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
 him overthrow the government and become king of
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
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.