1. VOLERO PUBLILIUS, the author of an important change in the Roman constitution.
He had served with distinction as a first centurion, and, accordingly, when he was called upon to enlist as a common soldier at the levy in B. C. 473, he refused to obey.
The consuls ordered the lictors to seize him and scourge him.
He appealed to the tribunes, but as they took no notice of the outrage, he resisted the lictors, and was supported by the people.
The consuls were driven out of the forum, and the senate was obliged to bow before the storm. Publilius had acquired so much popularity by his courageous conduct, that he was elected tribune of the plebs for the following year, B. C. 472.
He did not, however, bring the consuls of the previous year to trial, as had been expected, but, sacrificing his private wrongs to the public welfare, he brought forward a measure to secure the plebeians greater freedom in the election of the tribunes. They had been previously elected in the comitia centuriata, where the patricians had a great number of votes; and Publilius accordingly proposed that they should be elected in future by the comitia tributa.
This measure was undoubtedly proposed to the comitia tributa, but the patricians, by their violent opposition, prevented the tribes from coming to any vote respecting it this year.
In the following year, B. C. 471, Publilius was reelected tribune, and together with him C. Laetorius, a man of still greater resolution.
He now brought forward fresh measures.
He proposed that the aediles, as well as the tribunes, should be elected by the tribes, and, what was still more important, that the tribes should have the power of deliberating and determining in all matters affecting the whole nation, and not such only as might concern the plebs.
These measures were still more violently resisted by the patricians; but though the consul Ap. Claudius had recourse to force he could not prevent the tribes from passing them. Some said that the number of the tribunes was now for the first time raised to five, having been only two previously. (Liv. 2.55
; Dionys. A. R. 9.41
, &c.; Zonar. 7.17
; Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome,
vol. ii. p. 211, &c.)