Quintus Fulvius Flaccus, for the third time, and Appius [p. 959]
Claudius entered upon the office of consuls. The praetors determined their provinces by lot.
Publius Cornelius Sulla received both the city and the foreign jurisdiction, formerly allotted to two persons; Cneius Fulvius Flaccus, Apulia, Caius Claudius Nero, Suessula, and Marcus Junius Silanus, Tuscany.
To the consuls the conduct of the war with Hannibal was decreed with two legions each; one taking the troops of Quintus Fabius, the consul of the former year, the other those of Fulvius Centumalus.
Of the praetors, Fulvius Flaccus was to have the legions which were in Luceria under Aemilius the praetor, Nero Claudius those in Picenum under Caius Terentius; each raising recruits for himself to fill up the number of his troops. To Marcus Junius the city legions of the former year were assigned, to be employed against the Tuscans.
Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and Publius Sempronius Tuditanus were continued in command in their provinces of Lucania and Gaul with the armies they had, as was also Publius Lentulus in that part of Sicily which formed the ancient Roman province.
Marcus Marcellus had Syracuse, and that which was the kingdom of Hiero. Titus Otacilius was continued in the command of the fleet, Marcus Valerius in that of Greece, Quintus Mucius Scaevola in that of Sardinia. The Cornelii, Publius and Cneius, were continued in the command of Spain. In addition to the armies already existing, two legions for the service of the city were levied by the consuls, and a total of twenty-three legions was made up this year.
The levy of the consuls was impeded by the conduct of Marcus Posthumius Pyrgensis, almost accompanied with a serious disturbance.
Posthumius was a farmer of the revenue, who, for knavery and rapacity, practised through a course of many years, had no equal except Titus Pomponius Veientanus, who had been taken prisoner the former year by the Carthaginians under the conduct of Hanno, while carelessly ravaging the lands in Lucania.
As the state had taken upon itself the risk of any loss which might arise from storms to the commodities conveyed to the armies, not only had these two men fabricated false accounts of shipwrecks, but even those which had really occurred were occasioned by their own knavery, and not by accident.
Their plan was to put a few goods of little value into old and shattered vessels, which they sank in the deep, taking up the sailors in boats prepared for [p. 960]
the purpose, and then returning falsely the cargo as many times more valuable than it was.
This fraudulent practice had been pointed out to Marcus Atilius, the praetor in a former year, who had communicated it to the senate;
no decree, however, had been passed censuring it, because the fathers were unwilling that any offence should be given to the order of revenue farmers while affairs were in such a state.
The people were severer avengers of the fraud; and at length two tribunes of the people, Spurius and Lucius Carvilius, being moved to take some active measure, as they saw that this conduct excited universal disgust, and had become notorious, proposed that a fine of two hundred thousand asses should be imposed on Marcus Posthumius.
When the day arrived for arguing the question, the people assembled in such numbers, that the area of the Capitol could scarcely contain them; and the cause having been gone through, the only hope of safety which presented itself was, that Caius Servilius Casca, a tribune
of the people, a connexion and relation of Posthumius, should interpose his protest before the tribes were called to give their votes. The witnesses having been produced, the tribunes caused the people to withdraw, and the urn was brought, in order that the tribes should draw lots which should give the vote first.
Meanwhile, the farmers of the revenue urged Casca to stop the proceedings for that day.
The people, however, loudly opposed it; and Casca happened to be sitting on the most prominent part of the rostrum, whose mind fear and shame were jointly agitating.
Seeing that no dependence was to be placed in him for protection, the farmers of the revenue, forming themselves into a wedge, rushed into the void space occasioned by the removal of the people for the purpose of causing disturbance, wrangling at the same time with the people and the tribunes.
The affair had now almost proceeded to violence, when Fulvius Flaccus, the consul, addressing the tribunes, said, “Do you not see that you are degraded to the common rank, and that an insurrection will be the result, unless you speedily dismiss the assembly of the commons.”