The year after had as its consuls Postumius1
Cominius and Titus Largius.
In this year, during the celebration of the games at Rome, the Sabine youths, in a spirit of wantonness, forcibly abducted certain harlots. Men gathered hastily and there was a brawl which was almost a battle, and, trifling as its origin was, it seemed to threaten a fresh outbreak of the war.2
Besides the Sabine peril, it was generally known that the thirty Latin cities had already conspired, at the instigation of Octavius Mamilius.
These grave apprehensions having occasioned a general anxiety, the appointment of a dictator was suggested, for the first time. But there is no general agreement as to the year, or which consuls were distrusted as being of the Tarquinian faction —for this is included in the tradition —or who it was that was first named dictator.
In the oldest writers, however, I find it said that Titus Largius was the first to be made dictator, and that Spurius Cassius was [p. 277]
master of the horse. They chose men of consular3
rank, for so the law prescribed which had been passed to regulate the selection of a dictator.
I am therefore the more disposed to believe that Largius, a consular, rather than Manius Valerius, the son of Marcus and grandson of Volesus, a man who had not yet held the consulship, was assigned to be the director and superior of consuls;
and indeed if men had been specially desirous of choosing the dictator from that family, they would much sooner have selected Marcus Valerius the father, a man of proven worth and an ex-consul.
When they had named a dictator for the first time at Rome, and men saw the axes borne before him, a great fear came over the plebs and caused them to be more zealous in obeying orders. For there was no recourse in this case, as with the consuls, who shared the powers of their office equally, to the assistance of the man's colleague, nor was there any appeal nor any help anywhere but in scrupulous obedience.4
The Sabines, too, were inspired with fear by the appointment of the dictator, especially since they believed that it was on their account that he had been created.
Accordingly they sent legates to treat for peace. When they requested the dictator and the senate to pardon an error committed by young men, the answer was given that to pardon young men was possible, but not old men who contrived one war after another.
Nevertheless negotiations for peace were begun, and it would have been granted to the Sabines, could they have made up their minds to guarantee, as the Romans demanded, the sum which had been expended for the war. Hostilities were declared, but a tacit truce preserved a state of peace through the year.