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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IV Chapter 57: War with Aequi and Volscians.[408-7 BC]
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This controversy preoccupied men's thoughts at a most inopportune moment, when such a serious war was on their hands. At last, after Julius and Cornelius had, one after the other, argued at great length that as they were quite competent to conduct that war, it was unjust to deprive them of the honour which the people had conferred upon them, Ahala Servilius, the other consular tribune intervened in the dispute. He had, he said, kept silent so long, not because he had any doubt in his own mind, -- for what true patriot could separate his own interest from that of the State? -- but because he would rather have had his colleagues yield voluntarily to the authority of the senate than allow the power of the plebeian tribunes to be invoked against them. Even now he would have gladly given them time to abandon their unyielding attitude if circumstances allowed. But the necessities of war do not wait on the counsels of men, and the common-wealth was more to him than the goodwill of his colleagues. If, therefore, the senate adhered to its decision, he would nominate a dictator the next night, and if any one vetoed the passing of a senatorial decree he should be content to act simply on their resolution. |
By taking this course he won the well-deserved praise and sympathy of all, and after nominating Publius Cornelius as dictator, he was himself appointed Master of the Horse. He furnished an example to his colleagues, as they compared his position with their own, of the way in which high office and popularity come sometimes most readily to those who do not covet them.
The war was far from being a memorable one. The enemy were defeated with great slaughter at Antium in a single easily-won battle. The victorious army devastated the Volscian territory. The fort at Lake Fucinus was stormed, and the garrison of 3000 men taken prisoners, whilst the rest of the Volscians were driven into their walled towns, leaving their fields at the mercy of the enemy. After making what use he could of Fortune's favours in the conduct of the war (1), the dictator returned home with more success than glory and laid down his office.
The consular tribunes waived all proposals for the election of consuls -- owing, I believe, to their resentment at the appointment of a dictator -- and issued orders for the election of consular tribunes. This increased the anxiety of the senators, for they saw that their cause was being betrayed by men of their own party. Accordingly, as in the previous year they had excited disgust against all plebeian candidates, however worthy, by means of those who were perfectly worthless, so now the leaders of the senate appeared as candidates, surrounded by everything that could lend distinction or strengthen personal influence. They secured all the places and prevented the entrance of any plebeian. Four were elected, all of whom had previously held office, viz., Lucius Furius Medullinus, Gaius Valerius Potitus, Numerius Fabius Vibulanus, and Gaius Servilius Ahala. The latter owed his continuance in office to the popularity he had won by his singular moderation as much as to his other merits.
(1): Livy's meaning appears to be that though the general seized every opportunity, the war was not arduous enough to enhance his reputation. But the sentence is obscure.
|Haec contentio minime idoneo tempore, cum tantum belli in manibus esset, occupauerat cogitationes hominum, donec ubi diu alternis Iulius Corneliusque cum ad id bellum ipsi satis idonei duces essent, non esse aequum mandatum sibi a populo eripi honorem disseruere, tum Ahala Seruilius, tribunus militum, tacuisse se tam diu ait, non quia incertus sententiae fuerit—quem enim bonum ciuem secernere sua a publicis consilia?—sed quia maluerit collegas sua sponte cedere auctoritati senatus quam tribuniciam potestatem adversus se implorari paterentur. Tum quoque si res sineret, libenter se daturum tempus iis fuisse ad receptum nimis pertinacis sententiae; sed cum belli necessitates non exspectent humana consilia, potiorem sibi collegarum gratia rem publicam fore, et si maneat in sententia senatus, dictatorem nocte proxima dicturum; ac si quis intercedat senatus consulto, auctoritate se fore contentum. Quo facto cum haud immeritam laudem gratiamque apud omnes tulisset, dictatore P. Cornelio dicto ipse ab eo magister equitum creatus exemplo fuit collegas eumque intuentibus, quam gratia atque honos opportuniora interdum non cupientibus essent. Bellum haud memorabile fuit. Uno atque eo facili proelio caesi ad Antium hostes; victor exercitus depopulatus Volscum agrum. Castellum ad lacum Fucinum vi expugnatum, atque in eo tria milia hominum capta, ceteris Volscis intra moenia compulsis nec defendentibus agros. Dictator bello ita gesto ut tantum non defuisse fortunae videretur, felicitate quam gloria maior in urbem redit magistratuque se abdicavit. Tribuni militum, mentione nulla comitiorum consularium habita, credo, ob iram dictatoris creati, tribunorum militum comitia edixerunt. Tum vero grauior cura patribus incessit, quippe cum prodi causam ab suis cernerent. Itaque sicut priore anno per indignissimos ex plebeiis candidatos omnium, etiam dignorum, taedium fecerant, sic tum primoribus patrum splendore gratiaque ad petendum praeparatis omnia loca obtinuere, ne cui plebeio aditus esset. Quattuor creati sunt, omnes iam functi eo honore, L. Furius Medullinus C. Valerius Potitus Num. Fabius Vibulanus C. Seruilius Ahala, hic refectus continuato honore cum ab alias virtutes, tum ob recentem favorem unica moderatione partum.|