Page images

lanus upon his countrymen, the destruction of the Fabii at the Cremera, the battle of the Allia, with the capture of the city by the Gauls, and the surrender of the Roman army at the Caudine Forks, afford striking instances from the early period; but in the period of contemporary history-in the third and fourth decads of Livy, repeated defeats of the Roman armies are described, without any reserve or apparent reluctance. No attempt is made by Livy to disguise the true character of Hannibal's triumphant career; or to soften the disastrous consequences of the battle of Cannæ, and of his other victories.(39) It is true that these reverses are described as repaired by subsequent successes; but unless we disbelieve the entire course of Roman history, and deny that Rome rose from being a small Latin state, with a territory of a few miles in circuit, to be mistress of the whole civilized world, we must suppose that the Romans ultimately triumphed over each of their numerous foes. It is likewise true that we have not (except in the case of the Greeks) the advantage of comparing the Roman account with that of the conquered nation ; an advantage which we enjoy in modern military history (10) But, whatever may be the cause of the habit of the Roman historians, whether it be their reverence for fortune, and their fear of offending the gods by boasting of an uninterrupted career of good luck-or whether it be their contempt for the opinion of foreign nations, certain it is that the Roman history is peculiarly characterized by a plain-spoken acknowledgment of reverses in war, and of other


(39) Livy, aster describing the battle of Cannæ in all its nakedness, adds : Hæc est pugna Cannensis, Alliensi cladi nobilitate par;' xxii. 50. This manly language is very unlike the evasive and reluctant tone in which modern historians generally describe the defeats of their countrymen. See likewise his account of the dismay at Rome when the news of the disaster arrived : Numquam, salvâ urbe, tantum pavoris tumultûsque intra mænia Romana fuit. Itaque succumbam oneri, neque aggrediar narrare, quæ edissertando minora vero fecero ;' c. 54.

(40) In Greece, says Müller, each state was able to check and control the historical accounts of the others, but in Italian history, one state has, by its arms, acquired the right of exercising an unlimited dominion over the past; Etrusker, vol. i.

p. 124.

§ 41

events inglorious to the Roman people.(41) Accounts of Roman successes in war, after previous defeats, are not therefore in themselves improbable, and only require good external attestation to render them worthy of belief.

The struggle of the plebeians to procure the enactment of the Terentillian law continues, and the tribunes who conduct the contest against the Senate are re-elected for five successive years. The opposition of the tribunes is, as heretofore, carried on by the most effectual mode of stopping the supplies ; that is to say, by hindering the enrolment of men for military service. In the year 457 B.C., however, the agitation for this law is suspended, and a compromise is effected by the assent of the Senate to a proposition for increasing the number of the tribunes from five to ten. Dionysius says that this measure was opposed in the Senate by Appius, who argued that if this concession was made, the agrarian law, and the law for equality of rights, would soon be revived; but that Cincinnatus persuaded the Senate to agree to it, by citing the opinion of the father of Appius, that the tribunes were to be managed by promoting dissension within their body; whence he inferred that an increase of their number would diminish their power. The law was then passed, with a prohibition to re-elect any of the tribunes of the preceding year.(*) What important advantage was derived by the plebs from the increase in the number of tribunes


(41) Polybius says that the knowledge of his history being likely to be read by Romans prevents him from bestowing unmerited praise upon them, as they would discover the falsehood of such panegyrics ; xxxii. 8.

(42) See Dion. Hal. x. 26-30; Livy, iii. 30. Livy adds that the tribunes were to be elected “bini ex singulis classibus.' This must allude to the five classes of the Servian census. Asconius ad Cic. Corn. likewise states that the original five tribunes were chosen 'singuli ex singulis clas. sibus :' see Becker, ii. 2, p. 252, 256. The reference to the five classes seems to imply that the tribunes were elected in comitia centuriata, and therefore to be inconsistent with the former account of their election being transferred from the comitia curiata to the comitia tributa (above, p. 152). For the advice of the first Appius to govern the tribunes by division, see Dion. Hal. ix. 1; Livy, ii. 44. An explanation of the efficacy of the duplication of their number is attempted by Niebuhr, Hist. vol. ii. p. 300 (the passage which he cites in note 682 is however altogether misunderstood and misapplied), and compare Becker, ib. p.


from five to ten, when their legal powers remained unchanged, does not appear. If they had exercised a separate inspection, or guard, over the plebeians, the duplication of their number might have given additional protection to the plebeians ;(-3) but this is not the way in which they are described as acting in behalf of the plebeians, and against the patricians.

The tribunes, according to Dionysius, next attempt to obtain the power of convening the Senate, in addition to the power which they already possessed, of convening the popular assembly.(+) He assumes however that a law cannot be proposed to the popular assembly by the tribunes without the previous consent of the Senate; so that legislation by the people, voting according to tribes or centuries, without a decree of the Senate, is impossible: and he appears to hold that the power of impeachment, claimed by the tribunes, without the consent of the Senate, is a usurpation.(+5) He represents the consuls as arguing that the tribunes have no power to impeach them or any patrician without the previous consent of the Senate ;(46) nevertheless he seems to hold that the tribunes can put any legislative proposal to the vote in the comitia tributa, and that if it is carried it has the force of law.(47) He appears to think that the patri

Не cians have no constitutional means of preventing the plebeians from passing any law in their comitia of the tribes; and that


(43) In vii. 17. Zonaras says: vai tovs åyopavopovs kai tous õnuápχους επηύξησαν, ίνα πλείστους τους αυτών προϊσταμένους έχωσι : but above, C. 15, he had stated: εις δέκα δε προϊόντος του χρόνου οι δήμαρχοι κατέστησαν όθεν αυτοίς το πολύ της ισχύος κατεβέβλητο. φύσει γάρ ώσπερ, φθόνω δε μάλλον, αλλήλοις οι συνάρχοντες διαφέρονται και χαλεπόν πολλούς εν δυνάμει μάλιστα övtaç ovpopovsoai. Dionysius, x. 31, states that after the increase of their number to ten, the tribunes agreed to act, not singly, but as a body, the minority being bound by the majority. This is probably intended to refer to the argument, that an increase of their number would multiply the chances of disagreement and division. (44) x. 31.

(45) x. 34. (46) x. 34. He probably alludes to his detailed account of the compromise between the consuls and tribunes before the trial of Coriolanus, above, p. 99 ; see particularly vii. 38, where the necessity of the previous consent of the Senate to any vote of the people is laid down in strong terms ; and compare ib. c. 39, 50, 58.

(47) See Dion. Hal. ix. 41, for his description of the characteristics of the comitia tributa : above, p. 152.

force is their only resource.(8) Livy, on the other hand, supposes that at this period the popular assembly could not vote upon a law without the permission of the consuls or of the Senate.(9) Although our two historians differ in their views as to the relations of the component parts of the Roman constitution at this period, yet they agree in the practical result, that the patrician body were able to render it difficult for the plebeians to legislate without their consent.

$ 42 The tribune Icilius succeeded at this time (456 B.C.) in carrying an agrarian law of a novel character. It provided for the division, not of land for agricultural purposes, but of the Aventine hill, where the plebeian grantees would obtain sites for town houses ; as it was not all inhabited, being public property,

(48) In x. 3, 4, the tribunes announce their intention of cutting short all debate, and of putting the Terentillian law to the vote in the comitia tributa. The consuls, and the most powerful patricians, however spoke to them harshly, and declared that they would not permit them to introduce laws, especially without a decree of the Senate ; for that laws were a common compact of the whole community, and not of a portion of it. These last words imply that the comitia tributa were an exclusively plebeian assembly. With respect to the use of force against the plebeians, see Dion. Hal. x. 34, 39, and particularly c. 40, where the consuls hold a private meeting of patricians, and tell them, ως κωλυτέος είη σφίσιν ο νόμος λόγοις μεν πρώτον, εάν δε μη πείθωσι τον δήμoν, έργοις, and the description in c. 41. In xi. 45, however, Dionysius states that the patricians denied that legislative acts of the comitia tributa were binding upon the entire community, and upon themselves as a part of that community ; and he says that the question was only settled by the Valerian-Horatian laws, at the abolition of the decemvirate.

(49) Pace partâ, instare tum tribuni Patribus, ut P. Valerii fidem exsolverent: instare Claudio, ut college Deos manes fraude liberaret, agi de lege sineret. Consul, antequam collegam sibi subrogasset, negare passurum agi de lege ; iii. 19. This passage alludes to the promise made by Valerius while Herdonius was in the Capitol. The law referred to is the Lex Terentilla. The following description occurs two years later, with reference to the same law : 'Quum Virginius maxime et tribuni de lege agerent, duûm mensium spatium consulibus datum est ad inspiciendam legem; ut, quum edocuissent populum, quid fraudis occultæ ferretur, sinerent deinde suffragium inire;' c. 25. The expression fraus occulta,' refers to the words of Valerius in c. 18, who promised that he would not hinder the 'concilium plebis,' if the people would listen to a statement of the deceit meditated by the tribunes. In the same year it is added, * Extremo anno agitatum de lege ab tribunis est; sed, quia duo exercitus aberant, ne quid ferretur ad populum Patres tenuere;' c. 29. Livy therefore conceives that at this time an exclusively plebeian assembly made laws, but that a law could not be put to the vote in it without the previous consent of the consuls or the Senate.


and covered in many parts with wood. The law was in the following terms :

* All land rightfully acquired by private persons, is to remain in the possession of the owners. All land which the present occupiers have obtained by force or fraud,(50) and has been built upon, is to be surrendered to the state, upon payment to the occupiers of such compensation as the arbitrators shall award. The rest of the land, so far as it is public, is to be assumed by the state, and to be granted out gratuitously.'

Icilius argued in support of this law that it would diminish the complaints of the poor respecting the public land occupied by the patricians ; for that they would be satisfied by receiving allotments of ground in the city, when the rural territory was held by many powerful encroachers. The Senate agreed to this measure with the single dissent of Appius Claudius; it was made law in the comitia centuriata convened by the consuls; it was solemnized by religious forms; and it was inscribed on a brazen column, which was deposited in the temple of Diana upon the Aventine hill. The division of the hill took place immediately afterwards.(61) This detailed account is given by Dionysius, whose language implies that the brazen column, with its inscription, was extant in his time. Livy only mentions the passing of the law :(52) he had already spoken of the Aventine as having been assigned to a large body of Latins in the reign of King Ancus. (53)

(5ο) βεβιασμένοι ή κλοπή λαβόντες, in Dionysius. Niebuhr remarks that these words are the version of the Latin vi aut clam ; vol. ii. n. 315. Compare Dirksen Man. J. C. R. in v. clam.

(51) See Dionysius, x. 31-2. His words seem to imply that the inscription was extant in his time, and they are so understood by Becker, vol. i. p. 457; and Niebuhr, ib.

(52) De Aventino publicando lata lex est ; iii. 31. • Publico,' means to confiscate, to bring into the fisc, to take from a private person, and to convert into public property. The expression therefore implies that the Aventine was occupied by private encroachers. See Niebuhr, vol. ii. n. 685. The importance of this law to the plebs is implied in a subsequent statement of Livy, that they consented that all the decemvirs should be patricians, on condition that the Icilian law concerning the Aventine and the other sacred laws should not be repealed ; iii. 32.

(53) Aventinum novæ multitudini datum ; ib. i. 33; above, vol. i. p. 468. Compare Schwegler, vol. i. p. 605; Niebuhr, vol. ii. p. 301. Livy adds that in this year, ' Annonâ propter aquarum interperiem laboratum est.' This again looks like a fact which none but a contemporary annalist, or a deliberate fabricator of annals, would record. Compare Cato cited above, vol. i.



« PreviousContinue »