst all the tribes. Such deep indignation was aroused by the election of Flavius that most of the nobles laid aside their gold rings and military decorations as a sign of mourning.
From that time the citizens were divided into two parties; the uncorrupted part of the people, who favoured and supported men of integrity and patriotism, were aiming at one thing, the "mob of the Forum" were aiming at something else. This state of things lasted until Quintus Fabius and Publius Decius were made censors. Quintus Fabius, for the sake of concord, and at the same time to prevent the elections from being controlled by the lowest of the populace, threw the whole of the citizens of the lowest class -- the " mob of the Forum " -- into four tribes and called them " the City Tribes." Out of gratitude for his action, it is said, he received an epithet which he had not gained by all his victories, but which was now conferred upon him for the wisdom he had shown in thus adjusting the orders in the State -- the cognomen " Maximus."
|Eodem anno Cn. Flauius Cn. Filius scriba, patre libertino humili fortuna ortus, ceterum callidus uir et facundus, aedilis curulis fuit. Inuenio in quibusdam annalibus, cum appareret aedilibus fierique se pro tribu aedilem uideret neque accipi nomen quia scriptum faceret, tabulam posuisse et iurasse se scriptum non facturum; quem aliquanto ante desisse scriptum facere arguit Macer Licinius tribunatu ante gesto triumuiratibusque, nocturno altero, altero coloniae deducendae. Ceterum, id quod haud discrepat, contumacia aduersus contemnentes humilitatem suam nobiles certauit; ciuile ius, repositum in penetralibus pontificum, euolgauit fastosque circa forum in albo proposuit, ut quando lege agi posset sciretur; aedem Concordiae in area Volcani summa inuidia nobilium dedicauit; coactusque consensu populi Cornelius Barbatus pontifex maximus uerba praeire, cum more maiorum negaret nisi consulem aut imperatorem posse templum dedicare. Itaque ex auctoritate senatus latum ad populum est ne quis templum aramue iniussu senatus aut tribunorum plebei partis maioris dedicaret.—haud memorabilem rem per se, nisi documentum sit aduersus superbiam nobilium plebeiae libertatis, referam. Ad collegam aegrum uisendi causa Flauius cum uenisset consensuque nobilium adulescentium, qui ibi adsidebant, adsurrectum ei non esset, curulem adferri sellam eo iussit ac sede honoris sui anxios inuidia inimicos spectauit.—ceterum Flauium dixerat aedilem forensis factio, Ap. Claudi censura uires nacta, qui senatum primus libertinorum filiis lectis inquinauerat et, posteaquam eam lectionem nemo ratam habuit nec in curia adeptus erat quas petierat opes urbanas, humilibus per omnes tribus diuisis forum et campum corrupit; tantumque Flaui comitia indignitatis habuerunt ut plerique nobilium anulos aureos et phaleras deponerent. Ex eo tempore in duas partes discessit ciuitas; aliud integer populus, fautor et cultor bonorum, aliud forensis factio tenebat, donec Q. Fabius et P. Decius censores facti et Fabius simul concordiae causa, simul ne humillimorum in manu comitia essent, omnem forensem turbam excretam in quattuor tribus coniecit urbanasque eas appellauit. Adeoque eam rem acceptam gratis animis ferunt ut Maximi cognomen, quod tot uictoriis non pepererat hac ordinum temperatione pareret. Ab eodem institutum dicitur ut equites idibus Quinctilibus transueherentur.|