Publius Valerius vs. the Inconstant Mob; Livy, 2.7

Publius Valerius Publicola defends himself:

“‘As the mind of the rabble is readily changed, there arose against the surviving consul not only envy, but also suspicion mixed with savage imputation. Rumor had it that he was set upon becoming king, because he had not found a colleague to replace Brutus, and was even building a house at the top of the Velian Hill, in which high and well-defended place a citadel would be rather difficult of conquest. These rumors and beliefs circulating among the people distressed the mind of the consul, and so, he called an assembly, and went to his place with his fasces turned down. This was a pleasing spectacle to the crowd, to see that the ensigns of power were submitted to them, and to see it confessed that the majesty and power of the people were greater than those of the consul. The people were entreated to listen, and the consul then began to praise the fortune of his late colleague because he died in a recently liberated republic, in the height of public esteem, fighting for his country, and with his glory not yet converted to the envy of his countrymen. Publius Valerius lamented that he himself had survived his own glory and that it had turned to his discredit; that he had gone from being the liberator of his country to an enemy no better than the Aqulii or Vitellii. He said, “Has no virtue ever been so displayed to you that it could later be violated by suspicion? Should I fear that I, that most implacable enemy of monarchy, should now be subject to the charge of aspiring to kingship? If I lived in the citadel and the Capitoline itself, could I believe that I was feared by my countrymen? Does my reputation among you hang by such a thin thread? Is my trust among you so lightly founded that where I am is a matter of greater importance than who I am? Quirites, the house of Publius Valerius will not stand in the way of your liberty: the Velian will remain preserved for you. I will bring it down not just to the plain, but I will even build it at the very bottom of the hill, so that you may live at me – looked down upon – from above. Let those live on the Velian Hill who can be more readily trusted with liberty.’ Immediately all of the material was brought down to the bottom of the Velian Hill, and the house was built at the Hill’s lowest point, where the house of Vica Pota now stands.”

Consuli deinde qui superfuerat, ut sunt mutabiles volgi animi, ex favore non invidia modo sed suspicio etiam cum atroci crimine orta. Regnum eum adfectare fama ferebat, quia nec collegam subrogaverat in locum Bruti et aedificabat in summa Velia: ibi alto atque munito loco arcem inexpugnabilem fieri. Haec dicta volgo creditaque cum indignitate angerent consulis animum, vocato ad concilium populo submissis fascibus in contionem escendit. Gratum multitudini spectaculum fuit, submissa sibi esse imperii insignia confessionemque factam populi quam consulis maiestatem vimque maiorem esse. Ibi audire iussis consul laudare fortunam collegae, quod liberata patria, in summo honore, pro re publica dimicans, matura gloria necdum se vertente in invidiam, mortem occubuisset: se superstitem gloriae suae ad crimen atque invidiam superesse; ex liberatore patriae ad Aquilios se Vitelliosque recidisse. “Nunquamne ergo” inquit, “ulla adeo vobis spectata virtus erit, ut suspicione violari nequeat? Ego me, illum acerrimum regum hostem, ipsum cupiditatis regni crimen subiturum timerem? Ego si in ipsa arce Capitolioque habitarem, metui me crederem posse a civibus meis? Tam levi momento mea apud vos fama pendet? Adeone est fundata leviter fides ut ubi sim quam qui sim magis referat? Non obstabunt Publi Valeri aedes libertati vestrae, Quirites; tuta erit vobis Velia; deferam non in planum modo aedes sed colli etiam subiciam, ut vos supra suspectum me civem habitetis; in Velia aedificent quibus melius quam P. Valerio creditur libertas.” Delata confestim materia omnis infra Veliam et, ubi nunc Vicae Potae est, domus in infimo clivo aedificata.

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