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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book V Chapter 20: How to plunder Veii.[396 BC]
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When the dictator [Note 1] saw that victory was now within his grasp, that a very wealthy city was on the point of captured, and that there would be more booty than had been amassed in all the previous wars taken together, he was anxious to avoid incurring the anger of the soldiers through too niggardly a distribution of it on the one hand, and the jealousy of the senate through too lavish a grant of it on the other. He sent a despatch to the senate in which he stated that through the gracious favour of heaven, his own generalship, and the persevering efforts of his soldiers, Veii would in a very few hours be in the power of Rome, and he asked for their decision as to the disposal of the booty.
The senate were divided. It is reported that the aged Publius Licinius, who was the first to be asked his opinion by his son, [Note 2] , urged that the people should receive public notice that whoever wanted to share in the spoils should go to the camp at Veii. Appius Claudius took the opposite line. He stigmatised the proposed largesse as unprecedented, wasteful, unfair, reckless. If, he said, they once thought it sinful for money taken from the enemy to lie in the treasury, drained as it had been by the wars, he would advise that the pay of the soldiers be supplied from that source, so that the plebs might have so much less tax to pay. "The homes of all would feel alike the benefit of a common boon, the rewards won by brave warriors would not be filched by the hands of city loafers, ever greedy for plunder, for it so constantly happens that those who usually seek the foremost place in toil and danger are the least active in appropriating the spoils." Licinius on the other hand said that "this money would always be regarded with suspicion and aversion, and would supply material for indictments before the plebs, and consequently bring about disturbances and revolutionary measures. It was better, therefore, that the plebs should be conciliated by this gift, that those who had been crushed and exhausted by so many years of taxation should be relieved and get some enjoyment from the spoils of a war in which they had almost become old men. When any one brings home something he has taken from the enemy with his own hand, it affords him more pleasure and gratification than if he were to receive many times its value at the bidding of another. The dictator had referred the question to the senate because he wanted to avoid the odium and misrepresentations which it might occasion; the senate, in its turn, ought to entrust it to the plebs and allow each to keep what the fortune of war has given him."
This was felt to be the safer course, as it would make the senate popular. Notice accordingly was given that those who thought fit should go to the dictator in camp to share in the plunder of Veii.