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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book V Chapter 2: War in the winter. Speech of Appius Claudius.[403 BC]
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As the Roman generals placed more reliance on a blockade than on an assault, they began to build huts for winter-quarters, a novelty to the Roman soldier. Their plan was to keep up the war through the winter. |
The tribunes of the plebs had for a long time been unable to find any pretext for creating a revolt. When, however, news of this was brought to Rome, they dashed off to the Assembly and produced great excitement by declaring that this was the reason why it had been settled to pay the troops. They, the tribunes, had not been blind to the fact that this gift from their adversaries would prove to be tainted with poison. The liberties of the plebs had been bartered away, their able-bodied men had been permanently sent away, banished from the City and the State, without any regard to winter or indeed to any season of the year, or to the possibility of their visiting their homes or looking after their property. What did they think was the reason for this continuous campaigning? They would most assuredly find it to be nothing else but the fear that if a large body of these men, who formed the whole strength of the plebs, were present, it would be possible to discuss reforms in favour of the plebeians. Besides, they were suffering much more hardship and oppression than the Veientines, for these passed the winter under their own roofs in a city protected by its magnificent walls and the natural strength of its position, whilst the Romans, amidst labour and toil, buried in frost and snow, were roughing it patiently under their skin-covered tents, and could not lay aside their arms even in the season of winter, when there is a respite from all wars, whether by land or sea. This form of slavery, making military service perpetual, was never imposed either by the kings, or by the consuls who were so domineering before the institution of the tribuneship, or during the stern rule of the dictator, or by the unscrupulous decemvirs -- it was the consular tribunes who were exercising this regal despotism over the Roman plebs. What would these men have done had they been consuls or dictators, seeing that they have made their proconsular authority, which is only a shadow of the other, so outrageously cruel? But the commons had got what they had deserved. Amongst all the eight consular tribunes not a single plebeian had found a place. Hitherto, with their utmost efforts, the patricians had usually filled only three places at a time; now a team of eight were bent on maintaining their power. Even in such a crowd not a single plebeian could get a footing, to warn his colleagues, if he could do nothing else, that those who were serving as soldiers were free men, their own fellow-citizens, and not slaves, and that they ought to be brought back, at all events in the winter, to their houses and their homes, and during some part of the year visit their parents and wives and children, and exercise their rights as free citizens in electing the magistrates.
Whilst indulging in declamations of this sort, they found an opponent who was quite a match for them in Appius Claudius. He had from early manhood taken his part in the contests with the plebs, and as stated above, had some years previously recommended the senate to break down the power of the tribunes by securing the intervention of their colleagues.
|Cum spes maior imperatoribus Romanis in obsidione quam in oppugnatione esset, hibernacula etiam, res noua militi Romano, aedificari coepta, consiliumque erat hiemando continuare bellum. Quod postquam tribunis plebis, iam diu nullam nouandi res causam inuenientibus, Romam est allatum, in contionem prosiliunt, sollicitant plebis animos, hoc illud esse dictitantes quod aera militibus sint constituta; nec se fefellisse id donum inimicorum ueneno inlitum fore. Venisse libertatem plebis; remotam in perpetuum et ablegatam ab urbe et ab re publica iuuentutem iam ne hiemi quidem aut tempori anni cedere ac domos ac res inuisere suas. Quam putarent continuatae militiae causam esse? Nullam profecto aliam inuenturos quam ne quid per frequentiam iuuenum eorum in quibus uires omnes plebis essent agi de commodis eorum posset. Vexari praeterea et subigi multo acrius quam Veientes; quippe illos hiemem sub tectis suis agere, egregiis muris situque naturali urbem tutantes, militem Romanum in opere ac labore, niuibus pruinisque obrutum, sub pellibus durare, ne hiemis quidem spatio quae omnium bellorum terra marique sit quies arma deponentem. Hoc neque reges neque ante tribuniciam potestatem creatam superbos illos consules neque triste dictatoris imperium neque importunos decemuiros iniunxisse seruitutis, ut perennem militiam facerent [quod tribuni militum in plebe Romana regnum exercerent]. Quidnam illi consules dictatoresue facturi essent, qui proconsularem imaginem tam saeuam ac trucem fecerint? Sed id accidere haud immerito. Non fuisse ne in octo quidem tribunis militum locum ulli plebeio. Antea trina loca cum contentione summa patricios explere solitos: nunc iam octoiuges ad imperia obtinenda ire, et ne in turba quidem haerere plebeium quemquam qui, si nihil aliud, admoneat collegas, liberos et ciues eorum, non seruos militare, quos hieme saltem in domos ac tecta reduci oporteat et aliquo tempore anni parentes liberosque ac coniuges inuisere et usurpare libertatem et creare magistratus. Haec taliaque uociferantes aduersarium haud imparem nacti sunt Ap. Claudium, relictum a collegis ad tribunicias seditiones comprimendas, uirum imbutum iam ab iuuenta certaminibus plebeiis, quem auctorem aliquot annis ante fuisse memoratum est per collegarum intercessionem tribuniciae potestatis dissoluendae.|