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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VI Chapter 34: The Licinian Laws.[377 BC]
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The greater the tranquillity which prevailed everywhere abroad after these successful operations so much the greater became the violence of the patricians and the miseries of the plebeians, since the ability to pay their debts was frustrated by the very fact that payment had become necessary. They had no means left on which to draw, and after judgment had been given against them they satisfied their creditors by surrendering their good name and their personal liberty; punishment took the place of payment. To such a state of depression had not only the humbler classes but even the leading men amongst the plebeians been reduced, that there was no energetic or enterprising individual amongst them who had the spirit to take up or become a candidate even for the plebeian magistracies still less to win a place amongst the patricians as consular tribune an honour which they had previously done their utmost to secure. It seemed as though the patricians had for all time won back from the plebs the sole enjoyment of a dignity which for the last few years had been shared with them. |
As a check to any undue exaltation on the part of the patricians, an incident occurred which was slight in itself, but, as is often the case, led to important results. Marcus Fabius Ambustus, a patrician, possessed great influence amongst the men of his own order and also with the plebeians, because they felt that he did not in any way look down on them. His two daughters were married, the elder one to Servius Sulpicius, the younger to Gaius Licinius Stolo, a distinguished man, but a plebeian. The fact that Fabius did not regard this alliance as beneath him had made him very popular with the masses. The two sisters happened to be one day at Servius Sulpicius' house, passing the time in conversation, when on his return from the Forum the tribune's apparitor gave the customary knocks on the door with his rod. The younger Fabia was startled at what was to her an unfamiliar custom, and her sister [Note 1] laughed at her and expressed surprise that she was ignorant of it. That laugh, however, left its sting in the mind of a woman easily excited by trifles. I think, too, that the crowd of attendants coming to ask for orders awoke in her that spirit of jealousy which makes every one anxious to be surpassed as little as possible by one's neighbours. It made her regard her sister 's marriage as a fortunate one and her own as a mistake.
Her father happened to see her whilst she was still upset by this mortifying incident and asked her if she was well. She tried to conceal the real reason, as showing but little affection for her sister and not much respect for her own husband. He kindly but firmly insisted upon finding out, and she confessed the real cause of her distress; she was unwed to one who was her inferior in birth, married into a house where neither honour nor political influence could enter. Ambustus consoled his daughter and bade her keep up her spirits; she would very soon see in her own house the same honours which she saw at her sister's. From that time he began to concert plans with his son-in-law; they took into their counsels Lucius Sextius, a pushing young man who regarded nothing as beyond his ambition except patrician blood.
Note 1: sister = Fabia Maior
|Quanto magis prosperis eo anno bellis tranquilla omnia foris erant, tanto in urbe uis patrum in dies miseriaeque plebis crescebant, cum eo ipso, quod necesse erat solui, facultas soluendi impediretur. itaque cum iam ex re nihil dari posset, fama et corpore iudicati atque addicti creditoribus satisfaciebant poenaque in uicem fidei cesserat. adeo ergo obnoxios summiserant animos non infimi solum sed principes etiam plebis, ut non modo ad tribunatum militum inter patricios petendum, quod tanta ui ut liceret tetenderant, sed ne ad plebeios quidem magistratus capessendos petendosque ulli uiro acri experientique animus esset, possessionemque honoris usurpati modo a plebe per paucos annos reciperasse in perpetuum patres uiderentur. ne id nimis laetum parti alteri esset, parua, ut plerumque solet, rem ingentem moliundi causa interuenit. M. Fabi Ambusti, potentis uiri cum inter sui corporis homines tum etiam ad plebem, quod haudquaquam inter id genus contemptor eius habebatur, filiae duae nuptae, Ser. Sulpicio maior, minor C. Licinio Stoloni erat, illustri quidem uiro tamen plebeio; eaque ipsa adfinitas haud spreta gratiam Fabio ad uolgum quaesierat. forte ita incidit ut in Ser. Sulpici tribuni militum domo sorores Fabiae cum inter se, ut fit, sermonibus tempus tererent, lictor Sulpici, cum is de foro se domum reciperet, forem, ut mos est, uirga percuteret. cum ad id moris eius insueta expauisset minor Fabia, risui sorori fuit miranti ignorare id sororem; ceterum is risus stimulos paruis mobili rebus animo muliebri subdidit. frequentia quoque prosequentium rogantiumque num quid uellet credo fortunatum matrimonium ei sororis uisum suique ipsam malo arbitrio, quo a proximis quisque minime anteiri uolt, paenituisse. confusam eam ex recenti morsu animi cum pater forte uidisset, percontatus 'satin salue?' auertentem causam doloris, quippe nec satis piam aduersus sororem nec admodum in uirum honorificam, elicuit comiter sciscitando, ut fateretur eam esse causam doloris, quod iuncta impari esset, nupta in domo quam nec honos nec gratia intrare posset. consolans inde filiam Ambustus bonum animum habere iussit: eosdem propediem domi uisuram honores quos apud sororem uideat. inde consilia inire cum genero coepit, adhibito L. Sextio, strenuo adulescente et cuius spei nihil praeter genus patricium deesset.|