There was an opportune cessation of other wars: the colonists of Velitrae, becoming wanton through ease, because there was no Roman army, made repeated incursions on the Roman territory, and set about laying siege to Tusculum.
This circumstance, the Tusculans, old allies, new fellow-citizens, imploring aid, moved not only the patricians, but the commons also, chiefly with a sense of honour.
The tribunes of the commons relaxing their opposition, the elections were held by the interrex; and Lucius Furius, Aulus Manlius, Servius Sulpicius, Servius Cornelius, Publius and Caius Valerius, found the commons by no means so complying in the levy as in the elections;
and an army having been raised amid great contention, they set out, and not only dislodged the enemy from Tusculum, but shut them up even within their own walls. Velitrae began to be besieged by a much [p. 436]
greater force than that with which Tusculum had been besieged;
nor still could it be taken by those by whom the siege had been commenced. The new military tribunes were elected first: Quintius Servilius, Caius Veturius, Aulus and Marcus Cornelius, Quintus Quinctius, Marcus Fabius.
Nothing worthy of mention was performed even by these at Velitrae. Matters were involved in greater peril at home: for besides Sextius and Licinius, the proposers of the laws, reelected tribunes of the commons now for the eighth time, Fabius also, military tribune, father-in-law of Stolo, avowed himself the unhesitating supporter of those laws of which he had been the adviser.
And whereas, there had been at first eight of the college of the plebeian tribunes protesters against the laws, there were now only five:
and (as is usual with men who leave their own party) dismayed and astounded, they in words borrowed from others, urged as a reason for their protest, that which had been taught them at home; “that a great number of the commons were absent with the army at Velitrae; that the assembly ought to be deferred till the coming of the soldiers, that the entire body of the commons might give their vote concerning their own interests.”
Sextius and Licinius with some of their colleagues, and Fabius one of the military tribunes, well-versed now by an experience of many years in managing the minds
of the commons, having brought forward the leading men of the patricians, teased them by interrogating them on each of the subjects which were about to be brought before the people: “would they dare to demand, that when two acres of land a head were distributed among the plebeians, they themselves should be allowed to have more than five hundred acres?
that a single man should possess the share of nearly three hundred citizens; whilst his portion of land scarcely extended for the plebeian to a stinted habitation and a place of burial?
Was it their wish that the commons, surrounded with usury, should surrender their persons to the stocks and to punishment, rather than pay off their debt by [discharging] the principal; and that persons should be daily led off from the forum in flocks, after being assigned to their creditors, and that the houses of the nobility should be filled with prisoners? and that wherever a patrician dwelt, there should be a private prison?”