Fresh Internal Dissensions.
The new tribunes of the plebs studied the wishes of the senate in coopting colleagues; they even admitted two patricians of consular rank, Sp. Tarpeius and A. Aeternius.
The new consuls were Spurius Herminius and T. Verginius Caelimontanus, who were not violent partisans of either the patricians or the plebeians. They maintained peace both at home and abroad.
L. Trebonius, a tribune of the plebs, was angry with the senate because, as he said, he had been hoodwinked by them in the cooptation of tribunes, and left in the lurch by his colleagues.
He brought in a measure providing that when tribunes of the plebs were to be elected, the presiding magistrate should continue to hold the election until ten tribunes were elected. He spent his year of office in worrying the patricians, which led to his receiving the nickname of ‘Asper
,’ (i.e. ‘the Cantankerous’).
The next consuls were M. Geganius Macerinus and C. Julius. They appeased the quarrels which had broken out between the tribunes and the younger members of the nobility without interfering with the powers of the former or compromising the dignity of the patricians.
A levy had been decreed by the senate for service against the Volscians and Aequi, but they kept the plebs quiet by holding it over, and publicly asserting that when the City was at peace everything abroad was quiet, whereas civil discord encouraged the enemy.
Their care for peace led to harmony at home. But the one order was always restless when the other showed moderation.
Whilst the plebs was quiet it began to be subjected to acts of violence from the younger patricians. The tribunes tried to protect the weaker side, but they did little good at first, and soon even they them- selves were not exempt from ill-treatment, especially in later months of their year of office. Secret combinations amongst the stronger party resulted in lawlessness, and the exercise of the tribunitian authority usually slackened towards the close of the year.
Any hopes the plebeians might place in their tribunes depended upon their having men like Icilius; the last two years they had had mere names.
On the other hand, the older patricians realised that their younger members were too aggressive, but if there were to be excesses they preferred that their own side should commit them rather than their opponents.
So difficult is it to observe moderation in the defence of liberty, while each man under the pretence of equality raises himself only by keeping others down, and by their very precautions against fear men make themselves feared, and in repelling injury from ourselves we inflict it on others as though there were no alternative between doing wrong and suffering it.