But when the comitia for the election of decemvirs had been announced to take place in [p. 115]
there was a great outburst of2
even the chief men in the state —from fear, I doubt not, that if they left the field this great power might fall into unworthy hands —solicited men's votes and humbly begged for an office which they had themselves opposed with all their influence, from those plebeians with whom they had contended.
The risk of losing his position, at his time of life, and after holding the offices he had held, acted as a spur to Appius Claudius.
One would not have known whether to reckon him among the decemvirs or the candidates. He was at times more like one who sought a magistracy than like one who exercised it.
He vilified the nobles; praised all the most insignificant and low-born candidates; and surrounding himself with former tribunes, like Duillius and Icilius, bustled about the Forum, and through them recommended himself to the plebs; till even his colleagues, who had been singularly devoted to him until then, looked askance at him and wondered what this could mean.
It was evident there could be nothing genuine about it; so proud a man would certainly not be affable for nothing; excessive self-abasement and mingling with private citizens were not so much the marks of one who was in haste to retire from office as of one who sought the means of re-election.
Open opposition to his desires being more than they dared venture, they endeavoured by a show of complaisance to lessen its intensity; and unanimously appointed him, as their youngest colleague, to preside at the election.
This was a trick, that he might be unable to declare himself elected, a thing which none but tribunes of the plebs (and even there the precedent was most [p. 117]
vicious) had ever done. But Appius, strange as it3
may seem, having promised, with a prayer for Heaven's blessing, to convene the comitia, turned the obstacle into an opportunity.
He effected by collusion4
the defeat of the two Quinctii, Capitolinus and Cincinnatus, of his uncle Gaius Claudius, a steadfast champion of the aristocratic cause, and of other citizens of the same exalted rank; and declared the election of decemvirs who were no match for these men in excellence.
His own name he announced among the first, a thing which good citizens condemned with as perfect unanimity, now it was done, as they had before believed he would not dare to do it.
With him were elected Marcus Cornelius Maluginensis, Marcus Sergius, Lucius Minucius, Quintus Fabius Vibulanus, Quintus Poetelius, Titus Antonius Merenda, Caeso Duillius, Spurius Oppius Cornicen, Manius Rabuleius.5