The leaving of the City ... or what happens when the proles and plebes finally get feed up
36. 450 BCE. The new decemvirs behave like tyrants, terrifyingthe people by exhibiting the symbols of power and by harsh andarbitrary judgments of the lower classes.That was the end of Appius’ wearing an alien mask. From then on he beganto live according to his own nature and mold his new colleagues after hisown character, even before they entered office. Daily they met without witnesses.There they were instructed in tyrannical plans that they cooked upin secret. Because they no longer concealed their arrogance, they were rarelyapproachable and difficult to address. Such was their conduct through May15, which, at that time, was the date for beginning a term of office.84On entering office, they marked the first day of their administration witha demonstration of terror. For whereas the earlier decemvirs had observedthe rule that only one man should have the fasces and that this emblem ofroyalty should circulate and pass from one to another, these decemvirs allsuddenly appeared, each with twelve fasces. One hundred and twenty lictorsfilled the forum, carrying before them the axes bound up with the rods. Theyexplained that there was no point in removing the axes, since they had beenelected without the right of appeal.85 They looked like ten kings, increasingthe terror of not only the low-born but also the leaders of the senate, whothought that the decemvirs were seeking a pretext to begin a bloodbath. Ifanyone should utter a word that was reminiscent of liberty, either in the senateor before the people, the rods and axes were immediately at the ready, ifonly to frighten the rest. In addition to the fact that the people had no protectionnow that the right of appeal had been taken away, the new decemvirshad agreed to remove the right of vetoing each other, whereas their predecessorshad allowed their judgments to be amended on appeal to one of theircolleagues, and they had referred to the people certain matters that mightseem to be within their own competence.86For a while the terror affected everyone equally, but gradually it began tofocus entirely on the plebs. The patricians were left untouched, but the lowerorders were dealt with in an arbitrary and cruel way. It was entirely a matterof who a person was, not the merit of his case, since political influence hadthe force of justice. They made up their judgments in private and announcedthem in the forum. If anyone appealed to a colleague, he came away regrettingthat he had not stood by the earlier decision. An unsubstantiated reporthad come out that they had conspired to commit these outrages not just forthe present; they had made a secret agreement and sworn not to hold electionsbut, by means of a perpetual decemvirate, to continue to exercise powernow that they had acquired it.37. The patricians are unwilling to oppose the decemvirs’treatment of the plebs, and some younger nobles even profit fromthe injustices. There is no sign of an election.Then the plebeians began to look at the expressions on the faces of the patricians,catching a breath of freedom from the very people that they hadfeared would subject them to slavery—a fear that had resulted in the statebeing reduced to its present plight. The leading senators hated the decemvirsand hated the plebs. They did not approve of what was happening, but theythought that the plebs had gotten what they deserved. They were pleasedthat they had fallen into slavery as a result of their greedy rush for liberty,but at the same time they were reluctant to pile on maltreatment as well.Their aim was that the plebeians would tire of the present situation andyearn for a return to consular government and the former constitution.Already the greater part of the year had passed and two tables of laws hadbeen added to the ten of the previous year; no reason remained for the republicto need the decemvirate, once the new statutes had also been passedby the Comitia Centuriata. People were waiting to see how soon the assemblyfor the election of consuls would be announced. Only one thing botheredthe plebs: how would they restore tribunician power, the bulwark oftheir liberty, which had been suspended? Meanwhile there was no mentionof an election. And the decemvirs, who at first had made a show to the plebsof being surrounded by former tribunes as a way of courting popularity, nowhad a retinue of young patricians protecting them. Their squads besieged thetribunals, bullying and robbing the plebs of their possessions and property,as if the stronger had the right to take whatever he coveted. And now theydid not even refrain from physical abuse; there were beatings and some werebeheaded. And so that this cruelty might not be unrewarded, execution wasfollowed by the award of the victim’s property to his executioner. Corruptedby these rewards, the young nobles not only did not resist such injustice butopenly preferred license for themselves, rather than liberty for everyone.8738. 449 BCE. There is no election, and the decemvirs continue inpower but find themselves increasingly hated and isolated. Waron two fronts causes them to summon the senate, but at first thesenators do not respond. The plebs resent the senators’ eventualcompliance.May 15 arrived. No magistrates had been elected. Now private citizens, notdecemvirs, they appeared in public, their intention undiminished—to holdon to power and the insignia that was their claim to office. This indeed wasblatant tyranny. Liberty was mourned as gone forever. There was no avenger,nor did it seem likely that one would appear. Not only were the people despondent,but they began to be held in contempt by the neighboringpeoples, who were resentful of being ruled by men who had lost their liberty.88 The Sabines invaded Roman territory with a large band, causingwidespread devastation. With impunity they drove off booty, both men andbeasts, and withdrew their army to Eretum after ranging far and wide.89There they pitched camp, putting their hopes in the discord at Rome, which,they thought, would prevent the levying of troops. Not only the news butalso the flight of the countryfolk who threw the Romans into trepidationthroughout the city. The decemvirs discussed what they needed to do; theyfelt abandoned amid the hatred of both senators and plebeians. Then fortunesent an additional terror: on another front the Aequi pitched camp onAlgidus, from which they made plundering raids into Tusculan territory. Envoysfrom Tusculum arrived with the news, begging for help.This panic drove the decemvirs to consult the senate, since the city wassurrounded by two wars at the same time. They ordered the senators to besummoned to the senate house, although they were not unaware of thegreat storm of unpopularity that threatened them. They realized thateveryone would heap on them the blame for the devastation of their territoryand the imminent dangers. There would be an attempt to abolish theiroffice unless they united and suppressed the efforts of the rest by ruthlesslyexercising their power against a few overly bold critics. When the herald’svoice was heard in the forum summoning the senators to meet the decemvirsin the senate house, it was like a novelty because for so long theyhad suspended the custom of consulting the senate. The plebs wonderedwhat had happened and why they were reviving an obsolete custom afterso long an interval. They felt they ought to thank the enemy and the war,because at least something that was usual in a free state was happening.They looked everywhere in the forum for a senator but hardly recognizedone anywhere. Then they saw the senate house with the decemvirs sittingthere, alone. The decemvirs explained the senators’ failure to convene asbeing due to the universal hatred of their power, but the plebeians thoughtit was because private citizens did not have the right to summon the senate.A head start was already being made toward the recovery of their freedom,if only the plebs allied with the senate and refused the levy, just asthe senators, when summoned, had not convened. Such were the murmursamong the plebs.Of senators, there was hardly a single one in the forum and but few inthe city. In anger at the situation, they had withdrawn to their farms andwere concerning themselves with their private affairs and neglecting those ofthe state. For they felt that the farther they removed themselves from contactand association with their despotic masters, the safer they would be frombeing harmed. When they did not convene after their summons, officerswere sent around their houses, both to exact fines and to find out whethertheir refusal was deliberate. They reported that the senate was in the countryside.This news was more pleasing to the decemvirs than if the senatorshad rejected their authority while still in town. The decemvirs ordered themall to be summoned and proclaimed a meeting of the senate for the followingday. This session was considerably better attended than they had expected.When this happened, the plebeians thought that freedom had beenbetrayed by the senators, since the senate had obeyed men who had alreadygone out of office and were thus private citizens who, except for their use offorce, employed compulsion as if it were theirs by right.39. The senators convene and Marcus Horatius Barbatusmakes a vehement speech against the decemvirs and their abuseof power.But we hear that the senators’ obedience in coming to the senate house wasgreater than their submissiveness in expressing their views. Tradition has itthat, after Appius Claudius had proposed a motion but before opinions werecalled for in order of precedence, Lucius Valerius Potitus demanded leave tospeak about the state of the nation.90 When the decemvirs tried to block himwith threats, he created an uproar by announcing that he would go beforethe plebs. No less fiercely, Marcus Horatius Barbatus then entered the fray,calling them “ten Tarquins” and warning that the Valerii and Horatii had ledthe expulsion of the kings. It was not the name of “king” that had nauseatedmen—after all, it was right to call Jupiter by this name; also Romulus, thefounder of the city, and the subsequent kings; and it had also been kept forreligious rites as a solemn title.91 No, what they had hated was the arroganceand violent behavior of a king. And if these characteristics were intolerablein a single king and the king’s son, who was going to tolerate them in thecase of so many private citizens?92Let them beware, lest their ban on free speech in the senate house stir uptalk outside that house as well. He could not see, Horatius continued, howit was less permissible for him as a private citizen to summon the people toan assembly than for them to convene the senate. Let them find out, by experience,whenever they wanted, how much stronger a man’s anger was indefending his freedom than was their eagerness to defend unjust despotism.The decemvirs were talking about war against the Sabines as if it were agreater war for the Roman people than was their war against men who,though elected to propose laws, had left no law in the state—men who haddone away with elections, annual magistracies, changes of command fromone to another—the one means of equalizing liberty. And yet here were thesemen, though private citizens, holding the rods of office and kingly power!After the expulsion of the kings, patrician magistrates had been elected; then,after the secession of the plebs, plebeian magistrates. To what party, he repeatedlyasked, did they belong? The people’s? What had they done throughthe people? Did they belong to the aristocrats?93 For almost a year they hadnot held a meeting of the senate, but now that they had, were they preventingdiscussion of the state of the nation? Let them not put too much trustin other men’s fears. What men were now enduring seemed more oppressivethan any fear they might have.40. Gaius Claudius speaks, indicating his opinion that thedecemvirs were no longer magistrates. The brother of anotherdecemvir recommends shelving the question until they have dealtwith the wars.While Horatius was holding forth, the decemvirs did not know what measureof anger or forbearance to show, nor could they see how the situationwould turn out. Then Gaius Claudius, the uncle of Appius the decemvir,gave a speech that was more of an entreaty than a reproach, as he begged himby the shade of his own brother, Appius’ father, to remember the citizen societyinto which he had been born, rather than the pact that he had impiouslymade with his colleagues.94 He begged this more for Appius’ own sakethan for that of the state. Indeed, the state would seek justice from themwhether the decemvirs were willing to grant it or not. Great passions, he said,were almost always aroused as a result of a great struggle, and he shudderedat what might come out of this. Although the decemvirs were trying to preventdiscussion of any proposal other than theirs, a sense of shame stoppedthem from interrupting Claudius. He concluded by proposing that no decreeof the senate should be issued. Everyone took this to mean that Claudiusjudged the decemvirs to be private citizens. Many of the ex-consuls simplygave their assent. Another proposal, which was ostensibly harsher but actuallysomewhat less forceful, directed the senators to assemble to proclaim aninterrex.95 For, by passing any sort of decree, they were judging those whoconvened the senate to be magistrates, whereas the man who had proposedthat there be no senatorial decree had deemed them private citizens.As the decemvirs’ cause began to collapse, Lucius Cornelius Maluginensis,brother of the decemvir Marcus Cornelius, who had deliberately been reservedas the last speaker of the ex-consuls, protected his brother and hisbrother’s colleagues by pretending to be concerned about the war. He wondered,he said, by what destiny it had come about that the decemvirs werebeing attacked by those who, either solely or especially, had themselvessought the office of decemvir. Why, he asked, was it that, during the manymonths that the state was at peace, no one had brought up the question ofwhether proper magistrates were in charge of the state; whereas now, with theenemy almost at their gates, they were sowing civil discord? They evidentlythought that in turbulent times it would not be as easy to see what was goingon. Furthermore, it was not right to prejudge such an important matterat a time when men’s minds were preoccupied with a greater concern.96Regarding the charge by Valerius and Horatius that the decemvirs’ officehad expired on May 15, he proposed that this question be brought beforethe senate for settlement once the impending wars were over and the statehad been restored to tranquility. As for Appius Claudius, he should be preparedto realize that he had to give an explanation of the assembly that he,as decemvir, had held for the election of decemvirs: whether these men hadbeen elected for one year or until the laws that were still missing should bepassed. For the present, he thought that everything except the war should bedisregarded. If they thought that the rumor of war had been spread falselyand that not only the messengers but also the envoys from Tusculum hadbrought empty rumors, he suggested that they ought to send out scouts tobring back more definite information. But if they trusted both messengersand envoys, a levy should be held as early as possible and the decemvirsshould lead the armies wherever it seemed best to them, giving precedenceto no other business.41. Despite further efforts by Valerius and Horatius, thedecemvirs prevail. A levy is held, and Appius Claudius is leftin charge of the city.The younger senators were on the point of forcing a division on this proposalwhen Valerius and Horatius again arose, more impassioned than before,shouting that they be permitted to speak about the state of the nation.They would speak before the people if a factional group did not permit themto do so in the senate. Private citizens could not prevent them, whether inthe senate house or in an assembly, nor would they yield to phony fasces.Then Appius thought that it was close to the point at which his power wouldbe defeated unless he resisted their vehemence with equal boldness. “Thebetter course,” he exclaimed, “is not to utter a word that does not pertain tothe subject under debate.” But Valerius said that he would not be silencedby a private citizen, and so Appius ordered a lictor to seize him. Valerius,from the threshold of the senate house, was imploring his fellow citizens outsidefor their support, when Lucius Cornelius threw his arms around Appiusand stopped the quarrel, thus helping the latter and not, as he pretended,Valerius.97 Thanks to Cornelius, Valerius was granted the favor of sayingwhat he wanted. But freedom went no further than his words. The decemvirsheld to their purpose. The ex-consuls and older senators still hated tribunicianpower, thinking that the plebeians missed it more keenly than theymissed the power of the consuls. And so they almost preferred that the decemvirsshould voluntarily resign from their office at some later date, ratherthan that hatred for the decemvirs should cause another uprising of theplebs. They thought that if they handled the situation more gently and restoredconsular power without a popular outcry, the intervention of wars orthe consuls’ moderation in the exercise of their power could induce the plebsto forget the tribunes.The senators were silent as the levy was announced. The younger men answeredto their names, since there was no right of appeal. After the legionswere enrolled, the decemvirs arranged among themselves who should go towar and who should command the armies. The leaders among the ten wereAppius Claudius and Quintus Fabius. The war at home was clearly greaterthan the one abroad. Appius’ violent nature, it was thought, was more suitedto suppressing city disturbances, whereas Fabius’ character was not so muchactively bad as lacking in steadfastness. The decemvirate and his colleagueshad so changed Fabius, a man once distinguished in civic and military affairs,that he preferred to be more like Appius than his former self. He was assignedthe war with the Sabines and given Manius Rabuleius and Quintus Poeteliusas colleagues. Marcus Cornelius was sent to Algidus with Lucius Minucius,Titus Antonius, Caeso Duilius, and Marcus Sergius. They decided thatSpurius Oppius should assist Appius Claudius in protecting the city and thatthese two should have the same powers as the entire decemvirate.42. In their hatred of the decemvirs, the Roman armies allowthemselves to be defeated.The state was served no better in the field than at home. The fault of thegenerals was merely that they had made themselves detested by the citizens.The rest of the blame lay with the soldiers, who resolved that nothing shouldsucceed under the command and auspices of the decemvirs; and so they allowedthemselves to be defeated, to their own disgrace and that of their com-manders. Their armies were routed, both by the Sabines near Eretum andon Algidus by the Aequi. From Eretum they fled in the silence of the nightand built a camp nearer the city, on an elevation between Fidenae and Crustumeria.When the enemy followed up on them, they nowhere entrustedthemselves to fight in open battle but protected themselves by their positionand rampart, not by the valor of their arms. The disgrace on Algidus wasgreater, and an even greater disaster was sustained. The camp was lost andthe soldiers, stripped of all their supplies, fled to Tusculum to live off the loyaltyand pity of the inhabitants, who did not fail them.Such great horror stories were brought to Rome that the senators nowlaid aside their hatred of the decemvirs and voted to establish watches in thecity. They ordered that all those who were of an age to bear arms shouldguard the walls and do sentry duty in front of the gates. They also decreedthat arms and reinforcements be sent to Tusculum, and that the decemvirscome down from the citadel of Tusculum and keep the soldiers in camp. Theother camp should be moved from Fidenae into Sabine territory; they shouldthen take the offensive and deter the enemy from attacking the city.43. 449 BCE. The decemvirs have a disgruntled soldierassassinated, causing their reputation to plummet.To the disaster sustained at the hands of the enemy, the decemvirs added twounspeakable crimes: one in the field, the other at home. Lucius Siccius wasserving on the Sabine campaign. Because of the hatred of the decemvirs, hewas scattering hints in secret conversations among the common soldiersabout an election of tribunes and a secession. So, the decemvirs sent him toscout out a place for a camp. The soldiers whom they sent to accompanyhim were charged with the business of attacking and killing him once theyreached a suitable place. But the murder was not unavenged. Several assassinsfell around him as he fought back, for he was very strong and, thoughsurrounded, defended himself with a spirit that matched his strength. Thesurvivors returned to the camp and reported that they had fallen into an ambush:Siccius had put up an outstanding fight, and several soldiers had beenlost with him. At first the messengers were believed; but then, with the decemvirs’permission, a cohort was sent out to bury those who had fallen.They saw that none of the bodies had been stripped of their arms and thatSiccius lay in their midst with all the bodies facing toward him, with nocorpse of an enemy or signs of a withdrawal. And so they brought back hisbody and reported that he had undoubtedly been slain by his own men. Thecamp was filled with indignation: there was a resolution to take Siccius toRome immediately, but the decemvirs hurried to give him a military funeralat public expense. Great was the soldiers’ grief at his burial, and the decemvirs’reputation among the rank and file was at its lowest.44. Appius Claudius lusts after a plebeian virgin and has oneof his clients claim her as his slave.Another unspeakable happening occurred in the city as a result of lust; thiswas as abominable in its outcome as was the rape and death of Lucretia thathad driven the Tarquins from the city and kingship. And so, not only didthe same end befall the decemvirs as befell the kings, but the same cause alsodeprived them of power.98 A lust to violate a plebeian virgin seized hold ofAppius. The maiden’s father, Lucius Verginius, was a high-ranking soldieron Algidus, an exemplary character both at home and in the field. His wifehad been brought up in the same principles, and his children were beingtrained in the same way. He had promised his daughter to Lucius Icilius, aformer tribune, who was energetic and of proven courage in the plebeiancause.99 Crazed with passion, Appius tried to entice this beautiful and nubilemaiden with presents and promises, but when he realized that her modestywas proof against all advances, he turned his mind to cruel andtyrannical force. He charged his client, Marcus Claudius, to claim themaiden as his slave and not to yield to those who would lay legal claim toher until the question of her free status was decided. He thought that theabsence of the girl’s father gave him an opportunity to wrong her.100As Verginia was coming into the forum (there were schools in the marketarea nearby), the servant of the decemvir’s lust laid his hand upon her, calledher the daughter of his own slave woman and a slave herself, and ordered herto follow him.101 If she hesitated, he said, he would drag her off by force. Thepanic-stricken girl was dumbfounded, but a crowd rushed up as her nursecried out, imploring the help of her fellow citizens. Since the name of her fatherVerginius and fiancé Icilius were well known among the people, theirpolitical reputation won their supporters over to the girl’s side, and the crowdwas won over by the outrage of her situation. She had already been protectedfrom violence, and so the claimant said that there was no need for the crowdto become excited: he was acting lawfully, not by force. He then summonedthe girl to court, and the bystanders advised her to follow.102And so, they came before Appius’ tribunal. The prosecutor MarcusClaudius acted out the play that was familiar to the judge, since he was theauthor of the plot.103 The girl had been born in his house and had been secretlytaken from there to Verginius’ house and passed off to him as his child.He had good proof of this and would prove it even to Verginius, were thelatter the judge. For Verginius was the one who had suffered the greater partof the wrong. Meanwhile it was just that the slave girl follow her master. Thegirl’s supporters said that Verginius was absent and was in the service of hiscountry, but would come in two days if he were given notice. It was unjustto fight over a man’s children in his absence. They therefore requested Appiusto leave the matter alone until the father arrived, since the law that hehimself had passed gave interim possession of the girl to those who defendedher freedom. He should not allow a grown maiden to endanger her reputationbefore her free status had been decided.45. Icilius makes a vehement protest when Appius refuses torelease Verginia from the custody of his client, Marcus Claudius.Before making a decision, Appius said that the law that Verginius’ friendsoffered in support of their claim made it clear how much he favored freedom.But, he said, it would only offer firm support for freedom if there wereno variation in its application to cases or persons. In the case of those whowere claimed to be free, the request was legal, since anyone could bringan action. But in the case of a woman who was under the legal control ofher father, there was no other person to whom the master could yield thecustody. He therefore resolved that the father be summoned and thatmeanwhile the claimant should not lose his right of taking the girl andproducing her when her alleged father arrived.Against the injustice of the decree, though many were seething, there wasno one individual who dared protest until the girl’s grandfather Publius Numitoriusand her fiancé Icilius intervened. A path was made through thethrong, since the crowd believed that Icilius’ intervention would be particularlyeffective in resisting Appius. But then the lictor cried that the decisionhad been made and pushed Icilius aside as he began to protest. Such asavage wrong would have inflamed even a placid disposition. “Appius,” criedIcilius, “you will have to use a sword to remove me if you want to avoid anoutcry as you carry out what you wish to conceal. I am going to marry thismaiden, and I intend that my bride be chaste. Go ahead and summon allyour colleagues’ lictors as well. Order the rods and axes to be made ready.Icilius’ future bride will not remain outside her father’s house. No! Even ifyou have deprived the Roman plebs of the help of the tribunes and the rightof appeal, the two bastions that protect liberty, you have not been grantedthe power of a king to satisfy your lust and force yourself on our wives andchildren. Vent your rage on our backs and necks. But at least let their chastitybe safe. If that be violated, I will invoke the loyalty of the citizens here presentto protect my bride; Verginius will call upon the soldiers to protect hisonly daughter; and we will all invoke the protection of gods and men. Youwill never carry out that decree without shedding my blood. I bid you, Appius,consider over again and again where you are heading. Let Verginius seewhat he will do about his daughter when he comes. But he should just knowthis: if he gives in to this man’s claim, he will need to seek another marriagefor his daughter. As for me, I shall sooner die in defense of my bride’s freestatus than prove disloyal.46. Appius backs down for the moment, and Verginia is sentback to Verginius’ house after bail is given by the people. Appiusfails to prevent Verginius’ return from camp.The crowd was aroused and conflict seemed imminent. The lictors had surroundedIcilius, but they had not yet gone beyond threats. Appius kept onsaying that Icilius was not acting in defense of Verginia but rather behavinglike the tribune he once had been, making trouble and looking for an opportunityto stir up strife. He would give him no excuse for strife at present;he would neither pronounce judgment that day nor enforce his decree. Icilius,however, should realize that he was not yielding to his impudence, butrather in deference to the absent Verginius, a father’s name, and the claim ofliberty. He would not pronounce judgment on that day nor give a decision.He would ask Marcus Claudius to withdraw his right and allow his claim onthe girl to be decided the next day. But if the father were not present then,he gave notice to Icilius and the likes of Icilius that the proposer of his lawwould not fail to support it, nor would the decemvir be lacking in firmness.He would not, in any event, summon his colleagues’ lictors to restrain theleaders of sedition but would be content with his own.When the time of the injustice had been postponed, the girl’s supporterswent off by themselves and decided first that Icilius’ brother and Numitorius’son, energetic young men, should go straight to the city gate and summonVerginius from the camp as quickly as possible: the girl’s safety turnedon his presence the next day in time to defend her from injustice. Once ordered,they set out, galloping their horses, and brought the message to herfather. Meanwhile, when the girl’s claimant pressed him to give securities toguarantee her appearance, Icilius said that he was doing just that (he wascarefully spinning out the time until the messengers who had been sent tothe camp should get a head start on their journey). On all sides the crowdraised their hands, each person showing Icilius his readiness to guarantee themoney. In tears, Icilius said, “Thank you. Tomorrow I shall use your help; Ihave enough securities for now.” On the security of her relatives, Verginiawas released. Appius delayed a short time so that he did not appear to havesat just for this case. But nobody came up to him, since all other matters hadbeen forgotten in their concern for this one thing. So, he went home andwrote to his colleagues in the camp, telling them not to grant leave toVerginius and also to detain him under guard. His wicked plan was too late,as it should have been. Verginius already had his leave and had set out in thefirst night watch. The letter to detain him was delivered in the morning ofthe following day, to no effect.47. Despite Verginius’ pleas, Appius rules against him.In the city at dawn, as the citizens were standing in the forum in eager anticipation,Verginius came down into the forum, wearing the ragged garb ofmourning and escorting his daughter, who was dressed in a shabby garmentand attended by a number of matrons.104 Accompanied by a large group ofsupporters, he began to circulate and canvass people, not only begging fortheir help as a favor, but also seeking it as his due. Daily, he said, he stoodin the battle line in defense of their children and their wives. No other manwas on record for performing so bravely and energetically in war. But whatgood was it if, though the city was unharmed, their children had to endurethe frightful things that followed a city’s capture? So he went around, speakingas if he were addressing a public assembly. Similar remarks were addressedto them by Icilius. But the silent weeping of the women attendantswas more moving than any words.Confronted by all this but with his purpose stubbornly fixed—so greatwas the force of the madness (a more truthful definition than passion) thathad disturbed his mind—Appius mounted the tribunal. The plaintiff MarcusClaudius was actually making a few complaints that his rights had notbeen granted the day before because of the wrangling when, before he couldfinish his demand or Verginius was given the opportunity to reply, Appiusinterrupted him. The ancient sources have perhaps preserved something ofthe true speech with which Appius prefaced his decision. However, since Ihave nowhere found one that is plausible in view of the enormity of his decision,it seems necessary to set forth the bare fact that he decided in favorof the plaintiff: the girl was his slave.At first everyone was stunned with amazement at such an outrage. For awhile, silence gripped them. Then, as Marcus Claudius was going to seize themaiden from the group of matrons surrounding her, the women received himwith wailing and lamentation. Verginius shook his fist at Appius, exclaiming,“It was to Icilius, not you, Appius, that I promised my daughter. I raised herto be married, not debauched. Animals and wild beasts fornicate indiscriminately.Is this what you want? I do not know whether these people here willtolerate this. But I don’t expect that those who have arms will do so.”As the claimant to the girl was being driven back by the ring of womenand supporters surrounding her, silence was commanded by a herald.48. Appius is preparing to use armed men to enforce his decisionwhen Verginius kills his daughter and flees, protected by thecrowd. Icilius expresses his outrage.The decemvir, out of his mind with lust, declared that he knew, not only fromIcilius’ abuse the day before and Verginius’ violent behavior that the Romanpeople had witnessed, but also from definite information, that meetings hadbeen held throughout the night to promote sedition. Aware of the impendingfight, he had come to the forum with armed men, not to do violence toany peaceable citizen, but to exercise the dignity of his office and restrainthose who were disturbing the peace. “It will be better,” he said, “if you arepeaceable. Go, lictor, remove the mob and make a path for the master to seizehis slave.” Filled with rage, he thundered these words and the crowd partedof its own accord, leaving the girl standing there, a prey to injustice.Then Verginius, seeing no help anywhere, cried, “I ask you, Appius, firstto pardon a father’s grief, if I spoke too harshly against you. Allow me, in thepresence of my daughter, to ask the nurse what this is all about. If I havefalsely been named as the girl’s father, then I will go away with more equanimity.”Permission was granted. He led his daughter and her nurse aside,near the shrine of Cloacina by the shops that are now called the NewShops.105 Seizing a knife from a butcher, he cried, “Daughter, I am claimingyour freedom in the only way that I can.” He then stabbed the girl tothe heart and looked back at the tribunal, saying, “With this blood, Appius,I declare you and your life accursed.”An uproar broke out at this terrible deed. Appius jumped up and orderedVerginius to be arrested. But with his weapon Verginius made a path for himselfwherever he went until, under the protection of a crowd of followers, hereached the gate. Icilius and Numitorius lifted the lifeless body and showedit to the people, lamenting Appius’ crime, the girl’s unfortunate beauty, andthe necessity that had driven her father to such a deed. Following them, thematrons cried out, “Is this what it means to have children? Are these the rewardsof chastity?”—and the rest of the pitiful complaints that women’s griefdrives them to utter in such a situation, a grief that is all the more sad becauseof their emotional nature, and the more pitiable as they readily giveway to lamentation. The men’s talk, especially that of Icilius, was entirely
about tribunician power, the right of appeal to the people that had beenwrested from them, and the state’s sense of outrage.49. With the support of the crowd, Lucius Valerius and MarcusHoratius challenge Appius, who is trying to arrest Icilius. Appiusflees. Realizing defeat, a colleague, Spurius Oppius, summonsthe senate.The crowd was stirred up partly because of the atrocity of the crime, andpartly in the hope of using the opportunity to regain their freedom. Appiusfirst ordered that Icilius be summoned; then, on his refusal, that he be arrested.Finally, since the attendants could not get near him, Appius himselfmarched through the crowd with a band of patrician youths and orderedIcilius to be put in chains. By this time, there was not only a crowd aroundIcilius but also the crowd’s leaders, Lucius Valerius and Marcus Horatius.They drove the lictor back, saying that if he were acting according to the law,they were protecting Icilius from prosecution by a private citizen.106 But ifhe was resorting to violence, they were a match for that, too.A fierce brawl broke out. The decemvir’s lictor made a rush at Valeriusand Horatius, and the fasces were broken by the crowd. Appius mounted theplatform to address the people, followed by Horatius and Valerius. The assembledcrowd listened to them but shouted the decemvir down. Alreadyacting as if he were a magistrate, Valerius ordered the lictors to stop servinga man who was a private citizen; whereupon Appius, his spirit broken andfearing for his life, covered his head and fled to a house near the forum, unnoticedby his adversaries. Spurius Oppius burst into the forum from anotherdirection to help his colleague. He saw that force had prevailed overhis authority as a magistrate. An agitated discussion followed. In trepidation,Oppius agreed now with one and then with another of his many advisers onevery side. Finally he ordered the senate to be summoned. This move calmedthe crowd, because the majority of the patricians seemed to disapprove ofthe decemvirs’ actions. The hope was that the senate would put an end totheir power. The senate decided that the plebs should not be provoked, realizingthat it was much more important to
50. After hearing Verginius’ story, the soldiers leave their campand seize the Aventine, telling the senate that they will talk withValerius and Horatius.And so, some younger senators were sent to the camp, which was then onMount Vecilius; they announced to the decemvirs that they should makeevery effort to restrain their soldiers from mutiny.107 There Verginius stirredup greater commotion than he had left in the city. As he approached, notonly was he seen to be accompanied by almost 400 men from the city, whohad joined him in their anger at the outrage he had suffered, but his unsheathedweapon and the blood with which he was spattered drew the attentionof the whole camp. The sight of togas all over the camp hadproduced the appearance of a considerably larger crowd of civilians than itactually was.108 When asked what the problem was, Verginius wept and fora long time did not utter a word. At last, when the bustle and confusion ofthe gathering had settled and there was silence, he explained everything inthe order that it had happened.Then with palms upraised, he called on them as fellow soldiers, prayingthat they would not consider him responsible for Appius Claudius’ crimenor regard him as one who had murdered his child. His daughter’s life wouldhave been dearer to him than his own if she had been allowed to live in freedomand chastity. But when he saw her being hurried off like a slave to bedebauched, he had thought it better to lose a child to death than to outrage.The pity he felt had occasioned him to commit an act of apparent cruelty.Nor would he have outlived his daughter had he not hoped to avenge herdeath by getting the help of his fellow soldiers. For they too had daughters,sisters, and wives. Appius Claudius’ lust had not died with Verginia, but thelonger it went unpunished, the more unbridled it would become. Thecalamity that had befallen another gave them a warning to guard against asimilar outrage. As far as he, Verginius, was concerned, fate had robbed himof his wife; now his daughter had died a pitiful but honorable death, sinceshe would have no longer lived in chastity. Now there was no opportunityin his house for Appius’ lust. He would defend his own body from Appius’further violence with the same spirit that he had defended his daughter. Therest should look out for their own interests and those of their children.
As Verginius shouted these words, the crowd cried out in support thatthey would not fail to avenge his grief and vindicate their own freedom. Thecivilians mingled with the crowd of soldiers, making the same laments andtelling them how much more outrageous the events would have appeared ifthey had seen them rather than simply heard about them. At the same timethey announced that the government in Rome was already overthrown.Others arrived, saying that Appius had almost been killed and had gone intoexile. All this drove the soldiers to proclaim the call to arms, tear up the standards,and set out for Rome. The decemvirs, thrown into confusion by whatthey were seeing and by what they heard had happened in Rome, rushed indifferent directions throughout the camp, trying to quell the mutiny. Mildtalk got no response from the soldiers. If one of them tried to impose his authority,he got the reply that they were men and were armed. They marchedto the city in a column and took possession of the Aventine, urging the plebeiansthey encountered to regain their freedom and elect tribunes of theplebs. No other violent proposals were heard.Spurius Oppius convened the senate, and it was decided to take no harshmeasures, since they themselves had provided the opportunity for sedition.Three ex-consuls were sent as envoys to ask, in the name of the senators, whohad ordered them to abandon the camp, what their aim was in seizing theAventine with arms and capturing their native land after abandoning a warwith the enemy. The men did not lack a response, but they did lack someoneto give that response since they had no definite leader, nor as individualswere they sufficiently daring to risk such an invidious position. Thecrowd simply cried out in unison that the senators should send Lucius Valeriusand Marcus Horatius; to them they would give a reply.51. The army on the Aventine elects its own officials, tribunes ofthe soldiers; Icilius has the other army do the same. Valerius andHoratius refuse to go and negotiate with the armies until thedecemvirs resign. The decemvirs, however, refuse to resign untiltheir laws are passed.When the envoys were dismissed, Verginius warned the soldiers that they hadbeen thrown into confusion a few moments before over an unimportant matterbecause, as a group, they lacked a leader. Their answer, though a good one,was the result of a fortuitous consensus rather than a concerted plan. He rec-
ommended that ten men be appointed as leaders and that they be given a militarytitle, “tribunes of the soldiers.” When this honor was offered to him asthe first appointee, he said, “Keep your judgment about me until the situationhas improved both for you and for me. No official honor can be pleasingto me as long as my daughter is unavenged. Nor, while the state is in suchconfusion, is it helpful for you to have in office men who are exposed to politicalhatred. If I am of service to you, that service will be no less if it comesfrom a private citizen.” And so they chose ten tribunes of the soldiers.Nor was the army on the Sabine front quiet. There too, at the instigationof Icilius and Numitorius, there was a mutiny against the decemvirs. Men’sfeelings were stirred anew by the memory of Siccius’ murder no less thanthey were kindled by the news of the girl who had been so shamefully soughtto gratify a man’s lust. Icilius, when he heard that tribunes of the soldiers hadbeen appointed on the Aventine, was afraid that the assembly in the citymight follow the precedent of the military assembly by making these samemen tribunes of the plebs. Since he was experienced in popular politics andhad designs on the office for himself, he had his soldiers elect the same numberwith equal power before they went to the city. Under their standards,they entered the city by the Colline Gate, proceeding in a column rightthrough the middle of the city to the Aventine. There they joined the otherarmy and charged the twenty tribunes of the soldiers to appoint two of theirnumber to the supreme command. The tribunes appointed Marcus Oppiusand Sextus Manilius.The senators were alarmed about the state of the nation. But, althoughthey were meeting every day, they were spending more time in recriminationsthan in deliberation. They blamed the decemvirs for the murder of Siccius,Appius’ lust, and the disgraces in the military sphere. It was resolvedthat Valerius and Horatius should go to the Aventine. But they said that theywould only go if the decemvirs would lay down the symbols of office thathad expired a year ago. The decemvirs, complaining that they were beingforced to return to the ranks, said that they would not lay down their poweruntil the laws for which they had been appointed were passed.52. Given the stalemate, the plebs move to the Sacred Mount,and cries for the senate to take action increase.The plebs were told by Marcus Duilius, a former tribune of the plebs, thatnothing was being achieved by the senate’s continual bickering. So, they
moved from the Aventine to the Sacred Mount, since Duilius assured themthat the senate would not feel any concern until they saw the city deserted.The Sacred Mount would warn them of the plebs’ steadfastness; the patricianswould find out whether it was possible to restore the harmony of thestate without reinstating tribunician power. They set out by the Via Nomentana,which was then called Ficolensis, and pitched camp on the SacredMount, copying the restraint of their fathers who had done no pillaging. Theplebs followed the army, with no one who was physically able refusing to go.They were attended for some distance by wives and children who asked pitifullywho was going to protect them, abandoned in a city where neitherchastity nor liberty was sacred.109An unaccustomed emptiness had made all of Rome desolate. There wasno one in the forum except a few older men; when the senators were in thesenate house, the forum seemed deserted. Then more than just Horatius andValerius began to make their voices heard. “What will you wait for, senators?”they asked. “If the decemvirs won’t put an end to their obstinacy, areyou going to allow everything to be ruined and go up in flames? What is thispower, decemvirs, that you are clinging to so tenaciously? Are you going togive laws to roofs and walls? Aren’t you ashamed that an almost greater numberof your lictors are to be seen in the forum than the rest of the citizens?What are you going to do if the enemy should come to the city? What if theplebs were to come soon and in arms, while we are unmoved by their secession?Do you want your power to end with the downfall of the city? Andyet, either we must have no plebeians or we must have plebeian tribunes. Wewill be deprived of patrician magistracies more quickly than they will lackplebeian offices. They wrested from our fathers a new and untested power.But now that they are captivated by its charm, they would not bear its loss,especially since we are not so moderate in the exercise of our power that theyneed no help.” Assailed by these taunts from all sides and defeated by theconsensus, the decemvirs agreed that they would submit, since it seemedbest, to the power of the senators. They only asked, giving a warning, thatthey be protected from hatred and that their blood not be the means of accustomingthe plebs to punishing senators.
53. Valerius and Horatius negotiate with the plebs on the senate’sbehalf. Icilius acts as spokesman for the plebs.Then Valerius and Horatius were sent to the plebs to negotiate conditionsfor their return and make a settlement. They were also ordered to safeguardthe decemvirs from the anger and violence of the people. They set out andwere received into the camp to the plebeians’ great joy, as the undisputedchampions of freedom both at the beginning of the disturbance and in itsoutcome. On their arrival they were thanked, and Icilius made a speech onbehalf of the crowd. And, when the conditions were being discussed and theenvoys were asking what the plebs demanded, Icilius presented their demandsin accordance with a plan that had been made before the envoys’ arrival.He made it clear that their hopes lay in an equitable settlement ratherthan the use of arms; the recovery of tribunician power and the right of appealwere what they sought—those things that had been the plebs’ safeguardsbefore the election of the decemvirs. The plebeians also wanted a guaranteethat it would not be held against anyone that he had roused either soldiersor plebs to regain their freedom by seceding. Their only harsh demand wasfor the punishment of the decemvirs. They thought it just that the decemvirsbe handed over to them and threatened to burn them alive.In response to these proposals, the envoys said, “The demands are theproduct of deliberation and are so fair that they should have been grantedto you voluntarily. You are seeking them as guarantees of liberty, not as licenseto make attacks on others. But your anger is to be excused rather thanindulged. Your hatred of cruelty is driving you headlong into cruelty, and,almost before you are free yourselves, you are wanting to lord it over yourfoes. Will our state never have a rest from senators punishing plebeians, orplebeians punishing senators? You need a shield rather than a sword. It isenough and more than enough for a low-born citizen to enjoy equal rightsin the state and neither inflict nor suffer injustice. Even if, at some futuredate, you show that you are to be feared, it will be after you have recoveredyour magistrates and laws when you have jurisdiction over our lives and fortunes;110 then you will make a decision as each case comes before you. Meanwhileit is enough to regain your freedom.”
54. 449 BCE. The settlement of Valerius and Horatius isaccepted and the decemvirs resign. The plebs return, electtribunes, and pass a bill restoring the consulship, subject to theright of appeal.When the people all agreed that Valerius and Horatius should do as they sawfit, the envoys assured them that they would return when they had completedthe settlement. They set out, and, when they had explained the plebs’demands to the senators, the other decemvirs made no objection since, contraryto their expectation, there was no mention of punishment for them.But Appius, because of his savage temperament and his extraordinary unpopularity,measured other men’s hatred of him by his own hatred of them,exclaiming, “I am not unaware of the fortune that threatens me. I see thatthe struggle against us is being postponed until weapons are handed to ouradversaries. Their antagonism demands the offering of blood. I have no hesitationin resigning from the decemvirate.” The senate decreed that the decemvirsshould abdicate their office as soon as possible; that Quintus Furius,the pontifex maximus; should conduct an election for tribunes of the plebs;and that the secession of the soldiers and the plebs should not be held againstanyone.111When the senatorial decrees had been passed and the senate dismissed,the decemvirs went before the people and abdicated their office, to everyone’sgreat joy. These happenings were announced to the plebs. Whateverpeople were left in the city followed the envoys. This throng was met by anotherjoyful crowd running out from the camp. They congratulated eachother on the restoration of freedom and harmony to the state. The envoysaddressed the people: “May this be favorable, fortunate, and happy for youand for the republic. Return to your native city, to your household gods, toyour wives and children. But as you go, take into the city that same restraintthat you have shown here, where no man’s land was violated, though so manythings were useful and necessary for so great a throng. Go to the Aventine,from where you set out. There, in the auspicious place where you made thefirst beginnings of liberty, you will elect tribunes of the plebs. The pontifexmaximus will be there to hold the election.”These words quickly drew huge applause, as the crowds gave their approvalto everything. They tore up the standards and set out for Rome, their
joy vying with that of those who came to meet them. Armed, they went insilence through the city to the Aventine. There Quintus Furius, the pontifexmaximus, immediately held an assembly, and they elected tribunes of theplebs: first of all Lucius Verginius; then Lucius Icilius and Publius Numitorius(Verginia’s maternal uncle), the instigators of the secession;112 thenGaius Sicinius, the son of the man who is said to have been the first tribuneelected on the Sacred Mount; and Marcus Duilius, who had distinguishedhimself in the tribunate before the election of the decemvirs and who hadnot failed the plebs in their struggle with the decemvirs. Elected more fortheir promise than their service were Marcus Titinius, Marcus Pomponius,Gaius Apronius, Appius Villius, and Gaius Oppius. As soon as they hadtaken office, Lucius Icilius proposed to the plebs, and they approved, thatsecession from the decemvirs should not be held against anyone. ImmediatelyMarcus Duilius carried a resolution to elect consuls with the right ofappeal. All this was enacted by the Council of the Plebs in the FlaminianMeadows, which they now call the Circus Flaminius.11355. After the rapprochement between senators and plebeians,the new consuls, Valerius and Horatius, pass laws regardingplebiscites, the right of appeal, and sacrosanctity.Then, through an interrex, Lucius Valerius and Marcus Horatius were electedto the consulship and took up office immediately [449 BCE]. Their term ofoffice favored the people without wronging the patricians, but not withoutoffending them; for they believed that whatever was done to protect the plebsdiminished their own power. First of all, since it was virtually an undecidedpoint of law whether patricians were legally bound by decisions of the plebs,they carried a law in the Comitia Centuriata that what the plebs shouldpass when voting by tribes should be binding on the people, a bill thatgave tribunician proposals a very sharp weapon.114 Then the consuls not only
restored another consular law about the right of appeal, the sole defense ofliberty, that had been overturned by the power of the decemvirs, but they alsostrengthened it for the future by the solemn enactment of a new law that noone should declare the election of a magistrate without right of appeal.115Anyone who did so could be killed according to both human and divine law,and such a homicide would not be considered a capital offense.When they had given sufficient safeguards to the plebs, through the rightof appeal on the one hand and tribunician help on the other, in the interestsof the tribunes they restored the principle of sacrosanctity, a thing thathad almost been forgotten.116 They revived long-neglected ceremonies andrenewed them. They made tribunes inviolate, not only on the principle ofreligion but also by a statute that stipulated that anyone who harmed tribunesof the plebs, aediles, or the ten-man panel of judges should forfeit hislife to Jupiter, and his possessions should be sold at the temple of Ceres,Liber, and Libera.117 Legal experts say that this statute does not make someonesacrosanct but marks anyone who has harmed one of these officials asaccursed.118 Thus an aedile may be arrested and imprisoned by the highermagistrates—an act that, though it may be illegal (since harm is being doneto a man who, under this statute, should not be harmed), is neverthelessproof that an aedile is not considered to be sacrosanct. The tribunes, on theother hand, are sacrosanct by virtue of an ancient oath taken by the plebs
when their power was first established. There were those who interpreted thisHoratian law as also applying to consuls and likewise to praetors, becausethey were elected under the same auspices as the consuls: the consul, theysaid, was called “judge.” But this interpretation is refuted by the fact that, inthose days, it was not yet the custom to call the consul “judge,” but rather“praetor.” These were the laws enacted by the consuls.Also instituted by these consuls was the practice of taking senatorial decreesdown to the aediles at the temple of Ceres. Previously these decreeswere suppressed or falsified at the discretion of the consuls. Marcus Duilius,a tribune of the plebs, then proposed a bill to the plebs, which the plebspassed, that whoever left the plebs without tribunes and whoever declaredthe election of a magistrate without appeal should be scourged and beheaded.All these measures were passed against the will of the patricians,though they did not oppose them because their harshness was not yet directedat any one person.56. Verginius begins the prosecution of Appius Claudius,who demands the right to appeal as he is arrested and led offto prison.Once the tribunician power and the freedom of the plebs had been firmlyestablished, the tribunes thought it safe and timely to attack individuals.119So, they chose Verginius to bring the first accusation and Appius to be thedefendant. On being indicted by Verginius, Appius came down into the forumsurrounded by a throng of young patricians. Immediately everyone recalledhis appalling power as they saw the man himself and his satellites.Then Verginius said, “Oratory was invented for dubious matters. ThereforeI shall not waste your time by making a formal accusation of a man fromwhose cruelty you have freed yourselves with arms, nor will I allow him toadd to his other crimes the effrontery of making a defense.120 AppiusClaudius, I am overlooking all the impious and wicked deeds that you daredto commit, one after another, over the last two years. On one charge onlywill I give the order for your imprisonment—unless you agree to go beforea judge and prove that you did not illegally award the ownership of a freeperson to a man who claimed her as his slave.”Appius had no hope that the tribunes would help him, nor that thepeople would decide in his favor. Nevertheless he called on the tribunes and,when none of them would stay for the proceedings and he had been arrestedby an attendant, he cried, “I appeal.” The sound of this cry, the sole safeguardof liberty, coming from the same lips that had recently denied a claimto freedom produced silence. The people muttered, each man to himself,that after all the gods did exist and were not indifferent to human affairs;punishment for arrogance and cruelty was coming, late but in no small measure.They realized that the man who had annulled the right of appeal washimself making an appeal; the one who had trampled on all the rights of thepeople was now imploring the people’s protection; the one who had consigneda free person to slavery was being dragged off to prison, in need ofhis own right to freedom!The voice of Appius was