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composed of the elder Patricians, or more generally, perhaps, of those who were able to trace their descent to the earliest members of their order; at least, if the common analogies, which bear witness to the existence of the most liberal spirit amongst those classes who have the best excuse for being illiberal, may be relied upon. The second and the third party were generally combined. But it must not fail to strike the reader that the account thus offered him is to be accepted only so far as it makes the narrative he reads more comprehensible. It was probably the fixed purpose, or, as that may be too strong a phrase, the natural bent, of the Patrician to keep his order and that of the Plebeians exactly where they were: most would have exalted their own estate by humbling, some only by elevating, that of their inferiors; while the most severe would long be the most likely to prevail. Aulus Virginius and Titus Vetusius, neither being of much note or of any apparent energy, succeeded to the retiring Consuls." The Plebeians — they, that is, who had not yet fallen into, but were dreading, bondage—were more unruly; meeting together by night, upon the Aventine or the thinly inhabited Esquiline, as if to prepare for the events of the day in the Forum. On the other hand, the Patricians, angered to hear such things, reproached the Consuls for allowing the populace the time to think of sedition.” The great resources of ancient governments in the season of any embarrassment were festivals and wars; and as the time of the magnificent procession or the stirring game was not arrived in Rome, the commotions of the city were continually met by orders for an enlistment or a march. The Consuls, accordingly, when urged to put a stop to the nocturnal gatherings just mentioned, summoned the Plebeians to arms. But though the men liable to military service were called by name before the consular tribunal, not one answered; while from the crowd gathered round there issued outcries, boisterous and repeated, that the prisoners must be set at liberty, before any more battles could be fought for the Patricians; and the refusal to enlist was more stoutly maintained than that which had been met, the year before, by promises not yet fulfilled. The Consuls hesitated; but, bidden by many Patricians near them to do their duty, commanded one they saw in the throng before them to be called again; and when he stood motionless, he was ordered into instant custody. Down strode a lictor to seize the offender, but was driven back; and when some of the Patricians rushed in amongst the people, they, too, were resisted as boldly as the lictor. A serious riot would have ensued, had not the Consuls interfered; but as they abandoned their levy, more noise ensued, says the historian, than any actual harm.” The actual good, however, that ensued was the discomfiture of force as a means of oppressing the Plebeians.
16 Sept., A. C. 495. 17 “Otio lascivire plebem.” Liv., II. 28.
Whether it were to regain the mastery over the Plebeians which the Consuls had perilled, or whether the old pretext of dangerous enemies were now a reality, it was determined, after long and uncertain deliberations in the Senate, to appoint a Dictator. The parties of the Patricians proposed each a different line of conduct, and a different candidate to carry it out; but the more moderate voices prevailed,” and Marcus Valerius, a brother of the People's Friend, was invested with absolute authority to remedy the evils by which the Commonwealth was externally and internally infected. An old man, and one of generous heart, honored equally by Patricians and Plebeians for his noble name, he immediately commanded proclamation to be made that he would hold a levy, and that they who enlisted under his orders should be respected in person and protected in family and property. It was the same promise that Servilius had made in the preceding year; but Valerius was not only much more powerful as a magistrate, but much more trusted as a man; and they who were busiest with projects, passions, or fears, laid all aside to swear fidelity to the Dictator and to follow him against the foe. Ten legions” were almost instantly enrolled; the largest army that the Commonwealth had ever sent forth to battle;” so large, indeed, that it was safely divided into three different bodies, of which the most numerous was led by Valerius, the remaining two being separately commanded by the Consuls. The expedition of each party was completely successful; and the Dictator returned to triumph with unusual honors.” Valerius like his namesake, was one of those men, too few for the greatness of Rome, who knew that some other service could be rendered to their country besides raising her forces or fighting her battles. As soon as his triumph was over, he began, as though he had botherto done nothing, to provide for peace amongst his fellow-countrymen. The chief fruit of his recent victories was the conquest of Velitrae, the modern Welletri, from the Volscians. Thither were sent, according to the Dictator's proposal, a large number of the poorer men in Rome, to have their portion in the town and the adjoining territory,” which they, in return, as soldier-colonists, would defend against the enemy. The debtors and bondsmen took heart at such a proof of interest in their behalf; but when the subject of their relief was brought by Valerius before the Senate, it was met with inflexible opposition. He spoke as became him: —“I do not please you, Senators, because I am for peace. But take my word for it, ye will soon wish the Plebeians had more such advocates as I. For my part, I will neither any further disappoint those whom I call my fellow-citizens, nor will I, on my own account, be a Dictator who cannot do what he desires.” The noble old man resigned his authority; with which, indeed, he could have made whatever laws he pleased, but none that would last beyond his term of office, unless accepted by the Patricians. The Plebeians understood him; and when he came forth from the Senate, unattended, they followed him home with praises and grateful acclamations. It was, on his side and on theirs, a day of moderation and of courage. The legions which had served under Valerius were disbanded, as usual, after his triumph;” but the six others, assigned the Consuls, were still under their command. In order to keep these together, and at a distance from the city, where disturbances were now beginning to be dreaded by the Patricians, the Senate instructed the Consuls to lead their armies farther in pursuit of the enemy they had already conquered. The common soldiers saw through the design, – too plain to deceive them, had they been blind; and in seeing,” they knew that they were feared. At the orders of the Consuls, they set out together, and pitched their camp by the river Anio, at no great distance from Rome: but there were some amongst them already resolved upon an enterprise, long before, perhaps, suggested and prepared. In the evening time of rest and uninterrupted intercourse among the men, the word was probably passed from station to station, that all true Plebeians were, that night,
19 Liv., II. 30. legion a body of 4,000 foot and 300
* The number (from Dion. Hal., horse. VI. 42) may be exaggerated, if his * “Quantus nunquam ante exeraccount be true, which makes the citus.” Liv., II. 30.