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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 56: The Publilian Law[472 BC]
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Volero was now in high favour with the plebs, and they made him a tribune at the next election. Lucius Pinarius and Publius Furius were the consuls for that year. Everybody supposed that Volero would use all the power of his tribuneship to harass the consuls of the preceding year. On the contrary, he sub-ordinated his private grievances to the interests of the State, and without uttering a single word which could reflect on the consuls, he proposed to the people a measure providing that the magistrates of the plebs should be elected by the Assembly of the Tribes. At first sight this measure appeared to be of a very harmless description, but it would deprive the patricians of all power of electing through their clients' votes those whom they wanted as tribunes. It was most welcome to the plebeians, but the patricians resisted it to the utmost. They were unable to secure the one effectual means of resistance, namely, inducing one of the tribunes, through the influence of the consuls or the leading patricians, to interpose his veto. The weight and importance of the question led to protracted controversy throughout the year. |
The plebs re-elected Volero. The patricians, feeling that the question was rapidly approaching a crisis, appointed Appius Claudius, the son of Appius, who, ever since his father's contests with them, had been hated by them and cordially hated them in return.
Next day the tribunes took their places on the templum [(1)], the consuls and the nobility stood about in the Assembly to prevent the passage of the Law. Laetorius gave orders for all, except actual voters, to withdraw. The young patricians kept their places and paid no attention to the tribune's officer, whereupon Laetorius ordered some of them to be arrested. Appius insisted that the tribunes had no jurisdiction over any but plebeians, they were not magistrates of the whole people, but only of the plebs; even he himself could not, according to the usage of their ancestors, remove any man by virtue of his authority, for the formula ran, "If it seems good to you, Quirites, depart!" By making contemptuous remarks about his jurisdiction, he was easily able to disconcert Laetorius. The tribune, in a burning rage, sent his officer to the consul, the consul sent a lictor to the tribune, exclaiming that he was a private citizen without any magisterial authority.
(1) Measures could only be submitted to the people from a place which the augurs had solemnly set apart for the purpose.
|Voleronem amplexa fauore plebs proximis comitiis tribunum plebi creat in eum annum qui L. Pinarium P. Furium consules habuit. Contraque omnium opinionem, qui eum uexandis prioris anni consulibus permissurum tribunatum credebant, post publicam causam priuato dolore habito, ne uerbo quidem uiolatis consulibus, rogationem tulit ad populum ut plebeii magistratus tributis comitiis fierent. Haud parua res sub titulo prima specie minime atroci ferebatur, sed quae patriciis omnem potestatem per clientium suffragia creandi quos uellent tribunos auferret. Huic actioni gratissimae plebi cum summa ui resisterent patres, nec quae una uis ad resistendum erat, ut intercederet aliquis ex collegio, auctoritate aut consulum aut principum adduci posset, res tamen suo ipsa molimine grauis certaminibus in annum extrahitur. Plebs Voleronem tribunum reficit: patres, ad ultimum dimicationis rati rem uenturam, Ap. Claudium Appi filium, iam inde a paternis certaminibus inuisum infestumque plebi, consulem faciunt. Collega ei T. Quinctius datur. Principio statim anni nihil prius quam de lege agebatur. Sed ut inuentor legis Volero, sic Laetorius, collega eius, auctor cum recentior tum acrior erat. Ferocem faciebat belli gloria ingens, quod aetatis eius haud quisquam manu promptior erat. Is, cum Volero nihil praeterquam de lege loqueretur, insectatione abstinens consulum, ipse incusationem Appi familiaeque superbissimae ac crudelissimae in plebem Romanam exorsus, cum a patribus non consulem, sed carnificem ad uexandam et lacerandam plebem creatum esse contenderet, rudis in militari homine lingua non suppetebat libertati animoque. Itaque deficiente oratione, "quando quidem non facile loquor" inquit, "Quirites, quam quod locutus sum praesto, crastino die adeste; ego hic aut in conspectu uestro moriar aut perferam legem". Occupant tribuni templum postero die; consules nobilitasque ad impediendam legem in contione consistunt. Summoueri Laetorius iubet, praeterquam qui suffragium ineant. Adulescentes nobiles stabant nihil cedentes uiatori. Tum ex his prendi quosdam Laetorius iubet. Consul Appius negare ius esse tribuno in quemquam nisi in plebeium; non enim populi sed plebis eum magistratum esse; nec illam ipsam submouere pro imperio posse more maiorum, quia ita dicatur: "si uobis uidetur, discedite, Quirites." Facile contemptim de iure disserendo perturbare Laetorium poterat. Ardens igitur ira tribunus uiatorem mittit ad consulem, consul lictorem ad tribunum, priuatum esse clamitans, sine imperio, sine magistratu; uiolatusque esset tribunus, ni et contio omnis atrox coorta pro tribuno in consulem esset, et concursus hominum in forum ex tota urbe concitatae multitudinis fieret. Sustinebat tamen Appius pertinacia tantam tempestatem, certatumque haud incruento proelio foret, ni Quinctius, consul alter, consularibus negotio dato ut collegam ui, si aliter non possent, de foro abducerent, ipse nunc plebem saeuientem precibus lenisset, nunc orasset tribunos ut concilium dimitterent; darent irae spatium; non uim suam illis tempus adempturum, sed consilium uiribus additurum; et patres in populi et consulem in patrum fore potestate.|