The senate met to debate this question many times within the space of a few days, but came to no definite conclusion. The plebeians therefore banded together on a sudden, and after mutual exhortations forsook the city, and taking possession of what is now called the Sacred Mount, established themselves beside the river Anio.1
They committed no acts of violence or sedition, but only cried aloud that they had for a long time been banished from the city by the rich,
and that Italy would everywhere afford them air, water, and a place of burial, which was all they had if they dwelt in Rome, except for the privilege of wounds and death in campaigns for the defence of the rich.
These proceedings alarmed the senate, and it sent out those of its older members who were most reasonably disposed towards the people to treat with them. The chief spokesman was Menenius Agrippa, and after much entreaty of the people and much plain speaking in behalf of the senate, he concluded his discourse with a celebrated fable.
He said, namely, that all the other members of man's body once revolted against the belly, and accused it of being the only member to sit idly down in its place and make no contribution to the common welfare, while the rest underwent great hardships and performed great public services only to minister to its appetites; but that the belly laughed at their simplicity in not knowing that it received into itself all the body's nourishment only to send it back again and duly distribute it among the other members.
‘Such, then,’ said Agrippa,
‘is the relation of the senate, my fellow-citizens, to you; the matters for deliberation which there receive the necessary attention and disposition bring to you all and severally what is useful and helpful.’