Valerius and Horatius were then sent to the plebs with terms which it was thought would lead to their return and the adjustment of all differences; they were also instructed to procure guarantees for the protection of the decemvirs against popular violence.
They were welcomed in the camp with every expression of delight, for they were unquestionably regarded as liberators from the commencement of the disturbance to its close. Thanks therefore were offered to them on their arrival. Icilius was the spokesman.
A policy had been agreed upon before the arrival of the envoys, so when the discussion of the terms commenced, and the envoys asked what the demands of the plebs were, Icilius put forward proposals of such a nature as to show clearly that their hopes lay in the justice of their cause rather than in an appeal to arms.
They demanded the re-establishment of the tribunitian power and the right of appeal, which before the institution of decemvirs had been their main security. They also demanded an amnesty for those who had incited the soldiers or the plebs to recover their liberties by a secession.
The only vindictive demand made was with reference to the punishment of the decemvirs.
They insisted, as an act of justice, that they should be surrendered, and they threatened to burn them alive. The envoys replied to these demands as follows: ‘The demands you have put forward as the result of your deliberations are so equitable that they would have been voluntarily conceded, for you ask for them as the safeguards of your liberties, not as giving you licence to attack others.
Your feelings of resentment are to be excused rather than indulged; for it is through hatred of cruelty that you are actually hurrying into cruelty, and almost before you are free yourselves you want to act the tyrant over your adversaries.
Is our State never to enjoy any respite from punishments inflicted either by the patricians on the Roman plebs, or by the plebs on the patricians?
You need the shield rather than the sword. He is humble enough who lives in the State under equal laws, neither inflicting nor suffering injury.
Even if the time should come when you will make yourselves formidable, when, after recovering your magistrates and your laws, you will have judicial power over our lives and property —even then you will decide each case on its merits, it is enough now that your liberties are won back.’