‘Well, then, now that you have beleaguered the Senate-house, and treated the Forum as enemies' ground, and filled the prison with our
foremost men, display the same daring courage in making a sortie from the Esquiline
gate, or if you have not the courage even for this, mount the walls and watch your fields disgracefully laid waste with fire and sword, plunder carried off and smoke rising everywhere from your burning dwellings.
But I may be told it is the common interests of all that are being injured by this; the land is burned, the City besieged, all the honours of war rest with the enemy. Good heavens! In what condition are your own private interests? Every one of you will have losses reported to him from the fields.
What, pray, is there at home from which to make them good? Will the tribunes restore and repay you for what you have lost? They will contribute any amount you like of talk and words and accusations against the leading men, and law after law, and meetings of the Assembly. But from those meetings not a single one of you will ever go home the richer.
Who has ever brought back to his wife and children anything but resentment and hatred, party strife and personal quarrels, from which you are to be protected not by your own courage and honesty of purpose, but by the help of others?
But, let me tell you, when you were campaigning under us your consuls, not under tribunes, in the camp not in the Forum, and your battle-cry appalled the enemy in the field, not the patricians of Rome
in the Assembly then you obtained booty, took territory from the enemy, and returned to your homes and household gods in triumph, laden with wealth and covered with glory both for the State and for yourselves. Now you allow the enemy to depart laden with your property.
Go on, stick to your Assembly meetings, pass your lives in the Forum, still the necessity, which you shirk, of taking the field follows you. It was too much for you to go out against the Aequi and Volscians; now the war is at your gates. If it is not beaten back, it will be within the walls, it will scale the Citadel and the Capitol and follow you into your homes.
It is two years since the senate ordered a levy to be raised and an army led out to Algidus; we are still sitting idly at home, wrangling with one another like a troop of women, delighted with the momentary peace, and shutting our eyes to the fact that we shall very soon have to pay for our inaction many times over in war.’
‘I know that there are other things pleasanter to speak about than these, but necessity compels me, even if a sense of duty did not, to say what is true instead of what is agreeable. I should only be too glad, Quirites, to give you pleasure, but I would very much rather have you safe, however you may feel towards me for the future.
Nature has so ordered matters that the man who addresses the multitude for his own private ends is much more popular than the man who thinks of nothing but the public good. Possibly, you imagine that it is in your interest that those demagogues who flatter the plebs and do not suffer you either to take up arms or live in peace, excite you and make you restless.
They only do so to win notoriety or to make something out of it, and because they see that when the two orders are in harmony they are nowhere, they are willing to be leaders in a bad cause rather than in none, and get up disturbances and seditions.’
‘If there is any possibility of your becoming at last weary of this sort of thing, if you are willing to resume the character which marked your fathers and yourselves in old days,
instead of these new-fangled ideas, then there is no punishment I will not submit to, if I do not in a few days drive these destroyers of our fields in confusion and flight out of their camp, and remove from our gates and walls to their cities this dread aspect of war which now so appalls you.’