4. M. Manlius
Capitolinus, T. F. A. N., the famous deliverer of the Capitol from the Gauls, was consul in B. C. 392 with L. Valerius Potitus.
An insignificant war was carried on in that year against the Aequians, for which Manlius was honoured with an ovation, and his colleague with a triumph. Rome was visited at the time by a pestilence, and as the two consuls were seized with it, they were obliged to abdicate, and an interreign followed. In B. C. 390, when the Gauls one night endeavoured to ascend the Capitol, Manlius, whose residence was on the Capitol, was roused from his sleep by the cackling of the geese, and on discovering the cause of it, he and as many men as he could collect at the moment hastened to the spot where the Gauls were ascending, and succeeded in repelling them.
This gallant and successful deed was rewarded the next day by the assembled people with all the simple and rude honours and distinctions which were customary at the time.
He is said to have received the surname of Capitolinus from this circumstance; but this is probably a mistake, as it had become a regular family-name m his gens before his time, and he would thus have inherited it from his father. In B. C. 387 he was appointed interrex, but two years later, B. C. 385, he abandoned the cause of the patricians, to whom he belonged, and placed himself at the head of the plebeians, who were suffering severely from their debts and the harsh and cruel treatment they experienced from their patrician creditors.
The motive, however, from which Manlius came forward to support them was not pure; it appears that after his delivery of the Capitol he was so intoxicated with his exploit, that he could not bear seeing any man placed on an equality with or raised above himself, and it is even believed that he harboured the scheme of making himself tyrant or king of Rome.
With such or similar intentions he excited the plebeians against their oppressors, who became so alarmed that they resolved upon the appointment of a dictator, A. Cornelius Cossus. While the dictator was absent from Rome, Manlius had recourse to violence to rescue the plebeians from the hands of their creditors, and conducted himself altogether like a complete demagogue. When the dictator returned to the city in order to put a stop to the proceedings of Manlius, he summoned Manlius to appear before him.
The rebel came accompanied by a host of plebeians; but the dictator had him arrested by one of his viators and consigned to prison as a seditious citizen.
The plebeians, though they did not venture anything against the orders of the dictator, displayed their grief by putting on mourning for their champion, and gathering around his prison.
The attempts of the senate to allay the indignation of the plebeians by assignments of land, only irritated them their more, as they regarded these favours as bribes to betray their patron, and the insurrection rose to such a height, that the senate and patricians saw themselves obliged to liberate Manlius.
By this step, however, nothing was gained; the plebeians now had a leader, and the insurrection instead of decreasing spread further and further.
In the year following, B. C. 384, the Romans had not to fight against any foreign enemy, and as Manlius did not scruple to instigate the plebs to open violence, the consular tribunes of the year received orders, viderent ne quid res publica detrimenti caperet.
Manlius was charged with high-treason, and brought before the people assembled in the campus Martius, but as the Capitol which had once been saved by him could be seen from this place, the court was removed to the Poetelinian grove outside the porta Nomentana. Here Manlius was condemned, notwithstanding his former military glory and his appeals to the gratitude of the people, and the tribunes threw him down the Tarpeian rock.
The members of the Manlia gens considered that he had brought disgrace upon them, and accordingly resolved that none of then should ever have in future the praenomen of Marcus. (Liv. v. 31, 47, 6.5, 11, 14-20; Cic. de Re Publ.
1.13, 2.44; Gel. 17.21
; Dio Cass. Frag.
31, p. 15, ed. Reimar, 45.32; Aurel. Vict. de Vir. Ill.