A stormier year succeeded, under the1
consuls Lucius Valerius and Titus Aemilius, partly owing to strife between the classes about the land-law, partly to the trial of Appius Claudius.
He was the bitterest opponent of the law, and was upholding the claim of those who had possession of the public domain as if he had been a third consul, when Marcus Duillius and Gnaeus Siccius lodged an accusation against him.
Never before had a defendant whom the plebs so detested been brought to trial before the people, burdened as he was with men's hatred, both of himself and of his father.
The patricians, for their part, had not lightly put forth such exertions in behalf of any man. They felt that the champion of the senate and the guardian of their own dignity, who had stood firm against all sorts of tribunician and plebeian outbreaks, though he had possibly gone too far in the heat of the struggle, was being exposed to the angry commons.
Alone amongst the Fathers, Appius Claudius himself regarded tribunes, plebs, and his own trial with perfect unconcern. He was not one whom the threats of the plebeians or the entreaties of the senate could ever prevail upon, I do not say to put on mourning, or to seek men out with appeals for mercy, but even to soften and subdue in a slight degree the accustomed sharpness of his tongue, though it was before the people he must plead.
There was the same expression on his countenance, the same arrogance in his glance, the same fire in his speech; so markedly, in fact, that a great part of the plebs feared Appius no less when a defendant than they had feared him as consul.
Once only did he plead his cause, in the tone he had been wont to use on all occasions, namely, that of a [p. 425]
prosecutor; and so completely did his firmness2
overwhelm the tribunes and the commons that they themselves voluntarily adjourned the trial to a later day, and then allowed the affair to drag.
The interval was not very long, but before the appointed day came round Appius fell sick and died.
When his eulogy was being pronounced, the tribunes of the plebs attempted to interfere, but the plebs were not willing that the funeral-day of so great a man should be defrauded of the customary honours. They listened to his praises with as great goodwill, now he was dead, as they had heard the living man accused, and attended his burial in crowds.