|The Story of the Romans|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Rome, presenting short stories of the great heroes, mythical and historical, from Aeneas and the founding of Rome to the fall of the western empire. Around the famous characters of Rome are graphically grouped the great events with which their names will forever stand connected. Vivid descriptions bring to life the events narrated, making history attractive to the young, and awakening their enthusiasm for further reading and study. Ages 10-14 |
THE FABLE OF THE STOMACH
 NOW although the plebeians were so obstinate in their
refusal to return to Rome, and although they openly
rejoiced when they heard that the patricians were in
distress, they were nearly as badly off themselves.
They had managed to bring only a very little food with
them, and, as they had no money, starvation was staring
them in the face.
Both parties were suffering, and no one knew how to put
an end to this distressing state of affairs. At last a
wise Roman, named Menenius, offered to go and speak
to the people and persuade them to come back to Rome.
The senators, who had made so many vain efforts, and
had talked until they were tired, were delighted when
they heard this offer, and bade Menenius go and do his
best. This wise man, therefore, went to the Sacred
Mountain, advanced into the midst of the crowd, and
began to address them.
He had noticed that the poor people, who were very
ignorant indeed, did not understand the long speeches
made by the senators; so he began to tell them a simple
"My friends," said he, "all the different parts of the
body once refused to work, saying that they were tired
of serving the stomach. The legs said: 'What is the
use of running about from morning till night, merely to
find food enough to fill it?'
" 'We won't work for that lazy stomach either!' said
the hands and arms. 'Legs, if, you'll keep still, we
won't move either.'
 " 'We are tired, too,' said the teeth. 'It is grind,
grind, grind, all day long. The stomach can do its own
"All the other parts of the body had some complaint to
make about the stomach, and all agreed that they would
not work any more to satisfy its wants. The legs ceased
walking, the hands and arms stopped working, the teeth
did not grind any more, and the empty stomach clamored
in vain for its daily supply of food.
"All the limbs were delighted at first with their rest,
and, when the empty stomach called for something to
eat, they merely laughed. Their fun did not last very
long, however, because the stomach, weak for want of
food, soon ceased its cries. Then, after a while, the
hands and arms and legs grew so weak that they could
not move. All the body fell down and died, because the
stomach, without food, could no longer supply it with
strength to live.
"Now, my friends," continued Menenius, "this is just
your case. The state is the body, the patricians are
the stomach, and you are the limbs. Of course, if you
refuse to work, and remain idle, the patricians will
suffer, just as the stomach did in the story I told
"But, if you persist in your revolt, you will soon
suffer also. You will lose your strength, and before
long the body, our glorious Roman state, will perish."
The plebeians listened to this story very attentively,
understood the illustration, and saw the sense of all
that Menenius said. They began to realize that they
could not get along without the patricians any better
than the patricians could get along without them.
So, after talking the matter over a little, they all
 Menenius that they were willing to go back to Rome. He
was very glad when he heard this; and, to prevent them
from again being used so badly, he made the senate give
them officers who should look after their rights.
These new magistrates were called Tribunes. They had
the right to interfere and change the decision of the
consul or any other officer, whenever it was necessary
to protect a plebeian from ill treatment. If a man was
in debt, therefore, the tribune could excuse him from
to war; and, if the creditor was trying to make him a
slave, the tribune could free him.
In later times, also, the tribunes were given a place
near the door of the senate chamber. Before any new law
could be put into effect, it had to be shown to them.
In case they did not approve of the law, the tribunes
could prevent its being adopted by saying "Veto," a
which means "I forbid it."
This word is now used also in English, and you will see
in your United States histories that the President has
the right of veto, or of forbidding the passage of any
law to which he objects. The tribunes were at first two
in number, but later there were ten of them. They were
the friends of the people.
Two other officers were also elected by the plebeians.
They were called Ædiles, and their duty was to help
the tribunes, and also to care for the public
buildings, to see that the Romans had clean houses and
good food, and to look after the welfare of the poor
people. Thus, you see, the plebeians were far better
off than they had ever been before, and were now
provided with magistrates whose sole business it was
to look after their interests.
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