This year also had a tribune as a proposer of the agrarian law. It was Titus Pontificius: he pursuing the same course, as if it had succeeded with Sp. Licinius, obstructed the levy for a little time.
The patricians being once more perplexed, Appius Claudius asserts “that the tribunitian power was put down last year: for the present by the very act, for the future by the precedent established, and since it was found that it could be rendered ineffective by its own strength;
for that there never would be wanting a tribune who would both be willing to obtain a victory for himself over [p. 132]
his colleague, and the favour of the better party by advancing the public weal. That both a plurality of tribunes, if there were need of such plurality, would be ready to assist the consuls; and that even one would be sufficient against all.
Only let the consuls and leading members of the senate take care to gain over, if not all, at least some of the tribunes, to the commonwealth and the senate.”
The senators, convinced by the counsels of Appius, both collectively addressed the tribunes with kindness and civility, and the men of consular rank, according as each possessed personal influence over them individually, partly by conciliation, partly by authority, prevailed so far as to make them consent that the powers of the tribunitian office should be beneficial to the state;
and by the aid of four tribunes against one obstructor of the public good, the consuls complete the levy.
They then set out to the Veientian war, to which auxiliaries had flocked from all parts of Etruria, collected not so much for the sake of the Veientians, as because they had formed a hope that the Roman state might be destroyed by internal discord.
And in the councils of all the states of Etruria the leading men openly stated, “that the Roman power was eternal, unless they were distracted by disturbances among themselves. That this was the only poison, this the bane discovered for powerful states, to render great empires mortal.
That this evil, a long time retarded, partly by the wise measures of the patricians, partly by the forbearance of the commons, had now proceeded to extremities. That two states were now formed out of one: that each party had its own magistrates, its own laws.
That though at first they were accustomed to be turbulent during the levies, still that these same individuals had ever been obedient to their commanders during war; that military discipline being still retained, no matter what might be the state of the city, it had been possible to withstand the evil; that now the custom of not obeying their superior followed the Roman soldier even to the camp.
That in the last war in the very field, in the very heat of battle, by consent of the army the victory was voluntarily surrendered to the vanquished Aequi: that the standards were deserted, the general abandoned on the field, and that the army had returned to the camp without orders.
That without doubt, if perseverance were used, Rome might be conquered by her own soldiery. [p. 133]
That nothing else was necessary than to declare and make a show of war: that the fates and the gods would of themselves manage the rest.” These hopes had armed the Etrurians, who in many vicissitudes had been vanquished and victors.