Less agreeable to the senate was a measure1
which came up in the following year, in the consulship of Gaius Marcius and Gnaeus Manlius. It fixed the rate of interest at one per cent., and was carried through by Marcus Duillius and Lucius Menenius, tribunes of the plebs.
The commons ratified it much more eagerly than they had done the other law.2
Besides the new wars determined on in the previous year, the Faliscans also rose up as enemies. They were charged with two offences: their youth had fought on the side of the Tarquinienses; and they had refused the demand of the fetials that they should give up the Romans who had taken refuge in Falerii, after the defeat.
This command was assigned to Gnaeus Manlius. Marcius led an army into the territory of Privernum, unravaged during a long period of peace, and loaded his troops with booty. This abundance he administered bountifully, and sequestering nothing to the public treasury, encouraged the men to augment their private fortunes.
The Privernates having encamped in front of their town, within strong intrenchments, Marcius called his soldiers together and thus addressed them: “I give you now for booty the camp and city of our enemies, if you promise me [p. 411]
that in the battle you will play the part of men,3
and be not more ready to plunder than to fight.”
They clamoured loudly for the signal and entered the battle with spirit, emboldened by no uncertain expectations. There in the fore-front Sextus Tullius, who has been mentioned before, cried out, “Look, general, and see how your army keeps the promises it gave you!” Then, laying down his javelin, he drew his sword and charged the foe.
All of the front line followed Tullius, and putting the enemy to flight at the first shock, pursued them to the town, where the Romans were already bringing up their scaling ladders to the wall, when the place surrendered. A triumph was celebrated over the Privernates.
The other consul accomplished nothing worth recording, except that without precedent he got a law passed in his camp before Sutrium —the men voting by tribes —which levied a tax of one-twentieth on manumissions. The Fathers ratified this law, since it brought in no small revenue to the empty treasury; but the tribunes of the plebs, troubled less by the law than by the precedent established, had it made a capital offence for anyone thereafter to summon the people to the comitia away from Rome.
If this should be permitted, there was nothing, they argued, however baneful to the people, which could not be carried through by the votes of soldiers sworn to obey their consul.4
In the same year Gaius Licinius Stolo was prosecuted under his own statute by Marcus Popilius Laenas, and condemned to pay a fine of ten thousand asses,
on the charge that he held with his son a thousand iugera
of land, and by emancipating his son5
had evaded the law.6 [p. 413]