Then A. Virginius and T. Vetusius enter on the consulship. Upon this the commons, uncertain what sort of consuls they were to have, held nightly meetings, some of them upon the Esquiline, and others upon the Aventine hill, that they might not be confused by hasty resolutions in the forum, or take their measures inconsiderately and without concert.
The consuls, judging this proceeding to be of dangerous tendency, as it really was, laid the matter before the senate. But they were not allowed after proposing it to take the votes regularly; so tumultuously was it received on all sides by the clamours and indignation of the fathers, at the consuls throwing on the senate the odium of that which should have been put down by consular authority.
“That if there really were magistrates in the republic, there would have been no council in Rome but the public one. That the republic was now divided and split into a thousand senate-houses and assemblies, some of which were held on the Esquiline, others on the Aventine hill.
That one man, in truth such as Appius Claudius, for that that was more than a consul, would in a moment disperse these private meetings.”
When the consuls, thus rebuked, asked them, “What they desired them to do, for that they would act with as much energy and vigour as the senators wished,” they resolve that they should push on the levies as briskly as possible, that the people were become insolent from want of em- [p. 112]
When the house broke up, the consuls ascend the tribunal and summon the young men by name. But none of them made any answer, and the people crowding round them, as if in a general assembly, said, “That the people would no longer be imposed on.
They should never list one soldier till the public faith was made good. That liberty should be restored to each before arms were given, that they might fight for their country and fellow citizens, and not for arbitrary lords.”
The consuls fully understood the orders they had received from the senate, but they saw none of those who had talked so big within the walls of the senate-house present themselves to take any share with them in the public odium.
A desperate contest with the commons seemed at hand. Therefore, before they would have recourse to extremities, they thought it advisable to consult the senate a second time. Then indeed the younger senators flocked in a hurry round the chairs of the consuls, commanding them to abdicate the consulate, and resign an office which they had not courage to support.