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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 46: The Case of Verginia[450 BC]
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The people were excited and a conflict appeared imminent. The lictors had closed round Icilius, but matters had not got beyond threats on both sides when Appius declared that it was not the defence of Verginia that was Icilius' main object; a restless intriguer, even yet breathing the spirit of the tribuneship, was looking out for a chance of creating sedition. He would not, however, afford him material for it that day, but that he might allow that it was not to his insolence that he was making a concession, but to the absent Verginius, to the name of father, and to liberty, he would not adjudicate on that day, or issue any decree. He would ask Marcus Claudius to forego his right, and allow the girl to be in the custody of her friends till the morrow. If the father did not then appear, he warned Icilius and men of his stamp that neither as legislator would he be disloyal to his own law, nor as decemvir would he lack firmness to execute it. He certainly would not call upon the lictors of his colleagues to repress the ringleaders of sedition, he should be content with his own. The time for perpetrating this illegality was thus postponed, and after the girl's supporters had withdrawn, it was decided as the very first thing to be done that the brother of Icilius and one of Numitor's sons, both active youths, should make their way straight to the gate and summon Verginius from the camp with all possible speed. They knew that the girl's safety turned upon her protector against lawlessness being present in time. They started on their mission, and riding at full speed brought the news to the father. While the claimant of the girl was pressing Icilius to enter his plea and name his sureties, and Icilius kept asserting that this very thing was being arranged, purposely spinning out the time to allow of his messengers getting first to the camp, the crowd everywhere held up their hands to show that every one of them was ready to be security for him. With tears in his eyes, he said, "It is most kind of you. To-morrow I may need your help, now I have sufficient securities." So Verginia was bailed on the security of her relatives. |
Appius remained for some time on the bench, to avoid the appearance of having taken his seat for that one case only. When he found that owing to the universal interest in this one case no other suitors appeared, he withdrew to his home and wrote to his colleagues in camp not to grants leave of absence to Verginius, and actually to keep him under arrest. This wicked advice came too late, as it deserved to do; Verginius had already obtained leave, and started in the first watch. The letter ordering his detention was delivered the next morning, and was therefore useless.
Event: Life and death of Virginia