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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IV Chapter 53: Agrarian Disputes -- Capture of Carventum.[410 BC]
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Manlius Aemilius and Gaius Valerius Potitus were the new consuls. The Aequi made preparations for war, and the Volscians, without the sanction of their government, took up arms and assisted them as volunteers. On the report of these hostile movements -- they had already crossed over into the Latin and Hernican territories -- the consul Valerius commenced to levy troops. He was obstructed by Marcus Menenius, the proposer of an Agrarian Law, and under the protection of this tribune, no one who objected to serve would take the oath. Suddenly the news came that the citadel of Carventum had been seized by the enemy. This humiliation gave the senate an opening for stirring up popular resentment against Menenius, while it afforded to the other tribunes, who were already prepared to veto his agrarian law, stronger justification for opposing their colleague. A long and angry discussion took place. The consuls called gods and men to witness that Menenius by obstructing the levy was solely responsible for whatever defeat and disgrace at the hands of the enemy had already been incurred or was imminent. Menenius on the other hand loudly protested that if those who occupied the public land would give up their wrongful possession of it, he would place no hindrance in the way of the levy. The nine tribunes put an end to the quarrel by interposing a formal resolution and declaring that it was the intention of the college to support the consul, in spite of their colleague's veto, whether he imposed fines or adopted other modes of coercion on those who refused to serve in the field. Armed with this decree the consul ordered a few who were claiming the tribune's protection to be seized and brought before him; this cowed the rest and they took the oath. |
The army was marched to the citadel of Carventum, and though disaffected and embittered against the consul, they no sooner arrived at the place than they drove out the defenders and recaptured the citadel. The attack was facilitated by the absence of some of the garrison, who had through the laxity of their generals stolen away on a plundering expedition. The booty which had been gathered in their incessant raids and stored here for safety was considerable. This the consul ordered to be sold "under the spear," the proceeds to be paid by the quaestors into the treasury. He announced that the army would only have a share in the spoils when they had not declined to serve. This increased the exasperation of the plebs and the soldiers against the consul. The senate decreed him an ovation," and whilst he made his formal entry into the City, rude verses were bandied by the soldiers with their accustomed licence in which the consul was abused and Menenius extolled in alternate couplets, whilst at every mention of the tribune the voices of the soldiers were drowned in the cheers and applause of the bystanders. This latter circumstance occasioned more anxiety to the senate than the licence of the soldiers, which was almost a regular practice, and as there was no doubt that if Menenius became a candidate he would be elected as a consular tribune, he was shut out by the election of consuls.