The tribunes, Flavius and Marullus, were patrolling the centre of Rome on that sunny morning. Charged with keeping law and order, they noticed a crowd beginning to form. They approached thegathering throng and Flavius attempted to scatter them. ‘Go away!’ he roared. ‘Go home, you idle creatures. Is this a holiday? Don’t you know that you aren’t allowed to walk about on a working day unless you’re wearing the clothes of your trade?’ He grasped the shoulder of one. ‘You! What’s your trade?’
‘Why sir,’ the man replied, ‘I’m a carpenter.’
Marullus looked him up and down. ‘Where are your leather apron and your carpenter’s ruler? What are you doing in your best clothes?’
He turned to another man. ‘You, sir. What’s your trade?’
The second man grinned. ‘To tell you the truth, sir,’ he said.
‘Compared with a more skilled workman, I’m something of a cobbler.’
‘But why aren’t you in your shop today?’ said Flavius. ‘Why are you leading these men around the streets?’
‘To tell you the truth,’ the cobbler said, ‘to wear out their shoes, to get more work.’ When the laughter had subsided he said: ‘But seriously, we’re making a holiday to see Caesar and to rejoice in his triumph.’
Marullus looked at Flavius. It was what they had thought. Both tribunes were supporters of the defeated Pompey and suspicious of Caesar. ‘Why rejoice?’ he said.
‘What captured kings has he brought to Rome, dragging them behind his chariot?’ He swung round to the gathering crowd. ‘You blocks! – you useless creatures!’ Have you forgotten Pompey? How many times have you climbed up on walls and battlements, to towers and windows, yes, even to chimney-tops, your babies in your arms, and sat there the whole day, waiting patiently, to see great Pompey pass through the streets of Rome? And when you even got a glimpse of his chariot, haven’t you made a universal shout, so that the River Tiber resounded to its depths with it? And are you now putting your best clothes on? And are you declaring a holiday? And are you strewing flowers in the path of he who comes in triumph over Pompey’s blood? Go home! Go!’
The crowd began to disperse. The tribunes watched until they had all gone. ‘You go down that street towards the Capitol, and I’ll take this one,’ said Flavius. ‘Pull down any decorations that you see on the statues.’
‘Are we allowed to do that?’ said Marullus. ‘You know that it’s the feast of Lupercal.’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ said Flavius. ‘Don’t leave any statues with Caesar’s trophies hung on them. I’ll go round and drive the workers from the streets. You do that too, wherever you see a crowd gathering.
If we stop this now we can minimise Caesar’s effect. Otherwise he’ll rise up high above us and keep us in a state of servile terror.’ They went off to do it.
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