The state of affairs became clearer to the senators and consuls. They were, however, apprehensive lest behind these openly declared aims there should be some design of the Veientines or Sabines, and
whilst there was this large hostile force within the City the Etruscan and Sabine
legions should appear, and then the Volscians and Aequi, their standing foes, should come, not into their territory to ravage, but into the City itself, already partly captured. Many and various were their fears.
What they most dreaded was a rising of the slaves, when every man would have an enemy in his own house, whom it would be alike unsafe to trust and not to trust, since by withdrawing confidence he might be made a more determined enemy.
Such threatening and overwhelming dangers could only be surmounted by unity and concord, and no fears were felt as to the tribunes or the plebs. That evil was mitigated, for as it only broke out when there was a respite from other evils, it was believed to have subsided now in the dread of foreign aggression. Yet it, more than almost anything else, helped to further depress the fortunes of the sinking State.
For such madness seized the tribunes that they maintained that it was not war but an empty phantom of war which had settled in the Capitol, in order to divert the thoughts of the people from the Law. Those friends, they said, and clients of the patricians would depart more silently than they had come if they found their noisy demonstration frustrated by the passing of the Law.
They then summoned the people to lay aside their arms and form an Assembly for the purpose of carrying the Law. Meantime the consuls, more alarmed at the action of the tribunes than at the nocturnal enemy, convened a meeting of the senate.