Lucius Furius and Gaius Manlius were the1
next consuls. To Manlius fell the command against the Veientes. But there was no war; a truce for forty years was granted, at their solicitation, and corn and a money-indemnity were exacted of them.
The foreign peace was immediately succeeded by quarrels at home. The land-law with which the tribunes goaded the plebs excited them to the pitch of madness. The consuls, not a jot intimidated by the condemnation of Menenius, not a jot by the danger of Servilius, resisted the measure with the utmost violence.
As their term expired, Gnaeus Genucius, a plebeian tribune, haled them to trial.
Lucius Aemilius and Opiter Verginius entered upon the consulship. Vopiscus Julius I find given as consul in certain annals, instead of Verginius. This year —whoever its consuls were —Furius and Manlius went about among the people as men accused, in garments of mourning, seeking out the younger patricians, as well as the plebeians.
They advised them, they warned them to forbear from office-holding and the administration of the public business; as for the consular fasces, the purple-bordered toga, and the curule chair, —these they should regard in no other light than as the pageantry of burial; for splendid insignia, like the fillets placed on victims, doomed the wearer to death.
But if the consulship was so alluring to them, let them recognize at once that it had been fettered and enslaved by the might of the tribunes; that the consul, as though an attendant upon those officials, must be subject in all [p. 403]
he did to their beck and call;
if he should bestir2
himself, if he should show consideration for the patricians, if he should believe that the state comprised any other element than the plebs —let him call to mind the exile of Gnaeus Marcius, the condemnation of Menenius and his death.
Fired by these speeches, the senators began to hold councils, no longer publicly, but in private, where the people could not learn their plans. In these deliberations there was but one guiding principle, that by fair means or foul the defendants must be got off. The more truculent a suggestion was, the greater was the favour it evoked, and an agent was not wanting for the most daring crime.
Well then, on the day of the trial the plebeians were in the Forum, on tiptoe with expectation. At first they were filled with amazement because the tribune did not come down;3
then, when at length his delay began to look suspicious, they supposed he had been frightened away by the nobles, and fell to complaining of his desertion and betrayal of the people's cause; finally, those who had presented themselves at the tribune's vestibule brought back word that he had been found dead in his house.
When this report had spread through all the gathering, the crowd, like an army which takes to flight at the fall of its general, melted away on every side. The tribunes were particularly dismayed, for the death of their colleague warned them how utterly ineffectual to protect them were the laws that proclaimed their sanctity.
Nor did the senators place a proper restraint upon their satisfaction; so far, indeed, was anyone from repenting of the guilty deed that even the innocent desired to be thought its authors, and men openly asserted that chastisement must be employed to curb the power of the tribunes.