The consuls Caius Claudius, the son of Appius, and Publius Valerius Publicola, found the state in a more tranquil condition. The new year had brought with it nothing new; the thoughts about carrying the law, or submitting to it, engrossed all the members of the state.
The more the younger members of the senate endeavoured to insinuate themselves into favour with the commons, the more strenuously did the tribunes strive to thwart them, so that they rendered them suspicious in the eyes of the commons by alleging:
“that a conspiracy was formed; that Caeso was in Rome; that plans were concerted for assassinating the tribunes, and butchering the commons. That the commission assigned by the elder members of the patricians was, that the young men should abolish the tribunitian power from the state, and the form of government should be the same as it had been before the sa- [p. 177]
cred mount had been taken possession of.”
Both a war from the Volsci and Aequi, which was now a stated thing, and one that was a regular occurrence for almost every year, was apprehended, and another evil nearer home started up unexpectedly.
The exiles and slaves to the number of four thousand and five hundred men took possession of the Capitol and citadel during the night, under the command of Appius Herdonius, a Sabine.
Immediately a massacre took place in the citadel of those who had evinced an unwillingness to enter into the conspiracy and to take up arms. Some, during the alarm, run down to the forum, driven precipitately through the panic; the cries, “to arms,” and “the enemy are in the city,” were heard alternately.
The consuls were both afraid to arm the commons, and to suffer them to remain unarmed; uncertain what sudden calamity had assailed the city, whether external or intestine, whether from the hatred of the commons or the treachery of the slaves: they were for quieting the tumults, by such endeavours they sometimes exasperated them; for the populace, panic-stricken and terrified, could not be directed by authority.
They give out arms, however, not indiscriminately; only so that, the enemy being still uncertain,1
there might be a protection sufficient to be relied on for all emergencies. The remainder of the night they passed in posting guards through proper places through the entire city, anxious and uncertain, as to who the persons might be, and how great the number of the enemy was.
Day-light then disclosed the war and the leader of the war. Appius Herdonius summoned the slaves to liberty from the Capitol: “that he had espoused the cause of every most unfortunate individual, in order to bring back to their country those driven out by oppression, and to remove the grievous yokel from the slaves. That he had rather that were done under the authority of the Roman people. If there be no hope in that quarter, that he would rouse the Volscians and Aequi, and would try all extremities.”