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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IV Chapter 1: The intermarriage problem[445 BC]
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The consuls who succeeded were Marcus Genucius and Gaius Curtius. The year was a troubled one both at home and abroad. In the beginning of the year Gaius Canuleius, a tribune of the plebs, introduced a law with regard to the intermarriage of patricians and plebeians. The patricians considered that their blood would be contaminated by it and the special rights of the houses thrown into confusion (1) |
Then the tribunes began to throw out hints about one consul being elected from the plebs, and matters advanced so far that nine tribunes brought in a measure empowering the people to elect consuls from the plebeians or the patricians as they chose. The patricians believed that, if this were carried, the supreme power would not only be degraded by being shared with the lowest of the people, but would entirely pass away from the chief men in the State into the hands of the plebs.
The senate were not sorry, therefore, to hear that Ardea had revolted as a consequence of the unjust decision about the territory, that the Veientines had ravaged the districts on the Roman frontier, and that the Volscians and Aequi were protesting against the fortifying of Verrugo; so much did they prefer war, even when unsuccessful, to an ignominious peace.
On receiving these reports - which were somewhat exaggerated - the senate tried to drown the voice of the tribunes in the uproar of so many wars by ordering a levy to be made and all preparations for war pushed on with the utmost vigour, more so, if possible, than during the consulship of Titus Quinctius. Thereupon Gaius Canuleius addressed the senate in a short and angry speech. It was, he said, useless for the consuls to hold out threats in the hope of distracting the attention of the plebs from the proposed law; as long as he was alive they should never hold a levy until the plebs had adopted the measures brought forward by himself and his colleagues. He at once convened an Assembly.
(1): rights of houses. The curies each possessed their own religious ceremonies (see note 7, Book III.), and as an order they alone possessed the auspices, the qualifications for priesthood, and juristic knowledge; whilst each house had its own sacrifices.