This proposal both appeared to the senate too harsh, and from exasperation well nigh drove the people to arms: “that they were now assailed with famine, as if enemies, that they were defrauded of food and sustenance, that the foreign corn, the only support which fortune unexpectedly furnished to them, was being snatched from their mouth, unless the tribunes were given up in chains to C. Marcius, unless he glut his rage on the backs of the commons of Rome. That in him a new executioner had started up, who ordered them to die or be slaves.”
An assault would have been made on him as he left the senate-house, had not the tribunes very opportunely appointed him a day for trial; by this their rage was suppressed, every one saw himself become the judge, the arbiter of the life and death of his foe. At first Marcius heard the threats of the tribunes with contempt.
—“That the right to afford aid, not to inflict punishment, had been granted to that office; that they were tribunes of the commons and not of the senators.” But the commons had risen with such violent determination, that the senators were obliged to extricate themselves from danger by the punishment of one.1
They resisted however, in spite of popular odium, and employed, each individual his own powers, and all those
of the entire order. And first, the trial was made whether they could upset the affair, by posting their clients (in several places), by deterring individuals from attending meetings and cabals. Then they all proceeded in a body (you would suppose that all the senators were on their trial) earnestly entreating the commons, that if
they would not acquit as innocent, they would at least pardon as guilty, one citizen, one senator. As he did not attend on the day appointed, they persevered in their resentment. Being condemned in his absence, he went into exile to the Volsci, threatening his country, and even then breathing all the resentment of an enemy. The Volsci received him kindly on his arrival, and treated him still more kindly every day in proportion as his resentful feelings towards his countrymen became more striking, and one
time frequent complaints, another time threats were heard. He lodged with Attius Tullus. He was then the chief man of [p. 122]
the Volscian people, and always a determined enemy of the Romans. Thus, when old animosity stimulated the one, recent resentment the
other, they concert schemes for (bringing about) a war with Rome. They did not at once believe that their people could be persuaded to take up arms, so often unsuccessfully tried. That by the many frequent wars, and lastly, by the loss of their youth in the pestilence, their spirits were now broken; that they must have recourse to art, in a case where animosity had become blunted from length of time, that their feelings might become exasperated by some fresh cause of resentment.