“Come, when ye have blockaded the senate-house here, and have made the forum the seat of war, and filled the prison with the leading men of the state, march forth through the Esquiline gate, with that same determined spirit;
or if ye do not even venture thus far, behold from your walls the lands laid waste with fire and sword, booty driven off, the houses set on fire in every direction and smoking.
But (I may be told) it is the public weal that is in a worse condition through these results: the land is burned, the city is besieged, all the glory of the war is centred in the enemy. What in the name of heaven? in what state is your own private interest?
just now his own private losses were announced to each of you from the lands. What, pray, is there at home, whence you may recruit them? Will the tribunes restore and compensate you for what ye have lost? Of sound and words they will heap on you as much as ye please, and of charges against the leading men, and laws one upon another, and of public meetings.
But from these meetings never has one of you returned home more increased in substance or in fortune. Has any one ever brought back to his wife and children aught save hatred, quarrels, grudges public and private?
from which (and their effects) you have been ever protected, not by your own valour and integrity, but by the aid of others. But, when you served under the guidance of us consuls, not under your tribunes, and the enemy trembled at your shout in the field of battle, not the Roman patricians in the assembly, booty being obtained, land taken from the enemy, with a plentiful stock of wealth and glory, both public and private, you used to return home to your household gods in triumph: now you allow the enemy to go off laden with your property.
Continue immovably tied to your assemblies, live in the forum; the necessity of taking the field, which ye avoid, still follows you. Was it too hard on you to march against the Aequans and the Volscians? The war is at your gates: if it is not repelled from thence, it will soon be within your walls, and will scale the citadel and Capitol, and follow you into your very houses.
Two years ago the senate ordered a levy to be held, and the army to march to Algidum; yet we sit down listless at home, quarrelling with each other like women; delighting in pre- [p. 243]
sent peace, and not seeing that after that short-lived intermission complicated wars are sure to return.
That there are other topics more pleasing than these, I well know; but even though my own mind did not prompt me to it, necessity obliges me to speak that which is true instead of that which is pleasing. I would indeed be anxious to please you, Romans; but I am much more anxious that ye should be preserved, whatever sentiments ye shall entertain towards me.
It has been so ordained by nature, that he who addresses a multitude for his own private interest, is more pleasing than the man whose mind has nothing in view but the public interest. Unless perhaps you suppose that those public sycophants, those flatterers of the commons, who neither suffer you to take up arms nor to live in peace, incite and work you up for your own interests.
When excited, you are to them sources either of honour or of profit: and because, during concord between the several orders, they see that themselves are of no importance on any side, they wish to be leaders of a bad cause rather than of no cause whatever, of tumults, and of sedition.
Of which state of things, if a tedium can at length enter your minds, and if ye are willing to resume the modes
of acting practised by your forefathers, and formerly by yourselves, I submit to any punishment, if I do not rout and put to flight, and strip of their camp, those ravagers of our lands, and transfer from our gates and walls to their cities this terror of war, by which you are now thrown into consternation.”