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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 45: The Judgement[450 BC]
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Before giving judgment, Appius showed how liberty was upheld by that very law to which the friends of Verginia had appealed in support of their demand. But, he went on to say, it guaranteed liberty only so far as its provisions were strictly adhered to as regarded both persons and cases. For where personal freedom is the matter of claim, that provision holds good, because any one can lawfully plead, but in the case of one who is still in her father's power, there is none but her father to whom her master need renounce possession. His decision, therefore, was that the father should be summoned, and in the meanwhile the man who claimed her should not forego his right to take the girl and give security to produce her on the arrival of her reputed father. |
The injustice of this sentence called forth many murmurs, but no one ventured on open protest, until Publius Numitorius, the girl's grandfather, and Icilius, her betrothed, appeared on the scene. The intervention of Icilius seemed to offer the best chance of thwarting Appius, and the crowd made way for him. The lictor said that judgment had been given, and as Icilius continued loudly protesting he attempted to remove him. Such rank injustice would have fired even a gentle temper. He exclaimed, "I am, at your orders, Appius, to be removed at the point of the sword, that you may stifle all comment on what you want to keep concealed. I am going to marry this maiden, and I am determined to have a chaste wife. Summon all the lictors of all your colleagues, give orders for the axes and rods to be in readiness -- the betrothed of Icilius shall not remain outside her father's house. Even if you have deprived us of the two bulwarks of our liberty -- the aid of our tribunes and the right of appeal to the Roman plebs -- that has given you no right to our wives and children, the victims of your lust. Vent your cruelty upon our backs and necks; let female honour at least be safe. If violence is offered to this girl, I shall invoke the aid of the Quirites here for my betrothed, Verginius that of the soldiers for his only daughter; we shall all invoke the aid of gods and men, and you shall not carry out that judgment except at the cost of our lives. Reflect, Appius, I demand of you, whither you are going! When Verginius has come, he must decide what action to take about his daughter; if he submits to this man's claim, he must look out another husband for her. Meantime I will vindicate her liberty at the price of my life, sooner than sacrifice my honour."
Event: Life and death of Virginia