I find that he spoke there as follows: ‘Though, Quirites, my own conscience is clear, it is, nevertheless, with feelings of the deepest shame that I have come before you. That you should know —that it will be handed down to posterity —that the Aequi and Volscians, who were lately hardly a match for the Hernici, have in the fourth consulship of T. Quinctius come in arms up to the walls of Rome
Although we have long been living in such a state, although public affairs are in such a condition, that my mind augurs nothing good, still, had I known that this disgrace was coming in this year, of all others, I would have avoided by exile or by death, had there been no other means of escape, the honour of a consulship.
So then, if those arms which were at our gates had been in the hands of men worthy of the name, Rome
could have been taken whilst I was consul! I had enough of honours, enough and more than enough of life, I ought to have died in my third consulship.
Who was it that those most dastardly foes felt contempt for, us consuls, or you Quirites? If the fault is in us, strip us of an office which we are unworthy to hold, and if that is not enough, visit us with punishment. If the fault is in you, may there be no one, either god or man, who will punish your sins; may you repent of them!
It was not your cowardice that provoked their contempt, nor their valour that gave them confidence; they have been too often defeated, put to flight, driven out of their entrenchments, deprived of their territory, not to know themselves and you. It is the dissensions between the two orders, the quarrels between patricians and plebeians that is poisoning the life of this City.
As long as our power respects no limits, and your liberty acknowledges no restraints, as long as you are impatient of patrician, we of plebeian magistrates, so long has the courage of our enemies been rising. What in heaven's name do you want? You set your hearts on having tribunes of the plebs, we yielded, for the sake of peace.
You yearned for decemvirs, we consented to their appointment; you grew utterly weary of them, we compelled them to resign. Your hatred pursued them into private life; to satisfy you, we allowed the noblest and most distinguished of our order to suffer death or go into exile.
You wanted tribunes of the plebs to be appointed again; you have appointed them.
Although we saw how unjust it was to the patricians that men devoted to your interests should be elected consuls, we have seen even that patrician office conferred by favour of the plebs The tribunes' protective authority, the right of appeal to the people, the resolutions of the plebs made binding on the patricians, the suppression of our rights and privileges under the pretext of making the laws equal for all —these things we have submitted to, and do submit to.
What term is there to be to our dissensions? When shall we ever be allowed to have a united City, when will this ever be our common fatherland?
We who have lost, show more calmness and evenness of temper than you who have won. Is it not enough that you have made us fear you? It was against us that the Aventine
was seized, against us the Sacred Hill occupied. When the Esquiline
is all but captured and the Volscian is trying to scale the rampart, no one dislodges him
. Against us
you show yourselves men; against us you take up