Accordingly certain of the younger senators were dispatched to the camp, which was then on Mount Vecilius, and carried word to the decemvirs that they must employ all their resources to keep the troops from mutiny.
There Verginius aroused a greater commotion than he had left in Rome. For besides that he was seen approaching attended by a body of nearly four hundred men, who had joined him when he left the City, in their anger and resentment at the affair, the weapon in his hand and the gore with which he was spattered drew the attention of the entire camp upon him.
Then too the appearance of togas in the camp, in many places, produced the effect of a greater company of civilians than were actually there.
Being asked what the matter was, Verginius wept, and for a long time answered never a word; at length, when the bustle and confusion of the gathering had subsided and silence had ensued, he gave an orderly account of all that had taken place.
Then, lifting up his hands in an attitude of prayer, and addressing the [p. 165]
crowd as his fellow-soldiers, he besought them not1
to attribute to him the crime of which Appius Claudius stood guilty, nor to repudiate him as one who had murdered his child.
To him the life of his daughter had been dearer than his own, if she had been permitted to live pure and chaste; when he saw her being carried off like a slave to be dishonoured, thinking it better to lose his children by death than by outrage, he had been impelled by pity to an act of seeming cruelty; nor would he have survived his daughter, had he not hoped to avenge her death by the help of his fellow-soldiers.
They too had daughters, sisters, and wives; the lust of Appius Claudius had not been extinguished with the life of Verginia, but its lawlessness would be proportioned to its impunity. In the calamity of another they had been given a warning to be on their guard against similar wrongs.
So far as he was concerned, his wife had been taken from him in the course of nature, his daughter, because she could no longer have lived chaste, had died a pitiful but an honourable death;
for the lust of Appius there was now no longer in his house any scope; from other forms which his violence might take he would defend his own person with no less spirit than he had shown in defence of his daughter; the others must look out for themselves and for their own children.
As Verginius spoke these words in a loud voice, the multitude signified with responsive shouts that they would not forget his sufferings nor fail to vindicate their liberty. And the civilians, mingling with the crowd, repeated the same complaints and told them how much more shameful the thing would have appeared if they could have seen it instead of [p. 167]
hearing about it;
at the same time they reported2
that the decemvirate was already overthrown at Rome; and on the arrival of later tidings, to the effect that Appius had almost lost his life and had gone into exile, they induced the troops to raise the cry “To arms!”
and to pluck up their standards and set out for Rome. The decemvirs, troubled alike by what they saw and by what they heard had taken place in Rome, rushed through the camp, one this way, another that, to still the rising.
And so long as they mildly remonstrated, they got no answer; but if one of them tried to use his authority, they told him that they were men, and armed. They marched in column to the City and took possession of the Aventine, urging the plebeians, as often as they fell in with one, to
make an effort to regain their liberty and to elect plebeian tribunes. Save this, no violent proposals were heard.
The senate was convened by Spurius Oppius. It was resolved that no harsh action should be taken, seeing that occasion for the mutiny had been given by themselves.3
Three delegates of consular rank, Spurius Tarpeius, Gaius Julius, and Publius Sulpicius, were dispatched in the name of the senate to inquire by whose orders the men had deserted the camp, and what they meant, who with arms had seized the Aventine, and, abandoning the enemy, had captured their native City.
The men were at no loss for an answer: what they lacked was some one to make it, since they had as yet no definite leader, nor did individuals quite dare to single themselves out for enmity. But the crowd called out in unison that they should send them Lucius Valerius and Marcus Horatius, to whom they would intrust their reply. [p. 169]