Citations:

Text #9628

Livius. "Ab urbe condita"
[Bk. 2 ] http://www.the-romans.eu/books/Ab-urbe-co...

Whilst these three wars were thus brought to a successful issue, the course which domestic affairs were taking continued to be a source of anxiety to both the patricians and the plebeians. The money-lenders possessed such influence and had taken such skilful precautions that they rendered the commons and even the Dictator himself powerless. After the consul Vetusius had returned, Valerius introduced, as the very first business of the senate, the treatment of the men who had been marching to victory, and moved a resolution as to what decision they ought to come to with regard to the debtors. His motion was negatived, on which he said, “I am not acceptable as an advocate of concord. Depend upon it, you will very soon wish that the Roman plebs had champions like me. As far as I am concerned, I will no longer encourage my fellow-citizens in vain hopes nor will I be Dictator in vain. Internal dissensions and foreign wars have made this office necessary to the commonwealth; peace has now been secured abroad, at home it is made impossible. I would rather be involved in the revolution as a private citizen than as Dictator.” So saying, he left the House and resigned his dictatorship. The reason was quite clear to the plebs; he had resigned office because he was indignant at the way they were treated. The non-fulfilment of his pledge was not due to him, they considered that he had practically kept his word, and on his way home they followed him with approving cheers.

2.32 The senate now began to feel apprehensive lest on the disbandment of the army there should be a recurrence of the secret conclaves and conspiracies. Although the Dictator had actually conducted the enrolment, the soldiers had sworn obedience to the consuls. Regarding them as still bound by their oath, the senate ordered the legions to be marched out of the City on the pretext that war had been recommenced by the Aequi. This step brought the revolution to a head. It is said that the first idea was to put the consuls to death that the men might be discharged from their oath; then, on learning that no religious obligation could be dissolved by a crime,** they decided, at the instigation of a certain Sicinius, to ignore the consuls and withdraw to the Sacred Mount, which lay on the other side of the Anio, three miles from the City.** This is a more generally accepted tradition than the one adopted by Piso that the secession was made to the Aventine. There, without any commander in a regularly entrenched camp, taking nothing with them but the necessaries of life, they quietly maintained themselves for some days, neither receiving nor giving any provocation.

A great panic seized the City, mutual distrust led to a state of universal suspense. Those plebeians who had been left by their comrades in the City feared violence from the patricians; the patricians feared the plebeians who still remained in the City, and could not make up their minds whether they would rather have them go or stay. “How long,” it was asked, “would the multitude who had seceded remain quiet? What would happen if a foreign war broke out in the meantime?” They felt that all their hopes rested on concord amongst the citizens, and that this must be restored at any cost.

The senate decided, therefore, to send as their spokesman Menenius Agrippa, an eloquent man, and acceptable to the plebs as being himself of plebeian origin. He was admitted into the camp, and it is reported that he simply told them the following fable in primitive and uncouth fashion. “In the days when all the parts of the human body were not as now agreeing together, but each member took its own course and spoke its own speech, the other members, indignant at seeing that everything acquired by their care and labour and ministry went to the belly, whilst it, undisturbed in the middle of them all, did nothing but enjoy the pleasures provided for it, entered into a conspiracy; the hands were not to bring food to the mouth, the mouth was not to accept it when offered, the teeth were not to masticate it. Whilst, in their resentment, they were anxious to coerce the belly by starving it, the members themselves wasted away, and the whole body was reduced to the last stage of exhaustion. Then it became evident that the belly rendered no idle service, and the nourishment it received was no greater than that which it bestowed by returning to all parts of the body this blood by which we live and are strong, equally distributed into the veins, after being matured by the digestion of the food.” By using this comparison, and showing how the internal disaffection amongst the parts of the body resembled the animosity of the plebeians against the patricians, he succeeded in winning over his audience.

Ab urbe condita 2.33 Negotiations were then entered upon for a reconciliation. *An agreement was arrived at, the terms being that the plebs should have its own magistrates, whose persons were to be inviolable, and who should have the right of affording protection against the consuls. And further, no patrician should be allowed to hold that office. **Two “tribunes of the plebs” were elected, C. Licinius and L. Albinus. These chose three colleagues. It is generally agreed that Sicinius, the instigator of the secession, was amongst them, but who the other two were is not settled. Some say that only two tribunes were created on the Sacred Hill and that it was there that the *lex sacrata was passed. During the secession of the plebs Sp. Cassius and Postumius Cominius entered on their consulship.

Text #9534

"Secession of the Plebs", in Wikipedia.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secessio_pl...

Beginning in 495 BC, and culminating in 494-493 BC, as a result of concerns about debt and the failure of the senate to provide for plebeian welfare, the plebeians seceded to the Mons Sacer (the Sacred Mountain). As part of a negotiated resolution, the patricians freed some of the plebs from their debts and conceded some of their power by creating the office of the Tribune of the Plebs. This office was the first government position held by the plebs, since at this time the office of consul was held by patricians solely. Plebeian Tribunes were made personally sacrosanct during their period in office.

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