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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 20: The levy of Lucius Quinctius[460 BC]
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The consul's speech produced an impression on the plebs; the patricians were encouraged and regarded the State as reestablished. The other consul, who showed more courage in supporting than in proposing, was quite content for his colleague to take the first step in a matter of such importance, but in carrying it out he claimed his full responsibility as consul. |
The tribunes laughed at what they considered idle words, and constantly asked, "By what method were the consuls going to take out an army, when no one would allow one to be levied?" "We do not," said Quinctius, "require to make a levy. At the time when Publius Valerius supplied the people with arms for the recovery of the Capitol, they all took the oath to muster at the consul's orders, and not to disband without his orders. We, therefore, issue an order that all of you who took that oath appear under arms, tomorrow, at Lake Regillus." Thereupon the tribunes wanted to release the people from their oath by raising a quibble. They argued that Quinctius was not consul when the oath was taken. But the neglect of the gods, which prevails in this age, had not yet appeared, nor did every man interpret oaths and laws in just the sense which suited him best; he preferred to shape his own conduct by their requirements. The tribunes, finding any attempt at obstruction hopeless, set themselves to delay the departure of the army. They were the more anxious to do this as a report had got abroad that the augurs had received instructions to repair to Lake Regillus and set apart with the usual augural formalities a spot where business could be transacted by a properly constituted Assembly. This would enable every measure which had been carried by the violent exercise of the tribunitian authority to be repealed by the regular Assembly of the Tribes. All would vote as the consuls wished, for the right of appeal did not extend beyond a mile from the City, and the tribunes themselves, if they went with the army, would be subject to the authority of the consuls. These rumours were alarming; but what filled them with the greatest alarm were the repeated assertions of Quinctius that he should not hold an election of consuls; the diseases of the State were such that none of the usual remedies could check them; the common-wealth needed a dictator, in order that any one who took steps to disturb the existing constitution might learn that from a dictator there lay no appeal.