Appius prefaced his decision by saying that it was evident how much he favoured liberty from that very law which the friends of Verginius made the pretext for their claim;
but the law would afford liberty a sure protection only if it varied neither with causes nor with persons; for in the case of others who were claimed as free, the demand was legal, since any one might bring an action: in the case of one who was under the authority of a father there was no one else to whom the master ought to yield the custody;
accordingly he decreed that the father should be summoned, and that meanwhile the [p. 149]
claimant should not relinquish his right, but should1
take the girl in charge and guarantee that she should be produced at the coming of him who was called her father.2
Against the injustice of the decree, though many murmured their disapproval, there was not a single man who dared to stand out; when Publius Numitorius, the girl's great-uncle,3
and her lover Icilius, arrived on the scene.
When a path had been opened for them through the throng, since the crowd believed that the intervention of Icilius would be particularly effectual in resisting Appius, the lictor cried that the case had been decided, and as Icilius began to protest, attempted to thrust him aside.
Even a placid nature would have been incensed by so violent an insult. “You must use iron to rid yourself of me, Appius,” he cried, “that you may carry through in silence what you desire should be concealed. This maiden I am going to wed; and I intend that my bride shall be chaste.
So call together all your colleagues' lictors too; bid them make ready rods and axes: the promised wife of Icilius shall not pass the night outside her father's house.
No! If you have taken from the Roman plebs the assistance of the tribunes and the right of appeal, two citadels for the defence of liberty, it has not therefore been granted to your lust to lord it over our children and our wives as well!
Vent your rage upon our backs and our necks: let our chastity at least be safe. If that shall be assailed, I will call on the Quirites here present to protect my bride, Verginius will [p. 151]
invoke the help of the soldiers in behalf of his only4
daughter, and all of us will implore the protection of gods and men;
nor shall you ever repeat that decree of yours without shedding our blood. I ask you, Appius, to consider earnestly whither you are going.
Let Verginius decide what to do about his daughter, when he comes; but of one thing he may rest assured: if he yields to this man's claim, he will have to seek a husband for her. As for me, in defence of the freedom of my bride I will sooner die than prove disloyal.”