This quarrel, so inopportune at a time when1
a great war was in hand, had quite taken possession of men's thoughts, and for a long time Julius and Cornelius —first
one and then the other —had argued that, since they were themselves quite capable of directing that campaign, it was unfair that they should be summarily deprived of the office which the people had intrusted to them;
when Servilius Ahala arose and said that he had been so long silent not because of any doubt as to his opinion —for what good citizen considered his own interests apart from those of the nation? —but because he had [p. 443]
wished that his colleagues should of their own free2
will give in to the senators' authority, instead of suffering the power of the tribunes to be invoked against them.
Even then, if the circumstances allowed of it, he would gladly, he said, have given them time to retreat from their too obstinate contention; but since war's necessity did not wait upon man's deliberations, he should place the public welfare above the favour of his colleagues;
and if the senate held to its opinion, he should name a dictator that night, contenting himself, if any one vetoed the senate's resolution, with the expression of its wishes.
Having by this course gained the well-merited praise and friendly support of all, he named as dictator Publius Cornelius, by whom he was himself appointed master of the horse, thus showing such persons as considered the case of his colleagues and himself that favour and high office sometimes come more easily when men do not covet them.
The war was no way noteworthy. In a single battle, and an easy one, they defeated the enemy at Antium. The victorious army laid waste the Volscian country and took by storm a fortress at Lake Fucinus, where three thousand men were taken prisoners, the rest being driven within their city-walls, leaving their fields defenceless.
The dictator, after so conducting the campaign that he seemed barely to have taken advantage of his luck, returned to the City, with more good fortune than renown, and resigned his magistracy.
The tribunes of the soldiers, without saying a word about electing consuls, —I suppose because of their indignation at the appointment of a dictator, —proclaimed an election of military tribunes.
At that the patricians were [p. 445]
more concerned than ever, as they might well be3
when they saw their cause betrayed by their own fellows.
Accordingly, just as in the preceding year they had used the least worthy of the plebeian competitors to arouse a dislike of them all, even the deserving, so at this time, by setting up as candidates the senators of the greatest splendour and popularity, they secured all the places, in order that no plebeian might be chosen.
Four men were elected, all of whom had held that office before. They were Lucius Furius Medullinus, Gaius Valerius Potitus, Numerius Fabius Vibulanus, and Gaius Servilius Ahala. This last was continued in office partly for his other good qualities, partly because of the approval he had just gained by his singular moderation.