This affair ended a good deal more quietly1
than anybody had anticipated.
It was reported by merchants2
that the Veientes had been refused assistance and had been told that having embarked on the war at their own discretion they must prosecute it with their own forces nor seek the alliance of those in their adversity with whom they had not shared the prospect of success.
Whereupon the dictator, that his appointment might not have been for nothing, was desirous, being deprived of the means of winning military renown, of accomplishing some peaceful achievement to signalize his dictatorship. He therefore laid his plans to weaken the censorship, either thinking its powers excessive, or troubled less by the greatness of the office than by its long duration.
So, calling an assembly, he said that the immortal gods had undertaken to manage the foreign relations of the state and to make everything safe: he himself would do what needed to be done within the City, and would defend the liberty of the Roman People. Now the greatest safeguard was that great powers should not be long-continued, but that a limit of time should be imposed on them, since no limit of jurisdiction could be. Other magistracies were tenable for one year, the censorship for five.
It was a serious matter for the same man to have authority over people for so many years, in a great part of their affairs. He announced that he should propose a law that the censorship might not last longer than a year and a half.
With vast enthusiasm on the part of the people the law was next day enacted, and Mamercus exclaimed, “That you may have positive proof, Quirites, how little I approve prolonged authority, I lay down my [p. 335]
Thus, having resigned his own3
magistracy and assigned a limit for the other, he was escorted to his home by the people, with striking manifestations of rejoicing and good-will. The censors, in their indignation that Mamercus had abridged a magistracy of the Roman People, removed him from his tribe, and assessing him at eight times his former tax, disfranchised him.4
This they say Mamercus bore with great fortitude, having regard rather to the cause of his humiliation than to the humiliation itself. The leading patricians, though they had opposed the curtailment of the jurisdiction of the censorship, were offended by this example of censorial ruthlessness, since each of them perceived that he should be subjected to the censor for a longer period and more frequently than he should hold the
censor's office. The people at any rate are said to have been so enraged that no man's influence but that of Mamercus himself could have shielded the censors from their violence.