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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VI Chapter 20: The Treason of Marcus Manlius Capitolinus. The death of Manlius.[384 BC]
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Amidst universal approval they fixed a day for the trial of Manlius. There was at first much perturbation amongst the plebs, especially when they saw him going about in mourning garb without a single patrician, or any of his relatives or connections and, strangest of all, neither of his brothers, Aulus and Titus Manlius, being similarly attired. For up to that day such a thing had never been known, that at such a crisis in a man's fate even those nearest to him did not put on mourning. They remembered that when Appius Claudius was thrown into prison, his personal enemy, Gaius Claudius, and the whole house of the Claudii, wore mourning. They regarded it as a conspiracy to crush a popular hero, because he was the first man to go over from the patricians to the plebs. |
What evidence strictly bearing out the charge of treason was adduced by the prosecution at the actual trial, beyond the gatherings at his house, his seditious utterances, and his false statement about the gold, I do not find stated by any authority. But I have no doubt that it was anything but slight, for the hesitation shown by the people in finding him guilty was not due to the merits of the case, but to the locality where the trial took place. This is a thing to be noted in order that men may see how great and glorious deeds are not only deprived of all merit, but made positively hateful by a loathesome hankering after kingly power.
He is said to have produced nearly four hundred people to whom he had advanced money without interest, whom he had prevented from being sold up and having their persons adjudged to their creditors. It is stated that besides this he not only enumerated his military distinctions, but brought them forward for inspection; the spoils of as many as thirty enemies whom he had slain, gifts from commanders-in-chief to the number of forty, amongst them two mural crowns and eight civic crowns. In addition to these, he produced citizens whom he had rescued from the enemy, and named Gaius Servilius, Master of the Horse, who was not present, as one of them. After he had recalled his warlike achievements in a great speech corresponding to the loftiness of his theme, his language rising to the level of his exploits, he bared his breast, ennobled by the scars of battle, and looking towards the Capitol repeatedly invoked Jupiter and the other deities to come to the aid of his shattered fortunes. He prayed that they would, in this crisis of his fate, inspire the Roman people with the same feeling with which they inspired him when he was protecting the Citadel and the Capitol and so saving Rome. Then turning to his judges, he implored them one and all to judge his cause with their eyes fixed on the Capitol, looking towards the immortal gods
As it was in the Campus Martius that the people were to vote in their centuries, and the defendant, stretching forth his hands towards the Capitol, had turned from men to the gods in his prayers, it became evident to the tribunes that unless they could release men's spell-bound eyes from the visible reminder of his glorious deed, their minds, wholly possessed with the sense of the service he had done them, would find no place for charges against him, however true.
So the proceedings were adjourned to another day, and the people were summoned to an Assembly in the Peteline Grove outside the Flumentan Gate, from which the Capitol was not visible. Here the charge was established, and with hearts steeled against his appeals, they passed a dreadful sentence, abhorrent even to the judges. Some authorities assert that he was sentenced by the duumvirs, who were appointed to try cases of treason. The tribunes hurled him from the Tarpeian Rock, and the place which was the monument of his exceptional glory became also the scene of his final punishment. After his death two stigmas were affixed to his memory. One by the State. His house stood where now the temple and mint of Juno Moneta stand, a measure was consequently brought before the people that no patrician should occupy a dwelling within the Citadel or on the Capitoline. The other by the members of his house, who made a decree forbidding any one henceforth to assume the names of Marcus Manlius. Such was the end of a man who, had he not been born in a free State, would have attained distinction.
When danger was no longer to be feared from him the people, remembering only his virtues, soon began to regret his loss. A pestilence which followed shortly after and inflicted great mortality, for which no cause could be assigned, was thought by a great many people to be due to the execution of Manlius. They imagined that the Capitol had been polluted by the blood of its deliverer, and that the gods had been displeased at a punishment having been inflicted almost before their eyes on the man by whom their temples had been wrested from an enemy's hands.