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Text #1417

Dio Cassius. Roman History. Vol. 1
[DioCass. 6.20.1. Translated by Earnest Cary. Harvard University Press. 1914. (9 Vols.) pp. 183--185]


For a time they maintained peace with each other and with the neighbouring tribes; but then a famine overwhelmed them, so severe that some, unable to endure the pangs of hunger, threw themselves into the river, and they fell to quarrelling. The one class charged the prosperous with unfairness in the handling of the grain, and the other class charged the poor men with unwillingness to till the soil. Spurius Maelius, a wealthy knight, observing this, attempted to set up a tyranny, and buying corn from the neighboring region he lowered the price of it for many and gave it free to many others. In this way he won the friendship of a great many, and procured arms and a bodyguard. And he would have gained control of the city, had not Minucius Augurinus, a patrician, appointed to have charge of the grain-distribution and censured for the dearth of grain, reported the proceeding to the senate. That body, on receiving the information, nominated at once and at that very meeting Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, though past his prime, he was eighty years old, to be dictator. But they spent the whole day sitting there, as if engaged in some discussion, to prevent news of their action from getting abroad. At night the dictator made the knights occupy the Capitol and the remaining points of vantage, and then at dawn he sent Gaius Servilius, master of the horse, to Maelius pretending to summon him for some other purpose. But as Maelius suspected something and delayed, Servilius, fearing that he might be rescued by the populace, who were already running together, killed the man, either on his own responsibility or because ordered to do so by the dictator. At this the populace broke into a riot, but Quinctius addressed them and by providing them with grain and refraining from punishing or accusing any one else he stopped the riot.

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