But the consuls had no measure on foot which the tribunes could oppose and so wring from them what they wanted, when, by a wonderful piece of luck, the Volsci and Aequi were reported to have crossed the border and raided the lands of the Latins and the Hernici.
As the consuls, in order to meet this invasion, were commencing to raise an army, in pursuance of a resolution of the senate, the tribunes obstructed the levy with all their might, declaring that the incident had been a fortunate one for the plebeians and themselves.
There were three of them, and they were all very active and belonged to a family which might now be called noble, considering that they were plebeians.
Two of them assumed the task of keeping constant watch on the consuls, each taking one of them; to the third was given the duty of haranguing the plebs, for the purpose, now of [p. 437]
restraining, now of urging them on. The consuls could1
neither bring about the levy, nor the tribunes the election, they desired. Then, as fortune was inclining to the cause of the plebs, came couriers who reported that while the soldiers who were in garrison at the citadel of Carventum had dispersed to plunder, the Aequi had come, and killing the few guards, had rushed the place.
Some of the soldiers had been cut down as they were hurrying back to the fortress, others as they roamed the fields. This national reverse added strength to the contention of the tribunes. It was in vain they were importuned to cease at last their opposition to the war.
They yielded neither to the public need nor to men's hatred of themselves, and carried their point —that the senate should pass a decree for the election of military tribunes. It was, however, expressly provided that no one should be accepted as a candidate who had that year been tribune of the plebs, and that no tribune of the Plebs should be re-elected.
It is evident that the senate wished to stigmatize the Icilii, whom they charged with seeking the consulship2
as a reward for their seditious conduct while tribunes.
The levy was then begun and preparation made for war, with the consent of all the orders. Whether both consuls marched to the citadel of Carventum, or one stayed behind to hold an election, is uncertain in view of the contradictory accounts of the authorities. Thus much is clear (for in this they do not differ), that the Romans, after a long and futile siege, retired from the citadel of Carventum and recaptured Verrugo,3
in the Volscian country, with the same army, which spread great [p. 439]
devastation both among the Aequi and in the4
territory of the Volsci, and gathered enormous spoils.