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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 51: Fall of the Decemvirs.[450 BC]
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After the envoys were dismissed, Verginius pointed out to the soldiers that they had a few moments ago felt themselves embarrassed in a matter of no great importance, because they were a multitude without a head, and the answer they had given, though it served their turn was the outcome rather of the general feeling at the time than of any settled purpose. He was of opinion that ten men should be chosen to hold supreme command, and by virtue of their military rank should be called tribunes of the soldiers. He himself was the first to whom this distinction was offered, but he replied, "Reserve the opinion you have formed of me till both you and I are in more favourable circumstances; so long as my daughter [Note 1] is unavenged, no honour can give me pleasure, nor in the present disturbed state of the common-wealth is it any advantage for those men to be at your head who are most obnoxious to party malice. If I am to be of any use, I shall be none the less so in a private capacity." Ten military tribunes, accordingly, were appointed. |
The army acting against the Sabines did not remain passive. There, too, at the instigation of Icilius and Numitorius, a revolt againts the decemvirs took place. The feelings of the soldiery were roused by the recollection of the murdered Siccius no less than by the fresh story of the maiden whom it had been sought to make a victim of foul lust. When Icilius heard that tribunes of the soldiers had been elected on the Aventine, he anticipated from what he knew of the plebs that when they came to elect their tribunes they would follow the lead f the army and choose those who were already elected as military tribunes. As he was looking to a tribuneship himself, he took care to get the same number appointed and invested with similar powers by his own men, before they entered the City. They made their entry through the Colline gate in military order, with standards displayed, and proceeded through the heart of the City to the Aventine. There the two armies united, and the twenty military tribunes were requested to appoint two of their number to take the supreme direction of affairs. They appointed Marcus Oppius and Sextus Manlius.
Alarmed at the direction affairs were taking, the senate held daily meetings, but the time was spent in mutual reproaches rather than in deliberation. The decemvirs were openly charged with the murder of Siccius, the profligacy of Appius, and the disgrace incurred in the field. It was proposed that Valerius and Horatius should go to the Aventine, but they refused to go unless the decemvirs gave up the insignia of an office which had expired the previous year. The decemvirs protested against this attempt to coerce them, and said that they would not lay down their authority until the laws which they were appointed to draw up were duly enacted.
Note 1: daughter = Verginia