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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 11: Quinctius Caeso's opposition.[461 BC]
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Thus far the tribunes. The consuls at the other end of the Forum, however, placed their chairs in full view of the tribunes and proceeded with the levy. The tribunes ran to the spot, carrying the Assembly with them. A few were cited, apparently as an experiment, and a tumult arose at once. As soon as any one was seized by the consuls' orders, a tribune ordered him to be released. None of them confined himself to his legal rights; trusting to their strength they were bent upon getting what they set their minds upon by main force. |
The methods of the tribunes in preventing the enrolment were followed by the patricians in obstructing the Law, which was brought forward every day that the Assembly met. The trouble began when the tribunes had ordered the people to proceed to vote -- the patricians refused to withdraw (1). The older members of the order were generally absent from proceedings which were certain not to be controlled by reason, but given over to recklessness and licence; the consuls, too, for the most part kept away, lest in the general disorder the dignity of their office might be exposed to insult.
Caeso was a member of the Quinctian house, and his noble descent and great bodily strength and stature made him a daring and intrepid young man. To these gifts of the gods he added brilliant military qualities and eloquence as a public speaker, so that no one in the State was held to surpass him either in speech or action. When he took his stand in the middle of a group of patricians, conspicuous amongst them all, carrying as it were in his voice and personal strength all dictatorships and consulships combined, he was the one to withstand the attacks of the tribunes and the storms of popular indignation. Under his leadership the tribunes were often driven from the Forum, the plebeians routed and chased away, anybody who stood in his way went off stripped and beaten. It became quite clear that if this sort of thing were allowed to go on, the Law would be defeated. When the other tribunes were now almost in despair, Aulus Verginius, one of the college, impeached Caeso on a capital charge. This procedure inflamed more than it intimidated his violent temper; he opposed the Law and harassed the plebeians more fiercely than ever, and declared regular war against the tribunes. His accuser allowed him to rush to his ruin and fan the flame of popular hatred, and so supply fresh material for the charges to be brought against him. Meantime he continued to press the Law, not so much in the hope of carrying it as in order to provoke Caeso to greater recklessness. Many wild speeches and exploits of the younger patricians were fastened on Caeso to strengthen the suspicions against him. Still the opposition to the Law was kept up. Aulus Verginius frequently said to the plebeians, "Are you now aware, Quirites, that you cannot have the Law which you desire, and Caeso as a citizen, together? Yet, why do I talk of the Law? He is a foe to liberty, he surpasses all the Tarquins in tyranny. Wait till you see the man who now, in private station, acts the king in audacity and violence -- wait till you see him made consul, or dictator." His words were endorsed by many who complained of having been beaten, and the tribune was urged to bring the matter to a decision.
(1): The voting was conducted by the centuries, each voting as a unit. The vote of the century was determined by the majority of the individuals composing it. To prepare for the voting, spaces were roped off in the Forum, one for each century; and the patricians, by keeping their places, prevented this necessary preparation from being made.
|At ex parte altera consules in conspectu eorum positis sellis dilectum habebant. Eo decurrunt tribuni contionemque secum trahunt. Citati pauci uelut rei experiundae causa, et statim uis coorta. Quemcumque lictor iussu consulis prendisset, tribunus mitti iubebat; neque suum cuique ius modum faciebat sed uirium spes, et manu obtinendum erat quod intenderes. Quemadmodum se tribuni gessissent in prohibendo dilectu, sic patres se in lege, quae per omnes comitiales dies ferebatur, impedienda gerebant. Initium erat rixae, cum discedere populum iussissent tribuni, quod patres se submoueri haud sinebant. Nec fere seniores rei intererant, quippe quae non consilio regenda sed permissa temeritati audaciaeque esset. Multum et consules se abstinebant, ne cui in conluuione rerum maiestatem suam contumeliae offerrent. Caeso erat Quinctius, ferox iuuenis qua nobilitate gentis, qua corporis magnitudine et uiribus. Ad ea munera data a dis et ipse addiderat multa belli decora facundiamque in foro, ut nemo, non lingua, non manu promptior in ciuitate haberetur. Hic cum in medio patrum agmine constitisset, eminens inter alios, uelut omnes dictaturas consulatusque gerens in uoce ac uiribus suis, unus impetus tribunicios popularesque procellas sustinebat. Hoc duce saepe pulsi foro tribuni, fusa ac fugata plebes est; qui obuius fuerat, mulcatus nudatusque abibat, ut satis appareret, si sic agi liceret, uictam legem esse. Tum prope iam perculsis aliis tribunis A. Verginius, ex collegio unus, Caesoni capitis diem dicit. Atrox ingenium accenderat eo facto magis quam conterruerat; eo acrius obstare legi, agitare plebem, tribunos uelut iusto persequi bello. Accusator pati reum ruere inuidiaeque flammam ac materiam criminibus suis suggerere; legem interim non tam ad spem perferendi quam ad lacessendam Caesonis temeritatem ferre. Ibi multa saepe ab iuuentute inconsulte dicta factaque in unius Caesonis suspectum incidunt ingenium. Tamen legi resistebat. Et A. Verginius identidem plebi: 'Ecquid sentitis iam, uos, Quirites, Caesonem simul ciuem et legem quam cupitis habere non posse? Quamquam quid ego legem loquor? Libertati obstat; omnes Tarquinios superbia exsuperat. Exspectate dum consul aut dictator fiat, quem priuatum uiribus et audacia regnantem uidetis.' Adsentiebantur multi pulsatos se querentes, et tribunum ad rem peragendam ultro incitabant.|