In proportion as all matters were more tranquil abroad in consequence of their successes in war this year, so much did the violence of the patricians and the distresses of the commons in the city increase every day; as the ability to pay was prevented by the very fact that it was necessary to pay.
Accordingly, when nothing could now be paid out of their property, being cast in suits and assigned over to custody, they satisfied their creditors by their character and persons, and punishment was substituted for payment.
Wherefore not only the lowest, but even the leading men in the commons had sunk so low in spirit, that no enterprising and adventurous man had courage,
not only to stand for the military tribuneship among the patricians, (for which privilege they had strained all their energies,) but not even to take on them and sue for plebeian magistracies: and the patricians seemed to have for ever recovered the possession of an honour that had been only usurped by the commons for a few years.
A trifling cause, as generally happens, which had the effect of producing a mighty result, intervened to prevent the other party from exulting too much in that. Two daughters of Marcus Fabius Ambustus, an influential man, both among persons of his own station, and also with the commons, because he was by no means considered a despiser of persons of that order, had been married, the elder to Servius Sulpicius, the younger to Caius Licinius Stolo, a distinguished person, but still a plebeian; and the fact of such an alliance not having been scorned, had gained influence for Fabius with the people.
It so happened, that when the two sisters, the Fabiae, were passing away the time in conversation in the house of Servius Sulpicius. military tribune, a lictor of Sulpicius, when he returned home from the forum, rapped at the door, as is usual, with the rod. When the younger Fabia, a stranger to this custom, was frightened at it, she was laughed at by her sister, who was surprised at her sister not knowing the matter.
That laugh, however, gave a sting to the female [p. 434]
mind, sensitive as it is to mere trifles. From the number of persons attending on her, and asking her commands, her sister's match, I suppose, appeared to her to be a fortunate one, and she repined at her own, according to that erroneous feeling, by which every one is most annoyed at being outstripped by those nearest to him.
When her father happened to see her disappointed after the recent mortification, by kindly inquiring he prevailed on her, who was dissembling the cause of her annoyance, (as being neither affectionate with respect to her
sister, nor respectful towards her husband,) to confess, that the cause of her chagrin was, that she had been united to an inferior, and married into a house which neither honour nor influence could enter.
Ambustus then, consoling his daughter, bid her keep up good spirits; that she should soon see the same honours at her own house, which she now sees at her sister's. Upon
this he began to draw up his plans with his son-in-law, having attached to himself Lucius Sextius, an enterprising young man, and one to whose hope nothing was wanting but patrician descent.