Pleminius had the chief command; that part of the soldiers which he had brought with him from Rhegium were under his own command, the rest were under the command of the tribunes.
One of Pleminius's men, while running away with a silver cup which he had stolen from the house of a townsman, the owners pursuing him, happened to meet Sergius and Matienus, the military tribunes.
The cup having been taken away from him at the order of the tribunes, abuse and clamour ensued, and at last a fight arose between the soldiers of Pleminius and those of the tribunes; the numbers engaged and the tumult increasing at the same time, as either party was joined by their friends who happened to come up at the time.
When the soldiers of Pleminius, who had been worsted, had run to him in crowds, not without loud clamouring and indignant feelings, showing their blood and wounds, and repeating the reproaches which had been heaped upon him during the dispute, Pleminius, fired with resentment, flung himself out of his house, ordered the tribunes to be summoned and stripped, and the rods to be brought out.
During the time which was consumed in stripping them, for they made resistance, and implored their men to aid them, on a sudden the soldiers, flushed with their recent victory, ran together from every quarter, as if there had been a shout to arms against enemies;
and when they saw the bodies of their tribunes now mangled with rods, then indeed, suddenly inflamed with much more ungovernable rage, without respect, [p. 1244]
not only for the dignity of their commander, but of humanity, they made an attack upon the lieutenant-general, having first mutilated the lictors in a shocking manner;
they then cruelly lacerated the lieutenant-general himself, having cut him off from his party and hemmed him in, and after mutilating his nose and ears left him almost lifeless.
Accounts of these occurrences arriving at Messana, Scipio, a few days after, passing over to Locri in a ship with six banks of oars, took cognizance of the cause of Pleminius and the tribunes. Having acquitted Pleminius and left him in command of the same place, and pronounced the tribunes guilty and thrown them into chains, that they might be sent to Rome to the senate, he returned to Messana, and thence to Syracuse.
Pleminius, unable to restrain his resentment, for he thought that the injury he had sustained had been treated negligently and too lightly by Scipio, and that no one could form an estimate of the punishment which ought to be inflicted in such a case, except the man who
had in his own person felt its atrocity, ordered the tribunes to be dragged before him, and after lacerating them with every punishment which the human body could endure, put them to death; and not satisfied with the punishment inflicted on them while alive, cast them out unburied.
The like cruelty he exercised towards the Locrian nobles, whom he heard had gone to Scipio to complain of the injuries he had done them.
The horrid acts, prompted by lust and rapacity, which he had before perpetrated upon his allies, he now multiplied from resentment; thus bringing infamy and odium, not only upon himself, but upon the general also.