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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 56: The Publilian Law[472 BC]
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Volero was now in high favour with the plebs, and they made him a tribune at the next election. Lucius Pinarius and Publius Furius were the consuls for that year. Everybody supposed that Volero would use all the power of his tribuneship to harass the consuls of the preceding year. On the contrary, he sub-ordinated his private grievances to the interests of the State, and without uttering a single word which could reflect on the consuls, he proposed to the people a measure providing that the magistrates of the plebs should be elected by the Assembly of the Tribes. At first sight this measure appeared to be of a very harmless description, but it would deprive the patricians of all power of electing through their clients' votes those whom they wanted as tribunes. It was most welcome to the plebeians, but the patricians resisted it to the utmost. They were unable to secure the one effectual means of resistance, namely, inducing one of the tribunes, through the influence of the consuls or the leading patricians, to interpose his veto. The weight and importance of the question led to protracted controversy throughout the year. |
The plebs re-elected Volero. The patricians, feeling that the question was rapidly approaching a crisis, appointed Appius Claudius, the son of Appius, who, ever since his father's contests with them, had been hated by them and cordially hated them in return.
Next day the tribunes took their places on the templum [(1)], the consuls and the nobility stood about in the Assembly to prevent the passage of the Law. Laetorius gave orders for all, except actual voters, to withdraw. The young patricians kept their places and paid no attention to the tribune's officer, whereupon Laetorius ordered some of them to be arrested. Appius insisted that the tribunes had no jurisdiction over any but plebeians, they were not magistrates of the whole people, but only of the plebs; even he himself could not, according to the usage of their ancestors, remove any man by virtue of his authority, for the formula ran, "If it seems good to you, Quirites, depart!" By making contemptuous remarks about his jurisdiction, he was easily able to disconcert Laetorius. The tribune, in a burning rage, sent his officer to the consul, the consul sent a lictor to the tribune, exclaiming that he was a private citizen without any magisterial authority.
(1) Measures could only be submitted to the people from a place which the augurs had solemnly set apart for the purpose.