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Quote of the day: It is a disagreeable task in the case of
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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VIII Chapter 32: Papirius and Fabius. The tribunal.[324 BC]
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Not long after this the dictator appeared, and at once ordered the trumpet to sound the Assembly. When silence was restored an usher summoned Quintus Fabius, the Master of the Horse. He advanced and stood immediately below the dictator's tribunal. The dictator began: "Quintus Fabius, inasmuch as the dictator possesses supreme authority, to which the consuls who exercise the old kingly power, and the praetors who are elected under the same auspices as the consuls alike submit, I ask you whether or not you think it right and fitting that the Master of the Horse should bow to that authority? Further, I ask you whether as I was aware that I had left the City under doubtful auspices I ought to have jeopardised the safety of the republic in the face of this religious difficulty, or whether I ought to have taken the auspices afresh and so avoided any action till the pleasure of the gods was known? I should also like to know whether, if a religious impediment prevents the dictator from acting, the Master of the Horse is at liberty to consider himself free and unhampered by such impediment? But why am I putting these questions? Surely, if I had gone away without leaving any orders, you ought to have used your judgment in interpreting my wishes and acted accordingly. Answer me this, rather: Did I forbid you to take any action in my absence? Did I forbid you to engage the enemy? In contempt of my orders, whilst the auspices were still indecisive and the sanctions of religion withheld, you dared to give battle, in defiance of all the military custom and military discipline of our ancestors, in defiance of the will of the gods. Answer the questions put to you, but beware of uttering a single word about anything else. Lictor, stand by him!". Fabius found it far from easy to reply to each question in detail, and protested against the same man being both accusers and judge in a matter of life and death. He exclaimed that it would be easier to deprive him of his life than of the glory he had won, and went on to exculpate himself and bring charges against the dictator. Papirius in a fresh outburst of rage ordered the Master of the Horse to be stripped and the rods and axes to be got ready. Fabius appealed to the soldiers for help, and as the lictors began to tear off his clothes, he retreated behind the triarii who were now raising a tumult. Their shouts were taken up through the whole concourse, threats and entreaties were heard everywhere. Those nearest the tribunal, who could be recognised as being within view of the dictator implored him to spare the Master of the Horse and not with him to condemn the whole army; those furthest off and the men who had closed round Fabius reviled the dictator as unfeeling and merciless. Matters were rapidly approaching a mutiny. Even those on the tribunal did not remain quiet; the staff officers who were standing round the dictator's chair begged him to adjourn the proceedings to the following day to allow his anger to cool and give time for quiet consideration. They urged that the youthful spirit of Fabius had been sufficiently chastened and his victory sufficiently sullied; they begged him not to push his punishment to extremities or to brand with ignominy not only a youth of exceptional merit but also his distinguished father and the whole Fabian house. When they found their arguments and entreaties alike unavailing, they asked him to look at the angry multitude in front. To add fire to men whose tempers were already inflamed and to provide the materials for a mutiny was, they said, unworthy of a man of his age and experience. If a mutiny did occur, no one would throw the blame of it upon Quintus Fabius, who was only deprecating punishment; the sole responsibility would lie on the dictator for having in his blind passion provoked the multitude to a deplorable struggle with him. And as a final argument they declared that to prevent him from supposing that they were actuated by any personal feeling in favour of Fabius, they were prepared to state on oath that they considered the infliction of punishment on Fabius under present circumstances to be detrimental to the interests of the State.

Event: Papirius and Fabius