Meanwhile, the Theonians moved their ballistae two hundred metres from the wall, targeting the southwest corner before firing stone projectiles at the protruding walls. As dozens of stone projectiles simultaneously bombarded the city wall, the terrifying sound made the defenders scream.
As round after round of stone projectiles bombarded the wall, the city defenders became uneasy as shattered wall fragments and stone debris fell constantly.
Apart from the ballistae, the Theonians also fired gastraphete at the city of Rome. They didn’t aim the huge iron stakes from these bows at the city wall but into the slum behind it, causing panic among the Roman populace.
But the people in the slum soon discovered that the iron stakes stuck to the ground and the houses had several papyrus scrolls tied to them. One brave man approached them curiously and untied the scrolls.
A soldier had also delivered one of the scrolls to the city guard prefect, the older Scipio. After carefully opening it, the older Scipio saw the scroll was filled with words written in Latin: ‘Fellow citizens of Rome, I am Valerius, a former Roman citizen who grew up on Collis Aventinus. Eight years ago, a scoundrel drove a flock of sheep to gnaw on the wheat seedlings of my rented field and kept provoking me with his words, which made me so angry that I beat him. However, the court ordered me to pay a hefty fine, which I couldn’t afford, and I was forced to sell myself into slavery to pay off this massive debt. Later, I learned that this person was someone under Caius Clodius Sabinus, so I lost the case I shouldn’t have and became a slave!
My fellow citizens of Rome, who like me have no land, and those who have only a tiny plot of land and come from common families, do you also live in constant anxiousness about whether the nobles, who already possess vast lands and numerous slaves, will seize your insignificant plots of land and enslave you just because they wanted more even though they are already rich enough?! We have fought against the nobles’ greed time and time again, seeking protection for ourselves. We had even left the city numerous times to make the greedy nobles realise our worth. Yet, to this day, these same Roman nobles continue to hold all the power in the city-state while we remain their captive livestock, ready to be slaughtered at any moment. My fellow citizens, are you willing to continue living under these conditions?!
Fortunately, Diana had blessed us and sent the Theonians here! Although Theonia has a king, its citizens hold many rights and have their own land and the law to protect it. They can also hold important positions as long as they have the ability, regardless of birth or race, and even eventually become senators. Even ordinary citizens can report officials who violate the law and have them punished by the law…
The king of Theonia even promised me that he would make Rome as wonderful a place as Theonia! My fellow citizen, if you do not want to become slaves, join the Theonian army and overthrow the rule of these greedy and atrocious Roman nobles!’
After reading the letter, a chill rose in the older Scipio’s heart, prompting him to order, “Quick! Send someone to take all these scrolls. No one is allowed to keep them!”
When the city guard sent by the older Scipio arrived at the slum, they saw some plebeians gathered in groups along the street, surrounding a few educated plebeians, listening to them read the scroll taken from the iron stake and murmuring in low voices.
“I know Valerius. He used to live right in front of my house and was a very nice guy. After he became a slave, he even shared some of his belongings with everyone…Alas…”
“The members of the Clodius family are really terrible! They always treat us, plebeians, harshly! Just last month, the youngest son of Caius Clodius Sabinus, who had just become a centurion, had injured my neighbour severely due to a trivial matter!”
“It isn’t just the Clodius family! Which of these great families in Rome isn’t terrible?! So I suggest that once the Theonians come, it would be better to kill all those nobles!”
“Could the words written in this letter be true? Could being a citizen of Theonia really be that good?”
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Just as the plebeians began discussing the things written in the scroll, the city guards, ordered by the prefect, rushed in and forcibly confiscated the scrolls, which naturally sparked a conflict.
Fortunately, the senators led by Ambustus arrived in time to appease the enraged plebeians and criticise the city guards who almost caused a fight.
Ambustus then held the scroll and shouted, “Citizens, all of these are conspiracies of the Theonians to divide us so that we could not defend the city together! More than a decade ago, we had a conflict due to internal quarrels and discord, resulting in a portion of the people abandoning Rome and fleeing to Veii, bringing Jupiter’s wrath by ordering the Gauls to give us the most painful punishment!
After rebuilding Rome, we vowed on Mons Capitolinus to avoid repeating the same mistakes! So, don’t be fooled by the rhetorics of the enemy and let the tragedy of Rome’s destruction get repeated!…”
Ambustus’ words quickly dissipated the anger of the Romans who came over.
But someone suddenly shouted, “Yes, the plebeians who had fled to Veii eventually moved back to Rome, but have the Senate kept their promises?! We are still heavily in debt, we cannot rent land, we cannot hold public positions in the city-state, and the Senate simply ignored our demand that one of the two consuls elected each year must be a plebeian!”
Ambustus turned to look at the person who spoke and saw that it was the tribunus, Gaius Julus Brutus. But before he could explain the matter, the crowd shouted again, “The Senate is always trying to get us to do what it wants but doesn’t want to give us any rights!”
“This Rome is the Rome of the nobles and the wealthy, not ours! What does it have to do with us if such a Rome is destroyed?!”
“Only when they promise to give us the same rights as the nobles will we take up arms to fight against the Theonians!”
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
The people’s protests surged towards the senators like a tide, causing them to panic. During normal times, they had many ways to deal with such protests, but now the city was under siege by a large army and one wrong move, and they would be fighting within themselves before the enemy could even start attacking. So Ambustus and the others hurriedly said, “The Senate will immediately discuss the people’s demands, so settle down and wait for the decision.”
With the people’s consent, the senators could finally return to the Senate and urgently hold a meeting.
However, the Senate was unable to reach a conclusion despite debating intensely since the cancellation of debts and the allocation of public lands to the plebeians would significantly implicate the interests of the senators and the nobles, not to mention the idea of plebeians holding influential positions within the city-state, including the consulship.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
While the older Scipio was busy defending the city of Rome, he received another emergency report saying the ships of the Theonians appeared on the Tiber River.
Although he had already considered the possibility of the enemy ship entering the Tiber after learning of the fall of Ostia, he was still nervous when he received the report.
After quickly rushing to the southwestern section of the city wall, he looked to the south and saw a long line of triremes being pulled by slaves and labourers while the rowers exerted all their strength to move along the Tiber. The frontmost warship had already docked at the river port…
Since the Tiber River was only about a hundred metres wide, these small warships on the vast sea appeared exceptionally massive crossing the river with its over fifty metres hull that could reach half the river’s width, causing anxiety among many Roman soldiers atop the city wall who had never seen a trireme before.
But what made the older Scipio even more nervous was that he saw many Theonian soldiers boarding the warships from the river port, and then the warships sailing to the other bank to dock, and the Theonians disembarking…
‘The Theonians wanted to attack Rome from the north via the bridge!’ With a jolt, the older Scipio immediately ordered, “Hurry and inform Cassius to reinforce the bridge defences and be wary of the Theonians’ attack!”
After the messenger left, the older Scipio still felt uneasy. So after thinking about it, he sent an additional seven hundred Roman soldiers to the bridge, most of whom were citizens over fifty.
While the older Scipio worried about the north side of Rome, a soldier reported that a group of Roman slaves and Latin labourers appeared outside the western wall of Rome. And with the protection of the Theonians soldiers, they began shouting at the soldiers atop the city wall.
The content of their shouts was similar to what was written on the scroll before, except they spoke from their experiences, which became much more persuasive. They didn’t limit their audiences to the Roman plebeians but also to slaves serving as soldiers due to a shortage of troops in the city. The Senate had promised them freedom after the war. However, the unrest not only distracted the plebeian and slave soldiers on the western wall but also the city’s inhabitants. The Senate’s delay in making a decision added to their frustration, and they rallied together, heading towards the Senate Hall’s gates to protest. Some even threatened to open the gates and surrender to the Theonians if the Senate failed to provide a clear answer.
The emergency notice sent by the city guard prefect, the older Scipio, and the disturbance by the people outside the gate made the senators panic and uneasy like ants on a hot pan.