Nor were the Roman affairs administered with less spirit at home than in the field.
The censors being freed from the care of letting out the erection of public works, from the low state of the treasury, turned their attention to the re- gulation of men's morals, and the chastisement of vices which sprung up during the war, in the same manner as constitutions broken down by protracted disease, generate other maladies.
In the first place, they cited those persons who, after the battle of Cannae, were said to have formed a design of abandoning the commonwealth, and leaving Italy. The chief of these was Lucius Caecilius Metellus, who happened to be then quaestor.
In the next place, as neither he nor the other persons concerned were able to exculpate themselves on being ordered to make their defence, they pronounced them guilty of having used words and discourse prejudicial to the state, that a conspiracy might be formed for the abandonment of Italy.
After them were cited those persons who showed too much ingenuity in inventing a method of discharging the obligation of their oath, namely, such of the prisoners as concluded that the oath which they had sworn to return, would be
fulfilled by their going back privately to Hannibal's camp, after setting out on their journey.
Such of these and of the abovementioned as had horses at the public expense were deprived of them, and all were degraded from their tribes and disfranchised. Nor was the attention of the censors confined to the regulation of the senate and the equestrian order.
They erased from the lists of the junior centuries the names of all who had not served during the last four years, unless they were regularly exempted, or were prevented by sickness.
Those too, amounting to more than two thousand names, were numbered among the disfranchised, and were all degraded. To this more gentle stigma affixed by the censors, a severe decree of the senate was added, to the effect that all those whom the censor had stigmatized, should serve on foot, and be sent into Sicily to join the remains of the army of Cannae, a class of soldiers whose time of service was not to terminate till the enemy was driven out of Italy.
The censors, in consequence of the poverty of the treasury, having abstained from receiving contracts for the repairs of the sacred edifices, the furnishing of curule horses, and similar matters, the persons who had been accustomed to attend auctions of this description, came to the censors in great numbers, and exhorted them to “transact all their business and let out the contracts in the same manner as if there were money in the treasury.
That none of them would ask for money out of the treasury before the war was concluded.”
Afterwards the owners of those slaves whom Tiberius Sempronius had manumitted at Beneventum, came to them, stating that they were sent for by the public bankers, to receive the price of their slaves, but that they would not accept of it till the war was concluded.
This disposition on the part of the commons to sustain the impoverished treasury having manifested itself, the property of minors first, and then the portions of widows, began to be brought in; the persons who brought them being persuaded, that their deposit would no where be more secure and inviolable than under the public faith.
If any thing was bought or laid in for the widows and minors, an order upon the quaes- [p. 918]
tor was given for it.
This liberality in individuals flowed from the city into the camp also, insomuch that no horseman or centurion would accept of his pay, and those who would accept it were reproached with the appellation of mercenary men.