On his side stood the majesty of the senate, the favour of the people, the support of the tribunes, and regard for the absent army.
On the other side were urged the inviolable authority of the Roman government and military discipline; the edict of the dictator, always observed as the mandate of a deity; the orders of Manlius, and his postponing even parental affection to public utility.
“The same also,” said the dictator, “was the conduct of Lucius Brutus, the founder of Roman liberty, in the case of his two sons. That now fathers were [p. 550]
become indulgent, and the aged indifferent in the case of the authority of others being despised, and indulge the young in the subversion of military order, as if it were a matter of trifling consequence.
For his part, however, he would persevere in his purpose, and would not remit the smallest part of the punishment justly due to a person who fought contrary to his orders, while the rites of religion were imperfectly ex- ecuted, and the auspices uncertain.
Whether the majesty of the supreme authority was to be perpetual or not, depended not on him; but Lucius Papirius would not diminish aught of its rights.
He wished that the tribunitian office, inviolate itself, would not by its interposition violate the authority of the Roman government; nor the Roman people, to their own detriment particularly, annihilate the dictator and the rights of the dictatorship together.
But if this should be the case, not Lucius Papirius but the tribunes and the people would be blamed by posterity in vain; when military discipline being once dissolved, the soldier would no longer obey the orders of the centurion, the centurion those of the tribune, the tribune those of the lieutenant-general, the lieutenant-general those of the consul, nor the master of the horse those of the dictator.
No one would then pay any deference to men, no, nor even to the gods. Neither edicts of generals nor auspices would be observed.
The soldiers, without leave of absence, would straggle at random through the lands of friends and of foes; and regardless of their oath would, influenced solely by a wanton humour, quit the service whenever they might choose.
The standards would be unattended and forsaken: the men would neither assemble in pursuance of orders, nor would any distinction be made as to fighting by night or by day, on favourable or unfavourable ground, by order or without the the orders of the general; nor would they observe standards or ranks; the service, instead of being solemn and sacred, would be confused and the result of mere chance, like that of freebooters.
Render yourselves then, tribunes of the commons, accountable for all these evils to all future ages. Expose your own persons to these heavy imputations in defence of the licentious conduct of Quintus Fabius.”