Quintus Fabius, consul for the ensuing year, succeeded to the command of the army at Sutrium; the colleague given to him was Caius Marcius Rutilus.
On the one side, Fabius brought with him a reinforcement from Rome, and on the other, a new army had been sent for, and came from home, to the Etrurians.
Many years had now passed without any disputes between the patrician magistrates and plebeian tribunes, [p. 605]
when a contest took its rise from that family, which seemed raised by fate as antagonists to the tribunes and commons of those times;
Appius Claudius, being censor, when the eighteen months had expired, which was the time limited by the Aemilian law for the duration of the censorship, although his colleague Caius Plautius had already resigned his office, could not be prevailed on, by any means, to give up his.
There was a tribune of the commons, Publius Sempronius; he undertook to enforce a legal process for terminating the censorship within the lawful time, which was not more popular than just, nor more pleasing to the people generally than to every man of character in the city.
After he frequently appealed to the Aemilian law, and bestowed commendations on Mamercus Aemilius, who, in his dictatorship, had been the author of it, for having contracted, within the space of a year and six months, the censorship, which formerly had lasted five years, and was a power
which, in consequence of its long continuance, often became tyrannical, he proceeded thus:
“Tell me, Appius Claudius, in what manner you would have acted, had you been censor, at the time when Caius Furius and Marcus Geganius were censors?” Appius insisted, that “the tribune's question was irrelevant to his case.
For, although the Aemilian law might bind those censors, during whose magistracy it was passed, —because the people made that law after they had become censors; and whatever order is the last passed by the people, that is held to be the law, and valid: — yet neither he, nor any of those who had been created censors subsequent to the passing of that law, could be bound by it.”