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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VIII Chapter 33: Papirius and Fabius. In the Senate.[324 BC]
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These remonstrances only irritated the dictator against them instead of making him more peaceably disposed towards Fabius, and he ordered them to leave the tribunal. In vain the ushers demanded silence, neither the dictator's voice nor those of his officers could be heard owing to the noise and uproar; at last night put an end to the conflict as though it had been a battle. |
The Master of the Horse was ordered to appear on the following day. As, however, everybody assured him that Papirius was so upset and embittered by the resistance he had met with that he would be more furious than ever, Fabius left the camp secretly and reached Rome in the night. On the advice of his father, Marcus Fabius, who had been thrice consul as well as dictator, a meeting of the senate was at once summoned. Whilst his son was describing to the senators the violence and injustice of the dictator, suddenly the noise of the lictors clearing the way in front of the Senate-house was heard and the dictator himself appeared, having followed him up with some light cavalry as soon as he heard that he had quitted the camp. Then the contention began again, and Papirius ordered Fabius to be arrested. Though not only the leaders of the senate but the whole House sought to deprecate his wrath, he remained unmoved and persisted in his purpose. Then Marcus Fabius, the father, said: "Since neither the authority of the senate nor the years which I, whom you are preparing to bereave of a son, have reached, nor the noble birth and personal merits of the Master of the Horse whom you yourself appointed, and entreaties such as have often mitigated the fierceness of human foes and pacified the anger of offended deities -- since none of these move you -- I claim the intervention of the tribunes of the plebs and appeal to the people. As you are seeking to escape from the judgment which the army has passed upon you and which the senate is passing now, I summon you before the one judge who has at all events more power and authority than your dictatorship. I shall see whether you will submit to an appeal to which a Roman king -- Tullus Hostilius -- submitted" (Book I chapter 26).
He at once left the Senate-house for the Assembly. Thither the dictator also proceeded with a small party, whilst the Master of the Horse was accompanied by all the leaders of the senate in a body. They had both taken their places on the rostra when Papirius ordered Fabius to be removed to the space below. His father followed him and turned to Papirius with the remark, "You do well to order us to be removed to a position from which we can speak as private citizens."
For some time regular debate was out of the question, nothing was heard but mutual altercations. At last the loud and indignant tones of the elder Fabius rose above the hubbub as he expatiated on the tyranny and brutality of Papirius. He himself, he said, had been dictator, and not a single person, not a single plebeian, whether centurion or private soldier, had ever suffered any wrong from him. But Papirius would wrest victory and triumph from a Roman commander just as he would from hostile generals. What a difference there was between the moderation shown by the men of old and this new fashion of ruthless severity! The dictator, Quinctius Cincinnatus, rescued the consul, Lucius Minucius, from a blockade, and the only punishment he inflicted was to leave him as second in command of the army (Book III chapter 29). Lucius Furius, after expressing his contempt for the age and authority of Marcus Furius Camillus, incurred a most disgraceful defeat (Book VI chapter 25), but Camillus not only checked his anger for the moment and refrained from putting in his despatches to the people, or rather to the senate, anything reflecting on his colleague, but on his return to Rome, after the senate had allowed him to choose from the consular tribunes one to be associated with him in his command, he actually chose Lucius Furius. Why, even the people themselves, who hold in their hands the sovereign power, have never allowed their feelings to carry them beyond the imposition of a fine even where armies have been lost through the foolhardiness or ignorance of their generals. Never up to this day has a commander-in-chief been tried for his life because he was defeated. But now generals who have won victories and earned the most splendid triumphs are threatened with the rods and axes, a treatment which the laws of war forbid even to the vanquished. What, he asked, would his son have suffered if he had met with defeat, been routed and stripped of his camp? Could that man's rage and violence go beyond scourging and killing? It was owing to Quintus Fabius that the State was offering up joyous and grateful thanksgivings for victory; it was on his account that the sacred fanes fanes stood open and prayers and libations were being offered at the altars, and the smoke of sacrifice was ascending. How fitting it was that this very man should be stripped and torn with rods before the eyes of the Roman people, in sight of the Capitol and the Citadel, in sight of the gods whom he invoked in two battles nor invoked in vain! What would be the feelings of the army who had won their victories under his auspices and generalship? What grief would there be in the Roman camp, what exultation among the enemy!
The old man wept bitterly as he uttered these protests and expostulations, ever and anon throwing his arms round his son and appealing for help to gods and men.