Images de page
PDF
ePub

time. But we do not see that it was better observed in the sequel than it had been before ; we find it frequently violated, after that period, by the different magistrates of the republic; and the senate itself, notwithstanding this same law, at times made formidable examples of the citizens. Of this we have an instance in the three hundred soldiers who had pillaged the town of Rhegiuin. The senate of its own authority ordered them all to be put to death. In vain did the tribune Flaccus remonstrate against so severe an exertion of public justice on Roman citizens; the senate, says Valerius Maximus, nevertheless persisted in its resolution.*

All these laws for securing the lives of the citizens had hitherto been enacted without any mention of a punishment against those who should violate them. At last the celebrated Lex Porcia was passed, which subjected to banishment those who should cause a Roman citizen to be scourged and put to death. From a number of instances posterior to this law, it appears that it was not better observed than those before it had been : Caius Gracchus, therefore, caused the Lex Sempronia to be enacted, by which a new sanction was given to it. But this second law did not secure his own life, and that of his friends, better than the Lex Porcia had done that of his brother, and those who had supported him: indeed all the events which took place about those times rendered it manifest that the evil was such as was beyond the power of any laws to cure. I shall here mention, a fact which affords a remarkable instance of the wantonness with which the Roman magistrates had accustomed themselves to take away the lives of the citizens. A citizen, named Memmius, having put up' for the consulship, and publicly canvassing for the same, in opposition to a man whom the tribune Saturninus supported, the latter caused him to be apprehended, and made him expire under blows in the public forum. The tribune even carried his insolence so far (as Cicero informs us) as to give to this act of cruelty, transacted in the presence of the whole people assembled, the outward form of a lawful act of public justice.*

* Val. Max. book ii. ch.7. This author does not men. tion the precise number of those who were put to death on this occasion : he only says that they were executed fifty at a time, on different successive days : but other authors make the number of them amount to four thou. sand. Livy speaks of a whole legion-Leuio Campana, que Rhegium occupaverat, obsessa, deditione facta, securi percussa est.Tit. Liv. lib. xv. Epit. I have here followed Polybius, who says, that only three hundred were taken and brought to Rome.

Nor were the Roman magistrates satisfied with committing acts of injustice in their political capacity, and for the support of the power of that body of which they made a part. Avarice and private rapine were at last added to political ambition. The provinces were first oppressed and plundered. The calamity in process of time, reached Italy itself, and the centre of the republic; till at last the Lex Calpurnia de repetundis was enacted to put a stop to it. By this law an action was given to the citizens and allies for the recovery of the money extorted from them by magistrates, or men in power; and the Lex Junia afterwards added the penalty of banishment to the obligation of making restitution.

* The fatal forms of words (cruciatûs carmina) used by the Roman magistrates when they ordered a man to be put to death, resounded (says Tully in his speech for Rabirius) in the assembly of the people, in which the censors had forbidden the common executioner ever to appear, I, lictor,colliga manus. Caput obnubito. Arbori infelici suspendito.Memmius being a considerable citizen as we may conclude from his canvassing with success for the consulship, all the great men in the republic took the alarm at the atrocious action of the tribune: the senate, the next day, issued out its solemn mandate, or form of words, to the consuls, to provide that the republic should receive no detriment; and the tribune was killed in a pitched battle that was fought at the foot of the Capitol.

But here another kind of disorder arose. The judges proved as corrupt, as the magistrates had been oppressive. They equally betrayed, in their own province, the cause of the republic with which they had been intrusted ; and rather chose to share in the plunder of the consuls, the prætors, and the proconsuls, than put the laws in force against them.

New expedients were therefore resorted to, in order to remedy this new evil. Laws were made for judging and punishing the judges themselves ; and, above all, continual changes were made in the manner of composing their assemblies. But the malady lay too deep for common legal provisions to remedy. The guilty judges employed the same resources, in order to avoid conviction, as the guilty magistrates had done; and those continual changes, at which we are amazed, that were made in the constitution of the judiciary bodies, * in

[ocr errors]

* The judges (over the assembly of whom the prætor usually presided) were taken from the body of the senate, till some years after the last Punic war; when the Lex Sempronia, proposed by Caius S. Gracchus, enacted that they should in future be taken from the equestrian order,

stead of obviating the corruption of the judges, only transferred to other men the profit arising from becoming guilty of it. It became a general complaint, so early as the times of the Gracchi, that no man, who had money to give, could be brought to punishment.* Cicero says, that, in his time the same opinion was universally received it and his speeches are full of his lamentations on what he calls the levity, and the infamy, of the public judgments.

Nor was the impunity of corrupt judges the

The consul Cæpio procured afterwards a law to be enacted, by which the judges were to be taken from both or. ders, equally. The Lex Servilia soon after put the equestrian order again in possession of the judgments; and, after some years, the Lex Livia restored them entirely to the senate. The Lex Plautia enacted afterwards, that the judges should be taken from the three orders,-the senatorian, equestrian, and plebeian. The Lex Cornelia, framed by the dictator Sylla, enacted again, that the judges should be entirely taken from the body of the senate. The Lex Aurelia ordered anew, that they should be taken from the three orders. Pompey made afterwards a charge in their number (which he fixed at seventy-five), and in the manner of electing them. And lastly, Cæsar restored the judgments to the order of the senate.

* App. de Bell. Civ. + Act. in Verr. i. § 1.

« PrécédentContinuer »