Having sufficiently tried both1
ways, the consuls at length said, “Conscript fathers, lest you may say that you were not forewarned, a great disturbance is at hand. We require that they who accuse us most severely of cowardice, would assist us in raising the levies; we shall proceed according to the resolution of the most intrepid amongst you, since it so pleases you.”
They return to their tribunal, and on purpose commanded one of the most factious of the people, who stood in their view, to be called upon by name. When he stood mute, and a number of men stood round him in a ring, to prevent his being seized, the consuls sent a lictor to him.
He being repulsed, such of the fathers as attended the consuls, exclaiming against it as an intolerable insult, ran in a hurry from the tribunal to assist the lictor.
But when the violence was turned from the lictor, who suffered nothing else but being prevented from seizing him, against the fathers, the riot was quelled by the interposition of the consuls, in which however, without stones or weapons, there was more noise and angry words than mischief done.
The senate, called in a tumultuous manner, is consulted in a manner still [p. 113]
more tumultuous; such as had been beaten, calling out for an inquiry, and the most violent members declaring their sentiments no less by clamours and noise than by their votes.
At length, when their passion had subsided, the consuls reproaching them with there being as much disorderly conduct in the senate as in the forum, the house began to vote in regular order. There were three different opinions: P. Virginius did not make the 2
He voted that they should consider only those who, relying on the promise of P. Servilius the consul, had served in a war against the Auruncans and Sabines.
Titius Largius was of opinion, “That it was not now a proper time to reward services only. That all the people were immersed in debt, and that a stop could not be put to the evil, unless measures were adopted for all. And that if the condition of different parties be different, the divisions would rather be thereby inflamed than composed.”
Appius Claudius, who was naturally severe, and, by the hatred of the commons on the one hand, and praises of the senators on the other, was become quite infuriated, said, “That these riots proceeded not from distress, but from licentiousness. That the people were rather wanton than violent.
That this terrible mischief took its rise from the right of appeal; since threats, not authority, was all that belonged to the consuls, while permission was given to appeal to those who were accomplices in the crime.
Come,” added he, “let us create a dictator from whom there lies no appeal; this madness, which hath set every thing in a flame, will immediately subside.
Let any one dare then to strike a lictor, when he shall know that his back, and even his life, are in the power of that person whose authority he has insulted.”