Then Spurius Maelius, of the equestrian order, extremely rich considering these times, set about a project useful in itself, but having a most pernicious tendency, and a still more pernicious motive.
For having, by the assistance of his friends and clients, bought up corn from Etruria at his private expense, (which very circumstance, I think, had beef an impediment in the endeavour to reduce the price of coin by the exertions of the state,) he set about giving out largesses of corn:
and having won over the commons by this munificence, he drew them with him wherever he went, conspicuous and consequential beyond the rank of a private citizen, insuring to him as undoubted the consulship by the favour (they manifested towards him) and the hopes (they excited in him.)
He himself, as the mind of man is not to be satiated with that which fortune holds out the hope of, began to aspire to things still higher, and altogether unwarrantable; and since even the consulship would have to be taken from the patricians against their will, he began to set his mind on kingly power;
—that that would be the only prize worthy of such grand designs and of the struggle which would have to be endured.
The consular elections were now coming on, which circumstance destroyed him completely, his plans being not yet arranged or sufficiently matured.
Titus Quintius Capitolinus was elected consul for the sixth time, a man by no means well suited to answer the views of one meditating political innovations: Agrippa Mene- nius is attached to him as colleague, who bore the cognomen of Lanatus: and Lucius Minutius as president of the markets, whether he was re-elected, or created for an indefinite period, as long as circumstances should require;
for there is nothing certain in the matter, except this, his name was entered as president in the linen books among the magistrates for both years.
Here Minucius, conducting the same office in a public capacity which Maelius had undertaken to conduct in a private character, the same class of persons frequenting the houses of both, having ascertained the matter, lays it before the senate, “that arms were collecting in the house of Maelius, and that he held assemblies in his house: and that his designs were unquestionably bent on regal dominion: that the time [p. 266]
for the execution of the project was not yet fixed: that all other matters were settled; and that the tribunes were bought over for hire to betray the public liberty, and that the several parts were assigned to the leaders of the multitude.
That he laid these things before them almost later than was consistent with safety, lest he might be the reporter of any thing uncertain or ill-grounded.” When these things were heard, the chiefs of the patricians both rebuked the consuls of the former year, for having suffered those largesses and meetings of the people to go on in a private house, as well as the new consuls for having waited until a matter of such importance should be reported to the senate by the president of the markets, which required the consul to be not only the reporter, but the punisher also;
then Titus Quintius said, “that the consuls were unfairly censured, who being fettered by the laws concerning appeal, enacted to weaken their authority, by no means possessed as much power in their office as will, to punish that proceeding according to its atrocity.
That there was wanting a man not only determined in himself, but one who was unshackled and freed from the fetters of those laws. That he would therefore appoint Lucius Quintius dictator; that in him there would be a determination suitable to so great a power.”
Whilst all approved, Quintius at first refused; and asked them what they meant, in exposing him in the extremity of age to such a contest. Then when they all said that in that aged mind there was not only more wisdom, but more energy also, than in all the rest, and went on loading him with deserved praises, whilst the consul relaxed not in his original determination;
Cincinnatus at length having prayed to the immortal gods, that his old age might not prove a detriment or disgrace to the republic at so dangerous a juncture, is appointed dictator by the consul: he himself then appoints Caius Servilius Ahala his master of the horse.