Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

famine bad first compelled him to sell his all, and then to borrow; and when he could not pay, his creditors had obtained judgment against him and his two sons, and had put them in chains. (495

B. C.)

11. Confusion and uproar spread through the city. All who had been pledged for debt were clamorous for relief; the people spurned the summons to enlist in the legions; compulsion was impossible, and the Senate knew not how to act. At length the promises of the consuls appeased the tumult; but finally the plebeians, after having been repeatedly deceived, deserted their officers in the very midst of war, and marched in a body to Mons Sacer,' or the Sacred Mount, within three miles of Rome, where they were joined by a vast mul. titude of their discontented brethren. (493 B. C.)

12. After much negotiation, a reconciliation was finally effected on the terms that all contracts of insolvent debtors should be can. celled; that those who had incurred slavery for debt should recover their freedom ; that the Valerian law should be enforced, and that two annual magistrates, (afterwards increased to five,) called trib V. TRIBUNES unes, a whose persons were to be inviolable, should be

chosen by the people to watch over their rights, and prevent

any abuses of authority. It will be seen that the power of the tribunes, so humble in its origin, eventually acquired a preponderating influence in the State, and laid the foundation of monarchical supremacy.b

13. During the same year that the office of the tribunes was created, a perpetual league was made with the Latins, (493 B. C.) and seven years later with the Hernicians, who inhabited the northeastern parts of Látium, both on terms of perfect equality in the contracting parties, and not, as before, on the basis of Roman supe.

OF THE PEOPLE,

1. The Mons Sacer, or “ Sacred Mountain," is a low range of sandstone bills extending along the right bank of tho Anio, near its confluence with the Tiber, about three miles from Rome. (Maps Nos. VIII, and X.)

2. The tribunes of the people wore no external marks of distinction ; but an officer called arator attended them, to clear the way and summon people. Their chief power at first consisted in preventing, or arresting, by the word veto, “ I forbid," any measure which they thought detrimental to the interests of the people.

b. After the plebeians had withdrawn to the “ Sacred Mount," the Senate despatched an embassy of ten men, headed by Menenius Agrippa, to treat with the insurgents. Agrippa to said, on this occasion, to have related to the people the since well-known fable of the Belly and the Members. The latter, provoked at seeing all the fruits of their toil and care applied to the use of tho belly, refused to perform any more labor; in consequence of which the whole body was in danger of perishing. The people understood the moral of the fable, and were ready to enter upon a negotiation

VI. VOLSCIAN

AN WARS.

riority. These leagues made with cities that were once subject to the Romans, show that the Roman power had been greatly dimin. ished by the plebeian and aristocratic contentions in the early years of the Republic.

14. In the interval between these treaties, occurred important wars with the Volscians and Æquians. The historical contradictions of this period are so numerous, that little AND EQUIreliance can be placed on the details of these wars; but it is evident that the Volscians and Æquians were defeated, and that Caius Marcius, a Roman nobleman, acquired the surname of Coriolanus from his bravery at the capture of the Volscian town of Coriolio and that Lucius Quinctius, called Cincinnátus, acquired great distinction by his conduct of the war against the Æquians. Coriolánus belonged to the patrician order, and was an enemy of the tribunes; and it is related that when, during a famine, a Sicilian prince sent a large supply of corn to relieve the distresses of the citizens, Coriolá. nus proposed in the Senate that the plebeians should not share in the subsidy until they had surrendered the privileges which they had acquired by their recent secession.

15. The rage of the plebeians was excited by this proposition, and they would have proceeded to violence against Coriolánus, had not the tribunes summoned him to trial before the assembly of the people. The senators made the greatest efforts to save him, but the commons condemned him to exile. Enraged by this treatment, he went over to the Volscians—was appointed a general in their armies -and, after defeating the Romans in several engagements, laid siege to the city, which must have surrendered had not a deputation of Roman matrons, headed by the wife and the mother of Coriolánus, prevailed upon him to grant his countrymen terms of peace. It is said that on his return to the Volsciaus he lost his life in a popular. tumult; but a tradition relates that he lived to a very

advanced age, and that he was often heard to exclaim,“ How miserable is the condition of an old man in banishment."

16. It is related that during the war with the Æquians the enemy had surrounded the Roman consul in a defile, where there was neither forage for the horses nor food for the men. In this extremity, the

1. The Æquians dwelt principally in the upper valley of the Anio, north of Ibat stream, and between the Sabines and the Marsi. (Maps Nos. VIII, and X.)

2. Corioli is supposed to have been about twenty-two or twenty-three miles southeast from Rome. A hill now known by the name of Monte Giove, is thought, with some degree of probe ability, to represont the site of this auclent Volscian city. (Map No. X.)

Senate and people chose Cincinnátus dictator, and sending in haste to inform him of his election, the deputies found him at work in his field, dressed in the plain habit of a Roman farmer. After he had put on his toga, or cloak, that he might receive the message of the Senate in a becoming manner, he was saluted as dictator, and conducted into the city. He soon raised an army, surrounded the enemy, and took their whole force prisoners, and at the end of sixteen days, having accomplished the deliverance of his country, resigned his power, and returned to the peaceful pursuits of private life.

17. The first acquisitions of territory made by the Romans appear to have been divided among the people at large; but of late the conquered lands had been suffered to pass, by connivance, occupation, or purchase, chiefly into the hands of the patricians. The complaints of the plebeians on this subject at length induced one of the consuls, Spurius Cassius, to propose a division of recently conquered lands into small estates, for the poorer classes, who, he maintained, were justly entitled to their proportionate share, as their valor and labors had helped to acquire them. But while this proposition alarmed the Senate and patricians with danger to their property, the motives of Cassius appear to have been distrusted by all classes, for he was charged with aiming at kingly power, and, being convicted, was ignominiously beheaded, and his house razed to the ground. (458 B. C.)

18. Still the people continued to demand a share in the conquered lands, now forming the estates of the wealthy, and, as the only way of evading the difficulty, the Senate kept the nation almost constantly involved in war. During thirty years succeeding the death of Cas. sius, the history of the Republic is occupied with desultory wars waged against the Æquians and Volscians, and with continued strug. gles between the patricians and plebeians. At length the tribunes succeeded in getting their number increased from five to ten, when the Senate, despairing of being able to divert the people any longer from their purpose, consented to the appointment of ten persons,

hence called decem' virs, who were to compile a body of DECEMVIRS. laws for the commonwealth, and to exercise all the powers of government until the laws should be completed. (451 B. C.)

19. After several months' deliberation, this body produced a code

VII. THE

2. It should be remarked here, that the story of Cincinnatus formed the subject of a heautiSul poem, to the substance of which most writers have given the credit of historical authenticity, although Niebuhr has shown that the truth of the legend will not stand the test of criticism. (See Niebuhr, vol. ii. pp. 125-6. and Arnold's Rome, i. pp. 131-5. and notes.)

of laws, engraven on ten tables, which continued, down to the time of the emperors, to be the basis of the civil and penal jurisprudence of the Roman people, though almost concealed from view under the enorinous mass of additions piled upon it. The new constitution aimed at establishing the legal equality of all the citizens, and there was a show of dividing the great offices of State equally between patri. cians and plebeians, but the exact character of the ten tables cannot now be satisfactorily distinguished from two others that were subsequently enacted.

20. After the task of the decemvirs had been completed, all classes united in continuing their office for another year; and an equal number of patricians and plebeians was elected; but the former appear to have sought seats in the government for the purpose of overthrowing the constitution. The decemvirs now threw off the mask, and enacted two additional tables of laws, by which the plebeians were greatly oppressed, for, among the laws attributed to the twelve tables, we find that although all classes were liable to imprisonment for debt, yet the pledging of the person affected plebeians only,--that the latter were excluded from the enjoyment of the public lands,—that their intermarriage with patricians was prohibited,-and that consuls could be elected from the patrician order only. Moreover, the decemvirs now refused to lay down the powers of government which had been temporarily granted them, and, secretly supported by the patricians, ruled without control, thus establishing a tyrannical oligarchy.

21. At length a private injury accomplished what wrongs of a more public nature had failed to effect. Appius Claudius, a leading decemvir, had fallen in love with the beautiful Virginia, daughter of Virginius, a patrician officer; but finding her betrothed to another, in order to accomplish his purpose he procured a base dependant to claim her as his slave. As had been concerted, Virginia was brought before the tribunal of Appius himself, who, by an iniquitous decision, ordered her to be surrendered to the claimant. It was then that the distracted father, having no other means of preserving his daughter's honor, stabbed her to the heart in the presence of the court and the assembled people. (448 B. C.)

22. A general indignation against the decemvirs spread through the city; the army took part with the people; the power of the decem. virs was overthrown; and the ancient forms of government were restored; while additional rights were conceded to the commons, by

giving to their votes, in certain cases, the authority of law. Appius, having been impeached, died in prison, probably by his own hand, before the day appointed for his trial.

23. Other plebeian innovations followed. After a difficult strug. gle the marriage law was repealed, (B. C. 445,) and two years later military tribunes, with consular powers, were chosen from the plebeian ranks. One important duty of the consuls had been the taking of the census once in every five years, and a new distribution of the people, at such times, among the different classes or ranks, according to their property, character, and families. But the patricians, unwilling that this power should devolve upon the plebeians, stipulated that these duties of the consular office should be disjoined from the military tribuneship, and conferred upon two new officers of patrician VIII. OFFICE birth, who were denominated censors ;a and thus the OF CENSORS. long.continued efforts of the people to obtain, from their own number, the election of officers with full consular powers, were defeated.

24. But while dissensions continued to mark the domestic councils of the Romans with the appearance of divided strength and wasted energies, the state of affairs presented a different aspect to the surrounding people. They saw in Rome only a nation of warriors that had already recovered the strength it had lost by a revolutionary change of government, and that was now marching on to increased dominion without any signs of weakness in the foreign wars it had to maintain. Véii,' the wealthiest and most important of the Etruscan cities, had long been a check to the progress of the Romans north of the Tiber, and had often sought occasion to provoke hostilities with

the young republic. At length the chief of the people WITH VÉII. of Véii put to death the Roman ambassadors; and the Roman Senate, being refused satisfaction for the outrage, formally resolved that Véii should be destroyed.

25. The Etruscan armies that marched to the rolief of Véii were

IX. WAR

1. Vtii, numerous remains of which still exist, was about twelve miles north from Rome, al a place now known by the name of l'Insola Farnese. (Maps Nos. VIII. and X.)

it. An important duty of the censors was that of inspecting the morals of the people. They had the power of inflicting various marks of disgrace upon those who deserved it,--such as excluding a senator from the senate-house-depriving a knight of his public horse if he did not take proper care of it;--and of punishing, in various ways, those who did not cultivate their grounds properly--those who lived too long unmarried--and those wbo were of dissolute mor als. They had charge, also, of the public works, and of letting out the public lands. The office of censor was esteemed highly honorable. In allusion to the severity with which Cato lbo Elder discharged its duties, he is commonly styled, at the present day, “ Cato lbo Censos."

« AnteriorContinuar »