on the day of their election —for so the Fathers had ordained —they entered upon the duties of their magistracy, and having disposed of the routine resolutions, raised the question of the Caudine Peace.
Publilius had the fasces,1
and called on Spurius Postumius to speak. having risen to his feet, he said, with the same expression on his countenance as when he had been sent
under the yoke, “i am not ignorant, consuls, that I have been called on first and bidden to speak because of my disgrace, and not to honour me; not as a senator, but as one charged with the guilt not only of an unlucky war but of a shameful peace.
however, you have not raised the question of our wrongdoing or our punishment; I will therefore attempt no defence —though it should be no difficult cause to plead before judges not unacquainted with the fortunes of men and their necessities —but will briefly formulate a motion concerning the subject you have asked us to consider.
my motion will bear witness whether it was myself or your legions that I spared, when I bound myself by a base, or, perhaps, [p. 191]
a necessary pledge, —by which, however, the Roman2
People is not held, since it was given without the people's authorization; nor by its terms is aught but our own persons due to the Samnites.
let us be given up, I propose, by the fetials, stripped and bound; let us release the people from their religious obligation, if in any such we have involved them, that no obstacle, divine or human, may block the way to a just and righteous renewal of the war.
meantime I move that the consuls enroll an army and arm it and lead it forth, yet without crossing the borders of the enemy, until all the ceremonies incident to our surrender shall have been completed.
do you, immortal gods, I beseech and pray you, if you were not pleased that the consuls Spurius Postumius and Titus Veturius should
wage a successful war with the Samnites, yet deem it enough to have seen us sent beneath the yoke, to have seen us bound by an infamous agreement, to behold.
us, naked and in bonds, delivered to the enemy, receiving on our own heads all the resentment of our foes; and vouchsafe to the new consuls and the Roman legions so to wage war with the Samnites, as, until our consulship, all Rome's wars were waged.”
when he had finished speaking, such a thrill of astonishment, and at the same time of pity for the man, ran through the senate, that at first men could hardly believe it was the same Spurius Postumius who had been the author of a peace so shameful;
and presently they were all compassion, to think that such a man should suffer what would be no ordinary punishment at the hands of enemies enraged by the rupture of the peace.
as they [p. 193]
were all crossing over to support his motion, with3
nothing but praises for his heroism, Lucius Livius and Quintus Maelius, tribunes of the plebs, endeavoured for a moment to interpose their veto.
The people, they said, could not be freed from their obligation by surrendering them,
unless every advantage which the Samnites had possessed at Caudium were restored to them;
moreover, they had merited no punishment for having preserved by their pledge of peace the army of the Roman People; nor, finally, seeing that they were sacrosanct, could they be surrendered to the enemy or violated.4