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The next year Volero was chosen tribune, and brought forward a law that the tribunes should thenceforth be elected by the commons alone in their tribes, instead of by the entire people in the centuries. This was designed to avoid the overwhelming vote of the clients of the great houses, who were obliged to obey the decrees of their patrons, and who often controlled the action of the general assembly. For a whole year the patricians. contrived, by various delays, to prevent the passage of the bill. Appius Clau'dius, one of the consuls, stationed himself with an armed force in the Forum to oppose it; and it was not until the plebeians, resorting in their turn to force, had seized the Capitol, and held it for some time under military guard, that the Publilian law was passed. This "second Great Charter of Roman liberties" gave the tribes not only the power of electing tribunes and ædiles, but of first discussing all questions which concerned the entire nation. It was a long step toward the gaining of equal rights by the commons, B. C. 471.
41. In the meanwhile, the Romans were carrying on wars with the Æqui and Volsci, two Oscan nations which had taken advantage of the changes in the Latin League, to extend their power to the cities on the Alban Mount and over the southern plain of Latium. Their forays extended to the very gates of Rome, driving the country people to take refuge, with their cattle, within the walls, where a plague then raging added the horrors of pestilence to those of war. It is probable that the civil conflicts in Rome had caused the exile of many citizens; and these, in most instances, joined the hostile nations. Rome was the champion of oligarchy among the cities of Italy, as Sparta was among those of Greece. The spirit of party was often stronger than patriotism; the sympathy between Roman and foreign aristocrats was greater than between patrician and plebeian at home; and thus an exiled noble was willing to become the destroyer of his country.
42. The story of Coriola'nus may be partly fictitious, but it truly illustrates the condition of the Republic at that period. Caius Marcius, a descendant of the fourth king of Rome, was the pride of the patricians for his warlike virtues, and had won his surname Coriolanus by capturing the Volscian town of Cori'oli by his individual gallantry. But he was bitterly opposed to the common people, and when he was about to be tried before the comitia for having opposed a distribution of corn, he fled and took refuge among the Volscians, whom he had formerly conquered. The king warmly welcomed him, and seized the first opportunity to stir up a new war with the Romans, that he might turn against them the arms of their best leader. When the Volscian army approached Rome, the Senate sent deputies to demand peace, but Caius refused all terms except such as were impossible for the Republic to grant. The priests and augurs next went to plead with him, but without effect.
At last the noble ladies of Rome, headed by Volum'nia, the mother of Caius, and his wife, Vergil'ia, with her young children, went out in a sad and solemn procession to plead for their sacred city. Coriolanus honored, above all, the mother to whose wise and faithful care he owed his greatness. He sprang to meet her with fitting reverence, but before she would receive his greeting, Volumnia exclaimed: "Let me know whether I stand, in thy camp, thy prisoner or thy mother; whether I am speaking to an enemy or to my son!" Her reproaches silenced Caius; the entreaties of his wife and children, and the tears of the noble ladies, moved him from his pur-. pose. He exclaimed, "Mother, thine is the victory; thou hast saved Rome, but thou hast lost thy son!" He led away the Volscian army. Some say he fell a victim to their revenge; but others, that he lived on among them to extreme old age, and lamented, in the desolateness of his years of infirmity, the factious pride that had exiled him from wife, children, and native land.
43. In the meantime, Rome suffered another visitation of pestilence, in which thousands of people died daily in the streets. The Equians and Volscians ravaged the country up to the walls of Rome; and in addition to their other miseries, the crowded multitude were threatened with starvation. Their civil grievances were not to be redressed by anything less than a thorough and radical reform. In the year 462 B. C., the tribune Terenti'lius Harsa proposed the appointment of a board of ten commissioners, half patrician and half plebeian, to revise the constitution, define the duties of consuls and tribunes, and frame a code of laws from the mass of decisions and precedents. This movement was the occasion for ten years of violent contention, during which Rome was several times near falling into the hands of the Volscians, and was once actually occupied by a band of exiles and slaves under a Sabine leader, Herdo'nius, who seized the Capitol and demanded the restoration of all banished citizens to their rights in Rome.
44. Chief of the exiles was Kæ30 Quinc'tius, son of the great Cincinna’tus, who had been expelled for raising riots in the Forum, to prevent any action of the people upon the Terentilian law. The invading party was defeated, and every man slain. The father of Kæso was then consul. In revenge for the fate of his son, he declared that the law should never pass while he was in office; and that he would immediately lead the entire citizen-soldiery out to war, thus preventing a meeting of the tribes. Nay more, the augurs were to accompany him, and so consecrate the ground of the encampment, that a lawful assembly could be held under the absolute power of the consuls, and repeal all the laws which had ever been enacted at Rome under the authority of the tribunes. At the close of his term, Cincinnatus declared that he would appoint a dictator, whose authority would supersede that of all other officers, patrician or plebeian. All these
things could be done under the strict forms of the Roman constitution; but the Senate and the wiser patricians saw that the patience of the commons might be taxed too far, and persuaded Cincinnatus to forego so extreme an exercise of his power.
45. War with the Equians went on, and treaties were only made to be broken. In the year 458 B. C., the entire Roman army was entrapped in a pass of the Alban Hills, surrounded by the enemy, and in imminent danger of destruction. In this crisis, Cincinnatus, who had retired from the consulship to resume his favorite toil of farming, was called to be dictator, with absolute power. The messengers of the Senate found him at his plow, in his little garden-plot across the Tiber. He left the plow in the furrow, hastened to Rome, levied a new army in a single day, went out and defeated the Æquians, and returned the next evening in triumph.
Consuls are appointed with kingly power, but for a limited time. Rome subject to Porsena. The Latins are defeated at the Lake Regillus. Roman nobles oppress their debtors, and the poor secede. Tribunes of the people and ædiles are appointed. The first Agrarian Law is proposed by Cassius, B. C. 486. To avenge the tyranny of their consuls, the common soldiers refuse to fight. The Fabii take sides with the people, and are destroyed in their colony on the Cremera. The Publilian Laws give the election of officers to the people in their tribes, B. C. 471. War and pestilence. Ten years' debate upon the Terentilian Laws, which propose a revision of the constitution, B. C. 462-452. The Capitol seized by exiles and Sabines. Cincinnatus, as a noble, opposes the commons, but, as a general, saves Rome.
THE LAWS OF THE TWELVE TABLES.
46. The passage of the Terentilian law was delayed six years, but at length the nobles yielded the main point, and the decemviri were chosen. Though wholly patrician, they were men who enjoyed the confidence of both orders for their proved integrity. Both consuls and tribunes were superseded for the time, and full powers, constituent, legislative, and executive, were intrusted to the Ten. The laws of the Twelve Tables, which were the result of their labors, became the "source of all public and private right" at Rome for many centuries. During the debate upon the bill, commissioners had already been sent to Greece, to study the laws and constitution of the Hellenic states. They returned with an Ionian sophist, Hermodo'rus of Ephesus, who aided in explaining to the lawmakers whatever was obscure in the notes of the commissioners; and so valuable were his services, that he was honored with a statue in the Roman comitium.
47. Only a few points in this celebrated work of legislation can here be noticed. The laws of Rome gave to a father absolute right of property in
his family. He might sell his son, his daughter, or even his wife. The latter act, indeed, was denounced as impious by the religious law, but no penalty was attached to it; the curse of the chief pontiff merely marked the guilty person for the wrathful judgments of Heaven. If a father desired to make his son free, the process was more difficult than the emancipation of a slave. The latter, if sold to another master, could be liberated at once, but a son thus sold and liberated returned to the possession of his father. This subjection could only end with the death of the parent, though the son himself might then be an old man. The Twelve Tables enacted that, if a father had three times sold his son, he lost all further control over him; but a son thus emancipated was considered as severed from all relationship with his father, and could no longer inherit his property. Women were all their lives considered as minors and wards. If their father died, they passed under the control of their brothers; or, if they married, they became the absolute property of their husbands. A widow might become the ward of her own son. Marriages between patricians and plebeians were declared unlawful, and children born in such had no claim upon their fathers' possessions.
48. The ten Law-givers visited with their heaviest penalties the defamation of character; and so stringent was their definition of libel, that neither poets nor historians dared even name the living except in terms of praise. It is much more difficult, therefore, to gain a true idea of public men in the history of Rome than of Greece, whose historians spoke with grand impartiality of men and measures, and the license of whose comic poets, though often used with insolent injustice, yet shows us all the weak points of character, and reveals the man as his contemporaries really saw him. The Roman historians, even when writing of the past, could often draw their materials only from funeral orations, or from the flattering verses of dependent poets, laid up among the records of great families.
49. The decemvirs, during their appointed year of office, completed ten tables of laws; and these, according to Roman ideas, were so just and so acceptable, that the assemblies willingly consented to renew the same form of government for another term, especially as the work of legislation was not quite complete. In the new decemvirate, Appius Claudius was reelected, and his unscrupulous character now made itself felt in the tyrannical nature of the government. The people found that they had ten consuls instead of two, and the power of the Ten was unchecked by any popular tribune.
50. The domestic rights of the plebeians were rudely invaded. A fair maiden, Virginia, caught the eye of Appius as she went daily to school in the Forum, attended by her nurse. He declared that she was the slave of one of his clients, having been born of a slave-woman in his house, and sold to the wife of Virginius, who had no children of her own. The friends
of Virginia and of the people resented this insolent falsehood with such indignation, that the consul's officers were compelled to release the maiden under bonds to appear the next day before his judgment-seat, where her lineage might be proved.
Virginius, her father, was with the army before Tus'culum. He was hastily summoned, and, riding all night, reached the city early in the morning. In the garb of a suppliant, he appeared in the Forum with his daughter and a great company of matrons and friends. But his plea was not heard. Appius judged the maiden to be, at least, considered a slave until her freedom could be proved, in direct violation of the law which he had himself enacted the year before, that every one should be regarded as free until proved a slave. Virginius perceived that no justice could be expected before such a tribunal. He only demanded one last word with his daughter; and having drawn her aside with her nurse into one of the stalls of the Forum, he seized a butcher's knife and plunged it into her heart, crying aloud, "Thus only, my child, can I keep thee free!" Then turning to the decemvir, he exclaimed, "On thy head be the curse of this innocent blood!" No one obeyed the consul's order to seize him. With the bloody knife in his hand, he rushed through the crowd, mounted his horse at the gate of the city, and rode to the camp.
51. The army of plebeians arose at his call and marched upon Rome. They entered and passed through the streets to the Aventine, calling upon the people, as they went, to elect ten tribunes and defend their rights. The other army, near Fide'næ, was aroused in the same manner by Icil'ius, the betrothed lover of Virginia. The common soldiers put aside those of the decemvirs who were with them, chose, likewise, ten tribunes, and marched to the city. The twenty tribunes appointed two of their number to act for the rest, and then leaving the Aventine guarded by a garrison, they passed out of the walls followed by the army, and as many of the people as could remove, and established themselves again on the Sacred Mount beyond the Anio.
52. The Senate, which had wavered, was now compelled to act. The seceders had declared that they would treat with no one but Valerius and Horatius, men whom they could trust. These were sent to hear their demands. The people required that the power of the tribunes should be restored, a right of appeal from the decision of the magistrates to the popular assembly established, and the decemvirs given up to be burnt, as nine friends of the commons had been, within the memory of men still living. This latter demand, caused only by the exasperation of the moment, was withdrawn upon maturer council; the others were granted, the decemvirs resigned, and the people returned to Rome, B. C. 449. A popular assembly was held, in which ten tribunes were elected, Virginius and Icilius being of the number. Two supreme magistrates were chosen by a free vote of