After this the tribunes of the people who had declared that they would veto the bill spoke briefly to the same effect, and then Lucius Valerius argued thus for the measure which he had proposed: "If only private citizens had come forward to support or oppose the measure which we have placed before you, I too, since I judged that enough had been said on each side, should have waited in silence for your ballots;
now, since that most influential man, the consul Marcus Porcius, has attacked our proposal not only with his authority, which unexpressed would have had enough of weight, but also in along and carefully-prepared speech, it is necessary to make a brief reply.
And yet he used up more words in reproving the matrons than he did in opposing our bill, and, in fact, left it in doubt whether the conduct for which he rebuked the matrons was spontaneous or inspired by us.
I propose to defend the measure rather than ourselves, at whom the consul directed his insinuations, more to have something to say than to make a serious charge.
This gathering of women he called a sedition and sometimes' a female secession,' because the matrons, in the streets, had requested you to repeal, in a time of peace and in a rich and prosperous commonwealth, a law that was passed against them in the trying days of a war.
I know that there is this and still other vigorous language, which has been sought out to make the argument [p. 429]
sound more convincing;1
we all know, too, that2
Marcus Cato is an orator not only powerful but sometimes even savage, though he is kind of heart.
What new thing, pray, have the matrons done in coming out into the streets in crowds in a case that concerned them? Have they never before this moment appeared in public? Let me unroll your own Origines
Hear how often they have done it and always, indeed, for the general good. Even in the beginning, while Romulus was king, when the Capitoline had been taken by the Sabines and pitched battle was raging in the centre of the Forum, was not the fighting stopped by the rush of the matrons between the two battle-lines?4
What of this?
When, after the expulsion of the kings, the Volscian legions led by Marcius Coriolanus had encamped at the fifth milestone, did not the matrons turn away from us the army which would have destroyed our city?5
When the City was later captured by the Gauls, how was it ransomed? Why, the matrons by unanimous consent contributed their gold to the public use.6
In the recent war (not to go to remoter times), did not the widows, when there was a scarcity of money, aid the treasury with their wealth,7
and when new gods too were brought in to help us in our crisis, did not the matrons in a body go down to the sea to receive the Idaean Mother? These cases, you say, are different.
It is not my purpose to prove them similar; it suffices if I prove that this [p. 431]
is nothing new.
But what no one wonders that all, -8
men and women alike, have done in matters that concern them, do we wonder that the women have done in a case peculiarly their own? What now have they done?
We have proud ears, upon my word, if, although masters do not scorn to hear the petitions of slaves, we complain that we are appealed to by respectable women.