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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 40: The Second Decemvirate. Discussions in the Senate[450 BC]
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Whilst Horatius was delivering this impassioned speech, and the decemvirs were in doubt how far they ought to go, whether in the direction of angry resistance or in that of concession, and unable to see what the issue would be, Gaius Claudius, the uncle of the decemvir Appius, made a speech more in the nature of entreaty than of censure. He implored him by the shade of his father to think rather of the social order under which he had been born than of the nefarious compact made with his colleagues. It was much more, he said, for the sake of Appius than of the State that he made this appeal, for the State would assert its rights in spite of them, if it could not do so with their consent. But great controversies generally kindle great and bitter passions, and it was what these might lead to that he dreaded. |
Though the decemvirs forbade the discussion of any subject save the one they had introduced, their respect for Claudius prevented them from interrupting him, so he concluded with a resolution that no decree should be passed by the Senate. This was universally taken to mean that Claudius adjudged them to be private citizens, and many of the consulars expressed their concurrence. Another proposal, apparently more drastic, but in reality less effective, was that the senate should order the patricians to hold a special meeting to appoint an interrex." For by voting for this, they decided that those who were presiding over the senate were lawful magistrates whoever they were, whereas the proposal that no decree should be passed made them private citizens.
The cause of the decemvirs was on the point of collapsing, when Lucius Cornelius Maluginensis, the brother of Marcus Cornelius the decemvir, who had been purposely selected from among the consulars to wind up the debate, undertook to defend his brother and his brother's colleagues by professing great anxiety about the war. He was wondering, he said, by what fatality it had come about that the decemvirs should be attacked by those who had sought the office or by their allies or in particular by these men (1), or why, during all the months that the common-wealth was undisturbed, no one questioned whether those at the head of affairs were lawful magistrates or not, whereas now, when the enemy were almost at their gates, they were fomenting civic discord -- unless indeed they supposed that the nature of their proceeding would be less apparent in the general confusion. No one was justified in importing prejudice into a matter of such moment whilst they were preoccupied with much more serious anxieties. He gave it as his opinion that the point raised by Valerius and Horatius, namely, that the decemvirs had ceased to hold office by May 15, should be submitted to the senate for decision after the impending wars had been brought to a close and the tranquillity of the State restored. And further, that Ap. Claudius must at once understand that he must be prepared to make a proper return of the election which he held for the appointment of decemvirs, stating whether they were elected only for a year, or until such time as the laws which were still required should be passed. In his opinion every matter but the war should for the present be laid aside. If they thought that the reports of it which had got abroad were false, and that not only the messengers which had come in but even the Tuscan envoys had invented the story, then they ought to send out reconnoitring parties to bring back accurate information. If, however, they believed the messengers and the envoys, a levy ought to be made at the earliest possible moment, the decemvirs should lead the armies in whatever direction each thought best, and nothing else should take precedence.
(1): i. e. Horatius and Valerius.
Event: The Decemvirate