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Mutius Cordus, a youth of undaunted courage, conceived the heroic design of freeing his country from the enemy or perishing in the attempt. For this purpose, disguised in the habit of an Etrurian peasant, and armed with a poignard, he entered the camp of the Etrurians, and made up to the place where Porsenna was paying his troops, with a secretary by his side; but mistaking the latter for the king, he stabbed him to the heart, and being immediately apprehended was brought back into the royal presence. Upon Porsenna's demanding who he was, and the cause of so heinous an action, Murius, without reserve, acknowledged his country and his design, and, at the same time, thrusting his right hand into a fire that burnt upon an altar before him, “ You see, (cried he,) how little I regard the severest punishment your cruelty can inflict upon me. A Roman knows how to act, and how to suffer: I am not the only person you have to fear; three hundred of the Roman youth, like me, have conspired your destruction—therefore prepare for their attempts." Porsenna, awed by his intrepidity, and possessing too noble a mind himself not to honour bravery and virtue, though found in an enemy, ordered him to be safely conducted back to Rome, and fired with an enthusiastic admiration of a country that produced such citizens, offered them conditions of peace. These were now readily accepted on their side, as being neither hard nor disgraceful, except that twenty hostages were demanded ;—ten young men, and as many virgins, of the best families in Rome. in this instance also, as if the softer sex were resolved to evince an equal degree of heroism with the other, Clelia, one of the hostages, escaping from her guards, and pointing out the way to the rest of her female companions, swam across the Tiber on horseback, amidst showers of darts from the enemy, and escaped unhurt. Immediately presenting herself to the consul, this magistrate, fearing the consequences of detaining her, ordered her to be sent back; upon which, Porsenna, that he might not be excelled in generosity, not only gave her her liberty, but permitted her to choose such of the hostages of the male sex, as she should think fit to attend her. On her part, she, with all the modesty of a Rom?n virgin, selected such as were under fourteen, alleging, that their tender age was least capable of sustaining the rigours of confinement.
The death of Appius, and some wars, or rather incursions made by the Romans into the territories of the Volsci, suspended, for a time, the people's earnestness for the Agrarian law; but these being composed, the tribunes began new commotions, and had the boldness to assert, that the people ought not only to have a share in the lands, but also in the government of the commonwealth, and that a code of written laws should be compiled, to mark out the bounds of their duty. The opposition to this was not less violent on the side of the patricians, who drove the clamorous multitude from the forum headed by Cæso, the son of that Quintius Cincinnatus, who is now about to perform such an illustrious character in the drama of the state. The tribunes resolved to make an example of this young patrician, to deter the future outrages of others; and, therefore, appointed him a day to answer before the people. Being the son of a man entirely respected by both parties, he was treated with so much lenity, as to be admitted to bail; but iying to Etruria, his father, Quintius Cincinnatus, was obliged to sell almost his whole estate to re-imburse the sureties, and then retreating to a small farm and a little cottage beyond the Tiber, lived a contented life, tilling a few acres with his own hands, and reaping the produce of his own industry. The tribunes, however, were not satisfied with the expulsion of Cæso; they still continued to clamour for the Agrarian law, and even raised a report, that the senators had formed a plot against their lives. This contrivance was principally intended to intimidate the senate into a compliance; but it had only the more obvious effect of increasing the tumults of the people, and aggravating their animosity.
In this state of commotion and universal disorder, Rome was upon the point of falling under the power of a foreign enemy. Herdonius, a Sabine, a man of great intrepidity and ambition, formed the design of seizing and plundering the city, while it was torn by intestine distractions. For this purpose, having collected an army of about four thousand men, composed of his clients and fugitive slaves, he sent them down the river Ti. ber on floats by night; so that the people were astonished the next morning to behold a foreign enemy in possession of the capitol, the citadel of Rome. Herdonius, on his part, did every thing in his power to persuade the lower citizens and slaves to join his party; to the one he promised freedom, to the other an ample participation of benefits and spoil. The tribunes, in this exigence, were far from encouraging the people to arm in defence of their country; they, on the contrary, used all their eloquence to dissuade them froin fighting, until the patricians should engage by oath to create ten men, with a power of making laws, and to suffer the people to have an equal share in all the benefits that should accrue. These conditions, though very severe, the necessity of the times obliged the consuls to promise; and Valerius, who was one of them, putting himself at the head of a few volunteers, marched towards the capitol, crying out, as he passed, “Whoever wishes to save his country, let him follow me." A large body of people followed him to the attack, and the capitol was at length retaken by storm, but the consul was killed in the assault. On this, Herdonius slew himself, the slaves died by the hands of the executioner, and the rest were made prisoners of war.
But, though the city was thus delivered from a foreign invasion, it was by no means delivered from its intestine divisions. The tribunes pressed the surviving consul for the performance of his promise ; but it seems the Agrarian law was a grant which the senate could not think of conceding to the people. The consul, therefore, made many delays and excuses, till at length, being driven to give a positive answer, he told them, that as the promise was made by two consuls, he could do nothing alone. An assembly was therefore appointed for choosing another consul; and the senate, in order to leave the people without hopes of obtaining their wishes, fixed upon Quintius Cincinnatus, whose son had so lately been obnoxious to them. Cincinnatus, as has been already related, had for some time relinquished all views of ambition, and retired to his little farm, where the deputies of the senate found him holding the plaugh, and dressed in an attire corresponding to his employment. He appeared but little elevated with the addresses of ceremony, and the pompous habits they brought him ; and, upon declaring to him the senate's pleasure, he testified a real concern that his aid should be wanted : he naturally preferred the charms of country retirement to the fatiguing splendours of office, and only said to his wife, as they were leading him away," I fear, my Racilia, that,for this year, our little fields must remain neglected.” Then taking a tender leave, he departed for the city, where both parties were strongly inflamed against each other. This new consul, however, was resolved to side with neither; but, instead of attempting to gain the confidence of faction, to pay a strict attention to the best interests of his country. Thus, by threats, and well-timed submission, he prevailed upon the tribunes to put off their law for a time, and carried himself so as to be a terror to the multitude, whenever they refused to enlist, and their greatest encourager whenever their submission deserved it. His policy consisted in holding the citizens, who had regained the capitol, as still en gaged to follow him by their oath, and threatening to lead them into a winter encampment, to which they were totally unaccustomed, in case they disobeyed; by which he so far intimidated the tribunes, that they gave up their lait, upon condition of his foregoing the threatened encampment: upon the whole,
he discharged his office with such skill, moderation, humanity, and justice, that the people seemed to forget that they wanted new laws, and the senate seemed to wish that bis power might be more permanent. Having, however, restored that tranquility to the people which he so much loved bimself, he again gave up the splendours of ambition, and resigned the fasces, to enjoy his little farm with a greater relish.
From this tranquil retreat, he was soon drawn a second time, by a fresh exigence of the state. The Æqui and the Volsci, who, though still worsted, were for renewing the war, made new inroads into the territories of Rome. Minutius, one of the consuls who succeeded Cincinnatus, was sent to oppose them; but, being naturally timid, and more afraid of defeat, than desirous of victory, his army was forced into a defile between two mountains, from wbich, except through the enemy, there was no egress. This, however, the Æqui had the precaution to fortify; by which the Roman army was so hemmed in on every side, that nothing remained but submission to the foe, famine, or immediate death. Some horsemen, who found means of getting away privately through the enemy's camp, were the first that brought the account of the disaster to Rome. Nothing could exceed the consternation of all ranks of people, when informed of this dilemma; the senate, at first, thought of the other consul; but not having sufficient experience of his abilities, they unanimously turned their eyes
Cincinnatus, and resolved to make him dictator. Čincinnatus, the only person on whom Rome could now place her whole dependence, was found, as before, by the messengers of the senate, labouring in his little field with cheerful industry. When he saw at some distance the deputies sent to announce his election, preceded by twenty-four lictors, he put on his upper garment, and advancing to meet them, said, « What news do you bring from Rome?” “Rome, our coun. try and yours, is in danger-she requires a dictator, and bas made choice of you.” Cincinnatus heaved a sigh at the reci. tal, and casting a look of sorrow on his oxen and the companions of his toils, departed for the city, near which he was met by the principal of the senate in their robes. A dignity so unlooked, so unwished for, however, had no
the simplicity or the integrity of his manners : and though now possessed of absolute power, and called upon to nominate his master of the horse, he chose a poor man, named Tarquitius, one who, like himself, despised riches when they led to dishonour. Tarquitius was born of a patrician family, but, though of consummate bravery, never being able to raise money to purchase a horse, he had hitherto fought only as a
foot soldier, willing to serve his country, though in the humblest situation. Thus the saving a great nation was devolved upon an husbandman, taken from the plough, and an obscure sentinel, found among the dregs of the army. Upon entering the city, the dictator instantly made himself acquainted with the position of affairs, and assuming a serene look, entreated all those who were able to bear arms, to repair before sunset, to the Campus Martius, the place where the levies were made, with necessary arms, and provisions for five days. He then put himself at their head, and, marching all night with great expedition, arrived before day within sight of the enemy. Upon his approach, he ordered the soldiers to raise a loud shout, to apprize the consul's army of the relief that was at hand. The Æqui were not a little amazed, when they saw themselves between two enemies, but still more when they perceived Cincinnatus making the strongest entrenchments beyond them, to prevent their escape, and inclosing them, as they had inclosed the consul. To prevent this, a furious combat ensued; but the Æqui, being attacked on both sides, and unable to resist or fly, begged a cessation of arms: they offered the dictator his own terms : he gave them their lives; but obliged them, in to. ken of servitude, to pass under the yoke; which was two spears set upright, and another across, in the form of a gallows, beneath which the vanquished were to march. Their captains and generals he made prisoners of war, being reserved to adorn his triumph. Then addressing the army he had just delivered, “ Soldiers of Minutius," said he, "you who were so nearly becoming a prey to your enemies, shall not share their spoils : and you, consul, must learn the art of war as a lieutenant, before you command as a general.” Not a murmur was heard at this decision; on the contrary, the whole army, in conjunction, presented Cincinnatus with a crown of gold for having saved the lives and honour of his fellow citi
Thus, having rescued a Roman army from inevitable destruction, having defeated a powerful enemy, having taken and fortified their city, and, still more, having refused any part of the spoil, he hastened to resign his dictatorship, after having enjoyed it but fourteen days. The senate would have enriched hiin, but he declined their proffers, choosing to retire once more to his farm and his cottage, content with temperance and the consciousness of native worth.