The year, tranquil through the moderation of the tribunes, was succeeded by one in which Lucius Icilius was [p. 310]
plebeian tribune, Quintus Fabius Ambustus, Caius Furius Pacilus being consuls.
When this man, at the very commencement of the year, began to excite disturbances by the publication of agrarian laws, as if such was
the task of his name and family, a pestilence broke out, more alarming however than deadly, which diverted men's thoughts from the forum and political disputes to their domestic concerns and the care of their personal health; and persons think that it was less mischievous than the disturbance would have proved.
The state being freed from this (which was attended) with a very general spread of illness, though very few deaths, the year of pestilence was followed by a scarcity of grain, the cultivation of the land having been neglected, as usually happens, Marcus Papirius Atratinus, Caius Nautius Rutilus being consuls.
The famine would now have proved more dismal than the pestilence, had not the scarcity been relieved by sending envoys around all the states, which border on the Tuscan Sea and the Tiber, to purchase the corn.
The envoys were prevented from trading in an insolent manner by the Samnitians, who were in possession of Capua and Cumae; on the contrary, 'they were kindly assisted by the tyrants of Sicily. The Tiber brought down the greatest supplies, through the very active zeal of the Etrurians.
In consequence of the sickness, the consuls laboured under a paucity of hands in conducting the government; when not finding more than one senator for each embassy, they were obliged to attach to it two knights.
Except from the pestilence and the scarcity, there was no internal or external annoyance during those two years. But as soon as these causes of anxiety disappeared, all those evils by which the state had hitherto been distressed, started up, discord at home, war abroad.