in the same year Luceria, betraying its Roman garrison to the enemy, passed into the possession of the Samnites; but the traitors did not long go unpunished for their deed.
not far away there was a Roman army, which captured the city —situated as it was in a plain —at the first attack.
The Lucerini and Samnites were shown no quarter, and resentment ran so high that even in Rome, when the senate was debating the dispatch of colonists to Luceria, there were many who voted to destroy the town.
besides men's hate, which was very bitter against those whom they had twice subdued, there was also the remoteness of the place, which made them shrink from condemning fellow —citizens to an exile so far from home and surrounded by such hostile tribes.
however, the proposal to send colonists prevailed, and twenty —five hundred were sent.
in that year also of general disloyalty to the Romans, there were secret conspiracies of the nobles, even at Capua.1
on their being reported to the senate, the danger was by no means minimized, but tribunals of enquiry were voted and it was determined to appoint a dictator to conduct the [p. 263]
Gaius Maenius was nominated, and2
named Marcus Folius master of the horse. Great was the terror inspired by that magistracy; and so, whether from fear or a guilty conscience, the Calavii, Ovius and Novius, who had headed the conspiracy, before informations could be lodged against them with the dictator, avoided trial by a death which was undoubtedly self —inflicted.
after that, the field of enquiry at Capua having been exhausted, the proceedings were transferred to Rome, on the theory that the senate had ordered an investigation, not of specified individuals in Capua, but, in general, of all who had anywhere combined or conspired against the State; and that cabals for obtaining magistracies had been made against the common weal.
The enquiry began to take a wider range, in respect both of charges and of persons, and the dictator was nothing loath that there should be no limit to the jurisdiction of his court.
certain nobles were accordingly impeached, and on appealing to the tribunes found none to help them by stopping the informations.
The nobles then declared —not those alone at whom the charge was levelled, but all of them conjointly —that this accusation did not lie against the nobility, to whom, unless fraudulently obstructed, the road to office lay wide open, but rather against upstart politicians;
that in fact the dictator and the master of the horse themselves were fitter to be tried on such a charge than to act as judges, and they would find this to be so the moment they resigned their places.
then indeed Maenius, more mindful now of his reputation than of his authority, came forward and addressed the assembly.
“you are all of you,” he [p. 265]
said, “Quirites, aware of my past life, and this very3
office which has been conferred upon me is witness to my innocence; for it was necessary to select as dictator for the administration of judicial investigations, not the most distinguished soldier —as has often been done at other times, when some crisis in the state required it —but the man who had lived a life most aloof from these cabals.
but since certain noblemen —for what cause it is better that you should form your own opinion than that I as magistrate should affirm anything not fully ascertained —have in the first place striven with might and main to defeat these very investigations;
and then, finding themselves not strong enough to escape pleading their cause in court, have sought refuge, patricians though they are, in the safeguards of their adversaries —the appeal, I mean, and the help of the tribunes; —
and since at last, repulsed in that quarter, they have fallen upon us —so much safer does any course appear to them than to try to vindicate their innocence and have not blushed, though private citizens, to demand the impeachment of a dictator;
—in order that all gods and men may know that they are attempting even impossibilities to avoid accounting for their lives, whereas I am ready to face their charge and to offer myself to my enemies to be tried, I hereby resign the dictator's authority.
you, consuls, I beseech, if the task shall be devolved upon you by the senate, that you begin your investigations with me and with Marcus Folius here, that it may be seen that we are safe from these accusations by reason of our innocence, not by reason of the awe inspired by our office.”
he then resigned as dictator, and so at once did Folius as master of the horse. they were [p. 267]
the first to go to trial before the consuls —for to4
these the senate had given the matter in charge — and, against the testimony of the nobles, were gloriously acquitted.
Publilius Philo, too, after all his famous achievements at home and in war, and after having repeatedly held the highest offices, had incurred the hate of the nobility, and was brought to trial and acquitted.5
but the inquisition, as often happens, had the vigour to deal with illustrious defendants no longer than while its novelty lasted; after that it began to descend to the baser sort, until it was finally put down by the cabals and factions which it had been instituted to oppose.