After the defeat of the Auruncians, the people of Rome, victorious in so many wars within a few days, were expecting the promises of the consul and the engagement of the senate (to be made good). But Appius, both through his natural pride, and in order to undermine the credit of his colleague, issued his decrees regarding borrowed money, with all possible severity. And from this time, both those who had been formerly in confinement were delivered up to their creditors, and others also were taken into custody.
When this happened to a soldier, he appealed to the colleague, and a crowd gathered about Servilius: they represented to him his promises, severally [p. 110]
upbraided him with their services in war, and with the scars they had received. They loudly called upon him to lay the matter before the senate, and that, as consul, he would relieve his fellow citizens, as a general, his soldiers.
These remonstrances affected the consul, but the situation of affairs obliged him to back out; so completely had not only his colleague, but the whole body of the patricians, adopted an entirely opposite course. And thus, by acting a middle part, he neither escaped the odium of the people, nor gained the favour of the senators.
The fathers looked upon him as a weak, popularity-hunting consul, and the people considered him as a deceiver.
And it soon appeared that he was as odious to them as Appius himself. A dispute had happened between the consuls, as to which should dedicate the temple of Mercury. The senate referred the affair from themselves to the people, and ordained that to whichsoever of them the dedication should be granted by order of the people, he should preside over the markets, establish a company of merchants, and perform the functions of a pontifex maximus.
The people gave the dedication of the temple to M. Laetorius, the centurion of the first legion, that it might plainly appear to have been done not so much out of respect to a person on whom an honour above his rank had been conferred, as to affront the consuls.
Upon this one of the consuls particularly, and the senators, were highly incensed.
But the people had acquired courage, and proceeded in a manner quite different from what they had at first intended. For when they despaired of redress from the consuls and senate, upon seeing a debtor led to the court, they flew together from all quarters.
And neither the decree of the consul could be heard in consequence of the noise and clamour, nor, when he had pronounced the decree, did any one obey it.
All was managed by violence, and the entire dread and danger with respect to personal liberty, was transferred from the debtors to the creditors, who were severally abused by the crowd in the very sight of the consul. In addition to all this, the dread of the Sabine war spread, and when a levy was decreed, nobody gave in his name; Appius being enraged, and bitterly inveighing against the ambitious arts of his colleague, who by his popular silence was betraying the republic, and besides his not passing sentence against the debtors, likewise neglected to raise the levies, after they [p. 111]
had been voted by the senate.
Yet he declared, that “the commonwealth was not entirely deserted, nor the consular authority altogether debased. That he alone would vindicate both his own dignity and that of the senators.”
When a daily mob, emboldened by licentiousness, stood round him, he commanded a noted ringleader of the sedition to be apprehended. He, as the lictors were carrying him off, appealed to the people; nor would the consul have allowed the appeal, because there was no doubt regarding the judgment of the people, had not his obstinacy been with difficulty overcome, rather by the advice and influence of the leading men, than by the clamours of the people; so much resolution he had to bear the weight of their odium.
The evil gained ground daily, not only by open clamours, but, which was far more dangerous, by a secession and by secret meetings. At length the consuls, so odious to the commons, went out of office: Servilius liked by neither party, Appius highly esteemed by the senators.