The populace did not know what to make of the deed and were becoming excited. The Dictator ordered them to be summoned to an Assembly. He declared that Maelius had been lawfully slain, even if he were guiltless of treason, because he had refused to come to the Dictator when summoned by the Master of the Horse.
He, Cincinnatus, had sat to investigate the case, after it had been investigated Maelius would have been treated in accordance with the result.
He was not to be dealt with like an ordinary citizen. For, though born amongst a free people under laws and settled rights, in a City from which he knew that royalty had been expelled, and in the very same year, the sons of the king's sister, children of the consul who liberated his country, had, on the discovery of a conspiracy for restoring royalty, been beheaded by their own father-a City from which Collatinus
Tarquin the consul had been ordered to lay down his office and go into exile, because the very name of Tarquin was detested-a City in which some years later Spurius Cassius had been punished for entertaining designs of sovereignty-a City in which recently the decemvirs had been punished by confiscation, exile, and death because of a tyranny as despotic as that of kings-in that
City Maelius had conceived hopes of sovereignty!
And who was this man? Although no nobility of birth, no honours, no services to the State paved the way for any man to sovereign power, still it was their consulships, their decemvirates, the honours achieved by them and their ancestors and the splendour of their families that raised the ambitions of the Claudii and the Cassii to an impious height.
But Spurius Maelius, to whom the tribuneship of the plebs was a thing to be wished for rather than hoped for, a wealthy corn-factor, hoped to buy the liberty of his fellow-citizens for a couple of pounds of spelt, and imagined that by throwing a little corn to
them he could reduce to slavery the men who had conquered all the neighbouring States, and that he whom the State could hardly stomach as a senator would be tolerated as a king, possessing the power and insignia of Romulus, who had sprung from the gods and been carried back to the gods!
His act must be regarded as a portent quite as much as a crime; for that portent his blood was not sufficient expiation, those walls within which such madness had been conceived must be levelled to the ground, and his property, contaminated by the price of treason, confiscated to the State.