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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VII Chapter 40: Marcus Valerius restores Peace and Concord.[342 BC]
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As soon as they came into view and recognised the arms and standards, the thought of their country instantly calmed the passions of them all. They had not yet been hardened to the sight of civic bloodshed, they knew of no wars but those against foreign foes, and secession from their own countrymen began to be looked upon as the last degree of madness. First the leaders then the men on both sides sought an opening for negotiations. Quinctius, who had had enough of fighting for his country and was the last man to fight against it, and Corvus, who was devoted to all his countrymen, especially to the soldiers and above all to his own army, came forward to a colloquy. When the latter was recognised, his opponents showed as much respect for him as his own men by the silence with which they prepared to listen to him. |
He addressed them as follows: "Soldiers! When I left the City I offered up prayers to the immortal gods who watch over our State, your State and mine, that they would of their goodness grant me, not a victory over you, but the glory of bringing about a reconciliation. There have been and there will be abundant opportunities for winning glory in war, and this occasion we must seek for peace. That which I implored of the immortal gods, when I offered up my prayers, you have it in your power now to grant me if you will please to remember that you are encamped not in Samnium, not amongst the Volscians, but on Roman soil. Those hills which you see are the hills of your City; I, your consul, am the man under whose auspices and leadership you twice defeated the legions of the Samnites a year ago and twice captured their camp. I am Marcus Valerius Corvus, soldiers, a patrician it is true, but my nobility has shown itself in benefits to you, not in wrongs; I have never been the author of any law bearing harshly on you or of any oppressive enactment of the senate; in all my commands I have been stricter with myself than with you. If noble birth, if personal merit, if high office, if distinguished service could make any man proud, I venture to say that such is my descent, such the proof I have given of myself, such the age at which I obtained the consulship, being only twenty-three, that I had it in my power to show myself harsh and overbearing not only to the plebs but even to the patricians. What have you heard that I have said or done as consul more than I should had I been one of your tribunes? In that spirit I administered two successive consulships, in that spirit will this dread dictatorship be administered; I shall not be more gentle towards these soldiers of mine and of my country than to you who would be -- I loathe the word -- its enemies."
"You then will draw the sword against me before I shall draw it against you; if there is to be fighting it is on your side that the advance will be sounded, on your side will the battle-shout and charge begin. Make up your minds to do what your fathers and grandfathers -- those who seceded to the Sacred Mount and those who afterwards took possession of the Aventine -- could not make up their minds to do! Wait till your wives and mothers come out from the City with dishevelled hair to meet you as they once came to meet Coriolanus! Then the Volscian legions refrained from attacking us because they had a Roman for their general; will not you, an army of Romans, desist from an impious war? Titus Quinctius! by whatever means you were placed in your present position, whether willingly or unwillingly, if there is to be a conflict, retire, I beg you to the rearmost line; it will be more honourable for you to flee from a fellow-citizen than to fight against your country. But if there is to be peace you will take your place with honour amongst the foremost and play the part of a beneficent mediator in this conference. Demand what is just and you shall receive it, though we should acquiesce even in what is unjust rather than embrue impious hands in one another's blood."
Titus Quinctius, bathed in tears, turned to his men and said: "If, soldiers, I am of any use at all you will find that I am a better leader in peace than in war. The words you have heard are not those of a Volscian or a Samnite but of a Roman. They were spoken by your consul, your commander, soldiers, whose auspices you have found by experience to be favourable for you; do not desire to learn by experience what they may be when directed against you. The senate had at its disposal other generals more ready to fight against you; it has selected the one man who has showed most consideration for his soldiers, in whom you have placed most confidence as your commander. Even those who have victory in their power wish for peace, what ought we to wish for? Why do we not lay aside all resentment and ambitious hopes -- those treacherous advisers -- and trust ourselves and all our interests to his tried fidelity?"
Event: Mutiny of Troops in Campania