When the consuls had perceived that Scaptius was listened to not only in silence but actually with approval, they called on gods and men to witness that a great outrage was being perpetrated, and sent for the leaders of the senate.
With them they went about among the tribes and implored [p. 247]
them not to be guilty of an act which, utterly wrong1
in itself, would establish a precedent that was even worse, by diverting to their own possession, as judges, the property in dispute; and that too when, even if it were right that a judge should be concerned for his own advantage, they would by no means gain so much by the seizure of the land as they would lose by the wrongful estrangement of their allies.
For reputation at least and trustworthiness were things the loss of which was beyond all reckoning. Was this to be the report carried home by the envoys? Was this to be noised abroad and come to the ears of allies and enemies?
What grief it would cause the former, and what joy the latter! Did they suppose that Scaptius, a meddling old hanger-on of assemblies, would be held responsible for this by the neighbouring nations? It would be a famous thing for Scaptius to have inscribed beneath his portrait, but the Roman People would be playing a role of chicanery and of usurpation of the claims of others.
For what umpire in a private suit would have thought of awarding to himself the object of litigation? Even Scaptius, though he had already outlived all sense of shame, would not do that.
These arguments were loudly urged both by the consuls and by the Fathers; but they were less convincing than men's cupidity, or than Scaptius, who had aroused it. The tribes, being called upon to vote, decided the territory to be public land belonging to the Roman People.
Nor is it denied that such would have been the verdict if recourse had been had to another court; but in the circumstances the excellence of the cause did not in the slightest degree extenuate the disgrace of the judgment, [p. 249]
which seemed no less scandalous and harsh to the2
Roman senators than to the men of Aricia and Ardea. The remainder of the year passed without disturbances in either domestic or foreign relations. [p. 251]