For the present, then, he dissolved the assembly; but perceiving that the course he had taken with regard to Octavius was very displeasing, not only to the nobles, but also to the multitude (for it was thought that the high and honourable dignity of the tribunate, so carefully guarded up to that time, had been insulted and destroyed), he made a lengthy speech before the people, a few of the arguments of which it will not be out of place to lay before the reader, that he may get a conception of the man's subtlety and persuasiveness.
A tribune, he said, was sacred and inviolable, because he was consecrated to the people and was a champion of the people.
‘If, then,’ said Tiberius,
[ldquo ]he should change about, wrong the people, maim its power, and rob it of the privilege of voting, he has by his own acts deprived himself of his honourable office by not fulfilling the conditions on which he received it;
for otherwise there would be no interference with a tribune even though he should try to demolish the Capitol or set fire to the naval arsenal. If a tribune does these things, he is a bad tribune; but if he annuls the power of the people, he is no tribune at all. Is it not, then, a monstrous thing that a tribune should have power to hale a consul to prison, while the people cannot deprive a tribune of his power when he employs it against the very ones who bestowed it? For consul and tribune alike are elected by the people.
And surely the kingly office, besides comprehending in itself every civil function, is also consecrated to the Deity by the performance of the most solemn religious rites; and yet Tarquin was expelled by the city for his wrong-doing, and because of one man's insolence the power which had founded Rome and descended from father to son was overthrown. Again, what institution at Rome is so holy and venerable as that of' the virgins who tend and watch the undying fire? And yet if one of these breaks her vows, she is buried alive; for when they sin against the gods, they do not preserve that inviolable character which is given them for their service to the gods.
Therefore it is not just that a tribune who wrongs the people should retain that inviolable character which is given him for service to the people, since he is destroying the very power which is the source of his own power. And surely, if it is right for him to be made tribune by a majority of the votes of the tribes, it must be even more right for him to be deprived of his tribuneship by a unanimous vote.
And again, nothing is so sacred and inviolate as objects consecrated to the gods; and yet no one has hindered the people from using such objects, or moving them, or changing their position in such manner as may be desired. It is therefore permissible for the people to transfer the tribunate also, as a consecrated thing, from one man to another. And that the office is not inviolable or irremovable is plain from the fact that many times men holding it resign it under oath of disability, and of their own accord beg to be relieved of it.[rdquo ]