Then, as the crowd was in a turmoil, not knowing what to think of the deed, he bade convoke them to an assembly. There he asserted that Maelius had been justly slain, even though he had been innocent of plotting to make himself king, since he had been cited before the dictator by the master of the horse and had not obeyed.
He himself, he said, had sat to hear the cause, and if the hearing had been concluded Maelius would have prospered as his cause deserved; but, planning violence to avoid undergoing trial, he had been repressed by violence.
Neither would it have been right to deal with Maelius as with a citizen. The man had been born amongst a free people enjoying rights and laws, in a City from which he knew that the kings had been banished, and how in that very year the king's nephews,1
sons of the consul who had freed his country, had, on the exposure of a compact they had made to bring the princes back to Rome, been beheaded by their father's orders.
He knew that in this City the consul Tarquinius Collatinus had been commanded, out of hatred for the name he bore, to lay down his office and go into exile; that here, some years after, Spurius Cassius2
had been punished for aiming at [p. 309]
royalty; that here, but lately, the decemvirs had3
been visited with confiscation, banishment, and death, because of kingly arrogance.
Yet in this same City a Spurius Maelius had conceived the hope of reigning. And who was this fellow? To be sure, no nobility, no honours, no merits, opened wide the road to tyranny for any man; nevertheless the Claudii4
and Cassii had been encouraged by consulships and decemvirates, by their own honours and those of their forefathers, and by the splendour of their families, to aim at forbidden heights;
Spurius Maelius, a rich corn-dealer, a man who might have desired but ought scarcely to have hoped to become a plebeian tribune, had flattered himself that for a couple of pounds of spelt he had purchased the liberty of his fellow citizens;
he had imagined that by flinging food to them he could entice into slavery a people who had conquered all their neighbours, so that a state which could scarce have stomached him as a senator would endure him for its king, having the insignia and authority of Romulus its founder, who was descended from the gods and had returned to them.
This ought to be regarded as a thing no less monstrous than wicked; nor was his blood sufficient expiation, unless the roof and walls within which such madness had been conceived should be demolished, and the goods which had been tainted with the offer of them as the price to buy a tyranny be confiscated; he therefore bade the quaestors sell those goods and place the proceeds in the public treasury.