A disgraceful decision of the people regarding the boundaries of their allies disgraced the honourable victory obtained over their enemies.
The states of Aricia and of Ardea, having frequently contended in arms concerning a disputed piece of land, and being wearied out by many mutual losses, appointed the Roman people as arbitrators.
When they came to support their claims, an assembly of the people being granted them by the magistrates, a debate ensued conducted with great warmth. And the witnesses being now produced, when the tribes were to be called, and the people were to give their votes, Publius Scaptius, a plebeian advanced in years, rises up and says; “Consuls, if it is permitted me to speak on the public interest, I will not suffer the people to be led into a mistake in this matter.”
When the consuls said that he, as unworthy of attention, was not to [p. 247]
be heard, and, on his exclaiming “that the public interest was being betrayed,” ordered him to be put aside, he appeals to the tribunes.
The tribunes, as they are always directed by the multitude, rather than they direct them, indulged the people, who were anxious to hear him, in granting Scaptius leave to say what he pleased.
He then commences: “that he was in his eighty-third year, and that he had served in that district which was now in dispute, not even then a young man, as he was serving his twentieth campaign, when operations were going on at Corioli.
He therefore adduced a fact forgotten by length of time, but one deeply fixed in his own memory: the district now in dispute had belonged to the territory of Corioli, and after the taking of Corioli, it became by right of war the public property of the Roman people. That he was surprised how the states of Ardea and Aricia should hope to intercept from the Roman people, whom from being the right owners they made arbitrators, a district the right to which they never claimed whilst the state of Corioli subsisted.
That he for his part had but a short time to live; he could not however bring himself, old as he now was, to decline claiming by his voice, the only means he now had, a district which, as a soldier, he had contributed to acquire, as far as an individual could. That he strenuously advised the people not to damn their own interest by an improper feeling of delicacy.”