Not to be a liberal at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head. — Francois Guizot

Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber

The Plans of a Traitor

For some time the Roman state had been growing weaker; and as the quarrels at home increased, the Volscians and Æquians grew bolder and bolder. The patricians and plebeians were still at feud, and the Roman soldiers allowed themselves to be beaten rather than fight with all their might for a state which treated them so ill.

The tribunes, hoping to mend matters a little, now asked that the plebeians should have the right to marry outside of their class, and to hold the office of consul. The first request was soon granted, but the second was for a long time denied.

Both consuls were still elected from among the patricians, and the senate also said that two new officers, called Censors, should be of the same class. The duty of the censors was to count the people, to distribute the public lands fairly, to decide who should be senators, and to suppress all vice and wrongdoing of every kind.

The plebeians, however, were given the right to hold some minor offices; and this, together with the law about marriages, satisfied them for the time being. They fought with a will, and conquered the Volscians. Everybody now hoped that the peace would be lasting, but the quarreling soon began again. The main cause of this new outbreak was a famine; for when the hungry plebeians saw that the patricians were well supplied with food, they were naturally envious and dissatisfied.

One of the rich patricians of Rome, Spurius Mælius, thought that this would be a good chance to win the affections of the people; and, in hopes of doing so, he began to give grain to them. He kept open house, invited everybody to come in and sit at table with him, and spent his money freely.

Of course all this seemed very generous; but Spurius Mælius had no real love for the people, and was treating them so kindly only because he wanted them to help him overthrow the government and become king of Rome.

Many of the plebeians now ceased to work, as they preferred to live in idleness and on charity. People who do nothing are never very happy, and before long these plebeians were more discontented than ever, even though they now had plenty to eat.

Spurius fancied that the right time had come; so he armed his followers, and prepared to take possession of Rome. Fortunately for the city, the plot was discovered by the senate, who again chose Cincinnatus as dictator, to save the country from this new danger.

This great patriot was then eighty years old, but he was as brave and decided as ever, and did not for a moment hesitate to do his duty. His first act was to send for Spurius Mælius; but, as he refused to obey the summons, the messenger of Cincinnatus stabbed him to death.

The plebeians were now for more than seventy years obliged to content themselves with the rights they had already won. In time, however, they were allowed to hold any office in the state, and it was made a law that at least one consul and one censor should always be of their class.

Not long after the death of Spurius Mælius, war broke out with Veii again, and lasted for a number of years. The Romans finally decided that their city would never be safe till Veii was destroyed.

This decision was received with enthusiasm, and the Roman army began the siege. They soon found, however, that it was no easy matter to make themselves masters of the town. Ten years were spent in vain attempts to break through the walls, and it was only when Camillus was made dictator that the Romans were able to take the city.

Camillus made his men dig an underground passage right into the heart of the enemy's citadel. Having thus gained an entrance, he captured or slew all the inhabitants, and then razed the walls that had so long defended them. When he returned to Rome, he was rewarded by a magnificent triumph.


Front Matter

The First Settlers
Escape from the Burning City
The Clever Trick
The Boards Are Eaten
The Wolf and the Twins
Romulus Builds Rome
The Maidens Carried Off
Union of Sabines and Romans
Death of Romulus
Strange Signs of the Romans
The Quarrel with Alba
The Horatii and Curiatii
Tarquin and the Eagle
The Roman Youths
The King Outwitted
The Murder of Tarquin
The Ungrateful Children
The Mysterious Books
Tarquin's Poppies
The Oracle of Delphi
The Death of Lucretia
The Stern Father
A Roman Triumph
A Roman Triumph (Cont.)
Defense of the Bridge
The Burnt Hand
The Twin Gods
The Wrongs of the Poor
Fable of the Stomach
The Story of Coriolanus
The Farmer Hero
The New Laws
Death of Virginia
Plans of a Traitor
A School-Teacher Punished
Invasion of the Gauls
The Sacred Geese
Two Heroes of Rome
Disaster at Caudine Forks
Pyrrhus and His Elephants
The Elephants Routed
Ancient Ships
Regulus and the Snake
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
The Romans Defeated
The Inventor Archimedes
The Roman Conquests
Destruction of Carthage
Roman Amusements
The Jewels of Cornelia
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Caius Gracchus
Jugurtha, King of Numidia
The Barbarians
The Social War
The Flight of Marius
The Proscription Lists
Sertorius and His Doe
Revolt of the Slaves
Pompey's Conquests
Conspiracy of Catiline
Caesar's Conquests
Crossing of the Rubicon
Battle of Pharsalia
The Death of Caesar
The Second Triumvirate
The Vision of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
The Poisonous Snake
The Augustan Age
Death of Augustus
Varus Avenged
Death of Germanicus
Tiberius Smothered
The Wild Caligula
Wicked Wives of Claudius
Nero's First Crimes
Christians Persecuted
Nero's Cruelty
Two Short Reigns
The Siege of Jerusalem
The Buried Cities
The Terrible Banquet
The Emperor's Tablets
The Good Trajan
Trajan's Column
The Great Wall
Hadrian's Death
Antoninus Pius
The Model Pagan
Another Cruel Emperor
An Unnatural Son
The Senate of Women
The Gigantic Emperor
Invasion of the Goths
Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra
A Prophecy Fulfulled
First Christian Emperor
Roman Empire Divided
An Emperor's Penance
Sieges of Rome
End of the Western Empire