There would have been two wars in the1
ensuing year, in which Publius Cornelius Cossus, Gaius Valerius Potitus, Quintus Quinctius Cincinnatus, and Numerius Fabius Vibulanus were military tribunes with consular powers, had not the war with Veii been delayed, thanks to the superstition of the
Veientine leaders, whose farms an overflow of the Tiber had laid waste, chiefly by ruining the farmhouses.
At the same time the Aequi were deterred by the defeat they had suffered three years before from marching to the assistance of the Bolani, a tribe of their own race.
These people had made incursions into the neighbouring territory of Labici and attacked the new settlers.
The consequences of this outrage they had hoped to avoid by means of the co-operation of all the Aequi; but, having been abandoned by their friends, they lost their town and their lands, in a war which does not even merit description, as the result of a siege and a single skirmish.
An attempt on the part of Lucius Decius, a plebeian tribune, to carry a law providing that colonists should be sent to Bolae too, as well as to Labici, was frustrated through the intervention of his colleagues, who intimated that they would permit no plebiscite to pass unless it had the warrant of the senate.
Bolae was retaken the next year, and the Aequi planted a colony there and strengthened the town with new defenders. Rome now had the following military tribunes with consular powers, Gnaeus Cornelius Cossus, Lucius Valerius Potitus, Quintus Fabius Vibulanus (for the second time), and Marcus [p. 419]
To this last was intrusted2
the campaign against the Aequi. He was a wrongheaded man, yet he showed it more in the hour of victory than during the campaign.
For he was energetic in raising an army and leading it to Bolae, where, after breaking the spirit of the Aequi in some trifling engagements, he finally forced an entrance into the town. He then diverted the quarrel from the enemy to his fellow-citizens; and though he had proclaimed at the time of the attack that the booty should belong to the soldiers, when he had taken the town he broke his promise.
This, I am inclined to believe, was the cause of the army's resentment, rather than the fact that in a recently-plundered city inhabited by new settlers, there was less booty than the tribune had predicted.
The ill-feeling was increased, when, being sent for by his colleagues on account of tribunician disturbances, he had returned to the City, by a stupid and almost insane remark he was heard to make in an assembly, where Marcus Sextius, a plebeian tribune, in introducing an agrarian measure, announced that he should propose also that colonists be dispatched to Bolae —for it was proper, he said, that the city and lands of the Bolani should belong to those who had captured them in war. “Woe to my soldiers,” exclaimed Postumius, “unless they hold their peace!”
—a saying which presently, on being reported to the senators, offended them no less than it had the assembly. And the tribune of the plebs, a keen and not uneloquent man, having got for one of his adversaries a man of haughty spirit and unbridled tongue, whom he could irritate and provoke to say things that would not only make himself disliked [p. 421]
but his cause and the entire senate as well, made a3
point of involving Postumius in a dispute more
often than any other member of the college of military tribunes. On this particular occasion, after that savage and brutal threat, he cried, “Do you hear him, Quirites, threatening his soldiers with punishment like slaves?
Shall this wild beast seem to you, notwithstanding, more deserving of so great an office than those who would present you with a city and with lands, and send you out to colonies; who would provide a home for your old age; who fight for your interests against these cruel and insolent adversaries?
And does it surprise you that so few espouse your cause? What are they to expect of you? Those offices which you give by preference to your opponents, rather than to the champions of the Roman People?
You groaned just now when you heard his remark. What of it? If you should be asked to vote this very moment, you would elect this man who threatens you with chastisement in preference to those who wish to secure you lands and houses and fortunes.”