Renowned for his strategy and courage1
in the Volscian war and his success in the expedition against Tusculum, and for his singular gentleness and generosity on both occasions towards his colleague, Camillus laid down his office, after announcing the election of military tribunes for the ensuing year.
The successful candidates were Lucius and Publius Valerius (Lucius for the fifth and Publius for the third time), Gaius Sergius (for the third time), Lucius Menenius (for the second time), Publius Papirius, and Servius Cornelius Maluginensis.
There was need also this year of censors, chiefly on account of the uncertain reports which were going about in regard to debt. The tribunes of the plebs even exaggerated the extent of this grievance, whereas it was understated by those who were interested in having it appear that loans were more in danger from the bad faith than the bad fortune of the debtors.
The censors [p. 291]
chosen were Gaius Sulpicius Camerinus and Spurius2
Postumius Regillensis, and they had already set about their task, when it was interrupted by the death of Postumius; for there were religious scruples against replacing the colleague of a censor.3
So then, Sulpicius resigned, and other censors were elected, but, owing to a defect in the election, did not serve. The senate could not bring itself to proceed to a third election, being persuaded that the gods would permit no censorship that year.
But this irresolution the tribunes characterized as an intolerable mockery of the plebs. The senate, they said, was seeking to avoid the evidence of witnesses and public records regarding the property of every man, because they were unwilling it should be seen how great was the volume of debt, which would show that half of the state had been ruined by the other half, while the debt-ridden plebs were in the meantime being exposed to one enemy after another;
wars were now sought indiscriminately, far and wide; from Antium the legions had been marched to Satricum, from Satricum to Velitrae, from there to Tusculum; now it was the Latins, the Hernici and the Praenestini who were threatened with attack, more out of hatred of Rome's citizens than of her enemies. The object was to wear the plebeians out with service and give them no time to take breath in the City, or leisure to bethink them of liberty or to stand in the assembly, where they might sometimes hear the voice of a tribune urging the reduction of interest and the removal of their other grievances.
But if the plebs had the spirit to recall their fathers' liberty, they would allow no Roman citizen to be bound to a creditor, nor any levy to be held, until the amount of [p. 293]
indebtedness had been examined and a plan for4
lessening it put into operation, that every man might know what was his own and what another's, and whether his person was still free, or whether even that was owing to the gaol.
The reward held out to sedition soon brought sedition to a head. For many were being bound over,5
and the senate had voted to enlist new levies on the rumour of hostilities at Praeneste. Both these proceedings began at the same time to be interfered with by the exercise of the tribunician protection and the common action of the plebs; for the tribunes would not allow those who had been bound over to be led away, nor would the young men give in their names.
The patricians were for the moment less concerned with enforcing the law of debt than with the levy —not unnaturally, since the enemy were reported as having already set out from Praeneste and encamped in the territory of Gabii —but
on the tribunes of the plebs this intelligence had acted more as an incentive to the struggle they had undertaken than as a deterrent, and the only thing that was able to allay the quarrel in the City was the approach of the enemy to its very walls.