|Do not fly Iberia
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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 52: To the Sacred Mountain.[450 BC]
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|Marcus Duillius, a former tribune, informed the plebs that, owing to incessant wranglings, no business was being transacted in the senate. He did not believe that the senators would trouble about them till they saw the City deserted; the Sacred Hill would remind them of the firm determination once shown by the plebs, and they would learn that unless the tribunitian power was restored there could be no concord in the State. The armies left the Aventine and, going out by the Nomentan Road -- or, as it was then called, the Ficulan Road, -- they encamped on the Sacred Hill, imitating the moderation of their fathers by abstaining from all injury. The plebeian civilians followed the army, no one whose age allowed him to go hung back. Their wives and children followed them, asking in piteous tones, to whom would they leave them in a City where neither modesty nor liberty were respected? The unwonted solitude gave a dreary and deserted look to every part of Rome; in the Forum there were only a few of the older patricians, and when the senate was in session it was wholly deserted. Many besides Horatius and Valerius were now angrily asking, "What are you waiting for, senators? If the decemvirs do not lay aside their obstinacy, will you allow everything to go to wrack and ruin? And what, pray, is that authority, decemvirs, to which you cling so closely? Are you going to administer justice to walls and roofs? Are you not ashamed to see a greater number of lictors in the Forum than of all other citizens put together? What will you do if the enemy approach the City? What if the plebs seeing that their secession has no effect, come shortly against us in arms? Do you want to end your power by the fall of the City? Either you will have to do without the plebeians or you will have to accept their tribunes; sooner than they will go without their magistrates, we shall have to go without ours. That power which they wrested from our fathers, when it was an untried novelty, they will not submit to be deprived of, now that they have tasted the sweets of it, especially as we are not making that moderate use of our power which would prevent their needing its protection." Remonstrances like these came from all parts of the House; at last the decemvirs, overborne by the unanimous opposition, asserted that since it was the general wish, they would submit to the authority of the senate. All they asked for was that they might be protected against the popular rage; they warned the senate against the plebs becoming by their death habituated to inflicting punishment on the patricians.