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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IV Chapter 26: War with the Volscians and Aequi.[431 BC]
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The reason for this decision was the report sent in by the Latins and Hernicans of a sudden rising amongst the Volscians and Aequi. Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus -- surnamed Poenus the son of Lucius, and Gnaeus Julius Mento were made consuls. |
War soon broke out. After a levy had been raised under the Lex Sacrata, which was the most powerful means they possessed of compelling men to serve, the armies of both nations advanced and concentrated on Algidus, where they entrenched themselves, each in a separate camp. Their generals showed greater care than on any previous occasion in the construction of their lines and the exercising of the troops. The reports of this increased the alarm in Rome. In view of the fact that these two nations after their numerous defeats were now renewing the war with greater energy than they had ever done before, and, further, that a considerable number of the Romans fit for active service had been carried off by the epidemic, the senate decided upon the nomination of a dictator. But the greatest alarm was caused by the perverse obstinacy of the consuls and their incessant wranglings in the senate. Some authorities assent that these consuls fought an unsuccessful action at Algidus and that this was the reason why a dictator was nominated. It is at all events generally agreed that whilst at variance in other matters, they were at one in opposing the senate and preventing the appointment of a dictator. At last, when each report that came in was more alarming than the last, and the consuls refused to accept the authority of the senate, Quintus Servilius Priscus, who had filled the highest offices in the State with distinction, said, Tribunes of the plebs! Now that matters have come to extremities, the senate calls upon you in this crisis of the common-wealth, by virtue of the authority of your office, to compel the consuls to nominate a dictator."
On hearing this appeal, the tribunes considered that a favourable opportunity presented itself for augmenting their authority, and they retired to deliberate. Then they formally declared in the name of the whole college of tribunes that it was their determination that the consuls should bow to the will of the senate; if they offered any further opposition to the unanimous decision of that most august order, they, the tribunes, would order them to be thrown into prison (1). The consuls preferred defeat at the hands of the tribunes rather than at those of the senate. If, they said, the consuls could be coerced by the tribunes in virtue of their authority, and even sent to prison -- and what more than this had ever a private citizen to fear? -- then the senate had betrayed the rights and privileges of the highest office in the State, and made an ignominious surrender, putting the consulship under the yoke of the tribunitian power. They could not even agree as to who should nominate the dictator, so they cast lots and the lot fell to Titus Quinctius. He nominated Aulus Postumius Tubertus, his father-in-law, a stern and resolute commander. The dictator named Lucius Julius as the Master of the Horse.
Orders were issued for a levy to be raised and for all business, legal and otherwise, to be suspended in the City, except the preparations for war. The investigation of claims for exemption from military service was postponed till the end of the war, so even in doubtful cases men preferred to give in their names. The Hernici and the Latins were ordered to furnish troops; both nations carried out the dictator's orders most zealously.
(1): This marks an important stage in the growth of the tribunitian power. Hitherto they could only control the consul's acts by inhibition and the protection of those who refused obedience to the consul's orders; now they assumed executive power. But, illegal though the proceeding would have been, they had the support of all the citizens -- plebs and senate alike -- hence the resistance of the consuls was futile.
Event: War with Volscians and Aqui