Immediately after this victory of a most ruinous precedent a levy is proclaimed; and the tribunes being now overawed, the consuls accomplish the matter without any opposition.
Then indeed the commons became enraged more on account of the silence of the tribunes than the command of the consuls: and they said “there was an end of their liberty: that they were come back again to the old condition of things; that the tribunitian power had died along with Genucius and was buried with him; that other means must be devised and practised, by which to resist the patricians; and that the only method for that was that the people should defend themselves, since they now had no other aid.
That four-and- twenty lictors waited on the consuls; and that these very individuals were from among the commons; that nothing could be more despicable, nor weaker, if there were only persons who could despise them; that each person magnified those things and made them objects of terror to himself.”
When they had excited each other by these discourses, a lictor was despatched by the consuls to Volero Publilius, a man belonging to the commons, because he stated, that having been a centurion he ought not to be made a common soldier.
Volero appeals to the tribunes. When one came to his assistance, the consuls order the man to be stripped and the rods to be got ready. “I appeal to the people,” says Volero, “since tribunes had rather see a Roman citizen scourged before their eyes, than themselves be butchered by you in their bed.” The more vehemently he cried out, the more violently did the lictor tear off his clothes and strip him.
Then Volero, being both himself of great bodily strength, and being aided by his partisans, having repulsed the lictor, when the shouts of those indignant in his behalf became very intense, betook himself into the [p. 147]
thickest part of the crowd, crying out, “I appeal, and implore the protection of the commons;
assist me, fellow citizens; assist me, fellow soldiers; there is no use in waiting for the tribunes, who themselves stand in need of your aid.”
The men, being much excited, prepare as it were for battle; and it became manifest that there was urgent danger, that nothing would be held sacred by any one, that there would no longer exist any public or private right.
When the consuls faced this so violent storm, they soon experienced that majesty without strength had but little security; the lictors being maltreated, the fasces broken, they are driven from the forum into the senate-house, uncertain how far Volero would push his victory.
After that, the disturbance subsiding, when they had ordered the senate to be convened, they complain of the outrages committed on themselves, of the violence of the people, the daring of Volero.
Many violent measures having been proposed, the elder members prevailed, who recommended that the unthinking rashness of the commons should not be met by the passionate resentment of the patricians.