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Quote of the day: Caesar rivalled the greatest orators
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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 48: The death of Verginia.[450 BC]
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The decemvir, utterly abandoned to his passion, addressed the crowd and told them that he had ascertained not only through the insolent abuse of Icilius on the previous day and the violent behaviour of Verginius, which the Roman people could testify to, but mainly from certain definite information received, that all through the night meetings had been held in the City to organise a seditious movement. Forewarned of the likelihood of disturbances, he had come down into the Forum with an armed escort, not to injure peaceable citizens, but to uphold the authority of the government by putting down the disturbers of public tranquillity. "It will therefore," he proceeded, "be better for you to keep quiet. Go, lictor, remove the crowd and clear a way for the master to take possession of his slave." When, in a transport of rage, he had thundered out these words, the people fell back and left the deserted girl [Note 1] a prey to injustice.

Verginius, seeing no prospect of help anywhere, turned to the tribunal. "Pardon me, Appius, I pray you, if I have spoken disrespectfully to you, pardon a father's grief. Allow me to question the nurse here, in the maiden's presence, as to what are the real facts of the case, that if I have been falsely called her father, I may leave her with the greater resignation." Permission being granted, he took the girl and her nurse aside to the booths near the temple of Venus Cloacina, now known as the "New Booths," and there, snatching up a butcher's knife he plunged it into her breast, saying, "In this the only way in which I can, I vindicate, my child, thy freedom." Then, looking towards the tribunal, "By this blood, Appius, I devote thy head to the infernal gods." Alarmed at the outcry which arose at this terrible deed, the decemvir ordered Verginius to be arrested. Brandishing the knife, he cleared the way before him, until, protected by a crowd of sympathisers, he reached the city gate. Icilius and Numitorius took up the lifeless body and showed it to the people; they deplored the villainy of Appius, the ill-starred beauty of the girl, the terrible compulsion under which the father had acted. The matrons, who followed with angry cries, asked, "Was this the condition on which they were to rear children, was this the reward of modesty and purity?" with other manifestations of that womanly grief, which, owing to their keener sensibility, is more demonstrative, and so expresses itself in more moving and pitiful fashion. The men, and especially Icilius, talked of nothing but the abolition of the tribunitian power and the right of appeal and loudly expressed their indignation at the condition of public affairs.

Note 1: girl = Verginia

Event: Life and death of Virginia

Decemuir alienatus ad libidinem animo negat ex hesterno tantum conuicio Icili uiolentiaque Vergini, cuius testem populum Romanum habeat, sed certis quoque indiciis compertum se habere nocte tota coetus in urbe factos esse ad mouendam seditionem. Itaque se haud inscium eius dimicationis cum armatis descendisse, non ut quemquam quietum uiolaret, sed ut turbantes ciuitatis otium pro maiestate imperii coerceret. 'Proinde quiesse erit melius. I,' inquit, 'lictor, submoue turbam et da uiam domino ad prehendendum mancipium.' Cum haec intonuisset plenus irae, multitudo ipsa se sua sponte dimouit desertaque praeda iniuriae puella stabat. Tum Verginius ubi nihil usquam auxilii uidit, 'quaeso' inquit, 'Appi, primum ignosce patrio dolori, si quo inclementius in te sum inuectus; deinde sinas hic coram uirgine nutricem percontari quid hoc rei sit, ut si falso pater dictus sum aequiore hinc animo discedam.' Data uenia seducit filiam ac nutricem prope Cloacinae ad tabernas, quibus nunc Nouis est nomen, atque ibi ab lanio cultro arrepto, 'hoc te uno quo possum' ait, 'modo, filia, in libertatem uindico.' Pectus deinde puellae transfigit, respectansque ad tribunal 'te' inquit, 'Appi, tuumque caput sanguine hoc consecro.' Clamore ad tam atrox facinus orto excitus Appius comprehendi Verginium iubet. Ille ferro quacumque ibat uiam facere, donec multitudine etiam prosequentium tuente ad portam perrexit. Icilius Numitoriusque exsangue corpus sublatum ostentant populo; scelus Appi, puellae infelicem formam, necessitatem patris deplorant. Sequentes clamitant matronae, eamne liberorum procreandorum condicionem, ea pudicitiae praemia esse? cetera, quae in tali re muliebris dolor, quo est maestior imbecillo animo, eo miserabilia magis querentibus subicit. Virorum et maxime Icili uox tota tribuniciae potestatis ac prouocationis ad populum ereptae publicarumque indignationum erat.