Games of the greatest possible splendour were decreed by the senate, and to see them came, at the suggestion of Attius Tullius, a host of Volsci.
Before the beginning of the spectacle Tullius, in pursuance of the plan he and Marcius had formed at home, went to the consuls and told them that he had something of public importance which he wished to discuss with them in private.
When the bystanders had been removed, “I am loath,” he said, “to tell concerning my countrymen what may discredit them. Still I do not come to charge them with having committed any crime, but to put you on your [p. 341]
guard lest they should commit one.
of our people is far more fickle than I could wish.
Many disasters have taught us the truth of this, since it is not to our own merit, but to your patience, that we owe our preservation. A great crowd of Volsci is now in Rome; there are games; the citizens will be intent upon the spectacle.
I remember what the Sabine youths did in this City on the same opportunity arising; I tremble lest something ill-advised and rash may happen. It has seemed to me that both on our account and on yours I ought to tell you this beforehand, consuls.
For my own part I intend to go home at once, lest being on the spot I might be implicated in some act or word and be compromised.” With this he departed. The consuls laid before the senate this vague warning which came from so reliable a source.
It was the source, as often happens, rather than the story, which induced them to take precautions, even though they might prove superfluous. The senate decreed that the Volsci should leave the City, and heralds were sent about to command them all to depart before nightfall.
At first they were stricken with a great alarm, as they hurried this way and that to the houses of their hosts to get their things. But when they had started, their hearts swelled with indignation, that like malefactors and polluted persons, they should have been driven off from the games at a time of festival, and excluded, in a way, from intercourse with men and gods.