Fear then seized the senators lest, if the army should be dismissed, secret meetings and conspiracies would be renewed; wherefore though the levy had been held by the dictator, yet supposing that, as they had sworn obedience to the consuls, the soldiers were bound by their oath, under the protext of hostilities being renewed by the Aequi, they ordered the legions to be led out of the city; by which proceeding the sedition was hastened.
And it is said that at first [p. 117]
it was in contemplation to put the consuls to death, that they might be discharged from their oath: but that being afterwards informed that no religious obligation could be dissolved by a criminal act, they, by the advice of one Sicinius, retired, without the orders of the consuls, to the sacred mount, beyond the river Anio, three miles from the city:
this account is more general than that which Piso has given, that the secession was made to the Aventine.
There without any leader, their camp being fortified with a rampart and trench, remaining quiet, taking nothing but what was necessary for sustenance, they kept themselves for several days, neither being attacked, nor attacking others.
Great was the panic in the city, and through mutual fear all was suspense. The people left in the city dreaded the violence of the senators; the senators dreaded the people remaining in the city, uncertain whether they should prefer them to stay or to depart; but how long would the multitude which had seceded, remain quiet?
what were to be the consequences then, if, in the mean time, any foreign war should break out?
they certainly considered no hope left, save in the concord of the citizens; this should be restored to the state by fair or by unfair means.
It was resolved therefore that there should be sent as ambassador to the people, Menenius Agrippa, an eloquent man, and one who was a favourite with the people, because he derived his origin from them.
He being admitted into the camp, is said to have related to them merely the following story in that antiquated and uncouth style; “At a time when all the parts in the human body did not, as now, agree together, but the several members had each its own scheme, its own language, the other parts, indignant that every thing was procured for the belly by their care, labour, and service; that the belly, remaining quiet in the centre, did nothing but enjoy the pleasures afforded it.
They conspired accordingly, that the hands should not convey food to the mouth, nor the mouth receive it when presented, nor the teeth chew it: whilst they wished under the influence of this feeling to subdue the belly by famine, the members themselves and the entire body were reduced to the last degree of emaciation.
Thence it became apparent that the service of the belly was by no means a slothful one; that it did not so much receive nourishment as supply it, sending to all parts of the body this blood by which we [p. 118]
live and possess vigour, distributed equally to the veins when prefected by the digestion of the food.”
By comparing in this way how similar the intestine sedition of the body was to the resentment of the people against the senators, he made an impression on the minds of the multitude.