At the close of the year a dispute between the patricians and commons suspended the consular elections, the tribunes refusing to allow the elections to be held, unless they were held conformably to the Licinian law; the dictator being determined to do away with the consulate altogether from the state, rather than to make it common to the patricians and the commons.
Accordingly when, the elections being repeatedly adjourned, the dictator resigned his office, matters came to an interregnum. Upon this, when the interreges found the commons incensed against the fathers, the contest was carried on by various disturbances to the eleventh interrex.
The tribunes held out as their plea, the protection of the Licinian law.
The people had the painful sense of the increasing weight of interest nearer to their hearts; and their private troubles became predominant amid the public contests. Through the wearisome effects of which the patricians ordered Lucius Cornelius Scipio, the interrex, for peace' sake to observe the Licinian law in the election of consuls.
To Publius Valerius Publicola, Caius Marcius Rutilus, a plebeian, was assigned as a colleague. Once their minds were disposed to concord, the new consuls, setting about to relieve the affair of the interest money also, which seemed to prevent perfect unanimity, made the payment of the debts a matter of public concern, five commissioners having been appointed, whom from their management of the money they called bankers.
By their justice and diligence they deserved to have their names signalized by the records of every history.
They were Caius Duilius, Publius Decius Mus, Marcus Papirius, Quintus Publilius, and Titus Aemilius; who underwent a task most difficult to be managed, and dissatisfactory in general to both parties, certainly always so to one, both with moderation in other respects, as well as at the public expense, rather than with any loss [to the
creditors]. For the tardy debts and those which were more troublesome, rather by the inertness of the debtors than by want of means, either the treasury paid off, tables with money being placed in the forum, in such a manner that the public was first secured; or a valuation, at equitable prices, of their property freed them; so that not only without injury, but even without com- [p. 473]
plaints on either side, an immense amount of debt was cleared off.
After this a groundless alarm of an Etrurian war, as there was a report that the twelve states had conspired, rendered it necessary that a dictator should be appointed. Caius Julius was nominated in the camp, (for the decree of the senate was sent thither to the consuls,) to whom Lucius Aemilius was attached as master of the horse. But all things were quiet abroad.