In the three hundred and second year1
from the founding of Rome the form of the polity was changed again, with the transfer of supreme authority from consuls to decemvirs, even as before it had passed from kings to consuls.
It was not so remarkable a change, because it did not last long. For the luxuriant beginnings of this magistracy took on too rank a growth; and in consequence it soon died down, and the custom was resumed of entrusting to two men the name and authority of consuls.
The decemvirs chosen were Appius Claudius, Titus Genucius, Publius Sestius, Lucius Veturius, Gaius Julius, Aulus Manlius, Publius Sulpicius, Publius Curiatius, Titus Romilius, and Spurius Postumius.
To Claudius and Genucius, the consuls-elect for that year, the new office was given in compensation for the other; and to Sestius, one of the consuls of the year before, because he had brought the measure before the senate against his colleague's will.2
Next to these were honoured the three envoys who had gone to Athens, not only that the office might serve to reward them for so distant a mission, but also in the belief that their knowledge of foreign laws would be useful in compiling a new code. The other four filled up the number.
It is said that old men were chosen for the last places, that they might make a less vigorous opposition to the measures proposed by the rest.
The guiding hand in the whole magistracy was that of Appius, thanks to the favour of the [p. 111]
plebs; and so novel a character had he assumed,3
that from being a harsh and cruel persecutor of the plebs, he came out all at once as the people's friend, and caught at every breath of popularity.4
Sitting each one day in ten they administered justice to the people. On that day he who presided in court had twelve fasces;5
his nine colleagues were each attended by a single orderly. And while they maintained an unparalleled harmony amongst themselves —a unanimity sometimes prejudicial to the governed, —they treated others with the utmost fairness.
As proof of their moderation, it will suffice to note a single example. Though they had been chosen to a magistracy from which there was no appeal, yet when a corpse was found buried in the house of Publius
Sestius, a patrician, and produced before the assembly, and the man's guilt was as clear as it was heinous, Gaius Julius the decemvir summoned Sestius to trial, and appeared before the people to prosecute a man of whose guilt he was the lawful judge, surrendering his own prerogative that he might add to the liberty of the people what he subtracted from the power of the magistracy.