HotFreeBooks.com
The History of Rome (Volumes 1-5)
by Theodor Mommsen
Previous Part     1   2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18 ... 58     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The Social Distress, and the Attempt to Relieve It

Nevertheless one object of the compromise concluded by the two portions of the plebs in 387, the abolition of the patriciate, had in all material points been completely attained. The question next arises, how far the same can be affirmed of the two positive objects aimed at in the compromise?—whether the new order of things in reality checked social distress and established political equality? The two were intimately connected; for, if economic embarrassments ruined the middle class and broke up the burgesses into a minority of rich men and a suffering proletariate, such a state of things would at once annihilate civil equality and in reality destroy the republican commonwealth. The preservation and increase of the middle class, and in particular of the farmers, formed therefore for every patriotic statesman of Rome a problem not merely important, but the most important of all. The plebeians, moreover, recently called to take part in the government, greatly indebted as they were for their new political rights to the proletariate which was suffering and expecting help at their hands, were politically and morally under special obligation to attempt its relief by means of government measures, so far as relief was by such means at all attainable.

The Licinian Agrarian Laws

Let us first consider how far any real relief was contained in that part of the legislation of 387 which bore upon the question. That the enactment in favour of the free day-labourers could not possibly accomplish its object—namely, to check the system of farming on a large scale and by means of slaves, and to secure to the free proletarians at least a share of work—is self-evident. In this matter legislation could afford no relief, without shaking the foundations of the civil organization of the period in a way that would reach far beyond its immediate horizon. In the question of the domains, on the other hand, it was quite possible for legislation to effect a change; but what was done was manifestly inadequate. The new domain-arrangement, by granting the right of driving very considerable flocks and herds upon the public pastures, and that of occupying domain-land not laid out in pasture up to a maximum fixed on a high scale, conceded to the wealthy an important and perhaps even disproportionate prior share in the produce of the domains; and by the latter regulation conferred upon the domain-tenure, although it remained in law liable to pay a tenth and revocable at pleasure, as well as upon the system of occupation itself, somewhat of a legal sanction. It was a circumstance still more suspicious, that the new legislation neither supplemented the existing and manifestly unsatisfactory provisions for the collection of the pasture-money and the tenth by compulsory measures of a more effective kind, nor prescribed any thorough revision of the domanial possessions, nor appointed a magistracy charged with the carrying of the new laws into effect. The distribution of the existing occupied domain-land partly among the holders up to a fair maximum, partly among the plebeians who had no property, in both cases in full ownership; the abolition in future of the system of occupation; and the institution of an authority empowered to make immediate distribution of any future acquisitions of territory, were so clearly demanded by the circumstances of the case, that it certainly was not through want of discernment that these comprehensive measures were neglected. We cannot fail to recollect that it was the plebeian aristocracy, in other words, a portion of the very class that was practically privileged in respect to the usufructs of the domains, which proposed the new arrangement, and that one of its very authors, Gaius Licinius Stolo, was among the first to be condemned for having exceeded the agrarian maximum; and we cannot but ask whether the legislators dealt altogether honourably, and whether they did not on the contrary designedly evade a solution, really tending to the common benefit, of the unhappy question of the domains. We do not mean, however, to express any doubt that the regulations of the Licinian laws, such as they were, might and did substantially benefit the small farmer and the day-labourer. It must, moreover, be acknowledged that in the period immediately succeeding the passing of the law the authorities watched with at least comparative strictness over the observance of its rules as to the maximum, and frequently condemned the possessors of large herds and the occupiers of the domains to heavy fines.

Laws Imposing Taxes— Laws of Credit

In the system of taxation and of credit also efforts were made with greater energy at this period than at any before or subsequent to it to remedy the evils of the national economy, so far as legal measures could do so. The duty levied in 397 of five per cent on the value of slaves that were to be manumitted was—irrespective of the fact that it imposed a check on the undesirable multiplication of freedmen—the first tax in Rome that was really laid upon the rich. In like manner efforts were made to remedy the system of credit. The usury laws, which the Twelve Tables had established,(9) were renewed and gradually rendered more stringent, so that the maximum of interest was successively lowered from 10 per cent (enforced in 397) to 5 per cent (in 407) for the year of twelve months, and at length (412) the taking of interest was altogether forbidden. The latter foolish law remained formally in force, but, of course, it was practically inoperative; the standard rate of interest afterwards usual, viz. 1 per cent per month, or 12 per cent for the civil common year—which, according to the value of money in antiquity, was probably at that time nearly the same as, according to its modern value, a rate of 5 or 6 per cent—must have been already about this period established as the maximum of appropriate interest. Any action at law for higher rates must have been refused, perhaps even judicial claims for repayment may have been allowed; moreover notorious usurers were not unfrequently summoned before the bar of the people and readily condemned by the tribes to heavy fines. Still more important was the alteration of the procedure in cases of debt by the Poetelian law (428 or 441). On the one hand it allowed every debtor who declared on oath his solvency to save his personal freedom by the cession of his property; on the other hand it abolished the former summary proceedings in execution on a loan-debt, and laid down the rule that no Roman burgess could be led away to bondage except upon the sentence of jurymen.

Continued Distress

It is plain that all these expedients might perhaps in some respects mitigate, but could not remove, the existing economic disorders. The continuance of the distress is shown by the appointment of a bank-commission to regulate the relations of credit and to provide advances from the state-chest in 402, by the fixing of legal payment by instalments in 407, and above all by the dangerous popular insurrection about 467, when the people, unable to obtain new facilities for the payment of debts, marched out to the Janiculum, and nothing but a seasonable attack by external enemies, and the concessions contained in the Hortensian law,(10) restored peace to the community. It is, however, very unjust to reproach these earnest attempts to check the impoverishment of the middle class with their inadequacy. The belief that it is useless to employ partial and palliative means against radical evils, because they only remedy them in part, is an article of faith never preached unsuccessfully by baseness to simplicity, but it is none the less absurd. On the contrary, we may ask whether the vile spirit of demagogism had not even thus early laid hold of this matter, and whether expedients were really needed so violent and dangerous as, for example, the deduction of the interest paid from the capital. Our documents do not enable us to decide the question of right or wrong in the case. But we recognize clearly enough that the middle class of freeholders still continued economically in a perilous and critical position; that various endeavours were made by those in power to remedy it by prohibitory laws and by respites, but of course in vain; and that the aristocratic ruling class continued to be too weak in point of control over its members, and too much entangled in the selfish interests of its order, to relieve the middle class by the only effectual means at the disposal of the government—the entire and unreserved abolition of the system of occupying the state-lands—and by that course to free the government from the reproach of turning to its own advantage the oppressed position of the governed.

Influence of the Extension of the Roman Dominion in Elevating the Farmer-Class

A more effectual relief than any which the government was willing or able to give was derived by the middle classes from the political successes of the Roman community and the gradual consolidation of the Roman sovereignty over Italy. The numerous and large colonies which it was necessary to found for the securing of that sovereignty, the greater part of which were sent forth in the fifth century, furnished a portion of the agricultural proletariate with farms of their own, while the efflux gave relief to such as remained at home. The increase of the indirect and extraordinary sources of revenue, and the flourishing condition of the Roman finances in general, rendered it but seldom necessary to levy any contribution from the farmers in the form of a forced loan. While the earlier small holdings were probably lost beyond recovery, the rising average of Roman prosperity must have converted the former larger landholders into farmers, and in so far added new members to the middle class. People of rank sought principally to secure the large newly-acquired districts for occupation; the mass of wealth which flowed to Rome through war and commerce must have reduced the rate of interest; the increase in the population of the capital benefited the farmer throughout Latium; a wise system of incorporation united a number of neighbouring and formerly subject communities with the Roman state, and thereby strengthened especially the middle class; finally, the glorious victories and their mighty results silenced faction. If the distress of the farmers was by no means removed and still less were its sources stopped, it yet admits of no doubt that at the close of this period the Roman middle class was on the whole in a far less oppressed condition than in the first century after the expulsion of the kings.

Civic Equality

Lastly civic equality was in a certain sense undoubtedly attained or rather restored by the reform of 387, and the development of its legitimate consequences. As formerly, when the patricians still in fact formed the burgesses, these had stood upon a footing of absolute equality in rights and duties, so now in the enlarged burgess-body there existed in the eye of the law no arbitrary distinctions. The gradations to which differences of age, sagacity, cultivation, and wealth necessarily give rise in civil society, naturally also pervaded the sphere of public life; but the spirit animating the burgesses and the policy of the government uniformly operated so as to render these differences as little conspicuous as possible. The whole system of Rome tended to train up her burgesses on an average as sound and capable, but not to bring into prominence the gifts of genius. The growth of culture among the Romans did not at all keep pace with the development of the power of their community, and it was instinctively repressed rather than promoted by those in power. That there should be rich and poor, could not be prevented; but (as in a genuine community of farmers) the farmer as well as the day-labourer personally guided the plough, and even for the rich the good economic rule held good that they should live with uniform frugality and above all should hoard no unproductive capital at home—excepting the salt-cellar and the sacrificial ladle, no silver articles were at this period seen in any Roman house. Nor was this of little moment. In the mighty successes which the Roman community externally achieved during the century from the last Veientine down to the Pyrrhic war we perceive that the patriciate has now given place to the farmers; that the fall of the highborn Fabian would have been not more and not less lamented by the whole community than the fall of the plebeian Decian was lamented alike by plebeians and patricians; that the consulate did not of itself fall even to the wealthiest aristocrat; and that a poor husbandman from Sabina, Manius Curius, could conquer king Pyrrhus in the field of battle and chase him out of Italy, without ceasing to be a simple Sabine farmer and to cultivate in person his own bread-corn.

New Aristocracy

In regard however to this imposing republican equality we must not overlook the fact that it was to a considerable extent only formal, and that an aristocracy of a very decided stamp grew out of it or rather was contained in it from the very first. The non-patrician families of wealth and consideration had long ago separated from the plebs, and leagued themselves with the patriciate in the participation of senatorial rights and in the prosecution of a policy distinct from that of the plebs and very often counteracting it. The Licinian laws abrogated the legal distinctions within the ranks of the aristocracy, and changed the character of the barrier which excluded the plebeian from the government, so that it was no longer a hindrance unalterable in law, but one, not indeed insurmountable, but yet difficult to be surmounted in practice. In both ways fresh blood was mingled with the ruling order in Rome; but in itself the government still remained, as before, aristocratic. In this respect the Roman community was a genuine farmer-commonwealth, in which the rich holder of a whole hide was little distinguished externally from the poor cottager and held intercourse with him on equal terms, but aristocracy nevertheless exercised so all-powerful a sway that a man without means far sooner rose to be master of the burgesses in the city than mayor in his own village. It was a very great and valuable gain, that under the new legislation even the poorest burgess might fill the highest office of the state; nevertheless it was a rare exception when a man from the lower ranks of the population reached such a position,(11) and not only so, but probably it was, at least towards the close of this period, possible only by means of an election carried by the opposition.

New Opposition

Every aristocratic government of itself calls forth a corresponding opposition party; and as the formal equalization of the orders only modified the aristocracy, and the new ruling order not only succeeded the old patriciate but engrafted itself on it and intimately coalesced with it, the opposition also continued to exist and in all respects pursued a similar course. As it was now no longer the plebeian burgesses as such, but the common people, that were treated as inferior, the new opposition professed from the first to be the representative of the lower classes and particularly of the small farmers; and as the new aristocracy attached itself to the patriciate, so the first movements of this new opposition were interwoven with the final struggles against the privileges of the patricians. The first names in the series of these new Roman popular leaders were Manius Curius (consul 464, 479, 480; censor 481) and Gaius Fabricius (consul 472, 476, 481; censor 479); both of them men without ancestral lineage and without wealth, both summoned—in opposition to the aristocratic principle of restricting re-election to the highest office of the state—thrice by the votes of the burgesses to the chief magistracy, both, as tribunes, consuls, and censors, opponents of patrician privileges and defenders of the small farmer-class against the incipient arrogance of the leading houses. The future parties were already marked out; but the interests of party were still suspended on both sides in presence of the interests of the commonweal. The patrician Appius Claudius and the farmer Manius Curius—vehement in their personal antagonism—jointly by wise counsel and vigorous action conquered king Pyrrhus; and while Gaius Fabricius as censor inflicted penalties on Publius Cornelius Rufinus for his aristocratic sentiments and aristocratic habits, this did not prevent him from supporting the claim of Rufinus to a second consulate on account of his recognized ability as a general. The breach was already formed; but the adversaries still shook hands across it.

The New Government

The termination of the struggles between the old and new burgesses, the various and comparatively successful endeavours to relieve the middle class, and the germs—already making their appearance amidst the newly acquired civic equality—of the formation of a new aristocratic and a new democratic party, have thus been passed in review. It remains that we describe the shape which the new government assumed amidst these changes, and the positions in which after the political abolition of the nobility the three elements of the republican commonwealth—the burgesses, the magistrates, and the senate—stood towards each other.

The Burgess-Body— Its Composition

The burgesses in their ordinary assemblies continued as hitherto to be the highest authority in the commonwealth and the legal sovereign. But it was settled by law that—apart from the matters committed once for all to the decision of the centuries, such as the election of consuls and censors—voting by districts should be just as valid as voting by centuries: a regulation introduced as regards the patricio-plebeian assembly by the Valerio-Horatian law of 305(12) and extended by the Publilian law of 415, but enacted as regards the plebeian separate assembly by the Hortensian law about 467.(13) We have already noticed that the same individuals, on the whole, were entitled to vote in both assemblies, but that—apart from the exclusion of the patricians from the plebeian separate assembly—in the general assembly of the districts all entitled to vote were on a footing of equality, while in the centuriate comitia the working of the suffrage was graduated with reference to the means of the voters, and in so far, therefore, the change was certainly a levelling and democratic innovation. It was a circumstance of far greater importance that, towards the end of this period, the primitive freehold basis of the right of suffrage began for the first time to be called in question. Appius Claudius, the boldest innovator known in Roman history, in his censorship in 442 without consulting the senate or people so adjusted the burgess-roll, that a man who had no land was received into whatever tribe he chose and then according to his means into the corresponding century. But this alteration was too far in advance of the spirit of the age to obtain full acceptance. One of the immediate successors of Appius, Quintus Fabius Rullianus, the famous conqueror of the Samnites, undertook in his censorship of 450 not to set it aside entirely, but to confine it within such limits that the real power in the burgess-assemblies should continue to be vested in the holders of land and of wealth. He assigned those who had no land collectively to the four city tribes, which were now made to rank not as the first but as the last. The rural tribes, on the other hand, the number of which gradually increased between 367 and 513 from seventeen to thirty-one—thus forming a majority, greatly preponderating from the first and ever increasing in preponderance, of the voting-divisions—were reserved by law for the whole of the burgesses who were freeholders. In the centuries the equalization of the freeholders and non-freeholders remained as Appius had introduced it. In this manner provision was made for the preponderance of the freeholders in the comitia of the tribes, while for the centuriate comitia in themselves the wealthy already turned the scale. By this wise and moderate arrangement on the part of a man who for his warlike feats and still more for this peaceful achievement justly received the surname of the Great (-Maximus-), on the one hand the duty of bearing arms was extended, as was fitting, also to the non-freehold burgesses; on the other hand care was taken that their influence, especially that of those who had once been slaves and who were for the most part without property in land, should be subjected to that check which is unfortunately, in a state allowing slavery, an indispensable necessity. A peculiar moral jurisdiction, moreover, which gradually came to be associated with the census and the making up of the burgess-roll, excluded from the burgess-body all individuals notoriously unworthy, and guarded the full moral and political purity of citizenship.

Increasing Powers of the Burgesses

The powers of the comitia exhibited during this period a tendency to enlarge their range, but in a manner very gradual. The increase in the number of magistrates to be elected by the people falls, to some extent, under this head; it is an especially significant fact that from 392 the military tribunes of one legion, and from 443 four tribunes in each of the first four legions respectively, were nominated no longer by the general, but by the burgesses. During this period the burgesses did not on the whole interfere in administration; only their right of declaring war was, as was reasonable, emphatically maintained, and held to extend also to cases in which a prolonged armistice concluded instead of a peace expired and what was not in law but in fact a new war began (327). In other instances a question of administration was hardly submitted to the people except when the governing authorities fell into collision and one of them referred the matter to the people—as when the leaders of the moderate party among the nobility, Lucius Valerius and Marcus Horatius, in 305, and the first plebeian dictator, Gaius Marcius Rutilus, in 398, were not allowed by the senate to receive the triumphs they had earned; when the consuls of 459 could not agree as to their respective provinces of jurisdiction; and when the senate, in 364, resolved to give up to the Gauls an ambassador who had forgotten his duty, and a consular tribune carried the matter to the community. This was the first occasion on which a decree of the senate was annulled by the people; and heavily the community atoned for it. Sometimes in difficult cases the government left the decision to the people, as first, when Caere sued for peace, after the people had declared war against it but before war had actually begun (401); and at a subsequent period, when the senate hesitated to reject unceremoniously the humble entreaty of the Samnites for peace (436). It is not till towards the close of this epoch that we find a considerably extended intervention of the -comitia tributa- in affairs of administration, particularly through the practice of consulting it as to the conclusion of peace and of alliances: this extension probably dates from the Hortensian law of 467.

Decreasing Importance of the Burgess-Body

But notwithstanding these enlargements of the powers of the burgess-assemblies, their practical influence on state affairs began, particularly towards the close of this period, to wane. First of all, the extension of the bounds of Rome deprived her primary assembly of its true basis. As an assembly of the freeholders of the community, it formerly might very well meet in sufficiently full numbers, and might very well know its own wishes, even without discussion; but the Roman burgess-body had now become less a civic community than a state. The fact that those dwelling together voted also with each other, no doubt, introduced into the Roman comitia, at least when the voting was by tribes, a sort of inward connection and into the voting now and then energy and independence; but under ordinary circumstances the composition of the comitia and their decision were left dependent on the person who presided or on accident, or were committed to the hands of the burgesses domiciled in the capital. It is, therefore, quite easy to understand how the assemblies of the burgesses, which had great practical importance during the first two centuries of the republic, gradually became a mere instrument in the hands of the presiding magistrate, and in truth a very dangerous instrument, because the magistrates called to preside were so numerous, and every resolution of the community was regarded as the ultimate legal expression of the will of the people. But the enlargement of the constitutional rights of the burgesses was not of much moment, inasmuch as these were less than formerly capable of a will and action of their own, and there was as yet no demagogism, in the proper sense of that term, in Rome. Had any such demagogic spirit existed, it would have attempted not to extend the powers of the burgesses, but to remove the restrictions on political debate in their presence; whereas throughout this whole period there was undeviating acquiescence in the old maxims, that the magistrate alone could convoke the burgesses, and that he was entitled to exclude all debate and all proposal of amendments. At the time this incipient breaking up of the constitution made itself felt chiefly in the circumstance that the primary assemblies assumed an essentially passive attitude, and did not on the whole interfere in government either to help or to hinder it.

The Magistrates. Partition and Weakening of the Consular Powers

As regards the power of the magistrates, its diminution, although not the direct design of the struggles between the old and new burgesses, was doubtless one of their most important results. At the beginning of the struggle between the orders or, in other words, of the strife for the possession of the consular power, the consulate was still the one and indivisible, essentially regal, magistracy; and the consul, like the king in former times, still had the appointment of all subordinate functionaries left to his own free choice. At the termination of that contest its most important functions —jurisdiction, street-police, election of senators and equites, the census and financial administration —were separated from the consulship and transferred to magistrates, who like the consul were nominated by the community and occupied a position far more co-ordinate than subordinate. The consulate, formerly the single ordinary magistracy of the state, was now no longer even absolutely the first. In the new arrangement as to the ranking and usual order of succession of the public offices the consulate stood indeed above the praetorship, aedileship, and quaestorship, but beneath the censorship, which—in addition to the most important financial duties —was charged with the adjustment of the rolls of burgesses, equites, and senators, and thereby wielded a wholly arbitrary moral control over the entire community and every individual burgess, the humblest as well as the most prominent. The conception of limited magisterial power or special function, which seemed to the original Roman state-law irreconcilable with the conception of supreme office, gradually gained a footing and mutilated and destroyed the earlier idea of the one and indivisible -imperium-. A first step was already taken in this direction by the institution of the standing collateral offices, particularly the quaestorship;(14) it was completely carried out by the Licinian laws (387), which prescribed the functions of the three supreme magistrates, and assigned administration and the conduct of war to the two first, and the management of justice to the third. But the change did not stop here. The consuls, although they were in law wholly and everywhere co-ordinate, naturally from the earliest times divided between them in practice the different departments of duty (-provinciae-). Originally this was done simply by mutual concert, or in default of it by casting lots; but by degrees the other constituent authorities in the commonwealth interfered with this practical definition of functions. It became usual for the senate to define annually the spheres of duty; and, while it did not directly distribute them among the co-ordinate magistrates, it exercised decided influence on the personal distribution by advice and request. In an extreme case the senate doubtless obtained a decree of the community, definitively to settle the question of distribution;(15) the government, however, very seldom employed this dangerous expedient. Further, the most important affairs, such as the concluding of peace, were withdrawn from the consuls, and they were in such matters obliged to have recourse to the senate and to act according to its instructions. Lastly, in cases of extremity the senate could at any time suspend the consuls from office; for, according to an usage never established by law but never violated in practice, the creation of a dictatorship depended simply upon the resolution of the senate, and the fixing of the person to be nominated, although constitutionally vested in the nominating consul, really under ordinary circumstances lay with the senate.

Limitation of the Dictatorship

The old unity and plenary legal power of the -imperium- were retained longer in the case of the dictatorship than in that of the consulship. Although of course as an extraordinary magistracy it had in reality from the first its special functions, it had in law far less of a special character than the consulate. But it also was gradually affected by the new idea of definite powers and functions introduced into the legal life of Rome. In 391 we first meet with a dictator expressly nominated from theological scruples for the mere accomplishment of a religious ceremony; and though that dictator himself, doubtless in formal accordance with the constitution, treated the restriction of his powers as null and took the command of the army in spite of it, such an opposition on the part of the magistrate was not repeated on occasion of the subsequent similarly restricted nominations, which occurred in 403 and thenceforward very frequently. On the contrary, the dictators thenceforth accounted themselves bound by their powers as specially defined.

Restriction as to the Accumulation and the Reoccupation of Offices

Lastly, further seriously felt restrictions of the magistracy were involved in the prohibition issued in 412 against the accumulation of the ordinary curule offices, and in the enactment of the same date, that the same person should not again administer the same office under ordinary circumstances before an interval of ten years had elapsed, as well as in the subsequent regulation that the office which practically was the highest, the censorship, should not be held a second time at all (489). But the government was still strong enough not to be afraid of its instruments or to desist purposely on that account from employing those who were the most serviceable. Brave officers were very frequently released from these rules,(16) and cases still occurred like those of Quintus Fabius Rullianus, who was five times consul in twenty-eight years, and of Marcus Valerius Corvus (384-483) who, after he had filled six consulships, the first in his twenty-third, the last in his seventy-second year, and had been throughout three generations the protector of his countrymen and the terror of the foe, descended to the grave at the age of a hundred.

The Tribunate of the People as an Instrument of Government

While the Roman magistrate was thus more and more completely and definitely transformed from the absolute lord into the limited commissioner and administrator of the community, the old counter-magistracy, the tribunate of the people, was undergoing at the same time a similar transformation internal rather than external. It served a double purpose in the commonwealth. It had been from the beginning intended to protect the humble and the weak by a somewhat revolutionary assistance (-auxilium-) against the overbearing violence of the magistrates; it had subsequently been employed to get rid of the legal disabilities of the commons and the privileges of the gentile nobility. The latter end was attained. The original object was not only in itself a democratic ideal rather than a political possibility, but it was also quite as obnoxious to the plebeian aristocracy into whose hands the tribunate necessarily fell, and quite as incompatible with the new organization which originated in the equalization of the orders and had if possible a still more decided aristocratic hue than that which preceded it, as it was obnoxious to the gentile nobility and incompatible with the patrician consular constitution. But instead of abolishing the tribunate, they preferred to convert it from a weapon of opposition into an instrument of government, and now introduced the tribunes of the people, who were originally excluded from all share in administration and were neither magistrates nor members of the senate, into the class of governing authorities.

While in jurisdiction they stood from the beginning on an equality with the consuls and in the early stages of the conflicts between the orders acquired like the consuls the right of initiating legislation, they now received—we know not exactly when, but presumably at or soon after the final equalization of the orders—a position of equality with the consuls as confronting the practically governing authority, the senate. Hitherto they had been present at the proceedings of the senate, sitting on a bench at the door; now they obtained, like the other magistrates and by their side, a place in the senate itself and the right to interpose their word in its discussions. If they were precluded from the right of voting, this was simply an application of the general principle of Roman state-law, that those only should give counsel who were not called to act; in accordance with which the whole of the acting magistrates possessed during their year of office only a seat, not a vote, in the council of the state.(17) But concession did not rest here. The tribunes received the distinctive prerogative of supreme magistracy, which among the ordinary magistrates belonged only to the consuls and praetors besides—the right of convoking the senate, of consulting it, and of procuring decrees from it.(18) This was only as it should be; the heads of the plebeian aristocracy could not but be placed on an equality with those of the patrician aristocracy in the senate, when once the government had passed from the clan-nobility to the united aristocracy. Now that this opposition-college, originally excluded from all share in the public administration, became—particularly with reference to strictly urban affairs—a second supreme executive and one of the most usual and most serviceable instruments of the government, or in other words of the senate, for managing the burgesses and especially for checking the excesses of the magistrates, it was certainly, as respected its original character, absorbed and politically annihilated; but this course was really enjoined by necessity. Clearly as the defects of the Roman aristocracy were apparent, and decidedly as the steady growth of aristocratic ascendency was connected with the practical setting aside of the tribunate, none can fail to see that government could not be long carried on with an authority which was not only aimless and virtually calculated to put off the suffering proletariate with a deceitful prospect of relief, but was at the same time decidedly revolutionary and possessed of a—strictly speaking —anarchical prerogative of obstruction to the authority of the magistrates and even of the state itself. But that faith in an ideal, which is the foundation of all the power and of all the impotence of democracy, had come to be closely associated in the minds of the Romans with the tribunate of the plebs; and we do not need to recall the case of Cola Rienzi in order to perceive that, however unsubstantial might be the advantage thence arising to the multitude, it could not be abolished without a formidable convulsion of the state. Accordingly with genuine political prudence they contented themselves with reducing it to a nullity under forms that should attract as little attention as possible. The mere name of this essentially revolutionary magistracy was still retained within the aristocratically governed commonwealth—an incongruity for the present, and for the future, in the hands of a coming revolutionary party, a sharp and dangerous weapon. For the moment, however, and for a long time to come the aristocracy was so absolutely powerful and so completely possessed control over the tribunate, that no trace at all is to be met with of a collegiate opposition on the part of the tribunes to the senate; and the government overcame the forlorn movements of opposition that now and then proceeded from individual tribunes, always without difficulty, and ordinarily by means of the tribunate itself.

The Senate. Its Composition

In reality it was the senate that governed the commonwealth, and did so almost without opposition after the equalization of the orders. Its very composition had undergone a change. The free prerogative of the chief magistrates in this matter, as it had been exercised after the setting aside of the old clan-representation,(19) had been already subjected to very material restrictions on the abolition of the presidency for life.(20)

A further step towards the emancipation of the senate from the power of the magistrates took place, when the adjustment of the senatorial lists was transferred from the supreme magistrates to subordinate functionaries—from the consuls to the censors.(21) Certainly, whether immediately at that time or soon afterwards, the right of the magistrate entrusted with the preparation of the list to omit from it individual senators on account of a stain attaching to them and thereby to exclude them from the senate was, if not introduced, at least more precisely defined,(22) and in this way the foundations were laid of that peculiar jurisdiction over morals on which the high repute of the censors was chiefly based.(23) But censures of that sort—especially since the two censors had to be at one on the matter —might doubtless serve to remove particular persons who did not contribute to the credit of the assembly or were hostile to the spirit prevailing there, but could not bring the body itself into dependence on the magistracy.

But the right of the magistrates to constitute the senate according to their judgment was decidedly restricted by the Ovinian law, which was passed about the middle of this period, probably soon after the Licinian laws. That law at once conferred a seat and vote in the senate provisionally on every one who had been curule aedile, praetor, or consul, and bound the next censors either formally to inscribe these expectants in the senatorial roll, or at any rate to exclude them from the roll only for such reasons as sufficed for the rejection of an actual senator. The number of those, however, who had been magistrates was far from sufficing to keep the senate up to the normal number of three hundred; and below that point it could not be allowed to fall, especially as the list of senators was at the same time that of jurymen. Considerable room was thus always left for the exercise of the censorial right of election; but those senators who were chosen not in consequence of having held office, but by selection on the part of the censor—frequently burgesses who had filled a non-curule public office, or distinguished themselves by personal valour, who had killed an enemy in battle or saved the life of a burgess—took part in voting, but not in debate.(24) The main body of the senate, and that portion of it into whose hands government and administration were concentrated, was thus according to the Ovinian law substantially based no longer on the arbitrary will of a magistrate, but indirectly on election by the people. The Roman state in this way made some approach to, although it did not reach, the great institution of modern times, representative popular government, while the aggregate of the non-debating senators furnished—what it is so necessary and yet so difficult to get in governing corporations—a compact mass of members capable of forming and entitled to pronounce an opinion, but voting in silence.

Powers of the Senate

The powers of the senate underwent scarcely any change in form. The senate carefully avoided giving a handle to opposition or to ambition by unpopular changes, or manifest violations, of the constitution; it permitted, though it did nor promote, the enlargement in a democratic direction of the power of the burgesses. But while the burgesses acquired the semblance, the senate acquired the substance of power —a decisive influence over legislation and the official elections, and the whole control of the state.

Its Influence in Legislation

Every new project of law was subjected to a preliminary deliberation in the senate, and scarcely ever did a magistrate venture to lay a proposal before the community without or in opposition to the senate's opinion. If he did so, the senate had—in the intercessory powers of the magistrates and the annulling powers of the priests—an ample set of means at hand to nip in the bud, or subsequently to get rid of, obnoxious proposals; and in case of extremity it had in its hands as the supreme administrative authority not only the executing, but the power of refusing to execute, the decrees of the community. The senate further with tacit consent of the community claimed the right in urgent cases of absolving from the laws, under the reservation that the community should ratify the proceeding—a reservation which from the first was of little moment, and became by degrees so entirely a form that in later times they did not even take the trouble to propose the ratifying decree.

Influence on the Elections

As to the elections, they passed, so far as they depended on the magistrates and were of political importance, practically into the hands of the senate. In this way it acquired, as has been mentioned already,(25) the right to appoint the dictator. Great regard had certainly to be shown to the community; the right of bestowing the public magistracies could not be withdrawn from it; but, as has likewise been already observed, care was taken that this election of magistrates should not be constructed into the conferring of definite functions, especially of the posts of supreme command when war was imminent. Moreover the newly introduced idea of special functions on the one hand, and on the other the right practically conceded to the senate of dispensation from the laws, gave to it an important share in official appointments. Of the influence which the senate exercised in settling the official spheres of the consuls in particular, we have already spoken.(26) One of the most important applications of the dispensing right was the dispensation of the magistrate from the legal term of his tenure of office—a dispensation which, as contrary to the fundamental laws of the community, might not according to Roman state-law be granted in the precincts of the city proper, but beyond these was at least so far valid that the consul or praetor, whose term was prolonged, continued after its expiry to discharge his functions "in a consul's or praetor's stead" (-pro consule- -pro praetore-). Of course this important right of extending the term of office —essentially on a par with the right of nomination—belonged by law to the community alone, and at the beginning was in fact exercised by it; but in 447, and regularly thenceforward, the command of the commander-in-chief was prolonged by mere decree of the senate. To this was added, in fine, the preponderating and skilfully concerted influence of the aristocracy over the elections, which guided them ordinarily, although not always, to the choice of candidates agreeable to the government.

Senatorial Government

Finally as regards administration, war, peace and alliances, the founding of colonies, the assignation of lands, building, in fact every matter of permanent and general importance, and in particular the whole system of finance, depended absolutely on the senate. It was the senate which annually issued general instructions to the magistrates, settling their spheres of duty and limiting the troops and moneys to be placed at the disposal of each; and recourse was had to its counsel in every case of importance. The keepers of the state-chest could make no payment to any magistrate with the exception of the consul, or to any private person, unless authorized by a previous decree of the senate. In the management, however, of current affairs and in the details of judicial and military administration the supreme governing corporation did not interfere; the Roman aristocracy had too much political judgment and tact to desire to convert the control of the commonwealth into a guardianship over the individual official, or to turn the instrument into a machine.

That this new government of the senate amidst all its retention of existing forms involved a complete revolutionizing of the old commonwealth, is clear. That the free action of the burgesses should be arrested and benumbed; that the magistrates should be reduced to be the presidents of its sittings and its executive commissioners; that a corporation for the mere tendering of advice should seize the inheritance of both the authorities sanctioned by the constitution and should become, although under very modest forms, the central government of the state—these were steps of revolution and usurpation. Nevertheless, if any revolution or any usurpation appears justified before the bar of history by exclusive ability to govern, even its rigorous judgment must acknowledge that this corporation timeously comprehended and worthily fulfilled its great task. Called to power not by the empty accident of birth, but substantially by the free choice of the nation; confirmed every fifth year by the stern moral judgment of the worthiest men; holding office for life, and so not dependent on the expiration of its commission or on the varying opinion of the people; having its ranks close and united ever after the equalization of the orders; embracing in it all the political intelligence and practical statesmanship that the people possessed; absolute in dealing with all financial questions and in the guidance of foreign policy; having complete power over the executive by virtue of its brief duration and of the tribunician intercession which was at the service of the senate after the termination of the quarrels between the orders—the Roman senate was the noblest organ of the nation, and in consistency and political sagacity, in unanimity and patriotism, in grasp of power and unwavering courage, the foremost political corporation of all times—still even now an "assembly of kings," which knew well how to combine despotic energy with republican self-devotion. Never was a state represented in its external relations more firmly and worthily than Rome in its best times by its senate. In matters of internal administration it certainly cannot be concealed that the moneyed and landed aristocracy, which was especially represented in the senate, acted with partiality in affairs that bore upon its peculiar interests, and that the sagacity and energy of the body were often in such cases employed far from beneficially to the state. Nevertheless the great principle established amidst severe conflicts, that all Roman burgesses were equal in the eye of the law as respected rights and duties, and the opening up of a political career (or in other words, of admission to the senate) to every one, which was the result of that principle, concurred with the brilliance of military and political successes in preserving the harmony of the state and of the nation, and relieved the distinction of classes from that bitterness and malignity which marked the struggle of the patricians and plebeians. And, as the fortunate turn taken by external politics had the effect of giving the rich for more than a century ample space for themselves and rendered it unnecessary that they should oppress the middle class, the Roman people was enabled by means of its senate to carry out for a longer term than is usually granted to a people the grandest of all human undertakings—a wise and happy self-government.



Notes for Book II Chapter III

1. The hypothesis that legally the full -imperium- belonged to the patrician, and only the military -imperium- to the plebeian, consular tribunes, not only provokes various questions to which there is no answer—as to the course followed, for example, in the event of the election falling, as was by law quite possible, wholly on plebeians —but specially conflicts with the fundamental principle of Roman constitutional law, that the -imperium-, that is to say, the right of commanding the burgess in name of the community, was functionally indivisible and capable of no other limitation at all than a territorial one. There was a province of urban law and a province of military law, in the latter of which the -provocatio- and other regulations of urban law were not applicable; there were magistrates, such as the proconsuls, who were empowered to discharge functions simply in the latter; but there were, in the strict sense of law, no magistrates with merely jurisdictional, as there were none with merely military, -imperium-. The proconsul was in his province, just like the consul, at once commander-in-chief and supreme judge, and was entitled to send to trial actions not only between non-burgesses and soldiers, but also between one burgess and another. Even when, on the institution of the praetorship, the idea rose of apportioning special functions to the -magistratus maiores-, this division of powers had more of a practical than of a strictly legal force; the -praetor urbanus- was primarily indeed the supreme judge, but he could also convoke the centuries, at least for certain cases, and could command an army; the consul in the city held primarily the supreme administration and the supreme command, but he too acted as a judge in cases of emancipation and adoption—the functional indivisibility of the supreme magistracy was therefore, even in these instances, very strictly adhered to on both sides. Thus the military as well as jurisdictional authority, or, laying aside these abstractions foreign to the Roman law of this period, the absolute magisterial power, must have virtually pertained to the plebeian consular tribunes as well as to the patrician. But it may well be, as Becker supposes (Handb. ii. 2, 137), that, for the same reasons, for which at a subsequent period there was placed alongside of the consulship common to both orders the praetorship actually reserved for a considerable time for the patricians, even during the consular tribunate the plebeian members of the college were -de facto- kept aloof from jurisdiction, and so far the consular tribunate prepared the way for the subsequent actual division of jurisdiction between consuls and praetors.

2. I. VI. Political Effects of the Servian Military Organization

3. The defence, that the aristocracy clung to the exclusion of the plebeians from religious prejudice, mistakes the fundamental character of the Roman religion, and imports into antiquity the modern distinction between church and state. The admittance of a non-burgess to a religious ceremony of the citizens could not indeed but appear sinful to the orthodox Roman; but even the most rigid orthodoxy never doubted that admittance to civic communion, which absolutely and solely depended on the state, involved also full religious equality. All such scruples of conscience, the honesty of which in themselves we do not mean to doubt, were precluded, when once they granted to the plebeians -en masse- at the right time the patriciate. This only may perhaps be alleged by way of excuse for the nobility, that after it had neglected the right moment for this purpose at the abolition of the monarchy, it was no longer in a position subsequently of itself to retrieve the neglect (II. I. The New Community).

4. Whether this distinction between these "curule houses" and the other families embraced within the patriciate was ever of serious political importance, cannot with certainty be either affirmed or denied; and as little do we know whether at this epoch there really was any considerable number of patrician families that were not yet curule.

5. II. II. The Valerio-Horatian Laws

6. I. XII. Foreign Worships

7. II. I. Senate,

8. II. I. Senate, II. III. Opposition of the Patriciate

9. II. II. Legislation of the Twelve Tables

10. II. III. Equivalence Law and Plebiscitum

11. The statements as to the poverty of the consulars of this period, which play so great a part in the moral anecdote-books of a later age, mainly rest on a misunderstanding on the one hand of the old frugal economy—which might very well consist with considerable prosperity —and on the other hand of the beautiful old custom of burying men who had deserved well of the state from the proceeds of penny collections —which was far from being a pauper burial. The method also of explaining surnames by etymological guess-work, which has imported so many absurdities into Roman history, has furnished its quota to this belief (-Serranus-).

12. II. II. The Valerio-Horatian Laws

13. II. III. Equivalence Law and Plebiscitum

14. II. I. Restrictions on the Delegation of Powers

15. II. III. Increasing Powers of the Burgesses

16. Any one who compares the consular Fasti before and after 412 will have no doubt as to the existence of the above-mentioned law respecting re-election to the consulate; for, while before that year a return to office, especially after three or four years, was a common occurrence, afterwards intervals of ten years and more were as frequent. Exceptions, however, occur in very great numbers, particularly during the severe years of war 434-443. On the other hand, the principle of not allowing a plurality of offices was strictly adhered to. There is no certain instance of the combination of two of the three ordinary curule (Liv. xxxix. 39, 4) offices (the consulate, praetorship, and curule aedileship), but instances occur of other combinations, such as of the curule aedileship and the office of master of the horse (Liv. xxiii. 24, 30); of the praetorship and censorship (Fast. Cap. a. 501); of the praetorship and the dictatorship (Liv. viii. 12); of the consulate and the dictatorship (Liv. viii. 12).

17. II. I. Senate

18. Hence despatches intended for the senate were addressed to Consuls, Praetors, Tribunes of the Plebs, and Senate (Cicero, ad Fam. xv. 2, et al.)

19. I. V. The Senate

20. II. I. Senate

21. II. III. Censorship

22. This prerogative and the similar ones with reference to the equestrian and burgess-lists were perhaps not formally and legally assigned to the censors, but were always practically implied in their powers. It was the community, not the censor, that conferred burgess-rights; but the person, to whom the latter in making up the list of persons entitled to vote did not assign a place or assigned an inferior one, did not lose his burgess-right, but could not exercise the privileges of a burgess, or could only exercise them in the inferior place, till the preparation of a new list. The same was the case with the senate; the person omitted by the censor from his list ceased to attend the senate, as long as the list in question remained valid—unless the presiding magistrate should reject it and reinstate the earlier list. Evidently therefore the important question in this respect was not so much what was the legal liberty of the censors, as how far their authority availed with those magistrates who had to summon according to their lists. Hence it is easy to understand how this prerogative gradually rose in importance, and how with the increasing consolidation of the nobility such erasures assumed virtually the form of judicial decisions and were virtually respected as such. As to the adjustment of the senatorial list undoubtedly the enactment of the Ovinian -plebiscitum- exercised a material share of influence—that the censors should admit to the senate "the best men out of all classes."

23. II. III. The Burgess-Body. Its Composition

24. II. III. Complete Opening Up of Magistracies and Priesthoods

25. II. III. Restrictions as to the Accumulation and the Reoccupation of Offices

26. II. III. Partition and Weakening of Consular Powers



CHAPTER IV

Fall of the Etruscan Power-the Celts

Etrusco-Carthaginian Maritime Supremacy

In the previous chapters we have presented an outline of the development of the Roman constitution during the first two centuries of the republic; we now recur to the commencement of that epoch for the purpose of tracing the external history of Rome and of Italy. About the time of the expulsion of the Tarquins from Rome the Etruscan power had reached its height. The Tuscans, and the Carthaginians who were in close alliance with them, possessed undisputed supremacy on the Tyrrhene Sea. Although Massilia amidst continual and severe struggles maintained her independence, the seaports of Campania and of the Volscian land, and after the battle of Alalia Corsica also,(1) were in the possession of the Etruscans. In Sardinia the sons of the Carthaginian general Mago laid the foundation of the greatness both of their house and of their city by the complete conquest of the island (about 260); and in Sicily, while the Hellenic colonies were occupied with their internal feuds, the Phoenicians retained possession of the western half without material opposition. The vessels of the Etruscans were no less dominant in the Adriatic; and their pirates were dreaded even in the more eastern waters.

Subjugation of Latium by Etruria

By land also their power seemed to be on the increase. To acquire possession of Latium was of the most decisive importance to Etruria, which was separated by the Latins alone from the Volscian towns that were dependent on it and from its possessions in Campania. Hitherto the firm bulwark of the Roman power had sufficiently protected Latium, and had successfully maintained against Etruria the frontier line of the Tiber. But now, when the whole Tuscan league, taking advantage of the confusion and the weakness of the Roman state after the expulsion of the Tarquins, renewed its attack more energetically than before under the king Lars Porsena of Clusium, it no longer encountered the wonted resistance. Rome surrendered, and in the peace (assigned to 247) not only ceded all her possessions on the right bank of the Tiber to the adjacent Tuscan communities and thus abandoned her exclusive command of the river, but also delivered to the conqueror all her weapons of war and promised to make use of iron thenceforth only for the ploughshare. It seemed as if the union of Italy under Tuscan supremacy was not far distant.

Etruscans Driven Back from Latium— Fall of the Etrusco-Carthaginian Maritime Supremacy— Victories of Salamis and Himera, and Their Effects

But the subjugation, with which the coalition of the Etruscan and Carthaginian nations had threatened both Greeks and Italians, was fortunately averted by the combination of peoples drawn towards each other by family affinity as well as by common peril. The Etruscan army, which after the fall of Rome had penetrated into Latium, had its victorious career checked in the first instance before the walls of Aricia by the well-timed intervention of the Cumaeans who had hastened to the succour of the Aricines (248). We know not how the war ended, nor, in particular, whether Rome even at that time tore up the ruinous and disgraceful peace. This much only is certain, that on this occasion also the Tuscans were unable to maintain their ground permanently on the left bank of the Tiber.

Soon the Hellenic nation was forced to engage in a still more comprehensive and still more decisive conflict with the barbarians both of the west and of the east. It was about the time of the Persian wars. The relation in which the Tyrians stood to the great king led Carthage also to follow in the wake of Persian policy —there exists a credible tradition even as to an alliance between the Carthaginians and Xerxes—and, along with the Carthaginians, the Etruscans. It was one of the grandest of political combinations which simultaneously directed the Asiatic hosts against Greece, and the Phoenician hosts against Sicily, to extirpate at a blow liberty and civilization from the face of the earth. The victory remained with the Hellenes. The battle of Salamis (274) saved and avenged Hellas proper; and on the same day—so runs the story—the rulers of Syracuse and Agrigentum, Gelon and Theron, vanquished the immense army of the Carthaginian general Hamilcar, son of Mago, at Himera so completely, that the war was thereby terminated, and the Phoenicians, who by no means cherished at that time the project of subduing the whole of Sicily on their own account, returned to their previous defensive policy. Some of the large silver pieces are still preserved which were coined for this campaign from the ornaments of Damareta, the wife of Gelon, and other noble Syracusan dames: and the latest times gratefully remembered the gentle and brave king of Syracuse and the glorious victory whose praises Simonides sang.

The immediate effect of the humiliation of Carthage was the fall of the maritime supremacy of her Etruscan allies. Anaxilas, ruler of Rhegium and Zancle, had already closed the Sicilian straits against their privateers by means of a standing fleet (about 272); soon afterwards (280) the Cumaeans and Hiero of Syracuse achieved a decisive victory near Cumae over the Tyrrhene fleet, to which the Carthaginians vainly attempted to render aid. This is the victory which Pindar celebrates in his first Pythian ode; and there is still extant an Etruscan helmet, which Hiero sent to Olympia, with the inscription: "Hiaron son of Deinomenes and the Syrakosians to Zeus, Tyrrhane spoil from Kyma."(2)

Maritime Supremacy of the Tarentines and Syracusans— Dionysius of Syracuse

While these extraordinary successes against the Carthaginians and Etruscans placed Syracuse at the head of the Greek cities in Sicily, the Doric Tarentum rose to undisputed pre-eminence among the Italian Hellenes, after the Achaean Sybaris had fallen about the time of the expulsion of the kings from Rome (243). The terrible defeat of the Tarentines by the Iapygians (280), the most severe disaster which a Greek army had hitherto sustained, served only, like the Persian invasion of Hellas, to unshackle the whole might of the national spirit in the development of an energetic democracy. Thenceforth the Carthaginians and the Etruscans were no longer paramount in the Italian waters; the Tarentines predominated in the Adriatic and Ionic, the Massiliots and Syracusans in the Tyrrhene, seas. The latter in particular restricted more and more the range of Etruscan piracy. After the victory at Cumae, Hiero had occupied the island of Aenaria (Ischia), and by that means interrupted the communication between the Campanian and the northern Etruscans. About the year 302, with a view thoroughly to check Tuscan piracy, Syracuse sent forth a special expedition, which ravaged the island of Corsica and the Etruscan coast and occupied the island of Aethalia (Elba). Although Etrusco-Carthaginian piracy was not wholly repressed—Antium, for example, having apparently continued a haunt of privateering down to the beginning of the fifth century of Rome—the powerful Syracuse formed a strong bulwark against the allied Tuscans and Phoenicians. For a moment, indeed, it seemed as if the Syracusan power must be broken by the attack of the Athenians, whose naval expedition against Syracuse in the course of the Peloponnesian war (339-341) was supported by the Etruscans, old commercial friends of Athens, with three fifty-oared galleys. But the victory remained, as is well known, both in the west and in the east with the Dorians. After the ignominious failure of the Attic expedition, Syracuse became so indisputably the first Greek maritime power that the men, who were there at the head of the state, aspired to the sovereignty of Sicily and Lower Italy, and of both the Italian seas; while on the other hand the Carthaginians, who saw their dominion in Sicily now seriously in danger, were on their part also obliged to make, and made, the subjugation of the Syracusans and the reduction of the whole island the aim of their policy. We cannot here narrate the decline of the intermediate Sicilian states, and the increase of the Carthaginian power in the island, which were the immediate results of these struggles; we notice their effect only so far as Etruria is concerned. The new ruler of Syracuse, Dionysius (who reigned 348-387), inflicted on Etruria blows which were severely felt. The far-scheming king laid the foundation of his new colonial power especially in the sea to the east of Italy, the more northern waters of which now became, for the first time, subject to a Greek maritime power. About the year 367, Dionysius occupied and colonized the port of Lissus and island of Issa on the Illyrian coast, and the ports of Ancona, Numana, and Atria, on the coast of Italy. The memory of the Syracusan dominion in this remote region is preserved not only by the "trenches of Philistus," a canal constructed at the mouth of the Po beyond doubt by the well-known historian and friend of Dionysius who spent the years of his exile (368 et seq.) at Atria, but also by the alteration in the name of the Italian eastern sea itself, which from this time forth, instead of its earlier designation of the "Ionic Gulf",(3) received the appellation still current at the present day, and probably referable to these events, of the sea "of Hadria."(4) But not content with these attacks on the possessions and commercial communications of the Etruscans in the eastern sea, Dionysius assailed the very heart of the Etruscan power by storming and plundering Pyrgi, the rich seaport of Caere (369). From this blow it never recovered. When the internal disturbances that followed the death of Dionysius in Syracuse gave the Carthaginians freer scope, and their fleet resumed in the Tyrrhene sea that ascendency which with but slight interruptions they thenceforth maintained, it proved a burden no less grievous to Etruscans than to Greeks; so that, when Agathocles of Syracuse in 444 was making preparations for war with Carthage, he was even joined by eighteen Tuscan vessels of war. The Etruscans perhaps had their fears in regard to Corsica, which they probably still at that time retained. The old Etrusco-Phoenician symmachy, which still existed in the time of Aristotle (370-432), was thus broken up; but the Etruscans never recovered their maritime strength.

The Romans Opposed to the Etruscans in Veii

This rapid collapse of the Etruscan maritime power would be inexplicable but for the circumstance that, at the very time when the Sicilian Greeks were attacking them by sea, the Etruscans found themselves assailed with the severest blows oil every side by land. About the time of the battles of Salamis, Himera, and Cumae a furious war raged for many years, according to the accounts of the Roman annals, between Rome and Veii (271-280). The Romans suffered in its course severe defeats. Tradition especially preserved the memory of the catastrophe of the Fabii (277), who had in consequence of internal commotions voluntarily banished themselves from the capital(4) and had undertaken the defence of the frontier against Etruria, and who were slain to the last man capable of bearing arms at the brook Cremera. But the armistice for 400 months, which in room of a peace terminated the war, was so far favourable to the Romans that it at least restored the -status quo- of the regal period; the Etruscans gave up Fidenae and the district won by them on the right bank of the Tiber. We cannot ascertain how far this Romano-Etruscan war was connected directly with the war between the Hellenes and the Persians, and with that between the Sicilians and Carthaginians; but whether the Romans were or were not allies of the victors of Salamis and of Himera, there was at any rate a coincidence of interests as well as of results.

The Samnites Opposed to the Etruscans in Campania

The Samnites as well as the Latins threw themselves upon the Etruscans; and hardly had their Campanian settlement been cut off from the motherland in consequence of the battle of Cumae, when it found itself no longer able to resist the assaults of the Sabellian mountain tribes. Capua, the capital, fell in 330; and the Tuscan population there was soon after the conquest extirpated or expelled by the Samnites. It is true that the Campanian Greeks also, isolated and weakened, suffered severely from the same invasion: Cumae itself was conquered by the Sabellians in 334. But the Hellenes maintained their ground at Neapolis especially, perhaps with the aid of the Syracusans, while the Etruscan name in Campania disappeared from history —excepting some detached Etruscan communities, which prolonged a pitiful and forlorn existence there.

Events still more momentous, however, occurred about the same time in Northern Italy. A new nation was knocking at the gates of the Alps: it was the Celts; and their first pressure fell on the Etruscans.

The Celtic, Galatian, or Gallic nation received from the common mother endowments different from those of its Italian, Germanic, and Hellenic sisters. With various solid qualities and still more that were brilliant, it was deficient in those deeper moral and political qualifications which lie at the root of all that is good and great in human development. It was reckoned disgraceful, Cicero tells us, for the free Celts to till their fields with their own hands. They preferred a pastoral life to agriculture; and even in the fertile plains of the Po they chiefly practised the rearing of swine, feeding on the flesh of their herds, and staying with them in the oak forests day and night. Attachment to their native soil, such as characterized the Italians and the Germans, was wanting in the Celts; while on the other hand they delighted to congregate in towns and villages, which accordingly acquired magnitude and importance among the Celts earlier apparently than in Italy. Their political constitution was imperfect. Not only was the national unity recognized but feebly as a bond of connection—as is, in fact, the case with all nations at first—but the individual communities were deficient in concord and firm control, in earnest public spirit and consistency of aim. The only organization for which they were fitted was a military one, where the bonds of discipline relieved the individual from the troublesome task of self-control. "The prominent qualities of the Celtic race," says their historian Thierry, "were personal bravery, in which they excelled all nations; an open impetuous temperament, accessible to every impression; much intelligence, but at the same time extreme mobility, want of perseverance, aversion to discipline and order, ostentation and perpetual discord—the result of boundless vanity." Cato the Elder more briefly describes them, nearly to the same effect; "the Celts devote themselves mainly to two things—fighting and -esprit-."(6) Such qualities—those of good soldiers but of bad citizens—explain the historical fact, that the Celts have shaken all states and have founded none. Everywhere we find them ready to rove or, in other words, to march; preferring moveable property to landed estate, and gold to everything else; following the profession of arms as a system of organized pillage or even as a trade for hire, and with such success at all events that even the Roman historian Sallust acknowledges that the Celts bore off the prize from the Romans in feats of arms. They were the true soldiers-of-fortune of antiquity, as figures and descriptions represent them: with big but not sinewy bodies, with shaggy hair and long mustaches—quite a contrast to the Greeks and Romans, who shaved the head and upper lip; in variegated embroidered dresses, which in combat were not unfrequently thrown off; with a broad gold ring round the neck; wearing no helmets and without missile weapons of any sort, but furnished instead with an immense shield, a long ill-tempered sword, a dagger and a lance—all ornamented with gold, for they were not unskilful at working in metals. Everything was made subservient to ostentation, even wounds, which were often subsequently enlarged for the purpose of boasting a broader scar. Usually they fought on foot, but certain tribes on horseback, in which case every freeman was followed by two attendants likewise mounted; war-chariots were early in use, as they were among the Libyans and the Hellenes in the earliest times. Various traits remind us of the chivalry of the Middle Ages; particularly the custom of single combat, which was foreign to the Greeks and Romans. Not only were they accustomed during war to challenge a single enemy to fight, after having previously insulted him by words and gestures; during peace also they fought with each other in splendid suits of armour, as for life or death. After such feats carousals followed as a matter of course. In this way they led, whether under their own or a foreign banner, a restless soldier-life; they were dispersed from Ireland and Spain to Asia Minor, constantly occupied in fighting and so-called feats of heroism. But all their enterprises melted away like snow in spring; and nowhere did they create a great state or develop a distinctive culture of their own.

Celtic Migrations— The Celts Assail the Etruscans in Northern Italy

Such is the description which the ancients give us of this nation. Its origin can only be conjectured. Sprung from the same cradle from which the Hellenic, Italian, and Germanic peoples issued,(7) the Celts doubtless like these migrated from their eastern motherland into Europe, where at a very early period they reached the western ocean and established their headquarters in what is now France, crossing to settle in the British isles on the north, and on the south passing the Pyrenees and contending with the Iberian tribes for the possession of the peninsula. This, their first great migration, flowed past the Alps, and it was from the lands to the westward that they first began those movements of smaller masses in the opposite direction—movements which carried them over the Alps and the Haemus and even over the Bosporus, and by means of which they became and for many centuries continued to be the terror of the whole civilized nations of antiquity, till the victories of Caesar and the frontier defence organized by Augustus for ever broke their power.

The native legend of their migrations, which has been preserved to us mainly by Livy, relates the story of these later retrograde movements as follows.(8) The Gallic confederacy, which was headed then as in the time of Caesar by the canton of the Bituriges (around Bourges), sent forth in the days of king Ambiatus two great hosts led by the two nephews of the king. One of these nephews, Sigovesus, crossed the Rhine and advanced in the direction of the Black Forest, while the second, Bellovesus, crossed the Graian Alps (the Little St. Bernard) and descended into the valley of the Po. From the former proceeded the Gallic settlement on the middle Danube; from the latter the oldest Celtic settlement in the modern Lombardy, the canton of the Insubres with Mediolanum (Milan) as its capital. Another host soon followed, which founded the canton of the Cenomani with the towns of Brixia (Brescia) and Verona. Ceaseless streams thenceforth poured over the Alps into the beautiful plain; the Celtic tribes with the Ligurians whom they dislodged and swept along with them wrested place after place from the Etruscans, till the whole left bank of the Po was in their hands. After the fall of the rich Etruscan town Melpum (presumably in the district of Milan), for the subjugation of which the Celts already settled in the basin of the Po had united with newly arrived tribes (358?), these latter crossed to the right bank of the river and began to press upon the Umbrians and Etruscans in their original abodes. Those who did so were chiefly the Boii, who are alleged to have penetrated into Italy by another route, over the Poenine Alps (the Great St. Bernard): they settled in the modern Romagna, where the old Etruscan town Felsina, with its name changed by its new masters to Bononia, became their capital. Finally came the Senones, the last of the larger Celtic tribes which made their way over the Alps; they took up their abode along the coast of the Adriatic from Rimini to Ancona. But isolated bands of Celtic settlers must have advanced even far in the direction of Umbria, and up to the border of Etruria proper; for stone-inscriptions in the Celtic language have been found even at Todi on the upper Tiber. The limits of Etruria on the north and east became more and more contracted, and about the middle of the fourth century the Tuscan nation found themselves substantially restricted to the territory which thenceforth bore and still bears their name.

Attack on Etruria by the Romans

Subjected to these simultaneous and, as it were, concerted assaults on the part of very different peoples—the Syracusans, Latins, Samnites, and above all the Celts—the Etruscan nation, that had just acquired so vast and sudden an ascendency in Latium and Campania and on both the Italian seas, underwent a still more rapid and violent collapse. The loss of their maritime supremacy and the subjugation of the Campanian Etruscans belong to the same epoch as the settlement of the Insubres and Cenomani on the Po; and about this same period the Roman burgesses, who had not very many years before been humbled to the utmost and almost reduced to bondage by Porsena, first assumed an attitude of aggression towards Etruria. By the armistice with Veii in 280 Rome had recovered its ground, and the two nations were restored in the main to the state in which they had stood in the time of the kings. When it expired in the year 309, the warfare began afresh; but it took the form of border frays and pillaging excursions which led to no material result on either side. Etruria was still too powerful for Rome to be able seriously to attack it. At length the revolt of the Fidenates, who expelled the Roman garrison, murdered the Roman envoys, and submitted to Lars Tolumnius, king of the Veientes, gave rise to a more considerable war, which ended favourably for the Romans; the king Tolumnius fell in combat by the hand of the Roman consul Aulus Cornelius Cossus (326?), Fidenae was taken, and a new armistice for 200 months was concluded in 329. During this truce the troubles of Etruria became more and more aggravated, and the Celtic arms were already approaching the settlements that hitherto had been spared on the right bank of the Po. When the armistice expired in the end of 346, the Romans on their part resolved to undertake a war of conquest against Etruria; and on this occasion the war was carried on not merely to vanquish Veii, but to crush it.

Conquest of Veii

The history of the war against the Veientes, Capenates, and Falisci, and of the siege of Veii, which is said, like that of Troy, to have lasted ten years, rests on evidence far from trustworthy. Legend and poetry have taken possession of these events as their own, and with reason; for the struggle in this case was waged, with unprecedented exertions, for an unprecedented prize. It was the first occasion on which a Roman army remained in the field summer and winter, year after year, till its object was attained. It was the first occasion on which the community paid the levy from the resources of the state. But it was also the first occasion on which the Romans attempted to subdue a nation of alien stock, and carried their arms beyond the ancient northern boundary of the Latin land. The struggle was vehement, but the issue was scarcely doubtful. The Romans were supported by the Latins and Hernici, to whom the overthrow of their dreaded neighbour was productive of scarcely less satisfaction and advantage than to the Romans themselves; whereas Veii was abandoned by its own nation, and only the adjacent towns of Capena and Falerii, along with Tarquinii, furnished contingents to its help. The contemporary attacks of the Celts would alone suffice to explain the nonintervention of the northern communities; it is affirmed however, and there is no reason to doubt, that this inaction of the other Etruscans was primarily occasioned by internal factions in the league of the Etruscan cities, and particularly by the opposition which the regal form of government retained or restored by the Veientes encountered from the aristocratic governments of the other cities. Had the Etruscan nation been able or willing to take part in the conflict, the Roman community would hardly have been able —undeveloped as was the art of besieging at that time—to accomplish the gigantic task of subduing a large and strong city. But isolated and forsaken as Veii was, it succumbed (358) after a valiant resistance to the persevering and heroic spirit of Marcus Furius Camillus, who first opened up to his countrymen the brilliant and perilous career of foreign conquest. The joy which this great success excited in Rome had its echo in the Roman custom, continued down to a late age, of concluding the festal games with a "sale of Veientes," at which, among the mock spoils submitted to auction, the most wretched old cripple who could be procured wound up the sport in a purple mantle and ornaments of gold as "king of the Veientes." The city was destroyed, and the soil was doomed to perpetual desolation. Falerii and Capena hastened to make peace; the powerful Volsinii, which with federal indecision had remained quiet during the agony of Veii and took up arms after its capture, likewise after a few years (363) consented to peace. The statement that the two bulwarks of the Etruscan nation, Melpum and Veii, yielded on the same day, the former to the Celts, the latter to the Romans, may be merely a melancholy legend; but it at any rate involves a deep historical truth. The double assault from the north and from the south, and the fall of the two frontier strongholds, were the beginning of the end of the great Etruscan nation.

The Celts Attack Rome— Battle on the Allia— Capture of Rome

For a moment, however, it seemed as if the two peoples, through whose co-operation Etruria saw her very existence put in jeopardy, were about to destroy each other, and the reviving power of Rome was to be trodden under foot by foreign barbarians. This turn of things, so contrary to what might naturally have been expected, the Romans brought upon themselves by their own arrogance and shortsightedness.

The Celtic swarms, which had crossed the river after the fall of Melpum, rapidly overflowed northern Italy—not merely the open country on the right bank of the Po and along the shore of the Adriatic, but also Etruria proper to the south of the Apennines. A few years afterwards (363) Clusium situated in the heart of Etruria (Chiusi, on the borders of Tuscany and the Papal State) was besieged by the Celtic Senones; and so humbled were the Etruscans that the Tuscan city in its straits invoked aid from the destroyers of Veii. Perhaps it would have been wise to grant it and to reduce at once the Gauls by arms, and the Etruscans by according to them protection, to a state of dependence on Rome; but an intervention with aims so extensive, which would have compelled the Romans to undertake a serious struggle on the northern Tuscan frontier, lay beyond the horizon of the Roman policy at that time. No course was therefore left but to refrain from all interference. Foolishly, however, while declining to send auxiliary troops, they despatched envoys. With still greater folly these sought to impose upon the Celts by haughty language, and, when this failed, they conceived that they might with impunity violate the law of nations in dealing with barbarians; in the ranks of the Clusines they took part in a skirmish, and in the course of it one of them stabbed and dismounted a Gallic officer. The barbarians acted in this case with moderation and prudence. They sent in the first instance to the Roman community to demand the surrender of those who had outraged the law of nations, and the senate was ready to comply with the reasonable request. But with the multitude compassion for their countrymen outweighed justice towards the foreigners; satisfaction was refused by the burgesses; and according to some accounts they even nominated the brave champions of their fatherland as consular tribunes for the year 364,(9) which was to be so fatal in the Roman annals. Then the Brennus or, in other words, the "king of the army" of the Gauls broke up the siege of Clusium, and the whole Celtic host—the numbers of which are stated at 70,000 men—turned against Rome. Such expeditions into unknown land distant regions were not unusual for the Gauls, who marched as bands of armed emigrants, troubling themselves little as to the means of cover or of retreat; but it was evident that none in Rome anticipated the dangers involved in so sudden and so mighty an invasion. It was not till the Gauls were marching upon Rome that a Roman military force crossed the Tiber and sought to bar their way. Not twelve miles from the gates, opposite to the confluence of the rivulet Allia with the Tiber, the armies met, and a battle took place on the 18th July, 364. Even now they went into battle—not as against an army, but as against freebooters—with arrogance and foolhardiness and under inexperienced leaders, Camillus having in consequence of the dissensions of the orders withdrawn from taking part in affairs. Those against whom they were to fight were but barbarians; what need was there of a camp, or of securing a retreat? These barbarians, however, were men whose courage despised death, and their mode of fighting was to the Italians as novel as it was terrible; sword in hand the Celts precipitated themselves with furious onset on the Roman phalanx, and shattered it at the first shock. The overthrow was complete; of the Romans, who had fought with the river in their rear, a large portion met their death in the attempt to cross it; such as escaped threw themselves by a flank movement into the neighbouring Veii. The victorious Celts stood between the remnant of the beaten army and the capital. The latter was irretrievably abandoned to the enemy; the small force that was left behind, or that had fled thither, was not sufficient to garrison the walls, and three days after the battle the victors marched through the open gates into Rome. Had they done so at first, as they might have done, not only the city, but the state also must have been lost; the brief interval gave opportunity to carry away or to bury the sacred objects, and, what was more important, to occupy the citadel and to furnish it with provisions for the exigency. No one was admitted to the citadel who was incapable of bearing arms—there was not food for all. The mass of the defenceless dispersed among the neighbouring towns; but many, and in particular a number of old men of high standing, would not survive the downfall of the city and awaited death in their houses by the sword of the barbarians. They came, murdered all they met with, plundered whatever property they found, and at length set the city on fire on all sides before the eyes of the Roman garrison in the Capitol. But they had no knowledge of the art of besieging, and the blockade of the steep citadel rock was tedious and difficult, because subsistence for the great host could only be procured by armed foraging parties, and the citizens of the neighbouring Latin cities, the Ardeates in particular, frequently attacked the foragers with courage and success. Nevertheless the Celts persevered, with an energy which in their circumstances was unparalleled, for seven months beneath the rock, and the garrison, which had escaped a surprise on a dark night only in consequence of the cackling of the sacred geese in the Capitoline temple and the accidental awaking of the brave Marcus Manlius, already found its provisions beginning to fail, when the Celts received information as to the Veneti having invaded the Senonian territory recently acquired on the Po, and were thus induced to accept the ransom money that was offered to procure their withdrawal. The scornful throwing down of the Gallic sword, that it might be outweighed by Roman gold, indicated very truly how matters stood. The iron of the barbarians had conquered, but they sold their victory and by selling lost it.

Previous Part     1   2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18 ... 58     Next Part
Home - Random Browse