The tribunes of the people, by preventing the election of consuls by incessant harangues, succeeded at length, after the matter had been well nigh brought to an interregnum, in having tribunes of the soldiers elected with consular authority: as for the prize of their victory, which was the thing sought, scil.
that a plebeian should be elected, there was none. All patricians were elected, Marcus Fabius Vibulanus, Marcus [p. 278]
Foslius, Lucius Sergius Fidenas.
The pestilence during that year afforded a quiet in other matters. A temple was vowed to Apollo for the health of the people.
The duumvirs did much, by direction of the books, for the purpose of appeasing the wrath of heaven and averting the plague from the people; a great mortality however was sustained in the city and country, by the death of men and of cattle promiscuously. Apprehending a famine for the agriculturists, they sent into Etruria, and the Pomptine district, and to Cumae, and at last to Sicily also to procure corn. No mention was made of electing consuls.
Military tribunes with consular authority were appointed, all patricians, Lucius Pinarius Mamercinus, Lucius Furius Medullinus, Spurius Postumius Albus. In this year the violence of the distemper abated, nor was there any danger from a scarcity of corn, because provision had been previously made against it.
Schemes for exciting wars were agitated in the meetings of the Aequans and Volscians, and in Etruria at the temple of Voltumna.
Here the matter was postponed for a year, and by a decree it was enacted, that no meeting should be held
before that time, the Veientian state in vain complaining that the same destiny hung over Veii, as that by which Fidenae was destroyed.
Meanwhile at Rome the chiefs of the commons, who had now for a long time been vainly pursuing the hope of higher dignity, whilst there was tranquillity abroad, appointed meetings to be held in the houses of the tribunes of the commons.
There they concerted plans in secret: they complained “that they were so despised by the commons, that though tribunes of the soldiers, with consular authority, were now appointed for so many years, no plebeian ever obtained access to that honour.
That their ancestors had shown much foresight in providing that plebeian offices should not be open to any patrician; otherwise they should be forced to have patricians as tribunes of the commons; so despicable were they even with their own party, and were not less despised by the commons than by the patricians.” Others exculpated the commons, and threw the blame on the patricians, —“that by their intriguing and schemes it happened that the road to honour was barred against the commons.
If the commons were allowed to breathe from their mixed entreaties and menaces, that they would enter on their suffrages with a due regard to men of their own party; and, assistance being al- [p. 279]
ready procured, that they would assume a share in the government also.”
It is determined that, for the purpose o doing away with all intriguing, the tribunes should propos a law, that no person be allowed to add white to his garment for the purposes of canvassing. The matter may now appear trivial and scarcely deserving serious consideration, which then enkindled such strife between the patricians and commons.
The tribunes, however, prevailed in carrying the law; and it appeared evident, that in their present state of irritation, the commons would incline their support to men of their own party; and lest this should be optional with them, a decree of the senate is passed, that the election for consuls should be held.