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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 29: Secession of the Plebs (Cont.)[494 BC]
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Having had quite enough of trying to coerce the plebs on the one hand and persuading the senate to adopt a milder course on the other, the consuls at last said: senators, that you may not say you have not been forewarned, we tell you that a very serious disturbance is at hand. We demand that those who are the loudest in charging us with cowardice shall support us whilst we conduct the levy. We will act as the most resolute may wish, since such is your pleasure." They returned to the tribunal and purposely ordered one of those who were in view to be called up by name. As he stood silent, and a number of men had closed round him to prevent his being seized, the consuls sent a lictor to him. The lictor was pushed away, and those senators who were with the consuls exclaimed that it was an outrageous insult and rushed down from the tribunal to assist the lictor. The hostility of the crowd was diverted from the lictor, who had simply been prevented from making the arrest, to the senators. The interposition of the consuls finally allayed the conflict. There had, however, been no stones thrown or weapons used, it had resulted in more noise and angry words than personal injury.

The senate was summoned and assembled in disorder; its proceedings were still more disorderly. Those who had been roughly handled demanded an inquiry, and all the more violent members supported the demand by shouting and uproar quite as much as by their votes. When at last the excitement had subsided, the consuls censured them for showing as little calm judgment in the senate as there was in the Forum. Then the debate proceeded in order. Three different policies were advocated. Publius Valerius did not think the general question ought to be raised; he thought they ought only to consider the case of those who, in reliance on the promise of the consul Publius Servilius, had served in the Volscian, Auruncan, and Sabine wars. Titus Larcius considered that the time had passed for rewarding only men who had served, the whole plebs was overwhelmed with debt, the evil could not be arrested unless there was a measure for universal relief. Any attempt to differentiate between the various classes would only kindle fresh discord instead of allaying it. Appius Claudius, harsh by nature, and now maddened by the hatred of the plebs on the one hand and the praises of the senate on the other, asserted that these riotous gatherings were not the result of misery but of licence, the plebeians were actuated by wantonness more than by anger. This was the mischief which had sprung from the right of appeal, for the consuls could only threaten without the power to execute their threats as long as a criminal was allowed to appeal to his fellow criminals. "Come," said he, "let us create a dictator from whom there is no appeal, then this madness which is setting everything on fire will soon die down. Let me see any one strike a lictor then, when he knows that his back and even his life are in the sole power of the man whose authority he attacks."

Event: The debts of the Plebs

Vtraque re satis experta tum demum consules: "ne praedictum negetis, patres conscripti, adest ingens seditio. Postulamus ut hi qui maxime ignauiam increpant adsint nobis habentibus dilectum. Acerrimi cuiusque arbitrio, quando ita placet, rem agemus." Redeunt in tribunal; citari nominatim unum ex iis qui in conspectu erant dedita opera iubent. Cum staret tacitus et circa eum aliquot hominum, ne forte uiolaretur, constitisset globus, lictorem ad eum consules mittunt. Quo repulso, tum uero indignum facinus esse clamitantes qui patrum consulibus aderant, deuolant de tribunali ut lictori auxilio essent. Sed ab lictore nihil aliud quam prendere prohibito cum conuersus in patres impetus esset, consulum intercursu rixa sedata est, in qua tamen sine lapide, sine telo plus clamoris atque irarum quam iniuriae fuerat. Senatus tumultuose uocatus tumultuosius consulitur, quaestionem postulantibus iis qui pulsati fuerant, decernente ferocissimo quoque non sententiis magis quam clamore et strepitu. Tandem cum irae resedissent, exprobrantibus consulibus nihilo plus sanitatis in curia quam in foro esse, ordine consuli coepit. Tres fuere sententiae. P. Verginius rem non uolgabat; de iis tantum qui fidem secuti P. Seruili consulis Volsco Aurunco Sabinoque militassent bello, agendum censebat. T. Largius, non id tempus esse ut merita tantummodo exsoluerentur; totam plebem aere alieno demersam esse, nec sisti posse ni omnibus consulatur; quin si alia aliorum sit condicio, accendi magis discordiam quam sedari. Ap. Claudius, et natura immitis et efferatus hinc plebis odio, illinc patrum laudibus, non miseriis ait sed licentia tantum concitum turbarum et lasciuire magis plebem quam saeuire. Id adeo malum ex prouocatione natum; quippe minas esse consulum, non imperium, ubi ad eos qui una peccauerint prouocare liceat. "Agedum" inquit, "dictatorem, a quo prouocatio non est, creemus; iam hic quo nunc omnia ardent conticescet furor. Pulset tum mihi lictorem qui sciet ius de tergo uitaque sua penes unum illum esse cuius maiestatem uiolarit."