A fire which broke out in several places at once in the neighbourhood of the forum, on the night before the festival [p. 1054]
of Minerva, interrupted these discourses.
Seven shops, where five were afterwards erected, and the banks, which are now called the new banks, were all on fire at once.
Afterwards the private dwellings caught, for there were no public halls there then, the prisons called the Quarry, the fish-market, and the royal palace.
The temple of Vesta was with difficulty saved, principally by the exertions of thirteen slaves, who were redeemed at the public expense and manumitted. The fire continued for a day and a night.
It was evident to every body that it was caused by human contrivance, because the flames burst forth in several places at once, and those at a distance from each other.
The consul, therefore, on the recommendation of the senate, publicly notified, that whoever should make known by whose act the conflagration was kindled, should be rewarded; if a free-man, with money, if a slave, with liberty.
Induced by this reward, a slave of the Campanian family, the Calavii, named Mannus, gave information that “his masters, with five noble Campanian youths, whose parents had been executed by Fulvius, were the authors of the fire, and that they would commit various other acts of the same kind if they were not seized.” Upon this they were seized, as well as their slaves.
At first, the informer and his evidence were disparaged; for that "he had run away from his masters the day before in consequence of a whipping, and that from an event which had happened by mere chance, he had fabricated this charge, from resentment and wantonness.
But when they were charged by their accusers face to face, and the ministers of their villanies began to be examined in the middle of the forum, they all confessed; and punishment was inflicted upon the masters and their accessory slaves. The informer received his liberty and twenty thousand asses.
The consul Laevinus, while passing by Capua, was surrounded by a multitude of Campanians, who besought him, with tears, that they might be permitted to go to Rome to the senate, so that if they could at length be in any degree moved by compassion, they might not carry their resentment so far as to destroy them utterly, nor suffer the very name of the Campanian nation to be obliterated by Quintus Flaccus.
Flaccus declared, that “he had individually no quarrel with the Campanians, but that he did entertain an enmity towards them on public grounds, and because they were foes, and should continue to do so as [p. 1055]
long as he felt assured that they had the same feelings towards the Roman people; for that there was no nation or people on earth more inveterate against the Roman name.
That his reason for keeping them shut up within their walls was, that if any of these got out any where they roamed through the country like wild beasts, tearing and massacring whatever fell in their way.
That some of them had deserted to Hannibal, others had gone and set fire to Rome; that the consul would find the traces of the villany of the Campanians in the half-burnt forum.
That the temple of Vesta, the eternal fire, and the fatal pledge for the continuance of the Roman empire deposited in the shrine, had been the objects of their attack. That in his opinion it was extremely unsafe for any Campanians to be allowed to enter the walls of Rome.”
Laevinus ordered the Campanians to follow him to Rome, after Flaccus had bound them by an oath to return to Capua on the fifth day after receiving an answer from the senate.
Surrounded by this crowd, and followed also by the Sicilians and Aetolians, who came out to meet him, he went to Rome; taking with him into the city as accusers of two men who had acquired the greatest celebrity by the overthrow of two most renowned cities, those whom they had vanquished in war.
Both the consuls, however, first proposed to the senate the consideration of the state of the commonwealth, and the arrangements respecting the provinces.