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the people, in the place of the decemvirate, and they were now first called consuls. Their powers were the same with those of the prætors, or generals, who had ruled from the expulsion of the kings to the appointment of the first decemvirate, except that an appeal might be made from their sentence to that of the comitia.
The first consuls under this new act were Valerius and Horatius. They went forth and gained so signal a victory over the Sabines, that Rome suffered no more incursions from that people for 150 years. Ancient custom and even law among the Romans honored victorious generals with a triumphal entry into the city on their return; but the Senate, whose duty it was to decree the triumph, regarding the consuls as false to the interests of their order, forbade any such honor to be paid them. Hereupon the people exerted their supreme authority, and commanded the consuls to "triumph" in spite of the Senate. (See ?? 109-111.) Appius Claudius and one of his colleagues were impeached and died in prison; the rest fled from Rome, and their property was confiscated.
53. A strong reaction now set in, in favor of the patricians; and so determined was their opposition to the new laws, that the people seceded `again, but this time only to the Janiculum, west of the Tiber and opposite Rome. At last a law was passed legalizing marriage between the two orders. Instead of throwing open the consulship freely to the plebeians, it was agreed (B. C. 444) to divide its duties and dignities among five officers, of whom two, the censors, should be chosen only from the nobles, though by a free vote of the tribes, while the three military tribunes might be either patricians or plebeians. The censors were to hold office five years, the tribunes only one.
For some alleged defect in the auspices (see ? 28), the first three tribunes were set aside, and for six years consuls were regularly appointed as before. In 438 B. C., tribunes were elected, and for three following years consuls again, showing the extreme difficulty with which the people gained their rights, even when conceded by law. In 433 B. C., an important law of Æmilius, the dictator, limited the duration of the censor's office to eighteen months, though he was still appointed only once in five years, thus leaving the place vacant a much greater time than it was filled.
54. The censors were invested with truly kingly splendor and extraoidinary powers. They registered the citizens and their property, administered the revenues of the state, kept the rolls of the Senate, from which they erased all unworthy names, and added such as they considered fit. In this judgment of character they were guided solely by their own sense of duty. If a man was tyrannical to his wife and children, or cruel to his slaves, if he neglected his land, or wasted his fortune, or followed any dishonorable calling, he was degraded from his rank, whatever that might be. If a senator or a knight, he was deprived of his gold ring and purple
striped tunic; if a private citizen, he was expelled from the tribes and lost his vote. The censors were thus the guardians of morals, and their power extended to many matters which could hardly be reached by the general action of the law. The taking of every census was followed by a lustration, or ceremonial purifying of the people (see 31). Hence, the five years which intervened between two elections of censors were called a lustrum, or 'greater year.
55. The Romans must have watched with interest, during the years 415 and 414 B. C., the movements of the great Athenian expedition against Syracuse. Had the brilliant schemes of Alcibiades been carried into effect, the Greeks would doubtless have become the leading power in western Europe; “Greece, and not Rome, might have conquered Carthage; Greek, instead of Latin, might have been at this day the principal element of the languages of Spain, of France, and of Italy; and the laws of Athens, rather than of Rome, might be the foundation of the law of the civilized world."
Decemviri chosen to make new laws for Rome. Absolute power of the paterfamilias. Laws against libel make Roman history mere eulogium. Tyranny of the second decemvirate. Appius Claudius unjustly claims Virginia for a slave. The people secede, overthrow the decemvirate, and restore consuls and tribunes. The new consuls defeat the Sabines, and triumph in spite of the Senate. By another change of constitution, censors and military tribunes are chosen, instead of consuls. The censors have absolute power to correct public morals. The Athenians fail in their Sicilian expedition, B. C. 415, 414, and leave room for the supremacy of Rome.
CAPTURE OF ROME BY THE GAULS.
56. The Gauls were now beginning their terrible incursions from the north into the valley of the Po, thus absorbing the attention of the Etruscans; and the time favored a fresh attack of the Romans upon Veii, the nearest state across the Tiber. The war began B. C. 405, and lasted ten years. The necessity of keeping an armed force continually in the field, gave rise to the standing army, which ultimately made so essential a part of Roman power; and, at the same time, obliged the patricians to study the interests of the people. It was now agreed that the soldiers should be regularly paid, and money secured for this purpose by a careful collection of the rents for public lands. The number of military tribunes was doubled. Their chief, the præfect of the city, was a patrician, and chosen by that order, but the remaining five were elected from either or both classes, by a free vote of the popular assembly.
57. After ten years' warfare with varying success, Veii was taken (B. C. 396) by the dictator Camillus. It is said that on the very day of its surrender, Melpum, the Etruscan stronghold in the north, fell before the
Gauls. The loss of these two frontier fortresses began the rapid decline of Etrurian power. The joy of the Romans was commemorated by the whimsical custom, long continued, of concluding every festal game with a mock auction called the "Sale of Veientes." Cape'na, Fale'rii, Nep'ete, and Sunium were likewise conquered, and with their lands became possessions of Rome. Within half a century, the Etruscans lost to the Gauls all their possessions in Campania and north of the Apennines, and to the Romans, all between the Cimin'ian forests and the Tiber. The nation had already lost its force through unbounded excess in luxury. The nobles were enormously rich, while the people were poor and enslaved.
58. The war of the Romans against Volsin'ii was equally successful; but, by a sudden and terrible reverse, Rome was now doomed to suffer the fate which she too often inflicted. The Gauls, after conquering northern Etruria, overflowed the barrier of the Apennines and spread over central Italy. They met the entire Roman force near the little river Allia, and defeated it with great slaughter; then pushing on with irresistible power, they captured and burned the city. So overwhelming was the disaster, that the 16th of July, the date of the battle of the Allia, was pronounced a "black day" of ill-omen, on which no business could be safely transacted and no sacrifices acceptably offered.
59. The vestal virgins withdrew with the sacred fire to Cære, in Etruria; the mass of the people, with the fugitives from the conquered army, had taken refuge in Veii and other Etruscan towns; but the noblest of the patricians resolved to hold the Capitol. Those who were too old to fight, hoped to serve their country equally well by an heroic death. They repeated, after the pontifex maximus, a solemn imprecation,* devoting themselves and the army of the Gauls to death for the deliverance of Rome. Then, arrayed in their most magnificent apparel, holding their ivory scepters, and seated each upon his ivory throne at the door of his own house, they sat motionless while the tumult of plunder and pillage was going on around. The barbarians were struck with admiration of these venerable figures, and one of them began reverently to stroke the long white beard of Papir'ius. Enraged by this profaning touch, the old senator struck him with his ivory scepter. It was the signal for slaughter. The Gauls, recovering from their momentary awe, massacred the noble old men without delay.
60. The siege of the Capitol continued six or eight months. At one time it was nearly taken, by the enemy scaling the steep cliff by night. The garrison were asleep, but some geese sacred to Juno gave a timely alarm, and the citadel was saved. Marcus Manlius, who was the first to awaken, succeeded in throwing several of the first assailants down the cliff,
*For the probable form of this imprecation, see note, p. 276.
and thus maintained the fortress until his comrades could come to his aid. At length, though the garrison were nearly exhausted by hunger, the Gauls were equally ready to make terms, for they had heard that the Venetians were invading their northern possessions. A thousand pounds of gold were paid for the ransom of the city, and the barbarians retired. They were followed by Camillus, the conqueror of Veii and Falerii, who was now again dictator, and who, by cutting off straggling parties of the enemy, regained some portion of the rich booty which they were carrying away; but it is probably not true that he gained any important success over them, as was formerly believed.
61. A period of great distress followed the retreat of the Gauls. The farms, upon which the livelihood of so many people depended, had been laid waste; their fruit-trees, buildings, implements, stock and stores, even to the seed-corn needed for next year's sowing, had been burnt. Rome was a mass of rubbish, in which even the direction of the former streets could no longer be discerned. The government furnished roofing materials, and allowed wood and stone to be taken from the public forests and quarries, on condition that every person so aided would give security to complete his building within the year. But these pledges were often forfeited; and to meet the expense of rebuilding, as well as to pay the extraordinary taxes for restoring the fortress and the temples, money had to be borrowed, and the poor were again at the mercy of the rich. Innocent debtors were dragged from their homes, to toil as slaves in the shops or fields of their creditors.
Many chose to remain in the Etruscan towns where they had taken refuge, and even to make of Veii a new Rome for the plebeians, where they might live free from the overbearing rule of the patricians, and be themselves a privileged class. Though this wholesale secession was prevented, yet the numbers in Rome were so greatly diminished, that a mass of the conquered Etruscans were brought in to fill the vacant places. These were provided with Roman lands, were organized into four new tribes, and admitted to full civil rights. The new people" formed more than a sixth part of the whole population of the reconstructed city.
62. No one could see without pity the distress of the people; but Marcus Manlius, the same whose alertness and presence of mind had saved the Capitol, had also reasons of his own for trying to relieve them. He was jealous of Camillus, and thought that his own services had not been duly rewarded. He sold at auction the best portion of his lands, and applied the proceeds to paying the debts of needy persons, thus delivering them from imprisonment and torture. He was rewarded by the unbounded gratitude of the poor; his house was continually thronged with partisans, to whom he spoke of the selfish cruelty of the nobles,
in throwing the whole burden of the public calamity on others, and even accused them of embezzling the immense sums raised to replace the treasures of the temples, which had been borrowed to purchase the retreat of the Gauls.
63. For this chargę Manlius was thrown into prison, and the people began to regard him as a martyr to their cause. On his release, he renewed his attacks upon the government. He fortified his house on the Capitoline, and with his party held the whole height in defiance of the authorities. His treason was so evident, that even the tribunes of the people took part with the patricians against him, and he was brought to trial before the popular assembly.
He appeared, followed by several comrades whose lives he had saved in battle, and by four hundred debtors whom he had rescued from the dungeon. He exhibited the spoils of thirty enemies slain with his own hand, and forty crowns or other honorary rewards received from his generals. He appealed to the gods, whose temples he had saved from pollution, and he bade the people look at the Capitol before they pronounced judgment. It was impossible to convict such a criminal in such a presence, for the very spot on the Capitol where Manlius had stood alone against the Gauls, was visible from the Forum. He was afterward condemned for treason and thrown from the Tarpeian Rock, the precipitous side of the Capitoline Hill, looking toward the Tiber.
64. The power of the patricians was only confirmed by this rash and selfish attempt to overthrow it. For seven years the distress of the people went on increasing; the commons lost heart, and their eldest men refused any longer to accept public office. Two younger men now came forward, who were destined, by their firm and wise procedure, to relieve in great measure the miseries of their class.
C. Licinius Stolo was of one of the oldest and wealthiest plebeian families, connected by many marriages with the nobles. Becoming tribune (B. C. 376), together with his friend, L. Sextius, he proposed a new set of laws, designed to remove both the poverty and the political wrongs under which the commons were suffering. (1.) To relieve immediate distress, it was proposed that the enormous interest already paid upon debts should be reckoned as so much defrayed of the principal, and should, therefore, be deducted from the sum still due. (2.) To prevent future poverty, the public lands, hitherto absorbed in great measure by the patricians, were to be thrown open equally to the plebeians, and no man was to be allowed to hold more than 500 jugera,
or to pasture more
than 100 oxen and 500 sheep on the undivided portion. Further, to secure employment to the poor, a certain amount of free labor was required upon
*A jugerum was very nearly five-eighths of an acre.