then said Postumius: "meanwhile, surrender us, who are unconsecrate, as you may do without offence to Heaven;
afterwards you shall surrender also those sacrosanct ones, when once they have retired from their magistracy; but, if you should listen to me, before surrendering them you would have them scourged here in the Comitium, that they might receive in advance this extra punishment, by way of interest.
for when they deny that the people can be freed of their obligation by surrendering us, who is so unacquainted with the fetial law as not to be aware that they say this, more that they may not be surrendered than because the case is so?
and yet, Conscript Fathers, I do not dispute the fact that guarantees as well as treaties are sacred in the eyes of those who cherish honour among men on an equal footing with obligations due to the gods; but I deny that without the people's authorization any sanction can be given which shall be binding on the people.
what! If the Samnites with that same arrogance with which they extorted this capitulation from us had [p. 195]
compelled us to pronounce the solemn form of words1
of those who surrender cities, would you tribunes assert that the Roman People had been surrendered, and that this City, with its temples, its holy places, its bounds and waters, was become the property of the Samnites?
but enough of surrender;
we are talking of a guarantee.
how, pray, if we had guaranteed that the Roman People should forsake this City? that they should burn it?
that it should cease to have magistrates, a senate, laws? that it should be subject to the rule of kings? ' The gods forbid!' you say. and yet the unworthiness of the conditions cannot lessen the force of a guarantee; if there is anything for which the people can be bound, it can be bound for everything.
nor does it matter, either, as some are perhaps inclined to think, whether consul or dictator or praetor have given the guarantee. and this the very Samnites themselves deemed to be true, for not content with the guarantee of consuls, they obliged the lieutenants, the quaestors, and the tribunes of the soldiers to add theirs.
“and let no man now demand of me why I gave this guarantee, seeing that a consul has no right so to do and that I could not pledge them a peace which was not
mine to grant, nor in your behalf, who had given me no mandate.
there was nothing done at Caudium, Conscript Fathers, by man's wisdom: the immortal gods deprived of understanding both your commanders and the enemy's. We, on our part, took no sufficient precautions in the war: while, as for them, they threw away their ill —got victory by their ill —guided conduct, for they hardly trusted the very ground that had given them [p. 197]
their conquest, in their haste to deprive of arms, on2
any terms, men born to the use of arms.
why, had they had their wits about them, would it have been hard, while summoning old men from home for consultation, to dispatch envoys to Rome?
to treat with senate and with people for a peace and covenant? it was only three days' journey to those who travel light; meantime hostilities would have been suspended, until their envoys should return from Rome with either certain victory or a peace.3
then, and then only, would there have been a guarantee in which our pledge was backed by the mandate of the people. but neither would you have voted one, nor should we have given it;
nor was it Heaven's will that the affair should have any other ending, but that they should be beguiled with a dream too joyful for their comprehension, and that our army should be extricated by the same fortune which had entrapped it; that their idle victory should evaporate in a yet idler peace, and a guarantee be proffered that should bind none but the guarantor.
for what negotiation, Conscript Fathers, has there been with you or with the Roman People? who can appeal to you, who can say that he has been deceived by you? can the enemy, can a fellow —citizen?
you have pledged nothing to the enemy, you have given no authority to make a pledge to any fellow —citizen.
you have therefore naught to do with us, to whom you gave no mandate, or with the Samnites, with whom you have had no dealings. The Samnites have in us guarantors who are responsible and quite competent, so far as concerns what belongs to ourselves and what we are able to deliver, namely, our persons and our lives; against these let [p. 199]
them storm, against these direct their swords, against4
these make sharp their anger.
as for the tribunes, you must determine whether their surrender can take place at once or had better be deferred; meantime, Titus Veturius, let us, and you others, offer these caitiff heads of ours in satisfaction of our pledge, and by our suffering liberate the Roman arms.”