Marcius, therefore, seeing that the senate was in suspense between its kindly feelings towards him and its fear of the people, asked the tribunes what the accusations against him were, and on what charge he would be tried if they led him before the people. They replied that the charge against him was usurpation, and that they would prove him guilty of planning a usurpation of the government. Thereupon he rose of his own accord and said he was going at once before the people to make his defence, and would deprecate no manner of trial, nor, should he be found guilty, any form of punishment;
‘Only,’ said he,
‘see that ye confine yourselves to the charge mentioned, and do not play false with the senate.’ The tribunes agreed to this, and on these terms the trial was held.
But when the people were come together, in the first place, the tribunes insisted that the votes be cast not by centuries,1
but by tribes, thus making the indigent and officious rabble, which had no thought of honour, superior in voting power to the wealthy and well known citizens of the military class.
In the second place, abandoning the charge of usurpation, which could not be proven, they dwelt again upon the speech which Marcius had previously made in the senate, when he protested against the lowering of the market-price of grain, and urged them to take the tribunate away from the people. They also added a fresh charge against him, namely, his distribution of the spoils which he had taken from the country of Antium; these, they said, he had not turned into the public treasury, but had distributed them among those who made the campaign with him.
By this accusation Marcius is said to have been more disturbed than by all the rest. For he had not expected it, and was not ready at once with an answer which would satisfy the people, but began to praise those who had made the campaign, whereupon he was clamorously interrupted by those who had not made it, and they were the more numerous. In the end, therefore, the vote was taken by tribes, and a majority of three condemned him2
The penalty assigned was perpetual banishment.
After the result was announced, the people went off in greater elation and delight than they had ever shown for any victory in battle over their enemies; but the senate was in distress and dire dejection, repenting now and vexed to the soul that they had not done and suffered all things rather than allow the people to insult them in the exercise of such great powers. And there was no need now of dress or other marks of distinction in telling one class from another, but it was clear at once that he who rejoiced was a plebeian, and he who was vexed, a patrician.