Text #9633

Livius. "Ab urbe condita"
[Bk. 8 Ch. 15 ]

C. Sulpicius Longus and P. Aelius Paetus were the new consuls. The blessings of peace were now enjoyed everywhere, a peace maintained not more by the power of Rome than by the influence she had acquired through her considerate treatment of her vanquished enemies, when a war broke out between the Sidicines and the Auruncans. After their surrender had been accepted by the consul Manlius, the Auruncans had kept quiet, which gave them a stronger claim to the help of Rome. The senate decided that assistance should be afforded them, but before the consuls started, a report was brought that the Auruncans had been afraid to remain in their town and had fled with their wives and children to Suessa-now called Aurunca-which they had fortified, and that their city with its ancient walls had been destroyed by the Sidicines.

The senate were angry with the consuls, through whose delay their allies had been betrayed, and ordered a Dictator to be nominated. C. Claudius Regillensis was nominated accordingly, and he named as his Master of the Horse C. Claudius Hortator. There was some difficulty about the religious sanction of the Dictator’s appointment, and as the augurs pronounced that there was an irregularity in his election, both the Dictator and the Master of the Horse resigned.

This year Minucia, a Vestal, incurred suspicion through an improper love of dress, and subsequently was accused of unchastity on the evidence of a slave. She had received orders from the pontiffs to take no part in the sacred rights and not to manumit any of her slaves. She was tried and found guilty, and was buried alive near the Colline Gate to the right of the high road in the Campus Sceleratus (the “accursed field”), which, I believe, derives its name from this incident. In this year also Q. Publilius Philo was elected as the first plebeian praetor against the opposition of the consul Sulpicius; the senate, after failing to keep the highest posts in their own hands, showed less interest in retaining the praetorship.

Text #9634

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

There is something very odd about this account. It begins by talking about peace enjoyed everywhere, but then, a minor war between the Sidicines and the Auruncans appears to have triggered the appointing of a dictator - a rather extreme measure. Not only that, but the dictator and his colleague resign almost immediately because of religious reasons. Then follows the story about the Vestal, Minucia, “accused by a slave”. Notice that she was ordered not to manumit any of her slaves. When interrogating a slave torture was mandatory, where a free man could not be tortured. This suggests the slave was needed to say what they wanted him to say in order to bring in a conviction. We will probably never know what was really going on.

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