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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book IX Chapter 30: Secession of the flute-players.[312 BC]
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The consuls for the following year were Gaius Junius Bubulcus (for the third time) and Quintus Aemilius Barbula (for the second time). |
At the beginning of their year of office they laid a complaint before the Assembly touching the unscrupulous way in which vacancies in the senate had been filled up, men having been passed over who were far superior to some who had been selected, whereby the whole senatorial order had been sullied and disgraced. They declared that the selection had been made solely with a view to popularity and out of sheer caprice, and that no regard whatever had been paid to the good or bad characters of those chosen. They then gave out that they should ignore them altogether, and at once proceeded to call over the names of the senators as they appeared on the roll before Appius Claudius and Gaius Plautius were made censors.
Two official posts were for the first time this year placed at the disposal of the people, both of a military character. One was the office of military tribune; sixteen were henceforth appointed by the people for the four legions; these had hitherto been selected by the dictators and consuls, very few places being left to the popular vote. Lucius Atilius and Gaius Marcius, tribunes of the plebs, were responsible for that measure. The other was the post of naval commissioner; the people were to appoint two to superintend the equipment and refitting of the fleet. This provision was due to Marcus Decius, a tribune of the plebs.
An incident of a somewhat trifling character occurred this year which I should have passed over did it not appear to be connected with religious customs. The guild of flute-players had been forbidden by the censors to hold their annual banquet in the temple of Jupiter, a privilege they had enjoyed from ancient times. Hugely disgusted, they went off in a body to Tibur, and not one was left in the City to perform at the sacrificial rites. The senate were alarmed at the prospect of the various religious ceremonies being thus shorn of their due ritual, and they sent envoys to Tibur, who were to make it their business to see that the Romans got these men back again. The Tiburtines promised to do their best, and invited the musicians into the Senate-house, where they were strongly urged to return to Rome. As they could not be persuaded to do so the Tiburtines adopted a ruse quite appropriate to the character of the men they were dealing with. It was a feast day and they were invited to various houses, ostensibly to supply music at the banquets. Like the rest of their class, they were fond of wine, and they were plied with it till they drank themselves into a state of torpor. In this condition they were thrown into wagons and carried off to Rome. They were left in the wagons all night in the Forum, and did not recover their senses till daylight surprised them still suffering from the effect of their debauch. The people crowded round them and succeeded in inducing them to stay, and they were granted the privilege of going about the City for three days every year in their long dresses and masks with singing and mirth; a custom which is still observed. Those members of the guild who played on solemn occasions in the temple of Jupiter had the right restored to them of holding their banquets there.
These incidents occurred while the public attention was fixed on two most serious wars.
Flute-players:The guild of flute-players was from very early times a large and wealthy one, as they attended most of the sacrificial functions and games, and as a rule supplied the music at funerals. They were not only well paid but treated with great respect. Their annual festival when they perambulated the City was on June 13.