after that Quintus Fabius (for the fifth time) and Publius Decius (for the fourth) began their consulship, having thrice been colleagues in that office and once in the censorship,
and being not more distinguished for the renown, great though that was, of their achievements than for their harmonious co —operation.
this, however, was not destined to be permanent, though its interruption was due, I think, more to rivalry between the orders than to their own; for the patricians strove that Fabius should have the command in Etruria without drawing lots, and the plebeians insisted that Decius should demand that method of determining the question.
at all events there was a contention in the senate, and Fabius proving to be the stronger there, the case was carried before the people. in the assembly the speeches were short, as befitted soldiers and men who trusted more to deeds than to words.
Fabius argued that when one man had planted a tree, it was unfair that another should gather the fruit that dropped from it; it was he that had opened up the Ciminian Forest and had made a path for Roman arms through remote and desert tracts.
why, pray, had they troubled him, old as he was, if they had meant to wage the war with another general?
it was only too clear, he said — [p. 449]
taking gradually a more reproachful tone —that he1
had selected an adversary, not a partner in command, and that Decius had begrudged the friendly spirit in which they had administered three offices together.
finally, he asked no more than that if they thought him worthy of the command they should give it to him; he had submitted to the decision of the senate and would obey the people.
Publius Decius complained of the senate's injustice: as long as they were able, the Fathers had striven to deny the plebeians access to great honours; and since native worth had of its own strength won the right to be recognized in any class of men, they were seeking to make of none effect not only
the suffrages of, the people but also the awards of Fortune, and to subject them to the control of a few.
all the consuls who had preceded him had drawn lots for their commands, but the senate was now conferring a command on Fabius without the lot. if they were doing this to honour him, he would say that the man had deserved so well both of
himself and of the state that he stood ready to promote the glory of Fabius, provided only that its lustre were not purchased with insult to himself. but who could doubt, when there was one difficult, dangerous war, and this was entrusted without lots to one of the consuls, that the other was regarded as superfluous and useless?
Fabius gloried in his Etruscan victories: Publius Decius would fain glory too. and perhaps that fire which Fabius had left covered up, but so that it was continually breaking out into new flames, might be by him extinguished.
in short he was willing, for the reverence he bore his colleague's years and dignity, to yield to him [p. 451]
honours and rewards; but when peril, when strife,2
was set before them —he yielded not, of his own consent —nor ever would.
and if he got nothing else by this contest, one thing at any rate he would get —that what belonged to the people should be disposed of by the people, not bestowed by the Fathers as a favour.
to Jupiter Optimus Maximus and the immortal gods he prayed that they would grant him an equal chance in the lot with his colleague only if they were ready to grant him the same courage and the same good fortune in the administration of the war.
at least it was a thing in its nature reasonable, in its example salutary, and material to the reputation of the Roman People, that the consuls should be such that the Etruscan war could be managed aright under the leadership of either one of them.
Fabius only prayed the Roman people to listen, before the tribes were called to vote, to a dispatch of Appius Claudius the praetor that had been brought in from Etruria. he then left the comitium, and the people then, as unanimously as the senate had done, decreed that Fabius should have the command in Etruria without drawing lots.