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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book III Chapter 39: Valerius and Horatius.[450 BC]
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This obedience, however, was shown more by their coming to the Senate-house than by any servility in the sentiments which we understand that they expressed. It is recorded that after the question of the war had been introduced by Appius Claudius, and before the formal discussion began(1), Lucius Valerius Potitus created a scene by demanding that he should be allowed to speak on the political question, and on the decemvirs forbidding him in threatening tones to do so, he declared that he would present himself before the people. Marcus Horatius Barbatus showed himself an equally determined opponent, called the decemvirs "ten Tarquins," and reminded them that it was under the leadership of the Valerii and the Horatii that monarchy had been expelled from Rome. It was not the name of " king" that men had now grown weary of, for it was the proper title of Jupiter, Romulus the founder of the City and his successors were called " kings," and the name was still retained for religious purposes. It was the tyranny and violence of kings that men detested. If these were insupportable in a king or a king's son, who would endure them in ten private citizens? They should see to it that they did not, by forbidding freedom of speech in the House, compel them to speak outside its walls. He could not see how it was less permissible for him as a private citizen to convene an Assembly of the people than for them to summon the senate. They might find out whenever they chose how much more powerful a sense of wrong is to vindicate liberty than greedy ambition is to support tyranny. They were bringing up the question of the Sabine war as if the Roman people had any more serious war to wage than one against men who, appointed to draw up laws, left no vestige of law or justice in the State; who had abolished the elections, the annual magistrates, the regular succession of rulers, which formed the sole guarantee of equal liberty for all; who, though simple citizens, still retained the fasces and the power of despotic monarchs. After the expulsion of the kings, the magistrates were patricians; after the secession of the plebs, plebeian magistrates were appointed. "What party did these men belong to? "he asked. "The popular party? Why, what have they ever done in conjunction with the people? The nobility? What! these men, who have not held a meeting of the senate for nearly a year, and now that they are holding one, forbid any speaking on the political situation? Do not place too much reliance on the fears of others. The ills that men are actually suffering from seem to them much more grievous than any they may fear in the future." |
(1): The president introduced the question and each senator was asked by him in turn to express his opinion. Valerius was out of order.
Event: The Decemvirate
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Fasces:Rods of wood tied by a red thong into a bundle from which an axe projected. Symbol of regal and later magesterial authority.