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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 49: The downfall of Appius Claudius[450 BC]
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|The people were excited partly by the atrocity of the deed, partly by the opportunity now offered of recovering their liberties. Appius first ordered Icilius to be summoned before him, then, on his refusal to come, to be arrested. As the lictors were not able to get near him, Appius himself with a body of young patricians forced his way through the crowd and ordered him to be taken to prison. By this time Icilius was not only surrounded by the people, but the people's leaders were there -- Lucius Valerius and Marcus Horatius. They drove back the lictors and said, if they were going to proceed by law, they would undertake the defence of Icilius against one who was only a private citizen, but if they were going to attempt force, they would be no unequal match for him. A furious scuffle began; the decemvir's lictors attacked Valerius and Horatius; their fasces were broken up by the people; Appius mounted the platform, Horatius and Valerius followed him; the Assembly listened to them, Appius was shouted down. Valerius, assuming the tone of authority, ordered the lictors to cease attendance on one who held no official position; on which Appius, thoroughly cowed, and fearing for his life, muffled his head with his toga and retreated into a house near the Forum, without his adversaries perceiving his flight. Spurius Oppius burst into the Forum from the other side to support his colleague, and saw that their authority was overcome by main force. Uncertain what to do and distracted by the conflicting advice given him on all sides, he gave orders for the senate to be summoned. As a great number of the senators were thought to disapprove of the conduct of the decemvirs, the people hoped that their power would be put an end to through the action of the senate, and consequently became quiet. The senate decided that nothing should be done to irritate the plebs, and, what was of much more importance, that every precaution should be taken to prevent the arrival of Verginius from creating a commotion in the army.||
Fasces:Rods of wood tied by a red thong into a bundle from which an axe projected. Symbol of regal and later magesterial authority.