Sp. Cassius and Proculus Virginius were next made consuls; a treaty was struck with the Hernici; two-thirds of [p. 128]
their land were taken from them: of this the consul Cassius was about to distribute one half among the Latins, the other half among the commons.
To this donation he was adding a considerable portion of land, which, though public property, he alleged was possessed by private individuals. This proceeding alarmed several of the senators, the actual possessors, at the danger of their property; the senators felt, moreover, a solicitude on public grounds, that the consul by his donation was establishing an influence dangerous to liberty.
Then, for the first time, the Agrarian law was proposed, which even down to our own recollection was never agitated without the greatest commotions in the state.
The other consul resisted the donation, the senators seconding him, nor were all the commons opposed to him; they had at first begun to despise a gift which was extended from citizens to allies:
in the next place they frequently heard the consul Virginius in the assemblies as it were prophesying — "that the gift of his colleague was pestilential —that those lands were sure to bring slavery to those who should receive them; that the way was paving to a throne.
For why was it that the allies were included, and the Latin nation? What was the object of a third of the land that had been taken being given back to the Hernici so lately our enemies, except that instead of Coriolanus being their leader they may have Cassius?
The dissuader and opposer of the agrarian law now began to be popular. Both consuls then vied with each other in humouring the commons. Virginius said that he would suffer the lands to be assigned, provided they were assigned to no one but to a Roman citizen.
Cassius, because in the agrarian donation he sought popularity among the allies, and was therefore lowered in the estimation of his countrymen, in order that by another donation he might conciliate their affections, ordered that the money received for the Sicilian corn should be refunded to the people.
That indeed the people rejected as nothing else than a present bribe for regal authority: so strongly were his gifts spurned in the minds of men, as if they possessed every thing in abundance, in consequence of their inveterate suspicions of his aiming at sovereign power.
As soon as he went out of office, it is certain that he was condemned and put to death. There are some who represent his father as the person who inflicted the punishment: that [p. 129]
he, having tried him at home, scourged him and put him to death, and consecrated his son's private property to Ceres; that out of this a statue was set up and inscribed, “given from the Cassian family.”
In some authors I find it stated, and that is more probable, that a day of trial was assigned him for high treason, by the questors, Kaeso Fabius and Lucius Valerius; and that he was condemned by the decision of the people; that his house was demolished by a public decree: this is the area before the temple of Tellus.
But whether that trial was private or public, he was condemned in the consulship of Ser. Cornelius and Q. Fabius.