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491-466 B.C. tution of the tribunes indicate a state of organized civil war between the two parties of the state. Among minor conflicts stands out the story of Gaius Marcius, surnamed Coriolanus, from the storming of Corioli. Romance has doubtless colored his bitter opposition to the tribunes in 491 B.C., his expulsion by them from Rome, his return at the head of the Volscian army, his withdrawal on the appeal of his mother, his death at the hands of the exasperated Volscians; but the truth of these disgraceful conflicts between the Roman orders remains unshaken. The murder of the tribune, Gnaeus Genucius, who had dared to impeach two men of consular rank in 473 B.C., had a more lasting result, giving rise two years later to the Publilian law. The proposer of this law, Volero Publilius, who was tribune in 471 B.C., established in the first place the comitia tributa, or plebeian assembly of tribes. Hitherto the plebeians had voted by curies, and numbers alone had determined their decision. The clients of patrician families voted in these assemblies, and thus enabled the nobility to exercise no small influence on the result. The new plebeian assembly was composed solely of those who were freeholders, and thus excluded the great majority of freedmen and clients, as well as all the patricians. Owing to this the comitia tributa was practically an assembly of the independent middle class, and was, owing to its exclusion alike of patricians and non-freeholder plebeians, less representative of the burgesses than the assembly of curies had been. In the second place we must ascribe, if not directly to the provisions of the Pubilian law, at least indirectly to its effects, the fact that the resolutions of the plebs (plebiscita) were recognized as legally binding on the whole community, and had the same validity as the decrees of the comitia centuriata. Probably, also, the increase of the number of tribunes from two to five was due to this law, and their election was now transferred to the comitia tributa. Previous to this outcome of party triumph and party legislation, a far wiser and far more serious attempt to deal with the real source of evil was made by Spurius Cassius, a patrician of the patricians, and personally illustrious by two triumphs. He proposed to reform the public land system by distributing a portion of it among the needy citizens; but the cry of “ king” was raised, and the commons, irritated by the proposed association of the Latins in the distribution,
1 The origin of the comitia tributa is a much disputed question. For another view of the question see Ihne, “Early Rome," 144-147.
and ever ready to believe that royal power was being aimed at, refused to save their champion. Cassius fell, and his law was buried along with him; but its specter thenceforward incessantly haunted the eyes of the rich, and again and again it rose from the tomb against them, until, amid the conflicts to which it led, the commonwealth perished.
Later, in 462 B.C., a further attempt to abolish the tribunate came from one holding that office. Gaius Terentilius Arsa proposed to nominate a commission of five men for the purpose of preparing a legal code which should bind the consuls in the exercise of their judicial powers. Ten years of party strife elapsed before this proposal was carried into effect, and during that strife two concessions were made to induce the plebeians to give up this legal code. In 457 B.C. the tribunes were increased from five to ten; in 456 B.C., the Aventine, which had hitherto been sacred ground and uninhabited, was distributed among the poorer burgesses, for them to build on and occupy. But these concessions did not turn aside the plebs, The legal code was agreed to, and in 451 B.C. ten men were elected by the centuries, for the purpose of drawing it up. These decemvirs had full powers as supreme magistrates in the place of the consuls; no appeal was allowed in their case; the tribunate was suspended; and, what was more important, plebeians, as well as patricians, were eligible for the new office. The first plebeians were elected at the second election in 450 B.C., and these were the first non-patrician magistrates of the Roman community. The object of this new creation was to substitute a limitation of the consular powers by written law for the more turbulent veto of the tribunes. The pledge given by the decemvirs not to infringe the liberties of the plebs did not, perhaps, imply the abolition of the tribunate; but a wise compromise would doubtless have brought this about, had the decemvirs retired when their task was done. In 451 B.C. the law, engraven on ten tables of copper, was affixed in the Forum to the rostra in front of the senate-house. Two more tables were added in the following year, and thus originated the first and only legal code of Rome—the Twelve Tables, The changes introduced by this code were of a comparatively slight character; the maximum of interest was fixed at ten per cent., and the usurer was rendered liable to heavy penalties. The legal distinction between freeholders and non-freeholders was retained, as also the invalidity of marriage between patricians and plebeians. The chief feature was the denial
of appeal to the comitia tributa in capital cases, and the confirmation of it in the case of the comitia centuriata. The political significance of this code lay not so much in the particulars of its legislation, as in the fact that the consuls were now bound to administer justice according to set forms and rules; while the exhibition of the code in public subjected the administrator to the control of the public eye. The downfall of the decemvirs, who under various pretexts refused to abdicate their office, has been ascribed by legend to the tyranny of their chief, Appius Claudius. The murder of Lucius Siccius Dentatus, the bravest soldier in Rome, and a former tribune, was laid at the door of the decemvirs; and the act of the centurion Lucius Verginius, who slew his own daughter to save her from the brutal lust of Appius, caused the storm of popular indignation to break forth. The two armies, which a double war against the Sabines and Volscians had called into the field, on hearing the story from Verginius and Lucius Icilius, the betrothed lover of the dead maiden, straightway left their camps, and once more seceded to the Sacred Mount. They there nominated their tribunes, and, as the decemvirs still remained obstinate, returned to the city, and encamped on the Aventine. The decemvirs now gave way, and Appius Claudius and Spurius Oppius put an end to their lives, while the remaining eight went into exile. It is hard to believe that the decemvirate, one of the triumphs of the plebs, was abolished by that body. Possibly the whole story is a myth of the aristocrats. The overthrow of the decemvirate would more naturally have come from the patricians. A subsequent contest may possibly have ensued to force the patricians to restore the tribunate, resulting in the victory of the plebs, and in the compromise which was confirmed by the Valerio-Horatian laws, the so-called Magna Charta of Rome.
At any rate the tribunate was restored, and, under the ValerioHoratian laws, gained the following new powers in 449 B.C.: The consuls were forced to administer justice in accordance with the twelve tables of the decemvirs; to compensate for the loss of right of appeal in capital cases to the comitia tributa, every magistrate, the dictator among the rest, was obliged to allow the right of appeal; the tribunes could, as before, inflict fines without limitation, and submit their sentences to the comitia tributa; the management of the military chest was taken from the consuls, and intrusted to two quaestors, who were chosen by the whole body of freeholders, both patrician and plebeian; the votes of this assembly were taken by
districts, which gave the plebeian farmers far more weight than they possessed in the comitia centuriata; the tribunes were allowed to sit on a bench at the door of the senate-house, and thus have a share in the proceedings of that body. And from this important concession gradually arose the principle, that the tribune could by his veto stop any resolution of the senate or of the public assembly. No attempt to abolish this magistracy was ever from this time forward made in Rome.
Itinued; each successive struggle wrested from the old
yet ended. For two hundred years the bitter strife conaristocracy one or more of their dearly loved privileges, until at last not one remained, save that which birth alone gives and naught can take away, the exclusive pride of caste. To present a continuous history of the internal strife of parties, it will be necessary to confine this chapter to a narrative of the inner life of Rome, and to summarize as briefly as possible the events of each blow to the patrician power, and the results of the conflict as a whole. The history of Rome's foreign relations, although they exercised no slight influence on her internal discord, must be reserved for another place.
Social discontent, rather than political, had given rise to the tribunician movement, a movement viewed with suspicion by wealthy plebeians as well as by patricians. Doubtless some of the leading plebeians had supported their less powerful brethren in the struggle, whether from motives of justice or self-interest. But, now that the office of tribune was firmly established, the whole plebeian body, comprising both those wealthier families and the general mass of the citizens, became firmly united together, and used the tribunate as a lever to remove the political disabilities of their order. The first blow was dealt by the Canuleian law in 445 B.C. This law legalized the validity of marriage between a patrician and plebeian, giving the children of such a marriage the rank of their father. It further yielded to the demand of the plebeians to be admitted to the consulship by a compromise which sought to retain many of the privileges of the office for the patricians. Each year the people were to vote whether there should be the usual consuls or whether. their place should be taken by six military tribunes. In the latter case the plebeians were eligible to the office, but the military tribunes