Chance so directed it, that this year Cneius Trebonius was tribune of the commons, and he considered that he undertook the patronage of the Trebonian law as a debt due to his name and family.
He crying out aloud, “that a point which some patricians had aimed at, though baffled in their first attempt, had yet been carried by the military tribunes that the Trebonian law had been subverted, and tribunes of the commons had been elected not by the suffrages of the people but by the mandate of the patricians; and that the thing was now come to this, that either patricians or dependants of patricians were to be had for tribunes of the commons;
that the devoting laws were taken away, the tribunitian power wrested from them; he alleged that this was effected by some artifice of the patricians, by the villany and treachery of his colleagues.”
While not only the patricians, but the tribunes of the commons also became objects of public resentment; as well those who were elected, as those who had elected them; then three of the college, Publius Curiatius, Marcus Metilius, and Marcus Minucius, alarmed for their interests, make an attack [p. 336]
on Sergius and Virginius, military tribunes of the former year; they turn away the resentment of the commons, and public odium from themselves on them, by appointing a day of trial for them.
They observe that “those persons by whom the levy, the tribute, the long service, and the distant seat of the war was felt as a grievance, those who lamented the calamity sustained at Veii; such as had their houses in mourning through the loss of children, brothers, relatives, and kinsmen, had now through their means the right and power of avenging the public and private sorrow on the two guilty causes.
For that the sources of all their sufferings were centred in Sergius and Virginius: nor did the prosecutor advance that charge more satisfactorily than the accused acknowledged it; who, both guilty, threw the blame from one to the other, Virginius charging Sergius with running away, Sergius charging Virginius with treachery.
The folly of whose conduct was so incredible, that it is much more probable that the affair had been contrived by concert, and by the common artifice of the patricians.
That by them also an opportunity was formerly given to the Veientians to burn the works for the sake of protracting the war; and that now the army was betrayed, and the Roman camp delivered up to the Faliscians.
That every thing was done that the young men should grow old before Veii, and that the tribunes should not be able to consult the people either regarding the lands or the other interests of
the commons, and to give weight to their measures by a numerous attendance [of citizens], and to make head against the conspiracy of the patricians.
That a previous judgment had been already passed on the accused both by the senate and the Roman people and by their own colleagues. For that by a decree of the senate they had been removed from the administration of affairs, and when they refused to resign their office they had been forced into it by their colleagues; and that the Roman people had elected tribunes, who were to enter on their office not on the ides of December, the usual day, but instantly on the calends of October, because the republic could no longer subsist, these persons remaining in office.
And yet these individuals, overwhelmed and already condemned by so many decisions against them, presented themselves for trial before the people;
and thought that they were done with the matter, and had suffered sufficient punish- [p. 337]
ment, because they were reduced to the state of private citizens two months sooner [than ordinary]: and did not consider that the power of doing mischief any longer was then taken from them, that punishment was not inflicted; for that the official power of their colleagues also had been taken from them who certainly had committed no fault.
That the Roman citizens should resume those sentiments which they had when the recent disaster was sustained, when they beheld the army flying in consternation, covered with wounds, and in dismay pouring into the gates, accusing not fortune nor any of the gods, but these their commanders.
They were cert in, that there was not a man present in the assembly who did not execrate and detest the persons, families, and fortunes of Lucius Virginius and Manius Sergius.
That it was by no means consistent that now, when it was lawful and their duty, they should not exert their power against persons, on whom they had severally imprecated the vengeance of the gods. That the gods themselves never laid hands on the guilty it was enough if they armed the injured with the means of taking revenge.”