novandi res magnum ausuram facinus, ut si in ea loca Hannibal cum victore exercitu venisset, trucidato senatu traderet Capuam Poenis, 4improbus homo sed non ad extremum perditus, cum mallet incolumi quam eversa re publica dominari, nullam autem incolumem esse orbatam publico consilio crederet, rationem iniit qua et senatum servaret et obnoxium sibi ac plebi faceret.
5Vocato senatu cum sibi defectionis ab Romanis consilium placiturum nullo modo, nisi necessarium fuisset, praefatus esset, 6quippe qui liberos ex Ap. Claudi filia haberet filiamque Romam nuptum M. Livio dedisset; ceterum maiorem multo rem magisque timendam instare: 7non enim per defectionem ad tollendum ex civitate senatum plebem spectare sed per caedem senatus vacuam rem publicam tradere Hannibali ac Poenis velle; 8eo se periculo posse liberare eos si permittant sibi et certaminum in re publica obliti credant—cum omnes victi metu permitterent, 9“Claudam” inquit “in curia vos et, tamquam et ipse cogitati facinoris particeps, approbando consilia quibus nequiquam adversarer viam saluti vestrae inveniam. In hoc fidem quam voltis ipsi accipite.”
10Fide data egressus, claudi curiam iubet praesidiumque in vestibulo relinquit, ne quis adire curiam iniussu suo neve inde egredi possit.
ready to commit a monstrous crime if given the opportunity for revolution, that should Hannibal arrive in the area with his victorious army they would butcher the senate and surrender Capua to the Carthaginians. While he was a rogue, however, Pacuvius was not entirely unscrupulous, and preferring to wield power in a republic that was intact rather than ruined, and at the same time believing that no republic was healthy if shorn of its communal council, he embarked on a scheme to save the senate while also making it subservient to himself and the plebs.
Convening the senate, he began by saying that no plan of seceding from the Romans would have any support from him unless it were necessary, since he had children by a daughter of Appius Claudius 9and had given his own daughter’s hand in marriage to Marcus Livius10 in Rome. But something much greater and more fearful was afoot, he said—the plebs were not just considering driving the senate from the state by revolt but they actually wanted to murder the senators and surrender a defenseless republic to Hannibal and the Carthaginians; he could free them from that danger if they left the matter to him and trusted him, forgetting their political differences. When, overcome with panic, they all did leave matters to him, Pacuvius said: “I am going to lock you in the senate house. I’ll pretend to go along myself with the plot they are hatching and, in accepting plans it would be useless for me to oppose anyway, I shall find a way of saving you. On this you can have any pledge you wish.”
After giving a pledge, Pacuvius went out, ordered the senate house to be locked, and left guards at the entrance so no one could enter or leave the senate house without his permission.