following year had as consuls Postumius Cominius and T. Lartius.
During this year an incident occurred which, though small in itself, threatened to lead to the renewal of a war more formidable than the Latin war which was dreaded. During the games at Rome
some courtesans were carried off by Sabine
youths in sheer wantonness.
A crowd gathered, and a quarrel arose which became almost a pitched battle. The alarm was increased by the authentic report that at the instigation of Octavius Mamilius2
the thirty Latin towns had formed a
league. The apprehensions felt by the State at such a serious crisis led to suggestions being made for the first time for the appointment of a dictator. It is not, however, clearly ascertained in what year this office was created, or who the consuls were who had forfeited the confidence of the people owing to their being adherents of the Tarquins —for this, too, is part of the tradition —or who was the first
dictator. In the most ancient authorities I find that it was T. Lartius, and that Sp. Cassius was his master of the
horse. Only men of consular rank were eligible under the law governing the appointment. This makes me more inclined to believe that Lartius, who was of consular rank, was set over the consuls to restrain and direct them rather than Manlius Valerius, the son of Marcus and grandson of
Volesus. Besides, if they wanted the dictator to be chosen from that family especially, they would have much sooner chosen the father, M. Valerius, a man of proved worth and also of consular rank.
When, for the first time, a Dictator was created in Rome
, a great fear fell on the people, after they saw the axes3
borne before him, and consequently they were more careful to obey his orders. For there was not, as in the case of the consuls, each of whom possessed the same authority, any chance of securing the aid of one against the other, nor was there any right of appeal, nor in short was there any safety anywhere except in
The Sabines were even more alarmed at the appointment of a Dictator than the Romans, because they were convinced that it was in their account that he had
been created. Accordingly envoys were sent with proposals for peace. They begged the Dictator and the senate to pardon what was a youthful escapade, but were told in reply that young men could be pardoned, but not old men, who were continually stirring up
fresh wars. However, the negotiations continued and peace would have been secured if the Sabines could have made up their minds to comply with the demand to make good the expenses of the war.
War was proclaimed; an informal truce kept the year undisturbed.