In the consulship of Marcus Aemilius and1
Gaius Valerius Potitus the Aequi prepared to go to war, and the Volsci, though they did not take up arms as a nation, made the campaign as volunteers serving for pay.
When, on the rumour of their advance, — for they had already crossed over into Latin and Hernican territory, —Valerius the consul was raising troops, and Marcus Menenius, tribune of the plebs and proposer of an agrarian law, was obstructing the levy, and everybody who did not
wish to go was availing himself of the tribune's protection and refusing the oath, on a sudden came the news that the citadel of Carventum had been seized by the enemy.
This humiliation not only gave the patricians the means of stirring up feeling against Menenius, but supplied the rest of the tribunes, who had already been persuaded to veto the agrarian law, with a more justifiable pretext for resisting their colleague.
The dispute was long drawn out. The consuls called gods and men to witness that the responsibility for whatever defeat or disgrace had already been or threatened to be visited on them by the enemy would rest with Menenius, because of his interference with the levy;
Menenius, on the other hand, protested loudly that if the occupants of the public domain would surrender their illegal possession of it, he was prepared to withdraw his opposition to the muster. At this juncture nine tribunes interposed a resolution [p. 431]
which ended the contention.
They proclaimed in2
the name of the college that they would support the consul Gaius Valerius if, in enforcing the levy, he resorted, despite the veto of their colleague, to fines and other forms of coercion against those who refused to serve.
Armed with this decree, the consul caused the few who appealed to the tribune to be haled before him; the rest were cowed into taking the oath.
The army marched to the citadel of Carventum; and although the soldiers were hated by the consul and returned his hostility, yet the moment they came to the place, they manfully drove out the garrison and recovered the stronghold, which had been laid open to attack by the negligence that had permitted men to slip away from the garrison in quest of booty.
There was a considerable accumulation of spoils from this constant raiding, because everything had been heaped up there for safety. All this the consul ordered the quaestors to sell at auction and place the proceeds in the public treasury, giving out word that the army should share in the plunder only when the men had not refused to serve.
This increased the enmity of plebs and soldiers towards the consul.
And so when he entered the City in an ovation, as the senate had decreed, the soldiers, with military freedom, shouted out rude verses now abusing the consul and now praising Menenius, while at every mention of the tribune's name the enthusiasm of the attendant populace vied with the voices of the men in cheers and applause.
This circumstance caused the patricians more anxiety than the sauciness of the soldiers towards the consul, which was virtually an established custom; and as though they made no question that Menenius would be chosen for one of the military tribunes, if he were [p. 433]
a candidate, they held a consular election and so3