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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 37: The Second Decemvirate (Cont.)[450 BC]
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The plebeians now began to study the faces of the patricians, to catch haply some gleam of liberty from the men from whom they had dreaded slavery and through that dread had brought the common-wealth into its present condition. The leaders of the senate hated the decemvirs, and hated the plebs; they did not approve of what was going on, but they thought that the plebeians deserved all that they got, and refused to help men who by rushing too eagerly after liberty had fallen into slavery. They even increased the wrongs they suffered, that through their disgust and impatience at the present conditions they might begin to long for the former state of things and the two consuls of old. |
The greater part of the year had now elapsed; two tables had been added to the ten of the previous year; if these additional laws were passed by the Comitia Centuriata there was no reason why the decemvirate should be any longer considered necessary. Men were wondering how soon notice would be given of the election of consuls; the sole anxiety of the plebeians was as to the method by which they could reestablish that bulwark of their liberties, the power of the tribunes, which was now suspended.
Meantime nothing was said about any elections. At first the decemvirs had bid for popularity by appearing before the plebs, surrounded by ex-tribunes, but now they were accompanied by an escort of young patricians, who crowded round the tribunals, maltreated the plebeians and plundered their property, and being the stronger, succeeded in getting whatever they had taken a fancy to. They did not stop short of personal violence, some were scourged, others beheaded, and that this brutality might not be gratuitous, the punishment of the owner was followed by a grant of his effects. Corrupted by such bribes, the young nobility not only declined to oppose the lawlessness of the decemvirs, but they openly showed that they preferred their own freedom from all restraints to the general liberty.
Event: The Decemvirate
|Circumspectare tum patriciorum uoltus plebeii et inde libertatis captare auram, unde seruitutem timendo in eum statum rem publicam adduxerant. Primores patrum odisse decemuiros, odisse plebem; nec probare quae fierent, et credere haud indignis accidere; auide ruendo ad libertatem in seruitutem elapsos iuuare nolle; cumulari quoque iniurias, ut taedio praesentium consules duo tandem et status pristinus rerum in desiderium ueniant. Iam et processerat pars maior anni et duae tabulae legum ad prioris anni decem tabulas erant adiectae, nec quicquam iam supererat, si eae quoque leges centuriatis comitiis perlatae essent, cur eo magistratu rei publicae opus esset. Exspectabant quam mox consulibus creandis comitia edicerentur; id modo plebes agitabat quonam modo tribuniciam potestatem, munimentum libertati, rem intermissam, repararent; cum interim mentio comitiorum nulla fieri. Et decemuiri, qui primo tribunicios homines, quia id populare habebatur, circum se ostentauerant plebi, patriciis iuuenibus saepserant latera. Eorum cateruae tribunalia obsederant; hi ferre agere plebem plebisque res, cum fortuna, qua quidquid cupitum foret, potentioris esset. Et iam ne tergo quidem abstinebatur; uirgis caedi, alii securi subici; et, ne gratuita crudelitas esset, bonorum donatio sequi domini supplicium. Hac mercede iuuentus nobilis corrupta non modo non ire obuiam iniuriae, sed propalam licentiam suam malle quam omnium libertatem.|