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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 36: The Second Decemvirate (Cont.)[450 BC]
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This was the end of Appius' assumption of a part foreign to his nature. From that time his conduct was in accordance with his natural disposition, and he began to mould his new colleagues, even before they entered on office, into the lines of his own character. They held private meetings daily; then, armed with plans hatched in absolute secrecy for exercising unbridled power, they no longer troubled to dissemble their tyranny, but made themselves difficult of access, harsh and stern to those to whom they granted interviews. |
So matters went on till the middle of May. At that period, May 15, was the proper time for magistrates to take up their office. At the outset, the first day of their government was marked by a demonstration which aroused great fears. For, whereas the previous decemvirs had observed the rule of only one having the fasces at a time and making this emblem of royalty go to each in turn, now all the Ten suddenly appeared, each with his twelve lictors. The Forum was filled with one hundred and twenty lictors, and they bore the axes tied up in the "fasces." The decemvirs explained it by saying that as they were invested with absolute power of life and death, there was no reason for the axes being removed. They presented the appearance of ten kings, and manifold fears were entertained not only by the lowest classes but even by the foremost of the senators. They felt that a pretext for commencing bloodshed was being sought for, so that if any one uttered, either in the senate or amongst the people, a single word which reminded them of liberty, the rods and axes would instantly be made ready for him, to intimidate the rest. For not only was there no protection in the people now that the right of appeal to them was withdrawn, but the decemvirs had mutually agreed not to interfere with each other's sentences, whereas the previous decemvirs had allowed their judicial decisions to be revised on appeal to a colleague, and certain matters which they considered to be within the jurisdiction of the people they had referred to them.
For some time they inspired equal terror in all, gradually it rested wholly on the plebs. The patricians were unmolested; it was the men in humble life for whom they reserved their wanton and cruel treatment. They were solely swayed by personal motives, not by the justice of a cause, since influence had with them the force of equity. They drew up their judgments at home and pronounced them in the Forum; if any one appealed to a colleague, he left the presence of the one to whom he had appealed bitterly regretting that he had not abided by the first sentence. A belief, not traceable to any authoritative source, had got abroad that their conspiracy against law and justice was not for the present only, a secret and sworn agreement existed amongst them not to hold any elections, but to keep their power, now they had once obtained it, by making the decemvirate perpetual.
Event: The Decemvirate
Fasces:Rods of wood tied by a red thong into a bundle from which an axe projected. Symbol of regal and later magesterial authority.