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Ancient texts

Liv. (4.13-21)

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2nd Veiian war

Spurius Maelius

439-435 BC

Spurius Maelius belonged to the Equestrians (knights) and was quite rich. Rome's bad memories about Kings made them very suspicious when somebody made the slightest appearance of aspiring the kingdoms hip. But this hatred could also be used to get rid of a person who threatened the power of the patricians.

In 439BC Rome suffered a famine once more. The senate appointed L. Minucius as overseer of the foodsupplies. What he did was organizing the shortages but proved not to be capable of buying grain from elsewhere.

Spurius Maelius did what Minucius could not: He bought grain in Etruria and divided it amongst the Roman people. For free. This of course annoyed Minucius and the other patricians. They must have decided to get rid of him and accused him of aspiring to become king. Spurius probably aspired a consulship and he was not a patrician. An awful thought for the patricians, but no crime. Aspiring to be king, though, was.

Appeal to the people
Challenging Spurius Maelius in a tribunal, wouldn't work. Spurius Maelius was quite popular amongst the Roman plebeians. In case of a conviction, he would appeal to the people of Rome and be acquitted.

The senate thought up a trick. They declared the situation was very dangerous and appointed a dictator: L. Quinctius Cincinnatus who chose G. Servilius Ahala as his master of he horse.

Against the verdict of a dictator was no appeal possible. Maelius knew this, of course, and when he was summoned to appear before the dictator he tried and fled. Servilius cought up on him and killed him.

Both Quinctius Cincinnatus and Livius try and justify this action, but it is obvious why Maelius was killed and not caught. Here Livius also shows his opinion about plebeians. This (negative) opinion should always been taken in account when reading Livius, or other Roman authors for that matter.

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Marble head of a Roman man
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