The dictator maintained his army in camp, not doubting in the least that the senate would [p. 241]
declare war on those nations;1
when a greater2
disturbance broke out at home and obliged them to summon him to the City, where the sedition was increasing from day to day, and occasioned more than the usual alarm by reason of the man who was behind it.
For now not only the speeches of Marcus Manlius, but his actions as well, while ostensibly democratic, were really revolutionary, considering the purpose which inspired them.
A centurion renowned for military prowess had been condemned for debt. As he was being led away, Manlius caught sight of him, and hastening to his side through the midst of the Forum with his band of retainers, he laid hold of him, and exclaiming at the arrogance of the patricians, the heartlessness of the money-lenders, the sufferings of the plebs, and the merits and misfortunes of this man,
“Then in very truth,” he cried, “was it all in vain that with this right hand I saved the Capitol and the Citadel, if I am to see my fellow citizen and fellow soldier carried off a captive —as though the Gauls had conquered us —to servitude and chains!”
He then paid the money to the creditor in full sight of the people, and with the ceremony of the scales and bronze3
redeemed the debtor and set him free, to invoke the blessing of gods and men on Marcus Manlius, his liberator, the father of the Roman plebs.
The man was at once received into the midst of a tumultuous throng, and added to the tumult by displaying the scars he had received in the Veientine, the Gallic, and other successive wars.
While he had himself been fighting, he said, and rebuilding his ruined home, he had been overwhelmed with usury, though he had paid already many times the amount of the capital [p. 243]
debt, for the interest always swallowed up the4
that he beheld the light of day, the Forum, the faces of his fellow citizens, he owed to the generosity of Marcus Manlius, at whose hands he had experienced all the loving-kindness of parents; to him he solemnly devoted his remaining strength and life and blood; what ties soever bound him to native land and the gods of his state and family, bound him to one man alone.
Excited by these words, the commons were already at the beck of a single man, when Manlius did another thing even better calculated to promote a general embroilment.
For he gave a farm in the Veientine district, which formed the main part of his fortune, to an auctioneer to sell, —“that I may not suffer one of your number, Quirites,” said he, “to be condemned, made over, and carried off to slavery, so long as anything of my estate remains.” At this their ardour was so kindled that it was clear that in every measure, right or wrong, they would follow the champion of their liberty.
Besides this he delivered in his house harangues that were full of accusation against the patricians; amongst other things, he declared, with reckless indifference to truth or falsehood, that the patricians were concealing treasures of Gallic gold, and were no longer content with possessing the state lands, unless they could also divert to their own use the money of the state —money which, if it were employed for the common weal, would suffice to clear the plebs of debt. On this hope being held out to them, the commons felt that they were indeed ill-used.
When, they said, it had been necessary to raise gold for the redemption of their City from the [p. 245]
Gauls, it had been collected by taxation; but this5
same gold, after being captured from the enemy, had become the spoil of a few.
They therefore persistently demanded to be told where all that stolen money was hid; and when he put them off with the promise that he would tell them at the proper time, they dropped their other concerns and became one and all so absorbed in this, that it was evident he would reap no little gratitude if his report proved true, and no small offence if it turned out to be false.