The following year had Postumus Cominius and T. Lartius for consuls.
On this year, during the celebration of the games at Rome, as some of the courtesans were being carried off by some of the Sabine youth in a frolic, a mob having assembled, a scuffle ensued, and almost a battle; and from this inconsiderable affair the whole nation seemed inclined to a renewal of hostilities.
Besides the dread of the Latin war, this accession was further made to their fears; certain intelligence was received that thirty different states had entered into a confederacy against them, at the instigation of Octavius Mamilius.
While the city was perplexed amid this expectation of such important events, mention was made for the first time of nominating a dictator. But in what year or who the consuls1
were in whom confidence was not reposed, because they were of the Tarquinian faction, (for that also is recorded,) or who was elected dictator for the first time, is not satisfactorily established.
Among the oldest writers however I find that Titus Lartius was appointed the first dictator, and Spurius Cassius master of the horse. They chose men of consular dignity, for so the law, made for the election of a dictator, ordained.
For this reason, I am more inclined to believe that Lartius, who was of consular rank, was annexed to the consuls as their director and master, rather than Manius Valerius, the son of Marcus and grandson of Volesus, who had not yet been consul.
For, had they intended to choose a dictator from that family in particular, they would much rather have chosen his father, Marcus Valerius, a consular person, and a man of distinguished merit.
On the creation of the dictator first at Rome, when they saw the axes carried before him, great awe struck the common people, so that they became more submissive to obey orders. For neither was there now, as under the consuls who possessed equal power, the assistance of one of the two, nor was there appeal, nor was there any resource any where but in attentive submission. The creation of a dictator at Rome terrified the Sabines, and the more effectually, because [p. 101]
they thought he was created on their account.2
Wherefore they sent ambassadors to sue for peace, to whom,
when earnestly entreating the dictator and senate to pardon the young men's offence, an answer was given that the young men could easily be forgiven, but not the old men, who continually raised one war after another. Nevertheless they continued to treat about
a peace, and it would have been grated, if the Sabines would bring themselves to make good the expenses incurred on the war (for that was demanded). War was proclaimed; a tacit truce kept the year quiet.