The next year Numerius Fabius1
Vibulanus and Titus Quinctius Capitolinus, the son of Capitolinus, were consuls. Under the leadership of Fabius, to whom this command had been assigned by lot, nothing worthy of relation was accomplished.
The Aequi had scarce made an irresolute show of battle when they were routed and driven disgracefully from the field, and the consul got no credit by the affair. He was accordingly denied a triumph; but because he had relieved the ignominy incurred by Sempronius's defeat, he was allowed to enter the City in an ovation.
But while the war had been concluded with less of a struggle than men had feared, in the City tranquillity gave place to unexpected and serious quarrels, which broke out between the plebs and the senators, and began over the duplication of the number of quaestors.
This measure —that besides the two city quaestors two others should be elected to assist the consuls in the administration of wars —was proposed by the consuls and received the hearty approval of the senate, but the tribunes of the plebs made a fight to have half of the quaestors —hitherto patricians had been chosen —taken from the plebs.
Against this provision both consuls and senators at first exerted themselves with all their might; afterwards they were ready to concede that, just as in the case of tribunes with consular powers, so likewise with the quaestors, the people should be unrestricted in their choice; but making no headway with this offer, they dropped the whole question of enlarging the number of quaestors.
It was then taken up where they had left it by the tribunes; and other [p. 397]
revolutionary schemes came to the fore in quick2
succession, among them one for enacting an agrarian law. When the senate, because of these disturbances, preferred that consuls be elected rather than tribunes, yet was unable to pass a resolution on account of tribunician vetoes, the government passed from the consuls to an interrex;
nor was even this accomplished without a violent struggle, for the tribunes tried to prevent the patricians from holding a meeting.
The greater part of the ensuing year dragged on with contests between the new tribunes and several interreges. At one time the tribunes would keep the patricians from meeting to appoint an interrex; at another time they would interpose their veto against the interrex, that the senate might not pass a resolution to hold the consular elections.
Finally Lucius Papirius Mugillanus was named interrex, and upbraiding now the senators, now the tribunes of the plebs, reminded them how the state, abandoned and forsaken by men, had been protected by the providential care of Heaven, and existed by the grace of the Veientine truce and the dilatory policy of the Aequi.
If an alarm should break out in that quarter, was it their pleasure that the republic should be caught without a patrician magistrate? that there should be no army, no general to enrol an army?
Or did they expect to beat off a foreign foe with a civil war? But if both should come at once, the help of the gods themselves would scarce suffice to stay the destruction of the Roman commonwealth.
Why would they not every man abate somewhat of his full rights and compromise harmoniously on a middle course, the Fathers consenting that military tribunes should be chosen instead of consuls, the [p. 399]
tribunes interposing no veto to prevent four quaestors3
being taken promiscuously from plebeians and patricians by free election of the people?