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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book X Chapter 13: Election of Fabius and Decius.[297 BC]
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During the year a colony was settled at Carseoli, in the country of the Aequicoli. The consul Fulvius celebrated a triumph over the Samnites |
Just as the consular elections were coming on, a rumour spread that the Etruscans and Samnites were levying immense armies. According to the reports which were sent, the leaders of the Etruscan were attacked in all the cantonal council meetings for not having brought the Gauls over on any terms whatever to take part in the war; the Samnite government were abused for having employed against the Romans a force which was only raised to act against the Lucanians; the enemy was arising in his own strength and in that of his allies to make war on Rome, and matters would not be settled without a conflict on a very much larger scale than formerly. Men of distinction were amongst the candidates for the consulship, but the gravity of the danger turned all eyes to Quintus Fabius Maximus. He at first simply declined to become a candidate, but when he saw the trend of popular feeling he distinctly refused to allow his name to stand: "Why," he asked, "do you want an old man like me, who has finished his allotted tasks and gained all the rewards they have brought? I am not the man I was either in strength of body or mind, and I fear lest some god should even deem my good fortune too great or too unbroken for human nature to enjoy. I have grown up to the measure of the glory of my seniors, and I would gladly see others rising to the height of my own renown. There is no lack of honours in Rome for the strongest and most capable men, nor is there any lack of men to win the honour." This display of modesty and unselfishness only made the popular feeling all the keener in his favour by showing how rightly it was directed. Thinking that the best way of checking it would be to appeal to the instinctive reverence for law, he ordered the law to be rehearsed which forbade any man from being re-elected consul within ten years. Owing to the clamour the law was hardly heard, and the tribunes of the plebs declared that there was no impediment here; they would make a proposition to the Assembly that he should be exempt from its provisions. He, however, persisted in his refusal, and repeatedly asked what was the object in making laws if they were deliberately broken by those who made them; "we," said he," are now ruling the laws instead of the laws ruling us." Notwithstanding his opposition the people began to vote, and as each century was called in, it declared without the slightest hesitation for Fabius. At last, yielding to the general desire of his countrymen, he said, "May the gods approve what you have done and what you are going to do. Since, however, you are going to have your own way as far as I am concerned, give me the opportunity of using my influence with you so far as my colleague is concerned. I ask you to elect as my fellow-consul, Publius Decius, a man whom I have found to work with me in perfect harmony, a man who is worthy of your confidence, worthy of his illustrious sire" (1). The recommendation was felt to be well deserved, and all the centuries which had not yet voted elected Quintus Fabius and Publius Decius consuls.
During the year a large number of people were prosecuted by the aediles for occupying more than the legal quantity of land. Hardly one could clear himself from the charge, and a very strong curb was placed upon inordinate covetousness.
(1): He spoke while the voting was still going on; probably only the centuria praerogativa had voted so far. The order in which the centuries were called up to vote was decided by lot, and the first was called the "prerogative century." The decision by lot, which played such a large part in the political administration, was regarded as the work of the gods, and therefore the vote of the prerogative century had often a determining influence on the result of the election.
Event: Fourth war with Samnites