But that which the rather displeased and offended the people in Valerius was this. Brutus, whom they regarded as the father of their liberties, would not consent to rule alone, but once and again chose a colleague to rule with him.
‘But this Valerius,’ they said,
‘in concentrating all power upon himself, is not a successor to the consulate of Brutus, to which he has no right, but to time tyranny of Tarquin.
Yet why should he extol Brutus in words, while in deeds he imitates Tarquin, descending to the forum alone, escorted by all the rods and axes together, from a house no less stately than the royal house which he demolished?’ For, as a matter of fact, Valerius was living in a very splendid house on the so-called Velia.1
It hung high over the forum, commanded a view of all that passed there, and was surrounded by steeps and hard to get at, so that when he came down from it the spectacle was a lofty one, and the pomp of his procession worthy of a king.
Accordingly, Valerius showed what a good thing it is for men in power and high station to have ears which are open to frankness and truth instead of flattery. For when he heard from his friends, who spared him no detail, that he was thought by time multitude to be transgressing, he was not obstinate nor exasperated, but quickly got together a large force of workmen, and while it was still night tore the house down, and razed it all to the ground.
In the morning, therefore, the Romans saw what had happened, and came flocking together. They were moved to love and admiration by the man's magnanimity, but were distressed for the house, and mourned for its stately beauty, as if it had been human, now that envy had unjustly compassed its destruction. They were also distressed for their ruler, who, like a homeless man, was now sharing the homes of others. For Valerius was received into the houses of his friends until the people gave him a site and built him a house, of more modest dimensions than the one he had lived in before, where now stands the temple of Vica Pota,2
Wishing now to make not only himself but also the government, instead of formidable, submissive and agreeable to the multitude, he removed the axes from the lictors' rods, and when he came into the assembly, inclined and lowered the rods themselves to the people, emphasizing the majesty of the democracy. This custom the consuls observe to this day.
And before the multitude were aware of it he had succeeded, not by humbling himself, as they thought, but by checking and removing their envious feelings through such moderation on his part, in adding to his real influence over them just as much as he had seemed to take away from his authority, and the people submitted to him with pleasure and bore his yoke willingly. They therefore called him Publicola,3
a name which signifies people-cherisher
. This name prevailed over the older names which he had borne, and it is the name which I shall use for him in the remainder of this Life.