Page images

390-265 B.C.

had accomplished the purpose for which it had been used, by securing the abolition of the legal disabilities of the commons and of the privileges of the old nobility, the original object of the tribunate as counsel and protector of the humblest and weakest was as odious to the new plebeian aristocracy as it had been to the patrician. Therefore, under the new organization the office lost its old character of a weapon of opposition, and became an instrument of government. The tribunes no longer sat on a bench at the door of the senate-house, but took their seats by the side of the other magistrates, and took part in the discussions. Like the other acting magistrates, they did not during their year of office vote in the senate, but they had the right of convoking it, of consulting it, and of procuring decrees from it. Thus, by becoming magistrates of the state, the tribunes for the time lost their old revolutionary and obstructive character, and paved the way for the steady growth of the power of the new aristocracy; indeed, the tribunes were, as a rule, members of that body. Yet the preservation and the associations of the name of tribunate might well forbode danger in the future. 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 is to be met with of a collegiate opposition on the part of the tribunes to the senate. What opposition did arise came from single independent tribunes, and was easily crushed, often by the aid of the tribune-college itself.

The real governing power became vested in the senate. The Ovinian law, probably passed soon after the Sexto-Licinian laws, regulated the composition of that body. All who had been curule ediles, pretors, or consuls became members. The action of the censors was in this way greatly restricted, although it was still their duty to fill up all the vacancies which remained after the abovementioned officers had been placed on the senatorial roll. Even in making this selection the censors were bound by oath to choose all the best citizens. Moreover, usage, if not law, seemed to have ordained that burgesses, who had filled a non-curule office, or who were eminent for personal valor, or who had saved the life of a fellow-citizen, should be selected for the honor. Those thus chosen by the censor voted, but took no part in debate. The main part of the senate, whose election was determined by the Ovinian law, and not by the selection of the censors, and who held the reins of government, were in this way indirectly elected by the people. The Hist. Nat. m 5

[ocr errors]

Roman government 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. No magistrate submitted a proposal to the people without, or in opposition to, the senate's opinion; if he did so, the senate, by means of the vetoing power of the magistrates and the annulling powers of the priests, easily thwarted him; and in extreme cases the senate could refuse to execute the decrees of the people. Through the presiding magistrate the senate practically exerted a paramount influence on the elections, and, as was shown above in the case of the consuls, bore no small part in settling what was to be the special sphere of the elected magistrates. Further, the senate acquired the right, which by law belonged only to the community, of extending the term of office to the consul or pretor, acting outside the city's limits; and the consul or pretor, whose term was thus prolonged, was said to be acting "in a consul's or pretor's stead" (pro consule, pro praetore). From the year 307 B.c. the term of the commander-in-chief was regularly prolonged by a mere decree of the senate. Finally, as regards administration, war, peace, and alliances, the founding of colonies, the assignation of lands, and the whole system of finance, the senate became practically supreme. Great as the powers intrusted to the senate were, the senate proved fully worthy of the trust. Although it is clear that the steps above described arrested the free action of the burgesses, and reduced the magistrates to mere executors of the senate's will, the assembly, by its ability to govern, justified its usurpation of power. Its members owed their position to merit and the people's choice, not to birth; those unworthy of their high position were liable to removal by the censors every fifth year. Their life-tenure of office freed them from the necessity of trimming their sails to the shifting breeze of public opinion, and gave them a complete control over the executive magistrates, whose office annually changed hands. This continuity of existence rendered possible a firm, unwavering, and patriotic foreign policy; and never was a state more firmly and worthily represented in its external relations than Rome in its best times by its senate. We cannot deny that, in matters of internal administration, the senate too 307-265 B.C.

often favored the selfish interests of the moneyed and landed aristocracy, which was largely represented in that body. But, when we consider its conduct as a whole, we must allow that 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.

Chapter VIII


,HE last three chapters have been devoted to the internal

struggles of Rome, and their political results; we can

-M. now turn to the external history both of Rome and of Italy. Two notable events meet .our eyes—firstly, the collapse of the Etruscan power: secondly, the incursions of the Celts. About 500 B.C. the Etruscans had reached their zenith of prosperity. Allied with the Carthaginians, who were absolute masters of Sardinia, and had a firm foothold in Sicily, they ruled the Etruscan and Adriatic seas. Although Massilia retained her independence, the seaports of Campania and of the Volscian land, and the island of Corsica, were in their hands. The possession of Latium, which interposed a firm barrier between Etruria proper and the Tuscan settlements in Campania, was naturally of the utmost importance; and, for a short time, the conquest of Rome by Lars Porsena in 507 B.C. seemed to open out a prospect of the realization of Tuscan supremacy in Italy. But the advance of the victorious Etruscans into Latium received a check beneath the walls of Aricia, from the timely succor of the people of Cumae in 506 B.C. The end of this war is unknown; possibly the disgraceful terms of the peace, which Rome had concluded with Lars Porsena the previous year, were somewhat modified; but, for a time at least, Latium was in imminent danger of being reduced to subjection by Etruscan arms. Fortunately, however, for Rome, the main strength of the Etruscan nation was diverted from Latium, and called to do battle elsewhere; while Veii and the neighboring towns grappled with Rome, the rest of the Etruscans were engaged in another cause.

The arrest of Greek colonization by the combined Etruscans and Carthaginians has been already described; a more deadly blow, on a far grander scale, if we may believe tradition, threatened the whole Greek world. The simultaneous defeat of the Persians at Salamis and the Carthaginians at Himera by the rulers of Syracuse

THE CELTS. 500-343 B.C.


483-310 B.C.

and Agrigentum, Gelon, and Theron, in 480 B.C., utterly crushed the great combination of Persians, Carthaginians, and Etruscans against liberty and civilization. Six years later the Cumaeans and Hiero of Syracuse vanquished the Etruscan fleet off Cumae; and the rise of Syracuse to the chief power in Sicily, and of Tarentum to the leading position in the south of Italy, put an end to the maritime supremacy of both Etruscans and Carthaginians. Syracuse in 453 B.c. ravaged the island of Corsica and the Etrurian coast, and occupied Elba; and later, in 415 to 413 B.C., the Athenian expedition against Syracuse, which received support from Etruscan galleys, ended in ignominious failure, and left Syracuse free to turn on her old enemy with redoubled vigor. Dionysius, who reigned from 406 to 367 B.C., founded Syracusan colonies on the Illyrian coast at Lissus and the island of Issa, and on the eastern coast of Italy at the ports of Ancona, Numana, and Hatria; thus ousting the Etruscans from the Adriatic. In addition to this, he captured, in 358 B.c., Pyrgi, the rich seaport of Caere, a blow from which the Etruscans never recovered. Later, too, when the death of Dionysius and the ensuing political troubles of Syracuse opened the way to Carthaginian arms, we find that the revival of maritime supremacy by Carthage brought no similar revival to their old allies the Etruscans. On the contrary, the relations between the two powers had become so strained, that in 310 B.c. Tuscan menof-war assisted Agathocles of Syracuse in his war against Carthage, and the old alliance was thus severed. This rapid collapse of the naval power of the Etruscans was due in great measure to the fact that, at the same time that they were struggling with the Sicilian Greeks by sea, they were assailed on all sides by foes on land. During the period of the combination of Persians, Carthaginians, and Etruscans, above alluded to, a bitter war raged between Rome and Veii from 483 to 474 B.C. Its result was so far favorable to Rome that the Etruscans gave up Fidenae, and the district they had won on the right bank of the Tiber. Moreover, the Samnites attacked the Etruscan settlements in Campania; Capua fell in 424 B.c., and the Etruscan population was extirpated or expelled. But in northern Italy a new nation was knocking at the gates of the Alps. It was the Celts; and the brunt of their inroad fell first upon the Etruscans.

The character of the Celtic nation, their origin, and the part they played in Italian history at this period now claim our attention.

« PreviousContinue »