The election of tribunes was held first.1
The tribunes with consular powers who were chosen were all patricians, namely Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (for the third time), Lucius Furius Medullinus (for the second time), Marcus Manlius, and Aulus Sempronius Atratinus.
The last-named held the election for quaestors. Among the several plebeians who sought the place were the son of a plebeian tribune, named Aulus Antistius, and the brother of another, Sextus Pompilius. Yet neither the authority nor the support of these men could prevent the people from giving the preference, because of their noble birth, to men whose fathers and grandfathers they had seen consuls.
This made all the tribunes furious, but more than all the rest Pompilius and Antistius, who were incensed at the defeat of their kinsmen.
What in the world, they asked, was the meaning of this? Had neither their own services nor the wrongs which the patricians had inflicted, nor even the pleasure of exercising a right —since what had before been unlawful was now permitted —availed to elect a single quaestor from the plebs, let alone a military tribune?
Of no avail had been a father's entreaties for his son, a brother's for his brother, not though they had been tribunes of the plebs, and invested with an inviolable office, created for the protection of liberty. There was fraud in the matter, beyond question, and Aulus Sempronius had employed more artifice than honesty in the election.
It was by his wrong-doing, they complained, that their relations had been defeated for office. And so, [p. 401]
since they could not attack the man himself, secure2
as he was not only in his innocence but in the magistracy which he was filling, they turned their anger upon Gaius Sempronius, the cousin of Atratinus; and prosecuted him, with the co-operation of their colleague Marcus Canuleius, on the score of the humiliation suffered in the Volscian war.
The same tribunes frequently mentioned in the senate the division of the public lands, a measure which Gaius Sempronius had always stoutly resisted, for they reckoned —and rightly —that either he would abandon the cause and his defence would become a matter of less concern to the patricians, or that persevering in his attitude he would give offence, up to the moment of his trial, to the plebeians.
He chose to face the storm of unpopularity and to injure his own cause rather than be found wanting in that of the nation; and he held fast to the same opinion, that there should be no largess, for that would redound to the advantage of the three tribunes.
It was not land for the plebs they were then looking for, he declared, but hatred for himself; he was as ready as another to confront that tempest with a courageous heart; nor ought the senate to set so high a value upon himself or any other citizen that their tenderness for him should bring about a general disaster.
His spirit was not a whit less firm when the day of trial came.
He pleaded his own cause; the senators exerted in vain every means of mollifying the plebs; and he was condemned to pay a fine of fifteen thousand asses.
The same year a Vestal virgin named Postumia was put on trial for unchastity.
She was innocent of the charge, though open to suspicion because of her [p. 403]
pretty clothes and the unmaidenly freedom of her3
wit. After she had been remanded and then acquitted, the pontifex maximus, in the name of the college, commanded her to abstain from jests, and to dress rather with regard to sanctity than coquetry.
In this same year Cumae, a city which the Greeks then held, was captured by the Campanians.
The ensuing year had as military tribunes with consular powers Agrippa Menenius Lanatus, Publius Lucretius Tricipitinus, and Spurius Nautius Rutulus.