But at Rome, owing to the hatred of the people by the patricians, who were especially embittered by the condemnation of Marcius, there were great commotions, and many signs from heaven were reported by seers, priests, and private persons, which could not be ignored. One of these is said to have been as follows. There was one Titus Latinus,1
a man of no great prominence, but of quiet and modest life in general, and free from superstitious fears, as he was also, and yet more, from vain pretensions.
This man dreamed that Jupiter appeared to him, and bade him tell the senate that the dancer, whom they had appointed to head his procession, was a bad one, and gave him the greatest displeasure. After having this vision, Titus said, he gave it no thought at all at first, but after he had seen it a second and a third time, and still neglected it, he had suffered the loss of an excellent son by death, and had himself become suddenly palsied.
This story he told after having been brought into the senate on a litter, and no sooner had he told it, they say, than he at at once felt the strength return to his body, and rose up, and went away, walking without aid. In amazement, then, the senators made a careful investigation of the matter.
Now, what had happened was this. A certain man had handed over one of his slaves to other slaves, with orders to scourge him through the forum, and then put him to death.
While they were executing this commission and tormenting the poor wretch, whose pain and suffering made him writhe and twist himself horribly, the sacred procession in honour of Jupiter chanced to come up behind. Many of those who took part in it were, indeed, scandalized at the joyless sight and the unseemly contortions of the victim, but no one made any protest; they merely heaped abuse and curses on the head of the master who was inflicting such a cruel punishment. For in those days the Romans treated their slaves with great kindness, because they worked and even ate with them themselves, and were therefore more familiar and gentle with them.
And it was a severe punishment for a slave who had committed a fault, if he was obliged to take the piece of wood with which they prop up the pole of a waggon, and carry it around through the neighbourhood. For he who had been seen undergoing this punishment no longer had any credit in his own or neighbouring households. And he was called
‘furcifer’; for what the Greeks call a prop
, or support
, is called
‘furca’ by the Romans.