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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VI Chapter 17: The Treason of Marcus Manlius Capitolinus. Release of Manlius[384 BC]
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Men were heard openly reproaching the populace for always encouraging their defenders till they led them to the brink of the precipice and deserting them when the moment of danger actually came. It was in this way, they said, that Spurius Cassius, while seeking to get the plebs on to the land, and Spurius Maelius, whilst staving off famine at his own cost from the mouths of his fellow-citizens, had both been crushed; it was in this way that Marcus Manlius was betrayed to his foes, whilst rescuing a part of the community who were overwhelmed and submerged by usurious extortion and bringing them back to light and liberty. The plebs fattened up their own defenders for slaughter. Was it not to be permitted that a man of consular rank should refuse to answer at the beck and call of a dictator? Assuming that he had previously been speaking falsely, and had therefore no reply ready at the time, was there ever a slave who had been thrown into prison as a punishment for lying? Had they forgotten that night which was all but a final and eternal night for Rome? Could they not recall the sight of the troop of Gauls climbing up over the Tarpeian Rock, or that of Manlius himself as they had actually seen him, covered with blood and sweat, after rescuing, one might almost say, Jupiter himself from the hands of the enemy. Had he discharged their obligation to the saviour of their country by giving him half a pound of corn each? Was the man whom they almost regarded as a god, whom they at all events placed, on a level with Jupiter of the Capitol by giving him the epithet of Capitolinus -- was that man to be allowed to drag out his life in chains and darkness at the mercy of the executioner? Had the help of one man sufficed to save all, and was there amongst them all no help to be found for that one man? |
By this time the crowd refused to leave the spot even at night, and were threatening to break open the prison when the senate conceded what they were going to extort by violence, and passed a resolution that Manlius should be released. This did not put an end to the seditious agitation, it simply provided it with a leader.
During this time the Latins and Hernici, together with the colonists from Circeii and Velitrae, sent to Rome to clear themselves from the charge of being concerned in the Volscian war and to ask for the surrender of their countrymen who had been made prisoners, that they might proceed against them under their own laws. An unfavourable reply was given to the Latins and Hernici, a still more unfavourable one to the colonists, because they had entertained the impious project of attacking their mother country. Not only was the surrender of the prisoners refused, but they received a stern warning from the senate, which was withheld from the Latins and Hernici, to make their way speedily from the City out of the sight of the Roman people; otherwise they would be no longer protected by the rights of ambassadors, rights which were established for foreigners, not for citizens.