The year was completed before the legions were brought back from Velitrae. Thus the question regarding the laws was suspended and deferred for the new military tribunes; for the commons re-elected the same two plebeian tribunes, because they were the proposers of the laws.
Titus Quinctius, Servius Cornelius, Servius Sulpicius, Spurius Servilius, Lucius Papirius, Lucius Valerius, were elected military tribunes. Immediately at the commencement of the year the question about the laws was pushed to the extreme of contention;
and when the tribes were called, nor did the protest of their colleagues prevent the proposers of the laws, the patricians being alarmed have recourse to their two last aids, to the highest authority and the highest citizen.
It is resolved that a dictator be appointed: Marcus Furius Camillus is appointed, who nominates Lucius Aemilius his master of the horse. To meet so powerful a measure of their opponents, the proposers of the laws also set forth the people's cause with great determination of mind, and having convened an assembly of the people, they summon the tribes to vote.
When the dictator took his seat, accompanied by a band of patricians, full of anger and of threats, and the business was going on at first with the usual contention of the plebeian tribunes, some proposing the law and others protesting against it, and though the protest was more powerful by right, still it was [p. 439]
Overpowered by the popularity of the laws themselves and of their proposers, and when the first tribes pronounced, “Be it as you
propose,” then Camillus says, “Since, Romans, tribunitian extravagance, not authority, sways you now, and ye are rendering the right of protest, acquired formerly by a secession of the commons, totally unavailing by the same violent conduct by which you acquired it, I, as dictator, will support the right of protest, not more for the interest of the whole commonwealth than for your sake; and by my authority I will defend your rights of protection, which have been overturned.
Wherefore if Caius Licinius and Lucius Sextius give way to the protest of their colleagues, I shall not introduce a patrician magistrate into an assembly of the commons.
If, in opposition to the right of protest, they will strive to saddle laws on the state as though captive, I will not suffer the tribunitian power to be destroyed by itself.” When the plebeian tribunes still persisted in the matter with unabated energy and contemptuously, Camillus, being highly provoked, sent his lictors to disperse the commons; and added threats, that if they persisted he would bind down the younger men by the military oath, and would forthwith lead an army out of the city.
He struck great terror into the people; by the opposition he rather inflamed than lessened the spirits of their leaders. But the matter inclining neither way, he abdicated his dictatorship, either because he had been appointed with some informality, as some have stated; or because the tribunes of the people proposed to the commons, and the commons passed it, that if Marcus Furius did any thing as dictator, he should be fined five hundred thousand asses.
But both the disposition of the man himself, and the fact that Publius Manlius was immediately substituted as dictator for him, incline me to believe, that he was deterred rather by some defect in the auspices than by this unprecedented order.
What could be the use of appointing him (Manlius) to manage a contest in which Camillus had been defeated? and because the following year had the same Marcus Furius dictator, who certainly would not without shame have resumed an authority which but the year before had been worsted in his hands;
at the same time, because at the time when the motion about fining him is said to have been published, he could either resist this order, by
which he saw himself degraded, or [p. 440]
he could not have obstructed those others on account of which this was introduced, and throughout the whole series of disputes regarding the tribunitian and consular authority, even down to our own memory, the pre-eminence of the dictatorship was always decided.