|Religion||Subjects||Images||Queries||Links||Contact||Do not fly Iberia|
Display Latin text
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IV Chapter 49: Capture of Bolae -- Assassination of Postumius.[415-4 BC]
Return to index
The consular tribunes for the following year were Publius Cornelius Cossus, Gaius Valerius Potitus, Quintus Quinctius Cincinnatus, and Numerius Fabius Vibulanus. |
There would have been two wars this year if the Veientine leaders had not deferred hostilities owing to religious scruples. Their lands had suffered from an inundation of the Tiber chiefly through the destruction of their farm buildings. The Bolani, a people of the same nationality as the Aequi, had made incursions into the adjoining territory of Labici and attacked the newly-settled colonists, in the hope of averting the consequences by receiving the unanimous support of the Aequi. But the defeat they had sustained three years before made them disinclined to render assistance; the Bolani, abandoned by their friends, lost both town and territory after a siege and one trifling engagement in a war which is not even worth recording.
An attempt was made by Lucius Sextius, a tribune of the plebs, to carry a measure providing that colonists should be sent to Bolae as they had been to Labici, but it was defeated by the intervention of his colleagues, who made it clear that they would not allow any resolution of the plebs to take effect except on the authorisation of the senate.
The Aequi recaptured Bolae and strengthened the town by introducing fresh colonists. The war against the Aequi was entrusted to Postumius, a man of violent and obstinate temper, which, however, he displayed more in the hour of victory than during the war. After marching with his hastily-raised army to Bolae and crushing the spirit of the Aequi in some insignificant actions, he at length forced his way into the town. Then he diverted the contest from the enemy to his own fellow-citizens. During the assault he had issued an order that the plunder should go to the soldiers, but after the capture of the town he broke his word. I am led to believe that this was the real ground for the resentment felt by the army rather than that in a city which had been recently sacked and where a new colony had been settled, the amount of booty was less than the tribune had given out. After he had returned to the City on the summons of his colleagues owing to the commotions excited by the tribunes of the plebs, the feeling against him was intensified by a stupid and almost insane utterance in a meeting of the Assembly. Sextius was introducing an agrarian law and stated that one of its provisions was that colonists be settled at Bolae. "Those," he said, "who had captured Bolae deserved that the city and its territory should belong to them." Postumius exclaimed, "It will be a bad thing for my soldiers if they do not keep quiet." This exclamation was quite as offensive to the senators, when they heard of it, as it was to the Assembly. The tribune of the plebs was a clever man and not a bad speaker; he had now got amongst his opponents a man of insolent temper and hot tongue, whom he could irritate and provoke into saying things which would bring odium not only upon himself, but upon his cause and upon the whole of his order. There was no one amongst the consular tribunes whom he oftener drew into argument before the Assembly than Postumius. After the above quoted coarse and brutal utterance Sextius said, "Do you hear, Quirites, this man threatening his soldiers with punishment, as if they were slaves? Shall this monster appear in your eyes more worthy of his high office than the men who are trying to send you out as colonists to receive as a free gift city and land, and provide a resting-place for your old age; who are fighting gallantly for your interests against such savage and insolent opponents? Now you can begin to wonder why it is that so few take up your cause. What have they to hope for from you? Is it high office? You would rather confer it on your opponents than on the champions of the Roman people. You broke out into indignant murmurs just now when you heard what this man said. What difference does it make? If you had to give your votes now, you would prefer this man who threatens you with punishment to those who want to secure for you lands and houses and property."
When this exclamation of Postumius was reported to the soldiers it aroused much more indignation in the camp. "What!" they said, "is the embezzler of the spoils, the robber, actually threatening his soldiers with punishment?" Open as the expressions of resentment were, the quaestor Publius Sestius still thought that the excitement could be repressed by the same exhibition of violence by which it had been aroused. A lictor was sent to a soldier who was shouting, this led to uproar and disorder. The quaestor was struck by a stone and got out of the crowd, the man who had hurt him exclaimed that the quaestor had got what the commander had threatened the soldiers.
Postumius was sent for to deal with the outbreak; he aggravated the general irritation by the ruthless way in which he made his investigations and the cruelty of the punishments he inflicted. At last, when his rage exceeded all bounds, and a crowd had gathered at the cries of those whom he had ordered to be put to death "under the hurdle" (1), he rushed down from his tribunal in a frenzy to those who were interrupting the execution; the lictors and centurions tried in all directions to disperse the crowd, and drove them to such a pitch of exasperation that the tribune was overwhelmed beneath a shower of stones from his own army.
(1): See description of execution of Turnus Herdonius in Book I. chap. li. Here, as no water is mentioned, it must have been the "pressing to death" beneath a hurdle loaded with large stones.
Event: Third war with the Aequi