The knavery of the revenue farmers, and their subsequent audacious conduct to screen themselves from its effects, thus terminated.
An assembly was then held for the creation of a chief pontiff. The new pontiff, Marcus Cornelius Cethegus, presided.
The election was contested with the greatest obstinacy by three candidates, Quintus Fulvius Flaccus, the consul, who had been twice consul before and censor; Titus Manlius Torquatus, who had himself also been distinguished by two consulships and the censorship; and Publius Licinius Crassus, who was about to stand for the office of curule aedile.
In this contest, the last-mentioned candidate, though a young man, beat the others, who were his superiors in years, and had filled offices of honour. Before him there had not been a man for a hundred and twenty years, except Publius Cornelius Calussa, who had been created chief pontiff without having sat in the curule chair.
Though the consuls found great difficulty in completing the levy, for in consequence of the scarcity of young men, it was not easy to procure enough for the two purposes of forming the new city legions, and
recruiting the old ones, the senate forbade them to desist from the attempt, and ordered two triumvirates to be appointed, one of which within, the other without the fiftieth mile from the city, might ascertain the utmost number of free-born men which were to be found in
the villages, and market towns, and hamlets, and enlist whom they thought strong enough to bear arms, though they had not attained the military age.
That the tribunes of the people, if they thought proper, should propose to the people, that such as should take the military oath being under seventeen years, should be allowed to reckon their period of service in the same manner as if they had enlisted at seventeen or older.
The two triumvirates, created agreeably to this decree of the senate, enlisted free-born men throughout the country.
At the same time a letter from Marcellus from Sicily, respecting the petition of the troops who served with Publius Lentulus, was read in the senate.
These troops were the relics of the disaster at Cannae, and had been sent out of the way into Sicily, as has been mentioned before, on an understanding that they should not be brought home before the conclusion of the Carthaginian war. [p. 963]