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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book II Chapter 42: War with the Volscians and Aequi -- The Agrarian Law.[484-3 BC]
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The popular anger against Cassius did not last long. The attractiveness of the Agrarian Law, though its author was removed, was in itself sufficient to make the plebeians desire it, and their eagerness for it was intensified by the unscrupulousness of the senate, who cheated the soldiers out of their share of the spoil which they had won that year from the Volscians and Aequi. Everything taken from the enemy was sold by the consul Fabius and the amount realised paid into the treasury. |
In spite of the hatred which this produced in the plebs against the whole Fabian house, the patricians succeeded in getting Caeso Fabius elected with Lucius Aemilius as consuls for the next year. This still further embittered the plebeians, and domestic disturbances brought on a foreign war. For the time civic quarrels were suspended, patricians and plebeians were of one mind in resisting the Aequi and Volscians, and a victorious action was fought under Aemilius. The enemy lost more in the retreat than in the battle, so hotly did the cavalry pursue their routed foe.
In this year, too, the minds of the plebeians were much exercised by the attractions which the Agrarian Law held out for them, and the tribunes made their office more popular by constantly dwelling on this popular measure. The patricians, believing that there was enough and more than enough madness in the multitude as it was, viewed with horror these bribes and incentives to recklessness. The consuls led the way in offering a most determined resistance, and the senate won the day. Nor was the victory only a momentary one, for they elected as consuls for the following year Marcus Fabius, the brother of Caeso, and Lucius Valerius, who was an object of special hatred on the part of the plebs through his prosecution of Spurius Cassius. The contest with the tribunes went on through the year; the Law remained a dead letter, and the tribunes, with their fruitless promises, turned out to be idle boasters. The Fabian house gained an immense reputation through the three successive consulships of its members, all of whom had been uniformly successful in their resistance to the tribunes. The office remained, like a safe investment, for some time in the family.
War now began with Veii, and the Volscians rose again. The people possessed more than sufficient strength for their foreign wars, but they wasted it in domestic strife. The universal anxiety was aggravated by supernatural portents, menacing almost daily City and country alike. The soothsayers, who were consulted by the State and by private persons, declared that the divine wrath was due to nothing else but the profanation of sacred functions.
(1): -- Two men (duumviri) were appointed to supervise the construction of the temple and appoint the priests who were to minister there.