The Government and the Governed

Formation of New Parties

The fall of the patriciate by no means divested the Roman commonwealth of its aristocratic character. We have already(1) indicated that the plebeian party carried within it that character from the first as well as, and in some sense still more decidedly than, the patriciate; for, while in the old body of burgesses an absolute equality of rights prevailed, the new constitution set out from a distinction between the senatorial houses who were privileged in point of burgess rights and of burgess usufructs, and the mass of the other citizens. Immediately, therefore, on the abolition of the patriciate and the formal establishment of civic equality, a new aristocracy and a corresponding opposition were formed; and we have already shown how the former engrafted itself as it were on the fallen patriciate, and how, accordingly, the first movements of the new party of progress were mixed up with the last movements of the old opposition between the orders.(2) The formation of these new parties began in the fifth century, but they assumed their definite shape only in the century which followed. The development of this internal change is, as it were, drowned amidst the noise of the great wars and victories, and not merely so, but the process of formation is in this case more withdrawn from view than any other in Roman history. Like a crust of ice gathering imperceptibly over the surface of a stream and imperceptibly confining it more and more, this new Roman aristocracy silently arose; and not less imperceptibly, like the current concealing itself beneath and slowly extending, there arose in opposition to it the new party of progress. It is very difficult to sum up in a general historical view the several, individually insignificant, traces of these two antagonistic movements, which do not for the present yield their historical product in any distinct actual catastrophe. But the freedom hitherto enjoyed in the commonwealth was undermined, and the foundation for future revolutions was laid, during this epoch; and the delineation of these as well as of the development of Rome in general would remain imperfect, if we should fail to give some idea of the strength of that encrusting ice, of the growth of the current beneath, and of the fearful moaning and cracking that foretold the mighty breaking up which was at hand.

Germs of the Nobility in the Patriciate

The Roman nobility attached itself, in form, to earlier institutions belonging to the times of the patriciate. Persons who once had filled the highest ordinary magistracies of the state not only, as a matter of course, practically enjoyed all along a higher honour, but also had at an early period certain honorary privileges associated with their position. The most ancient of these was doubtless the permission given to the descendants of such magistrates to place the wax images of these illustrious ancestors after their death in the family hall, along the wall where the pedigree was painted, and to have these images carried, on occasion of the death of members of the family, in the funeral procession.(3) To appreciate the importance of this distinction, we must recollect that the honouring of images was regarded in the Italo-Hellenic view as unrepublican, and on that account the Roman state-police did not at all tolerate the exhibition of effigies of the living, and strictly superintended that of effigies of the dead. With this privilege were associated various external insignia, reserved by law or custom for such magistrates and their descendants:—the golden finger-ring of the men, the silver-mounted trappings of the youths, the purple border on the toga and the golden amulet-case of the boys (4)—trifling matters, but still important in a community where civic equality even in external appearance was so strictly adhered to,(5) and where, even during the second Punic war, a burgess was arrested and kept for years in prison because he had appeared in public, in a manner not sanctioned by law, with a garland of roses upon his head.(6)

Patricio-Plebian Nobility

These distinctions may perhaps have already existed partially in the time of the patrician government, and, so long as families of higher and humbler rank were distinguished within the patriciate, may have served as external insignia for the former; but they certainly only acquired political importance in consequence of the change of constitution in 387, by which the plebeian families that attained the consulate were placed on a footing of equal privilege with the patrician families, all of whom were now probably entitled to carry images of their ancestors. Moreover, it was now settled that the offices of state to which these hereditary privileges were attached should include neither the lower nor the extraordinary magistracies nor the tribunate of the plebs, but merely the consulship, the praetorship which stood on the same level with it,(7) and the curule aedileship, which bore a part in the administration of public justice and consequently in the exercise of the sovereign powers of the state.(8) Although this plebeian nobility, in the strict sense of the term, could only be formed after the curule offices were opened to plebeians, yet it exhibited in a short time, if not at the very first, a certain compactness of organization—doubtless because such a nobility had long been prefigured in the old senatorial plebeian families. The result of the Licinian laws in reality therefore amounted nearly to what we should now call the creation of a batch of peers. Now that the plebeian families ennobled by their curule ancestors were united into one body with the patrician families and acquired a distinctive position and distinguished power in the commonwealth, the Romans had again arrived at the point whence they had started; there was once more not merely a governing aristocracy and a hereditary nobility—both of which in fact had never disappeared—but there was a governing hereditary nobility, and the feud between the gentes in possession of the government and the commons rising in revolt against the gentes could not but begin afresh. And matters very soon reached that stage. The nobility was not content with its honorary privileges which were matters of comparative indifference, but strove after separate and sole political power, and sought to convert the most important institutions of the state—the senate and the equestrian order—from organs of the commonwealth into organs of the plebeio-patrician aristocracy.

The Nobility in Possession of the Senate

The dependence -de jure- of the Roman senate of the republic, more especially of the larger patricio-plebeian senate, on the magistracy had rapidly become lax, and had in fact been converted into independence. The subordination of the public magistracies to the state-council, introduced by the revolution of 244;(9) the transference of the right of summoning men to the senate from the consul to the censor;(10) lastly, and above all, the legal recognition of the right of those who had been curule magistrates to a seat and vote in the senate,(11) had converted the senate from a council summoned by the magistrates and in many respects dependent on them into a governing corporation virtually independent, and in a certain sense filling up its own ranks; for the two modes by which its members obtained admission—election to a curule office and summoning by the censor—were both virtually in the power of the governing board itself. The burgesses, no doubt, at this epoch were still too independent to allow the entire exclusion of non-nobles from the senate, and the nobility were perhaps still too judicious even to wish for this; but, owing to the strictly aristocratic gradations in the senate itself—in which those who had been curule magistrates were sharply distinguished, according to their respective classes of -consulares-, -praetorii-, and -aedilicii-, from the senators who had not entered the senate through a curule office and were therefore excluded from debate—the non-nobles, although they probably sat in considerable numbers in the senate, were reduced to an insignificant and comparatively uninfluential position in it, and the senate became substantially a mainstay of the nobility.

The Nobility in Possession of the Equestrian Centuries

The institution of the equites was developed into a second, less important but yet far from unimportant, organ of the nobility. As the new hereditary nobility had not the power to usurp sole possession of the comitia, it necessarily became in the highest degree desirable that it should obtain at least a separate position within the body representing the community. In the assembly of the tribes there was no method of managing this; but the equestrian centuries under the Servian organization seemed as it were created for the very purpose. The 1800 horses which the community furnished(12) were constitutionally disposed of likewise by the censors. It was, no doubt, the duty of these to select the equites on military grounds and at their musters to insist that all horsemen incapacitated by age or otherwise, or at all unserviceable, should surrender their public horse; but the very nature of the institution implied that the equestrian horses should be given especially to men of means, and it was not at all easy to hinder the censors from looking to genteel birth more than to capacity, and from allowing men of standing who were once admitted, senators particularly, to retain their horse beyond the proper time. Perhaps it was even fixed by law that the senator might retain it as long as he wished. Accordingly it became at least practically the rule for the senators to vote in the eighteen equestrian centuries, and the other places in these were assigned chiefly to the young men of the nobility. The military system, of course, suffered from this not so much through the unfitness for effective service of no small part of the legionary cavalry, as through the destruction of military equality to which the change gave rise, inasmuch as the young men of rank more and more withdrew from service in the infantry. The closed aristocratic corps of the equites proper came to set the tone for the whole legionary cavalry, taken from the citizens who were of highest position by descent and wealth. This enables us in some degree to understand why the equites during the Sicilian war refused to obey the order of the consul Gaius Aurelius Cotta that they should work at the trenches with the legionaries (502), and why Cato, when commander-in-chief of the army in Spain, found himself under the necessity of addressing a severe reprimand to his cavalry. But this conversion of the burgess-cavalry into a mounted guard of nobles redounded not more decidedly to the injury of the commonwealth than to the advantage of the nobility, which acquired in the eighteen equestrian centuries a suffrage not merely separate but giving the tone to the rest.

Separation of the Orders in the Theatre

Of a kindred character was the formal separation of the places assigned to the senatorial order from those occupied by the rest of the multitude as spectators at the national festivals. It was the great Scipio, who effected this change in his second consulship in 560. The national festival was as much an assembly of the people as were the centuries convoked for voting; and the circumstance that the former had no resolutions to pass made the official announcement of a distinction between the ruling order and the body of subjects—which the separation implied—all the more significant. The innovation accordingly met with much censure even from the ruling class, because it was simply invidious and not useful, and because it gave a very manifest contradiction to the efforts of the more prudent portion of the aristocracy to conceal their exclusive government under the forms of civil equality.

The Censorship a Prop of the Nobility

These circumstances explain, why the censorship became the pivot of the later republican constitution; why an office, originally standing by no means in the first rank, came to be gradually invested with external insignia which did not at all belong to it in itself and with an altogether unique aristocratic-republican glory, and was viewed as the crown and completion of a well-conducted public career; and why the government looked upon every attempt of the opposition to introduce their men into this office, or even to hold the censor responsible to the people for his administration during or after his term of office, as an attack on their palladium, and presented a united front of resistance to every such attempt. It is sufficient in this respect to mention the storm which the candidature of Cato for the censorship provoked, and the measures, so extraordinarily reckless and in violation of all form, by which the senate prevented the judicial prosecution of the two unpopular censors of the year 550. But with their magnifying the glory of the censorship the government combined a characteristic distrust of this, their most important and for that very reason most dangerous, instrument. It was thoroughly necessary to leave to the censors absolute control over the personal composition of the senate and the equites; for the right of exclusion could not well be separated from the right of summoning, and it was indispensable to retain such a right, not so much for the purpose of removing from the senate capable men of the opposition—a course which the smooth-going government of that age cautiously avoided—as for the purpose of preserving around the aristocracy that moral halo, without which it must have speedily become a prey to the opposition. The right of ejection was retained; but what they chiefly needed was the glitter of the naked blade—the edge of it, which they feared, they took care to blunt. Besides the check involved in the nature of the office—under which the lists of the members of the aristocratic corporations were liable to revision only at intervals of five years —and besides the limitations resulting from the right of veto vested in the colleague and the right of cancelling vested in the successor, there was added a farther check which exercised a very sensible influence; a usage equivalent to law made it the duty of the censor not to erase from the list any senator or knight without specifying in writing the grounds for his decision, or, in other words, adopting, as a rule, a quasi-judicial procedure.

Remodelling of the Constitution According to the Views of the Nobility
Inadequate Number of Magistrates

In this political position—mainly based on the senate, the equites, and the censorship—the nobility not only usurped in substance the government, but also remodelled the constitution according to their own views. It was part of their policy, with a view to keep up the appreciation of the public magistracies, to add to the number of these as little as possible, and to keep it far below what was required by the extension of territory and the increase of business. Only the most urgent exigencies were barely met by the division of the judicial functions hitherto discharged by a single praetor between two judges —one of whom tried the lawsuits between Roman burgesses, and the other those that arose between non-burgesses or between burgess and non-burgess—in 511, and by the nomination of four auxiliary consuls for the four transmarine provinces of Sicily (527), Sardinia including Corsica (527), and Hither and Further Spain (557). The far too summary mode of initialing processes in Rome, as well as the increasing influence of the official staff, are doubtless traceable in great measure to the practically inadequate numbers of the Roman magistracy.

Election of Officers in the Comitia

Among the innovations originated by the government—which were none the less innovations, that almost uniformly they changed not the letter, but merely the practice of the existing constitution—the most prominent were the measures by which the filling up of officers' posts as well as of civil magistracies was made to depend not, as the letter of the constitution allowed and its spirit required, simply on merit and ability, but more and more on birth and seniority. As regards the nomination of staff-officers this was done not in form, but all the more in substance. It had already, in the course of the previous period, been in great part transferred from the general to the burgesses;(13) in this period came the further step, that the whole staff-officers of the regular yearly levy—the twenty-four military tribunes of the four ordinary legions—were nominated in the -comitia tributa-. Thus a line of demarcation more and more insurmountable was drawn between the subalterns, who gained their promotion from the general by punctual and brave service, and the staff, which obtained its privileged position by canvassing the burgesses.(14) With a view to check simply the worst abuses in this respect and to prevent young men quite untried from holding these important posts, it became necessary to require, as a preliminary to the bestowal of staff appointments, evidence of a certain number of years of service. Nevertheless, when once the military tribunate, the true pillar of the Roman military system, was laid down as the first stepping-stone in the political career of the young aristocrats, the obligation of service inevitably came to be frequently eluded, and the election of officers became liable to all the evils of democratic canvassing and of aristocratic exclusiveness. It was a cutting commentary on the new institution, that in serious wars (as in 583) it was found necessary to suspend this democratic mode of electing officers, and to leave once more to the general the nomination of his staff.

Restrictions on the Election of Consuls and Censors

In the case of civil offices, the first and chief object was to limit re-election to the supreme magistracies. This was certainly necessary, if the presidency of annual kings was not to be an empty name; and even in the preceding period reelection to the consulship was not permitted till after the lapse often years, while in the case if the censorship it was altogether forbidden.(15) No farther law was passed in the period before us; but an increased stringency in its application is obvious from the fact that, while the law as to the ten years' interval was suspended in 537 during the continuance of the war in Italy, there was no farther dispensation from it afterwards, and indeed towards the close of this period re-election seldom occurred at all. Moreover, towards the end of this epoch (574) a decree of the people was issued, binding the candidates for public magistracies to undertake them in a fixed order of succession, and to observe certain intervals between the offices, and certain limits of age. Custom, indeed, had long prescribed both of these; but it was a sensibly felt restriction of the freedom of election, when the customary qualification was raised into a legal requirement, and the right of disregarding such requirements in extraordinary cases was withdrawn from the elective body. In general, admission to the senate was thrown open to persons belonging to the ruling families without distinction as to ability, while not only were the poorer and humbler ranks of the population utterly precluded from access to the offices of government, but all Roman burgesses not belonging to the hereditary aristocracy were practically excluded, not indeed exactly from the senate, but from the two highest magistracies, the consulship and the censorship. After Manius Curius and Gaius Fabricius,(16) no instance can be pointed out of a consul who did not belong to the social aristocracy, and probably no instance of the kind occurred at all. But the number of the -gentes-, which appear for the first time in the lists of consuls and censors in the half-century from the beginning of the war with Hannibal to the close of that with Perseus, is extremely limited; and by far the most of these, such as the Flaminii, Terentii, Porcii, Acilii, and Laelii, may be referred to elections by the opposition, or are traceable to special aristocratic connections. The election of Gaius Laelius in 564, for instance, was evidently due to the Scipios. The exclusion of the poorer classes from the government was, no doubt, required by the altered circumstances of the case. Now that Rome had ceased to be a purely Italian state and had adopted Hellenic culture, it was no longer possible to take a small farmer from the plough and to set him at the head of the community. But it was neither necessary nor beneficial that the elections should almost without exception be confined to the narrow circle of the curule houses, and that a "new man" could only make his way into that circle by a sort of usurpation.(17) No doubt a certain hereditary character was inherent not merely in the nature of the senate as an institution, in so far as it rested from the outset on a representation of the clans,(18) but in the nature of aristocracy generally, in so far as statesmanly wisdom and statesmanly experience are bequeathed from the able father to the able son, and the inspiring spirit of an illustrious ancestry fans every noble spark within the human breast into speedier and more brilliant flame. In this sense the Roman aristocracy had been at all times hereditary; in fact, it had displayed its hereditary character with great naivete in the old custom of the senator taking his sons with him to the senate, and of the public magistrate decorating his sons, as it were by anticipation, with the insignia of the highest official honour—the purple border of the consular, and the golden amulet-case of the triumphator. But, while in the earlier period the hereditariness of the outward dignity had been to a certain extent conditioned by the inheritance of intrinsic worth, and the senatorial aristocracy had guided the state not primarily by virtue of hereditary right, but by virtue of the highest of all rights of representation—the right of the excellent, as contrasted with the ordinary, man—it sank in this epoch (and with specially great rapidity after the end of the Hannibalic war) from its original high position, as the aggregate of those in the community who were most experienced in counsel and action, down to an order of lords filling up its ranks by hereditary succession, and exercising collegiate misrule.

Family Government

Indeed, matters had already at this time reached such a height, that out of the grave evil of oligarchy there emerged the still worse evil of usurpation of power by particular families. We have already spoken(19) of the offensive family-policy of the conqueror of Zama, and of his unhappily successful efforts to cover with his own laurels the incapacity and pitifulness of his brother; and the nepotism of the Flaminini was, if possible, still more shameless and scandalous than that of the Scipios. Absolute freedom of election in fact turned to the advantage of such coteries far more than of the electing body. The election of Marcus Valerius Corvus to the consulship at twenty- three had doubtless been for the benefit of the state; but now, when Scipio obtained the aedileship at twenty-three and the consulate at thirty, and Flamininus, while not yet thirty years of age, rose from the quaestorship to the consulship, such proceedings involved serious danger to the republic. Things had already reached such a pass, that the only effective barrier against family rule and its consequences had to be found in a government strictly oligarchical; and this was the reason why even the party otherwise opposed to the oligarchy agreed to restrict the freedom of election.

Government of the Nobility
Internal Administration

The government bore the stamp of this gradual change in the spirit of the governing class. It is true that the administration of external affairs was still dominated at this epoch by that consistency and energy, by which the rule of the Roman community over Italy had been established. During the severe disciplinary times of the war as to Sicily the Roman aristocracy had gradually raised itself to the height of its new position; and if it unconstitutionally usurped for the senate functions of government which by right foil to be shared between the magistrates and the comitia alone, it vindicated the step by its certainly far from brilliant, but sure and steady, pilotage of the vessel of the state during the Hannibalic storm and the complications thence arising, and showed to the world that the Roman senate was alone able, and in many respects alone deserved, to rule the wide circle of the Italo-Hellenic states. But admitting the noble attitude of the ruling Roman senate in opposition to the outward foe —an attitude crowned with the noblest results—we may not overlook the fact, that in the less conspicuous, and yet far more important and far more difficult, administration of the internal affairs of the state, both the treatment of the existing arrangements and the new institutions betray an almost opposite spirit, or, to speak more correctly, indicate that the opposite tendency has already acquired the predominance in this field.

Decline in the Administration

In relation, first of all, to the individual burgess the government was no longer what it had been. The term "magistrate" meant a man who was more than other men; and, if he was the servant of the community, he was for that very reason the master of every burgess. But the tightness of the rein was now visibly relaxed. Where coteries and canvassing flourish as they did in the Rome of that age, men are chary of forfeiting the reciprocal services of their fellows or the favour of the multitude by stern words and impartial discharge of official duty. If now and then magistrates appeared who displayed the gravity and the sternness of the olden time, they were ordinarily, like Cotta (502) and Cato, new men who had not sprung from the bosom of the ruling class. It was already something singular, when Paullus, who had been named commander-in-chief against Perseus, instead of tendering his thanks in the usual manner to the burgesses, declared to them that he presumed they had chosen him as general because they accounted him the most capable of command, and requested them accordingly not to help him to command, but to be silent and obey.

As to Military Discipline and Administration of Justice

The supremacy and hegemony of Rome in the territories of the Mediterranean rested not least on the strictness of her military discipline and her administration of justice. Undoubtedly she was still, on the whole, at that time infinitely superior in these respects to the Hellenic, Phoenician, and Oriental states, which were without exception thoroughly disorganized; nevertheless grave abuses were already occurring in Rome. We have previously(20) pointed out how the wretched character of the commanders-in-chief—and that not merely in the case of demagogues chosen perhaps by the opposition, like Gaius Flaminius and Gaius Varro, but of men who were good aristocrats—had already in the third Macedonian war imperilled the weal of the state. And the mode in which justice was occasionally administered is shown by the scene in the camp of the consul Lucius Quinctius Flamininus at Placentia (562). To compensate a favourite youth for the gladiatorial games of the capital, which through his attendance on the consul he had missed the opportunity of seeing, that great lord had ordered a Boian of rank who had taken refuge in the Roman camp to be summoned, and had killed him at a banquet with his own hand. Still worse than the occurrence itself, to which various parallels might be adduced, was the fact that the perpetrator was not brought to trial; and not only so, but when the censor Cato on account of it erased his name from the roll of the senate, his fellow-senators invited the expelled to resume his senatorial stall in the theatre —he was, no doubt, the brother of the liberator of the Greeks, and one of the most powerful coterie-leaders in the senate.

As to the Management of Finances

The financial system of the Roman community also retrograded rather than advanced during this epoch. The amount of their revenues, indeed, was visibly on the increase. The indirect taxes—there were no direct taxes in Rome—increased in consequence of the enlargement of the Roman territory, which rendered it necessary, for example, to institute new customs-offices along the Campanian and Bruttian coasts at Puteoli, Castra (Squillace), and elsewhere, in 555 and 575. The same reason led to the new salt-tariff of 550 fixing the scale of prices at which salt was to be sold in the different districts of Italy, as it was no longer possible to furnish salt at one and the same price to the Roman burgesses now scattered throughout the land; but, as the Roman government probably supplied the burgesses with salt at cost price, if not below it, this financial measure yielded no gain to the state. Still more considerable was the increase in the produce of the domains. The duty indeed, which of right was payable to the treasury from the Italian domain-lands granted for occupation, was in the great majority of cases neither demanded nor paid. On the other hand the -scriptura- was retained; and not only so, but the domains recently acquired in the second Punic war, particularly the greater portion of the territory of Capua(21) and that of Leontini,(22) instead of being given up to occupation, were parcelled out and let to petty temporary lessees, and the attempts at occupation made in these cases were opposed with more than usual energy by the government; by which means the state acquired a considerable and secure source of income. The mines of the state also, particularly the important Spanish mines, were turned to profit on lease. Lastly, the revenue was augmented by the tribute of the transmarine subjects. From extraordinary sources very considerable sums accrued during this epoch to the state treasury, particularly the produce of the spoil in the war with Antiochus, 200 millions of sesterces (2,000,000 pounds), and that of the war with Perseus, 210 millions of sesterces (2,100,000 pounds)—the latter, the largest sum in cash which ever came at one time into the Roman treasury.

But this increase of revenue was for the most part counterbalanced by the increasing expenditure. The provinces, Sicily perhaps excepted, probably cost nearly as much as they yielded; the expenditure on highways and other structures rose in proportion to the extension of territory; the repayment also of the advances (-tributa-) received from the freeholder burgesses during times of severe war formed a burden for many a year afterwards on the Roman treasury. To these fell to be added very considerable losses occasioned to the revenue by the mismanagement, negligence, or connivance of the supreme magistrates. Of the conduct of the officials in the provinces, of their luxurious living at the expense of the public purse, of their embezzlement more especially of the spoil, of the incipient system of bribery and extortion, we shall speak in the sequel. How the state fared generally as regarded the farming of its revenues and the contracts for supplies and buildings, may be estimated from the circumstance, that the senate resolved in 587 to desist from the working of the Macedonian mines that had fallen to Rome, because the lessees of the minerals would either plunder the subjects or cheat the exchequer—truly a naive confession of impotence, in which the controlling board pronounced its own censure. Not only was the duty from the occupied domain-land allowed tacitly to fall into abeyance, as has been already mentioned, but private buildings in the capital and elsewhere were suffered to encroach on ground which was public property, and the water from the public aqueducts was diverted to private purposes: great dissatisfaction was created on one occasion when a censor took serious steps against such trespassers, and compelled them either to desist from the separate use of the public property, or to pay the legal rate for the ground and water. The conscience of the Romans, otherwise in economic matters so scrupulous, showed, so far as the community was concerned, a remarkable laxity. "He who steals from a burgess," said Cato, "ends his days in chains and fetters; but he who steals from the community ends them in gold and purple." If, notwithstanding the fact that the public property of the Roman community was fearlessly and with impunity plundered by officials and speculators, Polybius still lays stress on the rarity of embezzlement in Rome, while Greece could hardly produce a single official who had not touched the public money, and on the honesty with which a Roman commissioner or magistrate would upon his simple word of honour administer enormous sums, while in the case of the paltriest sum in Greece ten letters were sealed and twenty witnesses were required and yet everybody cheated, this merely implies that social and economic demoralization had advanced much further in Greece than in Rome, and in particular, that direct and palpable peculation was not as yet so flourishing in the one case as in the other. The general financial result is most clearly exhibited to us by the state of the public buildings, and by the amount of cash in the treasury. We find in times of peace a fifth, in times of war a tenth, of the revenues expended on public buildings; which, in the circumstances, does not seem to have been a very copious outlay. With these sums, as well as with fines which were not directly payable into the treasury, much was doubtless done for the repair of the highways in and near the capital, for the formation of the chief Italian roads,(23) and for the construction of public buildings. Perhaps the most important of the building operations in the capital, known to belong to this period, was the great repair and extension of the network of sewers throughout the city, contracted for probably in 570, for which 24,000,000 sesterces (240,000 pounds) were set apart at once, and to which it may be presumed that the portions of the -cloacae- still extant, at least in the main, belong. To all appearance however, even apart from the severe pressure of war, this period was inferior to the last section of the preceding epoch in respect of public buildings; between 482 and 607 no new aqueduct was constructed at Rome. The treasure of the state, no doubt, increased; the last reserve in 545, when: they found themselves under the necessity of laying hands on it, amounted only to 164,000 pounds (4000 pounds of gold);(24) whereas a short time after the close of this period (597) close on 860,000 pounds in precious metals were stored in the treasury. But, when we take into account the enormous extraordinary revenues which in the generation after the close of the Hannibalic war came into the Roman treasury, the latter sum surprises us rather by its smallness than by its magnitude. So far as with the extremely meagre statements before us it is allowable to speak of results, the finances of the Roman state exhibit doubtless an excess of income over expenditure, but are far from presenting a brilliant result as a whole.

Italian Subjects
Passive Burgesses

The change in the spirit of the government was most distinctly apparent in the treatment of the Italian and extra-Italian subjects of the Roman community. Formerly there had been distinguished in Italy the ordinary, and the Latin, allied communities, the Roman burgesses -sine suffragio- and the Roman burgesses with the full franchise. Of these four classes the third was in the course of this period almost completely set aside, inasmuch as the course which had been earlier taken with the communities of passive burgesses in Latium and Sabina, was now applied also to those of the former Volscian territory, and these gradually—the last perhaps being in the year 566 Arpinum, Fundi, and Formiae—obtained full burgess-rights. In Campania Capua along with a number of minor communities in the neighbourhood was broken up in consequence of its revolt from Rome in the Hannibalic war. Although some few communities, such as Velitrae in the Volscian territory, Teanum and Cumae in Campania, may have remained on their earlier legal footing, yet, looking at the matter in the main, this franchise of a passive character may be held as now superseded.


On the other hand there emerged a new class in a position of peculiar inferiority, without communal freedom and the right to carry arms, and, in part, treated almost like public slaves (-peregrini dediticii-); to which, in particular, the members of the former Campanian, southern Picentine, and Bruttian communities, that had been in alliance with Hannibal,(25) belonged. To these were added the Celtic tribes tolerated on the south side of the Alps, whose position in relation to the Italian confederacy is indeed only known imperfectly, but is sufficiently characterized as inferior by the clause embodied in their treaties of alliance with Rome, that no member of these communities should ever be allowed to acquire Roman citizenship.(26)


The position of the non-Latin allies had, as we have mentioned before,(27) undergone a change greatly to their disadvantage in consequence of the Hannibalic war. Only a few communities in this category, such as Neapolis, Nola, Rhegium, and Heraclea, had during all the vicissitudes of that war remained steadfastly on the Roman side, and therefore retained their former rights as allies unaltered; by far the greater portion were obliged in consequence of having changed sides to acquiesce in a revision of the existing treaties to their disadvantage. The reduced position of the non-Latin allies is attested by the emigration from their communities into the Latin: when in 577 the Samnites and Paelignians applied to the senate for a reduction of their contingents, their request was based on the ground that during late years 4000 Samnite and Paelignian families had migrated to the Latin colony of Fregellae.


That the Latins—which term now denoted the few towns in old Latium that were not included in the Roman burgess-union, such as Tibur and Praeneste, the allied cities placed in law on the same footing with them, such as several of the Hernican towns, and the Latin colonies dispersed throughout Italy—were still at this time in a better position, is implied in their very name; but they too had, in proportion, hardly less deteriorated. The burdens imposed on them were unjustly increased, and the pressure of military service was more and more devolved from the burgesses upon them and the other Italian allies. For instance, in 536, nearly twice as many of the allies were called out as of the burgesses: after the end of the Hannibalic war all the burgesses received their discharge, but not all the allies; the latter were chiefly employed for garrison duty and for the odious service in Spain; in the triumphal largess of 577 the allies received not as formerly an equal share with the burgesses, but only the half, so that amidst the unrestrained rejoicing of that soldiers' carnival the divisions thus treated as inferior followed the chariot of victory in sullen silence: in the assignations of land in northern Italy the burgesses received ten jugera of arable land each, the non-burgesses three -jugera- each. The unlimited liberty of migration had already at an earlier period been taken from the Latin communities, and migration to Rome was only allowed to them in the event of their leaving behind children of their own and a portion of their estate in the community which had been their home.(28) But these burdensome requirements were in various ways evaded or transgressed; and the crowding of the burgesses of Latin townships to Rome, and the complaints of their magistrates as to the increasing depopulation of the cities and the impossibility under such circumstances of furnishing the fixed contingent, led the Roman government to institute police-ejections from the capital on a large scale (567, 577). The measure might be unavoidable, but it was none the less severely felt. Moreover, the towns laid out by Rome in the interior of Italy began towards the close of this period to receive instead of Latin rights the full franchise, which previously had only been given to the maritime colonies; and the enlargement of the Latin body by the accession of new communities, which hitherto had gone on so regularly, thus came to an end. Aquileia, the establishment of which began in 571, was the latest of the Italian colonies of Rome that received Latin rights; the full franchise was given to the colonies, sent forth nearly at the same time, of Potentia, Pisaurum, Mutina, Parma, and Luna (570-577). The reason for this evidently lay in the decline of the Latin as compared with the Roman franchise. The colonists conducted to the new settlements were always, and now more than ever, chosen in preponderating number from the Roman burgesses; and even among the poorer portion of these there was a lack of people willing, for the sake even of acquiring considerable material advantages, to exchange their rights as burgesses for those of the Latin franchise.

Roman Franchise More Difficult of Acquisition

Lastly, in the case of non-burgesses—communities as well as individuals—admission to the Roman franchise was almost completely foreclosed. The earlier course incorporating the subject communities in that of Rome had been dropped about 400, that the Roman burgess body might not be too much decentralized by its undue extension; and therefore communities of half-burgesses were instituted.(29) Now the centralization of the community was abandoned, partly through the admission of the half-burgess communities to the full franchise, partly through the accession of numerous more remote burgess-colonies to its ranks; but the older system of incorporation was not resumed with reference to the allied communities. It cannot be shown that after the complete subjugation of Italy even a single Italian community exchanged its position as an ally for the Roman franchise; probably none after that date in reality acquired it Even the transition of individual Italians to the Roman franchise was confined almost solely to the case of magistrates of the Latin communities(30) and, by special favour, of individual non-burgesses admitted to share it at the founding of burgess-colonies.(31)

It cannot be denied that these changes -de facto- and -de jure- in the relations of the Italian subjects exhibit at least an intimate connection and consistency. The situation of the subject classes was throughout deteriorated in proportion to the gradations previously subsisting, and, while the government had formerly endeavoured to soften the distinctions and to provide means of transition from one to another, now the intermediate links were everywhere set aside and the connecting bridges were broken down. As within the Roman burgess-body the ruling class separated itself from the people, uniformly withdrew from public burdens, and uniformly took for itself the honours and advantages, so the burgesses in their turn asserted their distinction from the Italian confederacy, and excluded it more and more from the joint enjoyment of rule, while transferring to it a double or triple share in the common burdens. As the nobility, in relation to the plebeians, returned to the close exclusiveness of the declining patriciate, so did the burgesses in relation to the non-burgesses; the plebeiate, which had become great through the liberality of its institutions, now wrapped itself up in the rigid maxims of patricianism. The abolition of the passive burgesses cannot in itself be censured, and, so far as concerned the motive which led to it, belongs presumably to another connection to be discussed afterwards; but through its abolition an intermediate link was lost. Far more fraught with peril, however, was the disappearance of the distinction between the Latin and the other Italian communities. The privileged position of the Latin nation within Italy was the foundation of the Roman power; that foundation gave way, when the Latin towns began to feel that they were no longer privileged partakers in the dominion of the powerful cognate community, but substantially subjects of Rome like the rest, and when all the Italians began to find their position equally intolerable. It is true, that there were still distinctions: the Bruttians and their companions in misery were already treated exactly like slaves and conducted themselves accordingly, deserting, for instance, from the fleet in which they served as galley-slaves, whenever they could, and gladly taking service against Rome; and the Celtic, and above all the transmarine, subjects formed by the side of the Italians a class still more oppressed and intentionally abandoned by the government to contempt and maltreatment at the hands of the Italians. But such distinctions, while implying a gradation of classes among the subjects, could not withal afford even a remote compensation for the earlier contrast between the cognate, and the alien, Italian subjects. A profound dissatisfaction prevailed through the whole Italian confederacy, and fear alone prevented it from finding loud expression. The proposal made in the senate after the battle at Cannae, to give the Roman franchise and a seat in the senate to two men from each Latin community, was made at an unseasonable time, and was rightly rejected; but it shows the apprehension with which men in the ruling community even then viewed the relations between Latium and Rome. Had a second Hannibal now carried the war to Italy, it may be doubted whether he would have again been thwarted by the steadfast resistance of the Latin name to a foreign domination.

The Provinces

But by far the most important institution which this epoch introduced into the Roman commonwealth, and that at the same time which involved the most decided and fatal deviation from the course hitherto pursued, was the new provincial magistracies. The earlier state-law of Rome knew nothing of tributary subjects: the conquered communities were either sold into slavery, or merged in the Roman commonwealth, or lastly, admitted to an alliance which secured to them at least communal independence and freedom from taxation. But the Carthaginian possessions in Sicily, Sardinia, and Spain, as well as the kingdom of Hiero, had paid tribute and rent to their former masters: if Rome was desirous of retaining these possessions at all, it was in the judgment of the short-sighted the most judicious, and undoubtedly the most convenient, course to administer the new territories entirely in accordance with the rules heretofore observed. Accordingly the Romans simply retained the Carthagino-Hieronic provincial constitution, and organized in accordance with it those provinces also, such as Hither Spain, which they wrested from the barbarians. It was the shirt of Nessus which they inherited from the enemy. Beyond doubt at first the Roman government intended, in imposing taxes on their subjects, not strictly to enrich themselves, but only to cover the cost of administration and defence; but they already deviated from this course, when they made Macedonia and Illyria tributary without undertaking the government or the guardianship of the frontier there. The fact, however, that they still maintained moderation in the imposition of burdens was of little consequence, as compared with the conversion of their sovereignty into a right yielding profit at all; the fall was the same, whether a single apple was taken or the tree was plundered.

Position of the Governors

Punishment followed in the steps of wrong. The new provincial system necessitated the appointment of governors, whose position was absolutely incompatible not only with the welfare of the provinces, but with the Roman constitution. As the Roman community in the provinces took the place of the former ruler of the land, so their governor appeared there in the king's stead; the Sicilian praetor, for example, resided in the palace of Hiero at Syracuse. It is true, that by right the governor nevertheless ought to administer his office with republican honesty and frugality. Cato, when governor of Sardinia, appeared in the towns subject to him on foot and attended by a single servant, who carried his coat and sacrificial ladle; and, when he returned home from his Spanish governorship, he sold his war-horse beforehand, because he did not hold himself entitled to charge the state with the expenses of its transport. There is no question that the Roman governors—although certainly but few of them pushed their conscientiousness, like Cato, to the verge of being niggardly and ridiculous—made in many cases a powerful impression on the subjects, more especially on the frivolous and unstable Greeks, by their old- fashioned piety, by the reverential stillness prevailing at their repasts, by their comparatively upright administration of office and of justice, especially by their proper severity towards the worst bloodsuckers of the provincials—the Roman revenue-farmers and bankers—and in general by the gravity and dignity of their deportment. The provincials found their government comparatively tolerable. They had not been pampered by their Carthaginian stewards and Syracusan masters, and they were soon to find occasion for recalling with gratitude the present rods as compared with the coming scorpions: it is easy to understand how, in later times, the sixth century of the city appeared as the golden era of provincial rule. But it was not practicable for any length of time to be at once republican and king. Playing the part of governors demoralized the Roman ruling class \vith fearful rapidity. Haughtiness and arrogance towards the provincials were so natural in the circumstances, as scarcely to form matter of reproach against the individual magistrate. But already it was a rare thing—and the rarer, because the government adhered rigidly to the old principle of not paying public officials —that a governor returned with quite clean hands from his province; it was already remarked upon as something singular that Paullus, the conqueror of Pydna, did not take money. The bad custom of delivering to the governor "honorary wine" and other "voluntary" gifts seems as old as the provincial constitution itself, and may perhaps have been a legacy from the Carthaginians; even Cato in his administration of Sardinia in 556 had to content himself with regulating and moderating such contributions. The right of the magistrates, and of those travelling on the business of the state generally, to free quarters and free conveyance was already employed as a pretext for exactions. The more important right of the magistrate to make requisitions of grain in his province—partly for the maintenance of himself and his retinue (-in cellam-) partly for the provisioning of the army in case of war, or on other special occasions at a fair valuation—was already so scandalously abused, that on the complaint of the Spaniards the senate in 583 found it necessary to withdraw from the governors the right of fixing the price of the supplies for either purpose.(32) Requisitions had begun to be made on the subjects even for the popular festivals in Rome; the unmeasured vexatious demands made on the Italian as well as extra-Italian communities by the aedile Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, for the festival which he had to provide, induced the senate officially to interfere against them (572). The liberties which Roman magistrates at the close of this period allowed themselves to take not only with the unhappy subjects, but even with the dependent free-states and kingdoms, are illustrated by the raids of Gaius Volso in Asia Minor,(33) and above all by the scandalous proceedings in Greece during the war with Perseus.(34)

Control over the Governors
Supervision of the Senate over the Provinces and Their Governors

The government had no right to be surprised at such things, for it provided no serious check on the excesses of this capricious military administration. Judicial control, it is true, was not entirely wanting. Although, according to the universal but more than questionable rule of allowing no complaint to be brought against a commander-in-chief during his term of office,(35) the Roman governor could ordinarily be called to account only after the mischief had been done, yet he was amenable both to a criminal and to a civil prosecution. In order to the institution of the former, a tribune of the people by virtue of the judicial power pertaining to him had to take the case in hand and bring it to the bar of the people; the civil action was remitted by the senator who administered the corresponding praetorship to a jury appointed, according to the constitution of the tribunal in those times, from the ranks of the senate. In both cases, therefore, the control lay in the hands of the ruling class, and, although the latter was still sufficiently upright and honourable not absolutely to set aside well-founded complaints, and the senate even in various instances, at the call of those aggrieved, condescended itself to order the institution of a civil process, yet the complaints of poor men and foreigners against powerful members of the ruling aristocracy—submitted to judges and jurymen far remote from the scene and, if not involved in the like guilt, at least belonging to the same order as the accused—could from the first only reckon on success in the event of the wrong being clear and crying; and to complain in vain was almost certain destruction. The aggrieved no doubt found a sort of support in the hereditary relations of clientship, which the subject cities and provinces entered into with their conquerors and other Romans brought into close contact with them. The Spanish governors felt that no one could with impunity maltreat clients of Cato; and the circumstance that the representatives of the three nations conquered by Paullus—the Spaniards, Ligurians, and Macedonians—would not forgo the privilege of carrying his bier to the funeral pile, was the noblest dirge in honour of that noble man. But not only did this special protection give the Greeks opportunity to display in Rome all their talent for abasing themselves in presence of their masters, and to demoralize even those masters by their ready servility—the decrees of the Syracusans in honour of Marcellus, after he had destroyed and plundered their city and they had complained of his conduct in these respects to the senate in vain, form one of the most scandalous pages in the far from honourable annals of Syracuse —but, in connection with the already dangerous family-politics, this patronage on the part of great houses had also its politically perilous side. In this way the result perhaps was that the Roman magistrates in some degree feared the gods and the senate, and for the most part were moderate in their plundering; but they plundered withal, and did so with impunity, if they but observed such moderation. The mischievous rule became established, that in the case of minor exactions and moderate violence the Roman magistrate acted in some measure within his sphere and was in law exempt from punishment, so that those who were aggrieved had to keep silence; and from this rule succeeding ages did not fail to draw the fatal consequences. Nevertheless, even though the tribunals had been as strict as they were lax, the liability to a judicial reckoning could only check the worst evils. The true security for a good administration lay in a strict and uniform supervision by the supreme administrative authority: and this the senate utterly failed to provide. It was in this respect that the laxity and helplessness of the collegiate government became earliest apparent. By right the governors ought to have been subjected to an oversight far more strict and more special than had sufficed for the administration of Italian municipal affairs; and now, when the empire embraced great transmarine territories, the arrangements, through which the government preserved to itself the supervision of the whole, ought to have undergone a corresponding expansion. In both respects the reverse was the case. The governors ruled virtually as sovereign; and the most important of the institutions serving for the latter purpose, the census of the empire, was extended to Sicily alone, not to any of the provinces subsequently acquired. This emancipation of the supreme administrative officials from the central authority was more than hazardous. The Roman governor, placed at the head of the armies of the state, and in possession of considerable financial resources: subject to but a lax judicial control, and practically independent of the supreme administration; and impelled by a sort of necessity to separate the interest of himself and of the people whom he governed from that of the Roman community and to treat them as conflicting, far more resembled a Persian satrap than one of the commissioners of the Roman senate at the time of the Samnite wars. The man, moreover, who had just conducted a legalized military tyranny abroad, could with difficulty find his way back to the common civic level, which distinguished between those who commanded and those who obeyed, but not between masters and slaves. Even the government felt that their two fundamental principles—equality within the aristocracy, and the subordination of the power of the magistrates to the senatorial college—began in this instance to give way in their hands. The aversion of the government to the acquisition of new provinces and to the whole provincial system; the institution of the provincial quaestorships, which were intended to take at least the financial power out of the hands of the governors; and the abolition of the arrangement—in itself so judicious—for a longer tenure of such offices,(36) very clearly evince the anxiety felt by the more far- seeing of the Roman statesmen as to the fruits of the seed thus sown. But diagnosis is not cure. The internal government of the nobility continued to follow the direction once given to it; and the decay of the administration and of the financial system—paving the way for future revolutions and usurpations—steadily pursued its course, if not unnoticed, yet unchecked.

The Opposition

If the new nobility was less sharply defined than the old aristocracy of the clans, and if the encroachment on the other burgesses as respected the joint enjoyment of political rights was in the one case -de jure-, in the other only -de facto-, the second form of inferiority was for that very reason worse to bear and worse to throw off than the first. Attempts to throw it off were, as a matter of course, not wanting. The opposition rested on the support of the public assembly, as the nobility did on the senate: in order to understand the opposition, we must first describe the Roman burgess- body during this period as regards its spirit and its position in the commonwealth.

Character of the Roman Burgess-Body

Whatever could be demanded of an assembly of burgesses like the Roman, which was not the moving spring, but the firm foundation, of the whole machinery—a sure perception of the common good, a sagacious deference towards the right leader, a steadfast spirit in prosperous and evil days, and, above all, the capacity of sacrificing the individual for the general welfare and the comfort of the present for the advantage of the future—all these qualities the Roman community exhibited in so high a degree that, when we look to its conduct as a whole, all censure is lost in reverent admiration. Even now good sense and discretion still thoroughly predominated. The whole conduct of the burgesses with reference to the government as well as to the opposition shows quite clearly that the same mighty patriotism before which even the genius of Hannibal had to quit the field prevailed also in the Roman comitia. No doubt they often erred; but their errors originated not in the mischievous impulses of a rabble, but in the narrow views of burgesses and farmers. The machinery, however, by means of which the burgesses intervened in the course of public affairs became certainly more and more unwieldy, and the circumstances in which they were placed through their own great deeds far outgrew their power to deal with them. We have already stated, that in the course of this epoch most of the former communities of passive burgesses, as well as a considerable number of newly established colonies, received the full Roman franchise.(37) At the close of this period the Roman burgess-body, in a tolerably compact mass, filled Latium in its widest sense, Sabina, and a part of Campania, so that it reached on the west coast northward to Caere and southward to Cumae; within this district there were only a few cities not included in it, such as Tibur, Praeneste, Signia, Norba, and Ferentinum. To this fell to be added the maritime colonies on the coasts of Italy which uniformly possessed the full Roman franchise, the Picenian and Trans- Apennine colonies of the most recent times, to which the franchise must have been conceded,(38) and a very considerable number of Roman burgesses, who, without forming separate communities in a strict sense, were scattered throughout Italy in market-villages and hamlets (-fora et conciliabula-). To some extent the unwieldiness of a civic community so constituted was remedied, for the purposes of justice(39) and of administration, by the deputy judges previously mentioned;(40) and already perhaps the maritime(41) and the new Picenian and Trans- Apennine colonies exhibited at least the first lineaments of the system under which afterwards smaller urban communities were organized within the great city-commonwealth of Rome. But in all political questions the primary assembly in the Roman Forum remained alone entitled to act; and it is obvious at a glance, that this assembly was no longer, in its composition or in its collective action, what it had been when all the persons entitled to vote could exercise their privilege as citizens by leaving their farms in the morning and returning home the same evening. Moreover the government—whether from want of judgment, from negligence, or from any evil design, we cannot tell—no longer as formerly enrolled the communities admitted to the franchise after 513 in newly instituted election-districts, but included them along with others in the old; so that gradually each tribe came to be composed of different townships scattered over the whole Roman territory. Election-districts such as these, containing on an average 8000—the urban naturally having more, the rural fewer —persons entitled to vote, without local connection or inward unity, no longer admitted of any definite leading or of any satisfactory previous deliberation; disadvantages which must have been the more felt, since the voting itself was not preceded by any free debate. Moreover, while the burgesses had quite sufficient capacity to discern their communal interests, it was foolish and utterly ridiculous to leave the decision of the highest and most difficult questions which the power that ruled the world had to solve to a well-disposed but fortuitous concourse of Italian farmers, and to allow the nomination of generals and the conclusion of treaties of state to be finally judged of by people who understood neither the grounds nor the consequences of their decrees. In all matters transcending mere communal affairs the Roman primary assemblies accordingly played a childish and even silly part. As a rule, the people stood and gave assent to all proposals; and, when in exceptional instances they of their own impulse refused assent, as on occasion of the declaration of war against Macedonia in 554,(42) the policy of the market-place certainly made a pitiful opposition—and with a pitiful issue—to the policy of the state.

Rise of a City Rabble

At length the rabble of clients assumed a position, formally of equality and often even, practically, of superiority, alongside of the class of independent burgesses. The institutions out of which it sprang were of great antiquity. From time immemorial the Roman of quality exercised a sort of government over his freedmen and dependents, and was consulted by them in all their more important affairs; a client, for instance, was careful not to give his children in marriage without having obtained the consent of his patron, and very often the latter directly arranged the match. But as the aristocracy became converted into a special ruling class concentrating in its hands not only power but also wealth, the clients became parasites and beggars; and the new adherents of the rich undermined outwardly and inwardly the burgess class. The aristocracy not only tolerated this sort of clientship, but worked it financially and politically for their own advantage. Thus, for instance, the old penny collections, which hitherto had taken place chiefly for religious purposes and at the burial of men of merit, were now employed by lords of high standing—for the first time by Lucius Scipio, in 568, on occasion of a popular festival which he had in contemplation—for the purpose of levying on extraordinary occasions a contribution from the public. Presents were specially placed under legal restriction (in 550), because the senators began under that name to take regular tribute from their clients. But the retinue of clients was above all serviceable to the ruling class as a means of commanding the comitia; and the issue of the elections shows clearly how powerfully the dependent rabble already at this epoch competed with the independent middle class.

The very rapid increase of the rabble in the capital particularly, which is thus presupposed, is also demonstrable otherwise. The increasing number and importance of the freedmen are shown by the very serious discussions that arose in the previous century,(43) and were continued during the present, as to their right to vote in the public assemblies, and by the remarkable resolution, adopted by the senate during the Hannibalic war, to admit honourable freedwomen to a participation in the public collections, and to grant to the legitimate children of manumitted fathers the insignia hitherto belonging only to the children of the free-born.(44) The majority of the Hellenes and Orientals who settled in Rome were probably little better than the freedmen, for national servility clung as indelibly to the former as legal servility to the latter.

Systematic Corruption of the Multitude
Distributions of Grain

But not only did these natural causes co-operate to produce a metropolitan rabble: neither the nobility nor the demagogues, moreover, can be acquitted from the reproach of having systematically nursed its growth, and of having undermined, so far as in them lay, the old public spirit by flattery of the people and things still worse. The electors as a body were still too respectable to admit of direct electoral corruption showing itself on a great scale; but the favour of those entitled to vote was indirectly courted by methods far from commendable. The old obligation of the magistrates, particularly of the aediles, to see that corn could be procured at a moderate price and to superintend the games, began to degenerate into the state of things which at length gave rise to the horrible cry of the city populace under the Empire, "Bread for nothing and games for ever!" Large supplies of grain, cither placed by the provincial governors at the disposal of the Roman market officials, or delivered at Rome free of cost by the provinces themselves for the purpose of procuring favour with particular Roman magistrates, enabled the aediles, from the middle of the sixth century, to furnish grain to the population of the capital at very low prices. "It was no wonder," Cato considered, "that the burgesses no longer listened to good advice—the belly forsooth had no ears."


Popular amusements increased to an alarming extent. For five hundred years the community had been content with one festival in the year, and with one circus. The first Roman demagogue by profession, Gaius Flaminius, added a second festival and a second circus (534);(45) and by these institutions—the tendency of which is sufficiently indicated by the very name of the new festival, "the plebeian games"—he probably purchased the permission to give battle at the Trasimene lake. When the path was once opened, the evil made rapid progress. The festival in honour of Ceres, the goddess who protected the plebeian order,(46) must have been but little, if at all, later than the plebeian games. On the suggestion of the Sibylline and Marcian prophecies, moreover, a fourth festival was added in 542 in honour of Apollo, and a fifth in 550 in honour of the "Great Mother" recently transplanted from Phrygia to Rome. These were the severe years of the Hannibalic war—on the first celebration of the games of Apollo the burgesses were summoned from the circus itself to arms; the superstitious fear peculiar to Italy was feverishly excited, and persons were not wanting who took advantage of the opportunity to circulate Sibylline and prophetic oracles and to recommend themselves to the multitude through their contents and advocacy: we can scarcely blame the government, which was obliged to call for so enormous sacrifices from the burgesses, for yielding in such matters. But what was once conceded had to be continued; indeed, even in more peaceful times (581) there was added another festival, although of minor importance—the games in honour of Flora. The cost of these new festal amusements was defrayed by the magistrates entrusted with the providing of the respective festivals from their own means: thus the curule aediles had, over and above the old national festival, those of the Mother of the Gods and of Flora; the plebeian aediles had the plebeian festival and that of Ceres, and the urban praetor the Apollinarian games. Those who sanctioned the new festivals perhaps excused themselves in their own eyes by the reflection that they were not at any rate a burden on the public purse; but it would have been in reality far less injurious to burden the public budget with a number of useless expenses, than to allow the providing of an amusement for the people to become practically a qualification for holding the highest office in the state. The future candidates for the consulship soon entered into a mutual rivalry in their expenditure on these games, which incredibly increased their cost; and, as may well be conceived, it did no harm if the consul expectant gave, over and above this as it were legal contribution, a voluntary "performance" (-munus-), a gladiatorial show at his own expense for the public benefit. The splendour of the games became gradually the standard by which the electors measured the fitness of the candidates for the consulship. The nobility had, in truth, to pay dear for their honours—a gladiatorial show on a respectable scale cost 720,000 sesterces (7200 pounds)—but they paid willingly, since by this means they absolutely precluded men who were not wealthy from a political career.

Squandering of the Spoil

Corruption, however, was not restricted to the Forum; it was transferred even to the camp. The old burgess militia had reckoned themselves fortunate when they brought home a compensation for the toil of war, and, in the event of success, a trifling gift as a memorial of victory. The new generals, with Scipio Africanus at their head, lavishly scattered amongst their troops the money of Rome as well as the proceeds of the spoil: it was on this point, that Cato quarrelled with Scipio during the last campaigns against Hannibal in Africa. The veterans from the second Macedonian war and that waged in Asia Minor already returned home throughout as wealthy men: even the better class began to commend a general, who did not appropriate the gifts of the provincials and the gains of war entirely to himself and his immediate followers, and from whose camp not a few men returned with gold, and many with silver, in their pockets: men began to forget that the moveable spoil was the property of the state. When Lucius Paullus again dealt with it in the old mode, his own soldiers, especially the volunteers who had been allured in numbers by the prospect of rich plunder, fell little short of refusing to the victor of Pydna by popular decree the honour of a triumph—an honour which they already threw away on every one who had subjugated three Ligurian villages.

Decline of Warlike Spirit

How much the military discipline and the martial spirit of the burgesses suffered from this conversion of war into a traffic in plunder, may be traced in the campaigns against Perseus; and the spread of cowardice was manifested in a way almost scandalous during the insignificant Istrian war (in 576). On occasion of a trifling skirmish magnified by rumour to gigantic dimensions, the land army and the naval force of the Romans, and even the Italians, ran off homeward, and Cato found it necessary to address a special reproof to his countrymen for their cowardice. In this too the youth of quality took precedence. Already during the Hannibalic war (545) the censors found occasion to visit with severe penalties the remissness of those who were liable to military service under the equestrian census. Towards the close of this period (574?) a decree of the people prescribed evidence of ten years' service as a qualification for holding any public magistracy, with a view to compel the sons of the nobility to enter the army.


But perhaps nothing so clearly evinces the decay of genuine pride and genuine honour in high and low alike as the hunting after insignia and titles, which appeared under different forms of expression, but with substantial identity of character, among all ranks and classes. So urgent was the demand for the honour of a triumph that there was difficulty in upholding the old rule, which accorded a triumph only to the ordinary supreme magistrate who augmented the power of the commonwealth in open battle, and thereby, it is true, not unfrequently excluded from that honour the very authors of the most important successes. There was a necessity for acquiescence, while those generals, who had in vain solicited, or had no prospect of attaining, a triumph from the senate or the burgesses, marched in triumph on their own account at least to the Alban Mount (first in 523). No combat with a Ligurian or Corsican horde was too insignificant to be made a pretext for demanding a triumph. In order to put an end to the trade of peaceful triumphators, such as were the consuls of 574, the granting of a triumph was made to depend on the producing proof of a pitched battle which had cost the lives of at least 5000 of the enemy; but this proof was frequently evaded by false bulletins—already in houses of quality many an enemy's armour might be seen to glitter, which had by no means come thither from the field of battle. While formerly the commander-in-chief of the one year had reckoned it an honour to serve next year on the staff of his successor, the fact that the consular Cato took service as a military tribune under Tiberius Sempronius Longus (560) and Manius Glabrio (563;(47)), was now regarded as a demonstration against the new-fashioned arrogance. Formerly the thanks of the community once for all had sufficed for service rendered to the state: now every meritorious act seemed to demand a permanent distinction. Already Gaius Duilius, the victor of Mylae (494), had gained an exceptional permission that, when he walked in the evening through the streets of the capital, he should be preceded by a torch-bearer and a piper. Statues and monuments, very often erected at the expense of the person whom they purported to honour, became so common, that it was ironically pronounced a distinction to have none. But such merely personal honours did not long suffice. A custom came into vogue, by which the victor and his descendants derived a permanent surname from the victories they had won—a custom mainly established by the victor of Zama who got himself designated as the hero of Africa, his brother as the hero of Asia, and his cousin as the hero of Spain.(48) The example set by the higher was followed by the humbler classes. When the ruling order did not disdain to settle the funeral arrangements for different ranks and to decree to the man who had been censor a purple winding-sheet, it could not complain of the freedmen for desiring that their sons at any rate might be decorated with the much-envied purple border. The robe, the ring, and the amulet-case distinguished not only the burgess and the burgess's wife from the foreigner and the slave, but also the person who was free-born from one who had been a slave, the son of free-born, from the son of manumitted, parents, the son of the knight and the senator from the common burgess, the descendant of a curule house from the common senator(49)—and this in a community where all that was good and great was the work of civil equality!

The dissension in the community was reflected in the ranks of the opposition. Resting on the support of the farmers, the patriots raised a loud cry for reform; resting on the support of the mob in the capital, demagogism began its work. Although the two tendencies do not admit of being wholly separated but in various respects go hand in hand, it will be necessary to consider them apart.

The Party of Reform

The party of reform emerges, as it were, personified in Marcus Porcius Cato (520-605). Cato, the last statesman of note belonging to that earlier system which restricted its ideas to Italy and was averse to universal empire, was for that reason accounted in after times the model of a genuine Roman of the antique stamp; he may with greater justice be regarded as the representative of the opposition of the Roman middle class to the new Hellenico-cosmopolite nobility. Brought up at the plough, he was induced to enter on a political career by the owner of a neighbouring estate, one of the few nobles who kept aloof from the tendencies of the age, Lucius Valerius Flaccus. That upright patrician deemed the rough Sabine farmer the proper man to stem the current of the times; and he was not deceived in his estimate. Beneath the aegis of Flaccus, and after the good old fashion serving his fellow-citizens and the commonwealth in counsel and action, Cato fought his way up to the consulate and a triumph, and even to the censorship. Having in his seventeenth year entered the burgess-army, he had passed through the whole Hannibalic war from the battle on the Trasimene lake to that of Zama; had served under Marcellus and Fabius, under Nero and Scipio; and at Tarentum and Sena, in Africa, Sardinia, Spain, and Macedonia, had shown himself capable as a soldier, a staff- officer, and a general. He was the same in the Forum, as in the battle-field. His prompt and fearless utterance, his rough but pungent rustic wit, his knowledge of Roman law and Roman affairs, his incredible activity and his iron frame, first brought him into notice in the neighbouring towns; and, when at length he made his appearance on the greater arena of the Forum and the senate-house in the capital, constituted him the most influential advocate and political orator of his time. He took up the key-note first struck by Manius Curius, his ideal among Roman statesmen;(50) throughout his long life he made it his task honestly, to the best of his judgment, to assail on all hands the prevailing declension; and even in his eighty-fifth year he battled in the Forum with the new spirit of the times. He was anything but comely—he had green eyes, his enemies alleged, and red hair—and he was not a great man, still less a far-seeing statesman. Thoroughly narrow in his political and moral views, and having the ideal of the good old times always before his eyes and on his lips, he cherished an obstinate contempt for everything new. Deeming himself by virtue of his own austere life entitled to manifest an unrelenting severity and harshness towards everything and everybody; upright and honourable, but without a glimpse of any duty lying beyond the sphere of police order and of mercantile integrity; an enemy to all villany and vulgarity as well as to all refinement and geniality, and above all things the foe of his foes; he never made an attempt to stop evils at their source, but waged war throughout life against symptoms, and especially against persons. The ruling lords, no doubt, looked down with a lofty disdain on the ignoble growler, and believed, not without reason, that they were far superior; but fashionable corruption in and out of the senate secretly trembled in the presence of the old censor of morals with his proud republican bearing, of the scar-covered veteran from the Hannibalic war, and of the highly influential senator and the idol of the Roman farmers. He publicly laid before his noble colleagues, one after another, his list of their sins; certainly without being remarkably particular as to the proofs, and certainly also with a peculiar relish in the case of those who had personally crossed or provoked him. With equal fearlessness he reproved and publicly scolded the burgesses for every new injustice and every fresh disorder. His vehement attacks provoked numerous enemies, and he lived in declared and irreconcilable hostility with the most powerful aristocratic coteries of the time, particularly the Scipios and Flaminini; he was publicly accused forty-four times. But the farmers —and it is a significant indication how powerful still in the Roman middle class was the spirit which had enabled them to survive the day of Cannae—never allowed the unsparing champion of reform to lack the support of their votes. Indeed when in 570 Cato and his like-minded patrician colleague, Lucius Flaccus, solicited the censorship, and announced beforehand that it was their intention when in that office to undertake a vigorous purification of the burgess-body through all its ranks, the two men so greatly dreaded were elected by the burgesses notwithstanding all the exertions of the nobility; and the latter were obliged to submit, while the great purgation actually took place and erased among others the brother of Africanus from the roll of the equites, and the brother of the deliverer of the Greeks from the roll of the senate.

Police Reform

This warfare directed against individuals, and the various attempts to repress the spirit of the age by means of justice and of police, however deserving of respect might be the sentiments in which they originated, could only at most stem the current of corruption for a short time; and, while it is remarkable that Cato was enabled in spite of that current, or rather by means of it, to play his political part, it is equally significant that he was as little successful in getting rid of the leaders of the opposite party as they were in getting rid of him. The processes of count and reckoning instituted by him and by those who shared his views before the burgesses uniformly remained, at least in the cases that were of political importance, quite as ineffectual as the counter-accusations directed against him. Nor was much more effect produced by the police-laws, which were issued at this period in unusual numbers, especially for the restriction of luxury and for the introduction of a frugal and orderly housekeeping, and some of which have still to be touched on in our view of the national economics.

Assignations of Land

Far more practical and more useful were the attempts made to counteract the spread of decay by indirect means; among which, beyond doubt, the assignations of new farms out of the domain land occupy the first place. These assignations were made in great numbers and of considerable extent in the period between the first and second war with Carthage, and again from the close of the latter till towards the end of this epoch. The most important of them were the distribution of the Picenian possessions by Gaius Flaminius in 522;(51) the foundation of eight new maritime colonies in 560;(52) and above all the comprehensive colonization of the district between the Apennines and the Po by the establishment of the Latin colonies of Placentia, Cremona,(53) Bononia,(54) and Aquileia,(55) and of the burgess- colonies, Potentia, Pisaurum, Mutina, Parma, and Luna(56) in the years 536 and 565-577. By far the greater part of these highly beneficial foundations may be ascribed to the reforming party. Cato and those who shared his opinions demanded such measures, pointing, on the one hand, to the devastation of Italy by the Hannibalic war and the alarming diminution of the farms and of the free Italian population generally, and, on the other, to the widely extended possessions of the nobles—occupied along with, and similarly to, property of their own—in Cisalpine Gaul, in Samnium, and in the Apulian and Bruttian districts; and although the rulers of Rome did not probably comply with these demands to the extent to which they might and should have complied with them, yet they did not remain deaf to the warning voice of so judicious a man.

Reforms in the Military Service

Of a kindred character was the proposal, which Cato made in the senate, to remedy the decline of the burgess-cavalry by the institution of four hundred new equestrian stalls.(57) The exchequer cannot have wanted means for the purpose; but the proposal appears to have been thwarted by the exclusive spirit of the nobility and their endeavour to remove from the burgess-cavalry those who were troopers merely and not knights. On the other hand, the serious emergencies of the war, which even induced the Roman government to make an attempt —fortunately unsuccessful—to recruit their armies after the Oriental fashion from the slave-market,(58) compelled them to modify the qualifications hitherto required for service in the burgess-army, viz. a minimum census of 11,000 -asses- (43 pounds), and free birth. Apart from the fact that they took up for service in the fleet the persons of free birth rated between 4000 -asses- (17 pounds) and 1500 -asses- (6 pounds) and all the freedmen, the minimum census for the legionary was reduced to 4000 -asses- (17 pounds); and, in case of need, both those who were bound to serve in the fleet and the free-born rated between 1500 -asses- (6 pounds) and 375 -asses- (1 pound 10 shillings) were enrolled in the burgess-infantry. These innovations, which belong presumably to the end of the preceding or beginning of the present epoch, doubtless did not originate in party efforts any more than did the Servian military reform; but they gave a material impulse to the democratic party, in so far as those who bore civic burdens necessarily claimed and eventually obtained equalization of civic rights. The poor and the freedmen began to be of some importance in the commonwealth from the time when they served it; and chiefly from this cause arose one of the most important constitutional changes of this epoch —the remodelling of the -comitia centuriata-, which most probably took place in the same year in which the war concerning Sicily terminated

Reform of the Centuries

According to the order of voting hitherto followed in the centuriate comitia, although the freeholders were no longer—as down to the reform of Appius Claudius(59) they had been—the sole voters, the wealthy had the preponderance. The equites, or in other words the patricio-plebeian nobility, voted first, then those of the highest rating, or in other words those who had exhibited to the censor an estate of at least 100,000 -asses- (420 pounds);(60) and these two divisions, when they kept together, had derided every vote. The suffrage of those assessed under the four following classes had been of doubtful weight; that of those whose valuation remained below the standard of the lowest class, 11,000 -asses- (43 pounds), had been essentially illusory. According to the new arrangement the right of priority in voting was withdrawn from the equites, although they retained their separate divisions, and it was transferred to a voting division chosen from the first class by lot. The importance of that aristocratic right of prior voting cannot be estimated too highly, especially at an epoch in which practically the influence of the nobility on the burgesses at large was constantly on the increase. Even the patrician order proper were still at this epoch powerful enough to fill the second consulship and the second censorship, which stood open in law alike to patricians and plebeians, solely with men of their own body, the former up to the close of this period (till 582), the latter even for a generation longer (till 623); and in fact, at the most perilous moment which the Roman republic ever experienced —in the crisis after the battle of Cannae—they cancelled the quite legally conducted election of the officer who was in all respects the ablest—the plebeian Marcellus—to the consulship vacated by the death of the patrician Paullus, solely on account of his plebeianism. At the same time it is a significant token of the nature even of this reform that the right of precedence in voting was withdrawn only from the nobility, not from those of the highest rating; the right of prior voting withdrawn from the equestrian centuries passed not to a division chosen incidentally by lot from the whole burgesses, but exclusively to the first class. This as well as the five grades generally remained as they were; only the lower limit was probably shifted in such a way that the minimum census was, for the right of voting in the centuries as for service in the legion, reduced from 11,000 to 4000 -asses-. Besides, the formal retention of the earlier rates, while there was a general increase in the amount of men's means, involved of itself in some measure an extension of the suffrage in a democratic sense. The total number of the divisions remained likewise unchanged; but, while hitherto, as we have said, the 18 equestrian centuries and the 80 of the first class had, standing by themselves, the majority in the 193 voting centuries, in the reformed arrangement the votes of the first class were reduced to 70, with the result that under all circumstances at least the second grade came to vote. Still more important, and indeed the real central element of the reform, was the connection into which the new voting divisions were brought with the tribal arrangement. Formerly the centuries originated from the tribes on the footing, that whoever belonged to a tribe had to be enrolled by the censor in one of the centuries. From the time that the non-freehold burgesses had been enrolled in the tribes, they too came thus into the centuries, and, while they were restricted in the -comitia tributa- to the four urban divisions, they had in the -comitia centuriata- formally the same right with the freehold burgesses, although probably the censorial arbitrary prerogative intervened in the composition of the centuries, and granted to the burgesses enrolled in the rural tribes the preponderance also in the centuriate assembly. This preponderance was established by the reformed arrangement on the legal footing, that of the 70 centuries of the first class, two were assigned to each tribe and, accordingly, the non-freehold burgesses obtained only eight of them; in a similar way the preponderance must have been conceded also in the four other grades to the freehold burgesses. In a like spirit the previous equalization of the freedmen with the free-born in the right of voting was set aside at this time, and even the freehold freedmen were assigned to the four urban tribes. This was done in the year 534 by one of the most notable men of the party of reform, the censor Gaius Flaminius, and was then repeated and more stringently enforced fifty years later (585) by the censor Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, the father of the two authors of the Roman revolution. This reform of the centuries, which perhaps in its totality proceeded likewise from Flaminius, was the first important constitutional change which the new opposition wrung from the nobility, the first victory of the democracy proper. The pith of it consists partly in the restriction of the censorial arbitrary rule, partly in the restriction of the influence of the nobility on the one hand, and of the non- freeholders and the freedmen on the other, and so in the remodelling of the centuriate comitia according to the principle which already held good for the comitia of the tribes; a course which commended itself by the circumstance that elections, projects of law, criminal impeachments, and generally all affairs requiring the co-operation of the burgesses, were brought throughout to the comitia of the tribes and the more unwieldy centuries were but seldom called together, except where it was constitutionally necessary or at least usual, in order to elect the censors, consuls, and praetors, and in order to resolve upon an aggressive war.

Thus this reform did not introduce a new principle into the constitution, but only brought into general application the principle that had long regulated the working of the practically more frequent and more important form of the burgess-assemblies. Its democratic, but by no means demagogic, tendency is clearly apparent in the position which it took up towards the proper supports of every really revolutionary party, the proletariate and the freedmen. For that reason the practical significance of this alteration in the order of voting regulating the primary assemblies must not be estimated too highly. The new law of election did not prevent, and perhaps did not even materially impede, the contemporary formation of a new politically privileged order. It is certainly not owing to the mere imperfection of tradition, defective as it undoubtedly is, that we are nowhere able to point to a practical influence exercised by this much- discussed reform on the course of political affairs. An intimate connection, we may add, subsisted between this reform, and the already-mentioned abolition of the Roman burgess-communities -sine suffragio-, which were gradually merged in the community of full burgesses. The levelling spirit of the party of progress suggested the abolition of distinctions within the middle class, while the chasm between burgesses and non-burgesses was at the same time widened and deepened.

Results of the Efforts at Reform

Reviewing what the reform party of this age aimed at and obtained, we find that it undoubtedly exerted itself with patriotism and energy to check, and to a certain extent succeeded in checking, the spread of decay—more especially the falling off of the farmer class and the relaxation of the old strict and frugal habits—as well as the preponderating political influence of the new nobility. But we fail to discover any higher political aim. The discontent of the multitude and the moral indignation of the better classes found doubtless in this opposition their appropriate and powerful expression; but we do not find either a clear insight into the sources of the evil, or any definite and comprehensive plan of remedying it. A certain want of thought pervades all these efforts otherwise so deserving of honour, and the purely defensive attitude of the defenders forebodes little good for the sequel. Whether the disease could be remedied at all by human skill, remains fairly open to question; the Roman reformers of this period seem to have been good citizens rather than good statesmen, and to have conducted the great struggle between the old civism and the new cosmopolitanism on their part after a somewhat inadequate and narrow-minded fashion.


But, as this period witnessed the rise of a rabble by the side of the burgesses, so it witnessed also the emergence of a demagogism that flattered the populace alongside of the respectable and useful party of opposition. Cato was already acquainted with men who made a trade of demagogism; who had a morbid propensity for speechifying, as others had for drinking or for sleeping; who hired listeners, if they could find no willing audience otherwise; and whom people heard as they heard the market-crier, without listening to their words or, in the event of needing help, entrusting themselves to their hands. In his caustic fashion the old man describes these fops formed after the model of the Greek talkers of the agora, dealing in jests and witticisms, singing and dancing, ready for anything; such an one was, in his opinion, good for nothing but to exhibit himself as harlequin in a procession and to bandy talk with the public—he would sell his talk or his silence for a bit of bread. In reality these demagogues were the worst enemies of reform. While the reformers insisted above all things and in every direction on moral amendment, demagogism preferred to insist on the limitation of the powers of the government and the extension of those of the burgesses.

Abolition of the Dictatorship

Under the former head the most important innovation was the practical abolition of the dictatorship. The crisis occasioned by Quintus Fabius and his popular opponents in 537(61) gave the death-blow to this all-along unpopular institution. Although the government once afterwards, in 538, under the immediate impression produced by the battle of Cannae, nominated a dictator invested with active command, it could not again venture to do so in more peaceful times. On several occasions subsequently (the last in 552), sometimes after a previous indication by the burgesses of the person to be nominated, a dictator was appointed for urban business; but the office, without being formally abolished, fell practically into desuetude. Through its abeyance the Roman constitutional system, so artificially constructed, lost a corrective which was very desirable with reference to its peculiar feature of collegiate magistrates;(62) and the government, which was vested with the sole power of creating a dictatorship or in other words of suspending the consuls, and ordinarily designated also the person who was to be nominated as dictator, lost one of its most important instruments. Its place was but very imperfectly supplied by the power—which the senate thenceforth claimed—of conferring in extraordinary emergencies, particularly on the sudden outbreak of revolt or war, a quasi- dictatorial power on the supreme magistrates for the time being, by instructing them "to take measures for the safety of the commonwealth at their discretion," and thus creating a state of things similar to the modern martial law.

Election of Priests by the Community

Along with this change the formal powers of the people in the nomination of magistrates as well as in questions of government, administration, and finance, received a hazardous extension. The priesthoods—particularly those politically most important, the colleges of men of lore—according to ancient custom filled up the vacancies in their own ranks, and nominated also their own presidents, where these corporations had presidents at all; and in fact, for such institutions destined to transmit the knowledge of divine things from generation to generation, the only form of election in keeping with their spirit was cooptation. It was therefore—although not of great political importance—significant of the incipient disorganization of the republican arrangements, that at this time (before 542), while election into the colleges themselves was left on its former footing, the designation of the presidents—the -curiones- and -pontifices- —from the ranks of those corporations was transferred from the colleges to the community. In this case, however, with a pious regard for forms that is genuinely Roman, in order to avoid any error, only a minority of the tribes, and therefore not the "people," completed the act of election.

Interference of the Community in War and Administration

Of greater importance was the growing interference of the burgesses in questions as to persons and things belonging to the sphere of military administration and external policy. To this head belong the transference of the nomination of the ordinary staff-officers from the general to the burgesses, which has been already mentioned;(63) the elections of the leaders of the opposition as commanders-in-chief against Hannibal;(64) the unconstitutional and irrational decree of the people in 537, which divided the supreme command between the unpopular generalissimo and his popular lieutenant who opposed him in the camp as well as at home;(65) the tribunician complaint laid before the burgesses, charging an officer like Marcellus with injudicious and dishonest management of the war (545), which even compelled him to come from the camp to the capital and there demonstrate his military capacity before the public; the still more scandalous attempts to refuse by decree of the burgesses to the victor of Pydna his triumph;(66) the investiture—suggested, it is true, by the senate—of a private man with extraordinary consular authority (544;(67)); the dangerous threat of Scipio that, if the senate should refuse him the chief command in Africa, he would seek the sanction of the burgesses (549;(68)); the attempt of a man half crazy with ambition to extort from the burgesses, against the will of the government, a declaration of war in every respect unwarranted against the Rhodians (587;(69)); and the new constitutional axiom, that every state-treaty acquired validity only through the ratification of the people.

Interference of the Community with the Finances

This joint action of the burgesses in governing and in commanding was fraught in a high degree with peril. But still more dangerous was their interference with the finances of the state; not only because any attack on the oldest and most important right of the government —the exclusive administration of the public property—struck at the root of the power of the senate, but because the placing of the most important business of this nature—the distribution of the public domains—in the hands of the primary assemblies of the burgesses necessarily dug the grave of the republic. To allow the primary assembly to decree the transference of public property without limit to its own pocket is not only wrong, but is the beginning of the end; it demoralizes the best-disposed citizens, and gives to the proposer a power incompatible with a free commonwealth. Salutary as was the distribution of the public land, and doubly blameable as was the senate accordingly for omitting to cut off this most dangerous of all weapons of agitation by voluntarily distributing the occupied lands, yet Gaius Flaminius, when he came to the burgesses in 522 with the proposal to distribute the domains of Picenum, undoubtedly injured the commonwealth more by the means than he benefited it by the end. Spurius Cassius had doubtless two hundred and fifty years earlier proposed the same thing;(70) but the two measures, closely as they coincided in the letter, were yet wholly different, inasmuch as Cassius submitted a matter affecting the community to that community while it was in vigour and self-governing, whereas Flaminius submitted a question of state to the primary assembly of a great empire.

Nullity of the Comitia

Not the party of the government only, but the party of reform also, very properly regarded the military, executive, and financial government as the legitimate domain of the senate, and carefully abstained from making full use of, to say nothing of augmenting, the formal power vested in primary assemblies that were inwardly doomed to inevitable dissolution. Never even in the most limited monarchy was a part so completely null assigned to the monarch as was allotted to the sovereign Roman people: this was no doubt in more than one respect to be regretted, but it was, owing to the existing state of the comitial machine, even in the view of the friends of reform a matter of necessity. For this reason Cato and those who shared his views never submitted to the burgesses a question, which trenched on government strictly so called; and never, directly or indirectly, by decree of the burgesses extorted from the senate the political or financial measures which they wished, such as the declaration of war against Carthage and the assignations of land. The government of the senate might be bad; the primary assemblies could not govern at all. Not that an evil-disposed majority predominated in them; on the contrary the counsel of a man of standing, the loud call of honour, and the louder call of necessity were still, as a rule, listened to in the comitia, and averted the most injurious and disgraceful results. The burgesses, before whom Marcellus pleaded his cause, ignominiously dismissed his accuser, and elected the accused as consul for the following year: they suffered themselves also to be persuaded of the necessity of the war against Philip, terminated the war against Perseus by the election of Paullus, and accorded to the latter his well-deserved triumph. But in order to such elections and such decrees there was needed some special stimulus; in general the mass having no will of its own followed the first impulse, and folly or accident dictated the decision.

Disorganisation of Government

In the state, as in every organism, an organ which no longer discharges its functions is injurious. The nullity of the sovereign assembly of the people involved no small danger. Any minority in the senate might constitutionally appeal to the comitia against the majority. To every individual, who possessed the easy art of addressing untutored ears or of merely throwing away money, a path was opened up for his acquiring a position or procuring a decree in his favour, to which the magistrates and the government were formally bound to do homage. Hence sprang those citizen-generals, accustomed to sketch plans of battle on the tables of taverns and to look down on the regular service with compassion by virtue of their inborn genius for strategy: hence those staff-officers, who owed their command to the canvassing intrigues of the capital and, whenever matters looked serious, had at once to get leave of absence -en masse-; and hence the battles on the Trasimene lake and at Cannae, and the disgraceful management of the war with Perseus. At every step the government was thwarted and led astray by those incalculable decrees of the burgesses, and as was to be expected, most of all in the very cases where it was most in the right.

But the weakening of the government and the weakening of the community itself were among the lesser dangers that sprang from this demagogism. Still more directly the factious violence of individual ambition pushed itself forward under the aegis of the constitutional rights of the burgesses. That which formally issued forth as the will of the supreme authority in the state was in reality very often the mere personal pleasure of the mover; and what was to be the fate of a commonwealth in which war and peace, the nomination and deposition of the general and his officers, the public chest and the public property, were dependent on the caprices of the multitude and its accidental leaders? The thunder-storm had not yet burst; but the clouds were gathering in denser masses, and occasional peals of thunder were already rolling through the sultry air. It was a circumstance, moreover, fraught with double danger, that the tendencies which were apparently most opposite met together at their extremes both as regarded ends and as regarded means. Family policy and demagogism carried on a similar and equally dangerous rivalry in patronizing and worshipping the rabble. Gaius Flaminius was regarded by the statesmen of the following generation as the initiator of that course from which proceeded the reforms of the Gracchi and—we may add—the democratico-monarchical revolution that ensued. But Publius Scipio also, although setting the fashion to the nobility in arrogance, title-hunting, and client-making, sought support for his personal and almost dynastic policy of opposition to the senate in the multitude, which he not only charmed by the dazzling effect of his personal qualities, but also bribed by his largesses of grain; in the legions, whose favour he courted by all means whether right or wrong; and above all in the body of clients, high and low, that personally adhered to him. Only the dreamy mysticism, on which the charm as well as the weakness of that remarkable man so largely depended, never suffered him to awake at all, or allowed him to awake but imperfectly, out of the belief that he was nothing, and that he desired to be nothing, but the first burgess of Rome.

To assert the possibility of a reform would be as rash as to deny it: this much is certain, that a thorough amendment of the state in all its departments was urgently required, and that in no quarter was any serious attempt made to accomplish it. Various alterations in details, no doubt, were made on the part of the senate as well as on the part of the popular opposition. The majorities in each were still well disposed, and still frequently, notwithstanding the chasm that separated the parties, joined hands in a common endeavour to effect the removal of the worst evils. But, while they did not stop the evil at its source, it was to little purpose that the better-disposed listened with anxiety to the dull murmur of the swelling flood and worked at dikes and dams. Contenting themselves with palliatives, and failing to apply even these—especially such as were the most important, the improvement of justice, for instance, and the distribution of the domains—in proper season and due measure, they helped to prepare evil days for their posterity. By neglecting to break up the field at the proper time, they allowed weeds even to ripen which they had not sowed. To the later generations who survived the storms of revolution the period after the Hannibalic war appeared the golden age of Rome, and Cato seemed the model of the Roman statesman. It was in reality the lull before the storm and the epoch of political mediocrities, an age like that of the government of Walpole in England; and no Chatham was found in Rome to infuse fresh energy into the stagnant life of the nation. Wherever we cast our eyes, chinks and rents are yawning in the old building; we see workmen busy sometimes in filling them up, sometimes in enlarging them; but we nowhere perceive any trace of preparations for thoroughly rebuilding or renewing it, and the question is no longer whether, but simply when, the structure will fall. During no epoch did the Roman constitution remain formally so stable as in the period from the Sicilian to the third Macedonian war and for a generation beyond it; but the stability of the constitution was here, as everywhere, not a sign of the health of the state, but a token of incipient sickness and the harbinger of revolution.

Notes for Chapter XI

1. II. III. New Aristocracy

2. II. III. New Opposition

3. II. III. Military Tribunes with Consular Powers

4. All these insignia probably belonged on their first emergence only to the nobility proper, i. e. to the agnate descendants of curule magistrates; although, after the manner of such decorations, all of them in course of time were extended to a wider circle. This can be distinctly proved in the case of the gold finger-ring, which in the fifth century was worn only by the nobility (Plin. H. N., xxxiii. i. 18), in the sixth by every senator and senator's son (Liv. xxvi. 36), in the seventh by every one of equestrian rank, under the empire by every one who was of free birth. So also with the silver trappings, which still, in the second Punic war, formed a badge of the nobility alone (Liv. xxvi. 37); and with the purple border of the boys' toga, which at first was granted only to the sons of curule magistrates, then to the sons of equites, afterwards to those of all free-born persons, lastly—yet as early as the time of the second Punic war —even to the sons of freedmen (Macrob. Sat. i. 6). The golden amulet-case (-bulla-) was a badge of the children of senators in the time of the second Punic war (Macrob. l. c.; Liv. xxvi. 36), in that of Cicero as the badge of the children of the equestrian order (Cic. Verr. i. 58, 152), whereas children of inferior rank wore the leathern amulet (-lorum-). The purple stripe (-clavus-) on the tunic was a badge of the senators (I. V. Prerogatives of the Senate) and of the equites, so that at least in later times the former wore it broad, the latter narrow; with the nobility the -clavus- had nothing to do.

5. II. III. Civic Equality

6. Plin. H. N. xxi. 3, 6. The right to appear crowned in public was acquired by distinction in war (Polyb. vi. 39, 9; Liv. x. 47); consequently, the wearing a crown without warrant was an offence similar to the assumption, in the present day, of the badge of a military order of merit without due title.

7. II. III. Praetorship

8. Thus there remained excluded the military tribunate with consular powers (II. III. Throwing Open of Marriage and of Magistracies) the proconsulship, the quaestorship, the tribunate of the people, and several others. As to the censorship, it does not appear, notwithstanding the curule chair of the censors (Liv. xl. 45; comp, xxvii. 8), to have been reckoned a curule office; for the later period, however, when only a man of consular standing could be made censor, the question has no practical importance. The plebeian aedileship certainly was not reckoned originally one of the curule magistracies (Liv. xxiii. 23); it may, however, have been subsequently included amongst them.

9. II. I. Government of the Patriciate

10. II. III. Censorship

11. II. III. The Senate

12. The current hypothesis, according to which the six centuries of the nobility alone amounted to 1200, and the whole equestrian force accordingly to 3600 horse, is not tenable. The method of determining the number of the equites by the number of duplications specified by the annalists is mistaken: in fact, each of these statements has originated and is to be explained by itself. But there is no evidence either for the first number, which is only found in the passage of Cicero, De Rep. ii. 20, acknowledged as miswritten even by the champions of this view, or for the second, which does not appear at all in ancient authors. In favour, on the other hand, of the hypothesis set forth in the text, we have, first of all, the number as indicated not by authorities, but by the institutions themselves; for it is certain that the century numbered 100 men, and there were originally three (I. V. Burdens of the Burgesses), then six (I. Vi. Amalgamation of the Palatine and Quirinal Cities), and lastly after the Servian reform eighteen (I. VI. The Five Classes), equestrian centuries. The deviations of the authorities from this view are only apparent. The old self-consistent tradition, which Becker has developed (ii. i, 243), reckons not the eighteen patricio-plebeian, but the six patrician, centuries at 1800 men; and this has been manifestly followed by Livy, i. 36 (according to the reading which alone has manuscript authority, and which ought not to be corrected from Livy's particular estimates), and by Cicero l. c. (according to the only reading grammatically admissible, MDCCC.; see Becker, ii. i, 244). But Cicero at the same time indicates very plainly, that in that statement he intended to describe the then existing amount of the Roman equites in general. The number of the whole body has therefore been transferred to the most prominent portion of it by a prolepsis, such as is common in the case of the old annalists not too much given to reflection: just in the same way 300 equites instead of 100 are assigned to the parent-community, including, by anticipation, the contingents of the Tities and the Luceres (Becker, ii. i, 238). Lastly, the proposition of Cato (p. 66, Jordan), to raise the number of the horses of the equites to 2200, is as distinct a confirmation of the view proposed above, as it is a distinct refutation of the opposite view. The closed number of the equites probably continued to subsist down to Sulla's time, when with the -de facto- abeyance of the censorship the basis of it fell away, and to all appearance in place of the censorial bestowal of the equestrian horse came its acquisition by hereditary right; thenceforth the senator's son was by birth an -eques-. Alongside, however, of this closed equestrian body, the -equites equo publico-, stood from an early period of the republic the burgesses bound to render mounted service on their own horses, who are nothing but the highest class of the census; they do not vote in the equestrian centuries, but are regarded otherwise as equites, and lay claim likewise to the honorary privileges of the equestrian order.

In the arrangement of Augustus the senatorial houses retained the hereditary equestrian right; but by its side the censorial bestowal of the equestrian horse is renewed as a prerogative of the emperor and without restriction to a definite time, and thereby the designation of equites for the first class of the census as such falls into abeyance.

13. II. III. Increasing Powers of the Burgesses

14. II. VIII. Officers

15. II. III. Restrictions As to the Accumulation and Reoccupation of Offices

16. II. III. New Opposition

17. The stability of the Roman nobility may be clearly traced, more especially in the case of the patrician -gentes-, by means of the consular and aedilician Fasti. As is well known, the consulate was held by one patrician and one plebeian in each year from 388 to 581 (with the exception of the years 399, 400, 401, 403, 405, 409, 411, in which both consuls were patricians). Moreover, the colleges of curule aediles were composed exclusively of patricians in the odd years of the Varronian reckoning, at least down to the close of the sixth century, and they are known for the sixteen years 541, 545, 547, 549, 551, 553, 555, 557, 561, 565, 567, 575, 585, 589, 591, 593. These patrician consuls and aediles are, as respects their -gentes-, distributed as follows:—

  Consuls Consuls Curule aediles of those
  388-500 501-581 16 patrician colleges

Cornelii 15 15 15
Valerii 10 8 4
Claudii 4 8 2
Aemilii 9 6 2
Fabii 6 6 1
Manlii 4 6 1
Postumii 2 6 2
Servilii 3 4 2
Quinctii 2 3 1
Furii 2 3 -
Sulpicii 6 4 2
Veturii - 2 -
Papirii 3 1 -
Nautii 2 - -
Julii 1 - 1
Foslii 1 - -
   —- —- —-
   70 70 32

Thus the fifteen or sixteen houses of the high nobility, that were powerful in the state at the time of the Licinian laws, maintained their ground without material change in their relative numbers—which no doubt were partly kept up by adoption—for the next two centuries, and indeed down to the end of the republic. To the circle of the plebeian nobility new -gentes- doubtless were from time to time added; but the old plebian houses, such as the Licinii, Fulvii, Atilii, Domitii, Marcii, Junii, predominate very decidedly in the Fasti throughout three centuries.

18. I. V. The Senate

19. III. IX. Death of Scipio

20. III. X. Their Lax and Unsuccessful Management of the War f.

21. III. VI. In Italy

22. III. VI. Conquest of Sicily

23. The expenses of these were, however, probably thrown in great part on the adjoining inhabitants. The old system of making requisitions of task-work was not abolished: it must not unfrequently have happened that the slaves of the landholders were called away to be employed in the construction of roads. (Cato, de R. R. 2 )

24. III. VI. Pressure of the War

25. III. VI. In Italy

26. III. VII. Celtic Wars

27. III. VI In Italy

28. III. VII. Latins

29. II. VII. Non-Latin Allied Communities

30. III. VII. Latins

31. Thus, as is well known, Ennius of Rudiae received burgess-rights from one of the triumvirs, Q. Fulvius Nobilior, on occasion of the founding of the burgess-colonies of Potentia and Pisaurum (Cic. Brut. 20, 79); whereupon, according to the well-known custom, he adopted the -praenomen- of the latter. The non-burgesses who were sent to share in the foundation of a burgess-colony, did not, at least in tin's epoch, thereby acquire -de jure- Roman citizenship, although they frequently usurped it (Liv. xxxiv. 42); but the magistrates charged with the founding of a colony were empowered, by a clause in the decree of the people relative to each case, to confer burgess-rights on a limited number of persons (Cic. pro Balb. 21, 48).

32. III. VII. Administration of Spain

33. III. IX. Expedition against the Celts in Asia Minor

34. III. X. Their Lax and Unsuccessful Management of the War f.

35. II. I. Term of Office

36. III. VII. Administration of Spain

37. III. XI. Italian Subjects, Roman Franchise More Difficult of Acquisition

38. III. XI. Roman Franchise More Difficult of Acquisition

39. In Cato's treatise on husbandry, which, as is well known, primarily relates to an estate in the district of Venafrum, the judicial discussion of such processes as might arise is referred to Rome only as respects one definite case; namely, that in which the landlord leases the winter pasture to the owner of a flock of sheep, and thus has to deal with a lessee who, as a rule, is not domiciled in the district (c. 149). It may be inferred from this, that in ordinary cases, where the contract was with a person domiciled in the district, such processes as might spring out of it were even in Cato's time decided not at Rome, but before the local judges.

40. II. VII. The Full Roman Franchise

41. II. VII. Subject Communities

42. III. VIII. Declaration of War by Rome

43. II. III. The Burgess-Body

44. III. XI. Patricio-Plebian Nobility

45. The laying out of the circus is attested. Respecting the origin of the plebeian games there is no ancient tradition (for what is said by the Pseudo-Asconius, p. 143, Orell. is not such); but seeing that they were celebrated in the Flaminian circus (Val. Max. i, 7, 4), and first certainly occur in 538, four years after it was built (Liv. xxiii. 30), what we have stated above is sufficiently proved.

46. II. II. Political Value of the Tribunate

47. III. IX. Landing of the Romans

48. III. IX. Death of Scipio. The first certain instance of such a surname is that of Manius Valerius Maximus, consul in 491, who, as conqueror of Messana, assumed the name Messalla (ii. 170): that the consul of 419 was, in a similar manner, called Calenus, is an error. The presence of Maximus as a surname in the Valerian (i. 348) and Fabian (i. 397) clans is not quite analogous.

49. III. XI. Patricio-Plebian Nobility

50. II. III. New Opposition

51. III. III. The Celts Conquered by Rome

52. III. VI. In Italy

53. III. III. The Celts Conquered by Rome

54. III. VII. Liguria

55. III. VII. Measures Adopted to Check the Immigration of the Transalpine Gauls

56. III. VII. Liguria

57. III. XI. The Nobility in Possession of the Equestrian Centuries

58. III. V. Attitude of the Romans, III. VI. Conflicts in the South of Italy

59. II. III. The Burgess-Body

60. As to the original rates of the Roman census it is difficult to lay down anything definite. Afterwards, as is well known, 100,000 -asses- was regarded as the minimum census of the first class; to which the census of the other four classes stood in the (at least approximate) ratio of 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, 1/9. But these rates are understood already by Polybius, as by all later authors, to refer to the light -as- (1/10th of the -denarius-), and apparently this view must be adhered to, although in reference to the Voconian law the same sums are reckoned as heavy -asses- (1/4 of the -denarius-: Geschichte des Rom. Munzwesens, p. 302). But Appius Claudius, who first in 442 expressed the census-rates in money instead of the possession of land (II. III. The Burgess-Body), cannot in this have made use of the light -as-, which only emerged in 485 (II. VIII. Silver Standard of Value). Either therefore he expressed the same amounts in heavy -asses-, and these were at the reduction of the coinage converted into light; or he proposed the later figures, and these remained the same notwithstanding the reduction or the coinage, which in this case would have involved a lowering of the class-rates by more than the half. Grave doubts may be raised in opposition to either hypothesis; but the former appears the more credible, for so exorbitant an advance in democratic development is not probable either for the end of the fifth century or as an incidental consequence of a mere administrative measure, and besides it would scarce have disappeared wholly from tradition. 100,000 light -asses-, or 40,000 sesterces, may, moreover, be reasonably regarded as the equivalent of the original Roman full hide of perhaps 20 -jugera- (I. VI. Time and Occasion of the Reform); so that, according to this view, the rates of the census as a whole have changed merely in expression, and not in value.

61. III. V. Fabius and Minucius

62. II. I. The Dictator

63. III. XI. Election of Officers in the Comitia

64. III. V. Flaminius, New Warlike Preparations in Rome

65. III. V. Fabius and Minucius

66. III. XI. Squandering of the Spoil

67. III. VI. Publius Scipio

68. III. VI. The African Expedition of Scipio

69. III. X. Humiliation of Rhodes

70. II. II. Agrarian Law of Spurius Cassius

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