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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 28: Secession of the Plebs and The fifth Sabine war (Cont.)[494 BC]
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Then Aulus Verginius and Titus Vetusius took office. As the plebeians were doubtful as to what sort of consuls they would have, and were anxious to avoid any precipitate and ill-considered action which might result from hastily adopted resolutions in the Forum, they began to hold meetings at night, some on the Esquiline and others on the Aventine. The consuls considered this state of things to be fraught with danger, as it really was, and made a formal report to the senate. But any orderly discussion of their report was out of the question, owing to the excitement and clamour with which the senators received it, and the indignation they felt at the consuls throwing upon them the odium of measures which they ought to have carried on their own authority as consuls. "Surely," it was said, "if there were really magistrates in the State, there would have been no meetings in Rome beyond the public Assembly; now the State was broken up into a thousand senates and assemblies, since some councils were being held on the Esquiline and others on the Aventine. Why, one man like Appius Claudius, who was worth more than a consul, would have dispersed these gatherings in a moment." When the consuls, after being thus censured, asked what they wished them to do, as they were prepared to act with all the energy and determination that the senate desired, a decree was passed that the levy should be raised as speedily as possible, for the plebs was waxing wanton through idleness. |
After dismissing the senate, the consuls ascended the tribunal and called out the names of those liable to active service. Not a single man answered to his name. The people, standing round as though in informal assembly, declared that the plebs could no longer be imposed upon, the consuls should not get a single soldier until the promise made in the name of the State was fulfilled. Before arms were put into their hands, every man's liberty must be restored to him, that they might fight for their country and their fellow-citizens and not for tyrannical masters. The consuls were quite aware of the instructions they had received from the senate, but they were also aware that none of those who had spoken so bravely within the walls of the Senate-house were now present to share the odium which they were incurring. A desperate conflict with the plebs seemed inevitable. Before proceeding to extremities they decided to consult the senate again. Thereupon all the younger senators rushed from their seats, and crowding round the chairs of the consuls, ordered them to resign their office and lay down an authority which they had not the courage to maintain.
Event: The debts of the Plebs