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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IV Chapter 7: The first Consular Tribunes[444 BC]
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In the 310th year after the foundation of Rome (444 B.C.), military tribunes with consular powers for the first time took office. Their names were Aulus Sempronius Atratinus, Lucius Atilius, and Titus Caecilius, and during their tenure of office concord at home procured peace abroad. Some writers omit all mention of the proposal to elect consuls from the plebs, and assert that the creation of three military tribunes invested with the insignia and authority of consuls was rendered necessary by the inability of two consuls to cope at the same time with the Veientine war in addition to the war with the Aequi and Volscians and the defection of Ardea. The jurisdiction of that office was not yet, however, firmly established, for in consequence of the decision of the augurs they resigned office after three months, owing to some irregularity in their election. Gaius Curtius, who had presided over their election, had not rightly selected his position (1) for taking the auspices. |
Ambassadors from Ardea to complain of the injustice done them; they promised that if it were removed by the restoration of their territory they would abide by the treaty and remain good friends with Rome. The senate replied that they had no power to rescind a judgment of the people, there was no precedent or law to allow it, the necessity of preserving harmony between the two orders made it impossible. If the Ardeates were willing to wait their time and leave the redress of their wrongs in the hands of the senate, they would afterwards congratulate themselves on their moderation, and would discover that the senators were just as anxious that no injustice should be done them as that whatever had been done should speedily be repaired. The ambassadors said that they would bring the whole matter again before their senate, and were then courteously dismissed.
As the State was now without any curule magistrate, the patricians met together and appointed an interrex. Owing to a dispute whether consuls or military tribunes should be elected, the interregnum lasted several days. The interrex and the senate tried to secure the election of consuls; the plebs and their tribunes that of military tribunes. The senate conquered, for the plebeians were sure to confer either honour on the patricians and so refrained from an idle contest, whilst their leaders preferred an election in which no votes could be received for them to one in which they would be passed over as unworthy to hold office. The tribunes, too, gave up the fruitless contest out of complaisance to the leaders of the senate. Titus Quinctius Barbatus, the interrex, elected as consuls Lucius Papirius Mugilanus and Lucius Sempronius Atratinus.
During their consulship the treaty with Ardea was renewed. This is the sole proof that they were the consuls for that year, for they are not found in the ancient annals nor in the official list of magistrates. The reason, I believe, was that since at the beginning of the year there were military tribunes, the names of the consuls who replaced them were omitted as though the tribunes had continued in office through the year. According to Licinius Macer, their names were found in the copy of the treaty with Ardea, as well as in the Linen Rolls.
(1): position. See the description of the augural rites in Book I. chap. xviii.
Auspicium:Type of divination
Curule magistrate:A magistrate who had the right to the sella curulis, either as dictator, consul or consular tribune.
Interrex:Temporary (5 days!) head of state when the king or both consuls had died.
Interregnum:The time an interrex governed the state.
Linen Rolls:The lists of magistrates preserved in the temple of Moneta.