To the consuls the authority was continued for a year longer. Caius Claudius Centho, son of Appius, and then Publius Cornelius Asina, were appointed interreges by the fathers. During the interregnum of the latter the election was held, with a violent contest between the patricians and the people.
Caius Terentius Varro, whom, as a man of their own order, commended to their favour by inveighing against the patricians and by other popular arts; who had acquired celebrity by maligning others, by undermining the influence of Fabius, and bringing into contempt the dictatorial authority, the commons strove to raise to the consulship. The patricians opposed him with all their might, lest men, by inveighing against them, should come to be placed on an equality with them.
Quintus Bœbius Herennius, a plebeian tribune, and kinsman of Caius Terentius, by criminating not only the senate, but the augurs also, for having prevented the dictator from completing the election, by the odium cast upon them, conciliated favour to his own candidate. He asserted, “that Hannibal had been brought into Italy by the nobility, who had for many years been desirous of a war.
That by the fraudulent machinations of the same persons the war had been protracted, whereas it might have been brought to a conclusion.
That it had appeared that the war could be maintained with an army consisting of four legions in all, from Marcus Minucius's having fought with success in the absence of Fabius.
That two legions had been exposed to be slain by the enemy, and were afterwards rescued from absolute destruction, in order that that man might be saluted as father and patron, who had deprived them of victory before he delivered them from defeat.
That subsequently the consuls, pursuing the plans of Fabius, had protracted the war, whereas it was in their power to have put a period to it. That this was an agreement made by the nobility in general; nor would they ever have the war concluded till they had created a consul really plebeian; that is, a new man:
for that plebeians who had attained nobility were now initiated into the mysteries, [p. 804]
and had begun to look down with contempt upon plebeians, from the moment they ceased to be despised by the patricians.
Who was not fully aware that their end and object was, that an interregnum should be formed, in order that the elections might be under the influence of the patricians?
That both the consuls had that in view in tarrying with the army: and that afterwards a dictator having been nominated to hold the election contrary to their wishes, they had carried it, as it were, by storm, that the augurs should declare the dictator informally elected.
That they therefore had gotten an interregnum; but one consulate was surely in the hands of the Roman people. Thus the people would have that at their own unbiassed disposal, and that they would confer it on that man who would rather conquer in reality than lengthen the term of his command.”