Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 6.26

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[26] While the senate was still sitting and considering what forces were to be taken into the field, an elderly man appeared in the Forum, dressed in rags, with his beard and hair grown long, and crying out, he called upon the citizens for assistance. And when all who were near flocked to him, he placed himself where he could be clearly seen by many and said: "Having been born free, and having served in all the campaigns while I was of military age, and fought in twenty-eight battles and often been awarded prizes for valour in the wars; then, won't oppressive times came that were reducing the commonwealth to the last straits, having been forced to contract a debt to pay the contributions levied upon me; and finally, when my farm was raided by the enemy and my property in the city exhausted owing to the scarcity of provisions, having no means with which to discharge my debt, I was carried away as a slave by the money-lender, together with my two sons; and when my master ordered me to perform some difficult task and I protested against it, I was given a great many lashes with the whip." 2 With these words he threw off his rags and showed his breast covered with wounds and his back still bleeding from the stripes. This raising a general clamour and lamentation on the part of all present, the senate adjourned and throughout the entire city the poor were running about, each bewailing his own misfortunes and imploring the assistance of the neighbours. At the same time all who had been enslaved for their debts rushed out of the houses of the money-lenders with their hair grown long and most of them in chains and fetters; and none dared to lay hold on them, and if anyone so much as touched them, he was forcibly torn in pieces, 3 such was the madness possessing the people at that time, and presently the Forum was full of debtors who had broken loose from their chains. Appius, therefore, fearing to be attacked by the populace, since he had been the cause of the evils and all this trouble was believed to be due to him, fled from the Forum. But Servilius, throwing off his purple-bordered robe and casting himself in tears at the feet of each of the plebeians, with difficulty prevailed upon them to remain quiet that day, and to come back the next day, assuring them that the senate would take some care of their interests. Having said this, he ordered the herald to make proclamation that no money-lender should be permitted to hale any citizen to prison for a private debt till the senate should come to a decision concerning them, and that all present might go with impunity whithersoever they pleased. Thus he allayed the tumult.


סיפור על חייל משוחרר שחוסר מזל גרם לו לצלול לחובות כבדים. הוא איבד את אדמתו ונותר חסר כל, עונה על ידי נושיו ולבסוף נאלץ לשעבד את גופו ולהפוך לעבד (nexum), הכל כתוצאה מחובותיו הכבדים. כאשר דמותו השבורה ומעוררת הרחמים נראתה בפורום עלתה זעקה גדולה והחלה מחאה גדולה ברחובות.

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