History of Rome





Anno Urbis - The Roman Empire Online

A HISTORY OF ROME DURING THE LATER REPUBLIC AND EARLY PRINCIPATE

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CHAPTER V

The common destiny which had attended the Gracchi was manifested even in the consequences of their fall. At both crises a brilliant but disturbing element had vanished, the work of the reformer remained, because it was the utterance of the people before whose sacred name the nobility continued to bow, the political atmosphere was cleared, the legitimate organs of government resumed their acknowledged sway. To speak of a restoration of power to the nobility after the fall of Caius Gracchus is to belie both the facts of history and the impressions of the times. There is little probability that either the nobles or the commons felt that the two years of successful agitation amounted to a change of government, or that the senate ever abandoned the conviction that the reformer, embarrassing as his proceedings might be on account of the obvious necessity for their acceptance, must succumb to the devices which had long formed the stock-in-trade of a successful senatorial campaign; while the transition from the guidance of Gracchus to that of the accredited representatives of the nobility was rendered all the easier by the facts that the authority of the tribune had long been waning, and that, for some months before his death, a large section of the people had been greedily fixing its eyes on an attractive programme which had been presented in the name of the senate. The suppression of the final movement had, it is true, been marked by an unexampled severity; but these stern measures had followed on an actual appeal to arms, which had elicited a response from the passive or quaking multitude and had made them in some sense participants in the slaughter. If it was terrible to think that three thousand citizens had been butchered in the streets or in the Tullianum, it was comforting to remember that they had been officially denounced as public enemies by the senate. There was no haunting sense of an inviolable wrong inflicted on the tribunate, for Caius Gracchus had not been tribune when he fell; there was no memory, half bitter, half grotesque, of indiscriminate slaughter dealt by a mob of infuriated senators, for this latter and greater émeute had been suppressed by the regular forces of the State, led by its highest magistrate. The position of the government was more secure, the conscience of the people more easy than it had been after the massacre of Tiberius Gracchus and his followers. This feeling of security on the part of the government, and of acquiescence on that of the people, was soon put to the test by the prosecution of the ex-consul Lucius Opimius. His impeachment before the people by the tribune Decius[753] raised the vital question whether the novel powers which he had exercised in crushing Gracchus and his adherents, could be justified on the ground that they were the necessary, and in fact the only, means of maintaining public security. It was practically a question whether a new form of martial law should be admitted to recognition by the highest organ of the State, the voice of the sovereign people itself; and the discussion was rendered all the more piquant by the fact that that very sovereign was reminded that it had lately sanctioned an ordinance which forbade a capital penalty to be pronounced against a Roman citizen except by consent of the people, The arguments used on either side were of the most abstract and far-reaching character.[754] In answer to Decius's objection that the proceedings of Opimius were an obvious contravention of statute law, and that the most wanton criminality did not justify death without trial, the view, never unwelcome to the Roman mind, that there was a higher justice than law, was advanced by the champions of the accused. It was maintained that an ultimate right of self-defence was as necessary to a state as to an individual. The man who attempted to overturn the foundations of society was a public enemy beyond the pale of law; the man who resisted his efforts by every means that lay to hand was merely fulfilling the duty to his country which was incumbent on a citizen and a magistrate. If this view were accepted, the complex issue at law resolved itself into a simple question of fact. Had the leader and the party that had been crushed shown by their actions that they were overt enemies of the State? The majority which acquitted Opimius practically decided that Gracchus and his adherents had been rendered outlaws by their deeds. The sentiment of the moment had been cleverly stirred by the nature of the issue which was put before them. Had the voters been Gracchans at heart, they would probably have paid but little attention to these unusual appeals to the fundamental principles of political life, and would have shown themselves supporters of the spirit, as well as of the letter, of the enactment whose author they had just pronounced an outlaw. For there could be no question that the Gracchan law, which no one dared assail, was meant to cover just the very acts of which Opimius had been guilty after the slaughter of the Gracchans in the streets had ended. The right to kill in an émeute might be a questionable point; but the power of establishing a military court for the trial of captured offenders was notoriously illegal, and could under very few circumstances have been justified even on the ground of necessity. The decision of the people also seemed to give a kind of recognition to the utterance of the senate which had preceded Opimius's display of force. It is quite true that no successful defence of violence could ever be rested on the formula itself. This "ultimate decree of the senate" was valued as a weighty and emphatic declaration of the existence of a situation which demanded extreme measures, rather than as a legal permit which justified the disregard of the ordinary rights of the citizen. But formulae often have a power far in excess of their true significance; they impose on the ignorant, and furnish both a shield and a weapon to their cunning framers. The armoury of the senate, or of any revolutionary who had the good fortune to overawe the senate, was materially strengthened by the people's judgment in Opimius's favour.[755] The favourable situation was immediately used to effect the recall of Publius Popillius Laenas. His restoration was proposed to the people by Lucius Bestia a tribune;[756] and the people which had just sanctioned Opimius's judicial severities, did not betray the inconsistency of continuing to resent the far more restricted persecution of Popillius. Yet the step was an advance on their previous action; for they were now actually rescinding a legal judgment of their own, and approving of the actions of a court which had been established by the senate on its own authority without any previous declaration of the outlawry of its victims--a court whose proceedings were known to have directed the tenor of that law of Caius Gracchus, the validity of which was still unquestioned.

But even on the swell of this anti-Gracchan tide the nobility had still to steer its course with caution and circumspection. Personal prejudices were stronger than principles with the masses. They might sanction outrages which already had the blessing of men who represented, externally at least, the more respectable portion of Roman society; but they continued to detest individuals whose characters seemed to have grown blacker rather than cleaner by participation in, or even justification of, the recent acts of violence. One of our authorities would have us believe that even the aged Publius Lentulus, once chief of the senate, was sacrificed by his peers to the fate which had attended Scipio Nasica. He had climbed the Aventine with Opimius's troops and had been severely wounded in the ensuing struggle.[757] But neither his age nor his wounds sufficed to overcome the strange prejudice of the mob. Obloquy and abuse dogged his footsteps, until at length he was forced, in the interest of his own peace or security, to beg of the senate one of those honorary embassies which covered the retirement of a senator either for private business or for leisure, and to seek a home in Sicily.[758] His last public utterance was an impassioned prayer that he might never return to his ungrateful country: and the gods granted him his request. If this story is true, it proves that public opinion was stronger even than the voice of the Comitia. Lentulus, if put on his trial, would probably have been acquitted; but the resentful minority, which was powerless in the assembly, may have been sufficiently strong to make life unbearable to its chosen victim by its demeanour at public gatherings and in the streets. But even the Comitia had limits to its endurance. During the year which followed Opimius's acquittal there appeared before them a suppliant for their favour who had about equal claims to the gratitude and the hatred of both sections of the people. They were the self-destructive or corroborative claims of the statesman who is called a convert by his friends and a renegade by his foes. No living man of the age had stood in a stronger political light than Carbo. An active assistant of Tiberius Gracchus, and so embittered an opponent of Scipio Aemilianus as to be deemed the author of his death, he had severed his connection with the party of reform, probably in consequence of the view that the extension of the franchise which had become embedded in their programme was either impracticable or undesirable. He must have proved a welcome ally to the nobility in their struggle with Caius Gracchus, and their appreciation of his value seems proved by the fact that he was elected to the consulship in the very year of the tribune's fall, when the influence of the senate, and therefore in all probability their power of controlling the elections, had been fully re-established. The debt was paid by a vigorous championship of the cause of Opimius, which was heard during the consulship of Carbo.[759] The chief magistrate spoke warmly in defence of his accused predecessor in office, and declared that the action of Opimius in succouring his country was an act incumbent on the consul as the recognised guardian of the State.[760] No man had greater reason to feel secure than Carbo, who had so lately tested the suffrages of the people as electors and as judges; yet no man was in greater peril. It seems that, while exposed on the side of his former associates to the impotent rage which is excited by the success of the convert, who is believed to have been rewarded for his treachery, he had not won the confidence, or at least could not arouse the whole-hearted support, of his new associates and their following in the assembly. Perhaps the landlords had not forgiven the agrarian commissioner, nor the moderates the vehement opponent of Scipio; to the senate he had served his purpose, and they may not have thought him serviceable enough to deserve the effort which had rescued Opimius. Carbo was, in fact, an inviting object of attack for any young political adventurer who wished to inaugurate his career by the overthrow of a distinguished political victim, and to sound a note of liberalism which should not grate too harshly in the ears of men of moderate views. The assailant was Lucius Crassus,[761] destined to be the greatest orator of his day, and a youth now burning to test his eloquence in the greatest field afforded by the public life of Rome, but scrupulous enough to take no unfair advantage of the object of his attack.[762] We do not know the nature of the charge on which Carbo was arraigned. It probably came under the expansive conception of treason, and was possibly connected with those very proceedings in consequence of which Opimius had been accused and acquitted.[763] That the charge was of a character that had reference to recent political events, or at least that the prosecutor felt himself bound to maintain some distinct political principle of a liberal kind, is proved by the regret which Crassus expressed in his maturer years that the impetus of youth had led him to take a step which limited his freedom of action for the future.[764] Some compunction may also have been stirred by the unexpected consequence of his attack; for Carbo, perhaps realising the animosity of his judges and the weakness or coldness of his friends, is said to have put an end to his life by poison.[765] Voluntary exile always lay open to the Roman who dared not face the final verdict; and the suicide of Carbo cannot be held to have been the sole refuge of despair; it is rather a sign of the bitterness greater than that of death, which may fall on the soul of a man who can appeal for sympathy to none, who knows that he has been abandoned and believes that he has been betrayed. The hostility of his countrymen pursued him beyond the grave; the aristocratic historian could not forget the seditious tribune, and the contemporary chronicles which moulded and handed on the conception of Carbo's life, showed the usual incapacity of such writings to appreciate the possibility of that honest mental detachment from a suspected cause which often leads, through growing dissension with past colleagues and increasing co-operation with new, to a more violent advocacy of a new faith than is often shown by its habitual possessors.

The records of the political contests which occupied the two years succeeding the downfall of Caius Gracchus, are sufficient to prove that political thought was not stifled, that practically any political views--saving perhaps such as expressed active sympathy with the final efforts of Caius Gracchus and his friends--might be pronounced, and that the nobility could only maintain its influence by bending its ear to the chatter of the streets and employing its best instruments to mould the opinion of the Forum by a judicious mixture of deference and exhortation. The senate knew itself to be as weak as ever in material resources; government could not be maintained for ever by a series of coups d'état, and the only method of securing the interests of the rulers was to maintain the confidence of the majority and to presume occasionally on its apathy or blindness. This was the attitude adopted with reference to the proposals which had lately been before the people. Drusus's scheme of colonisation was not withdrawn, but its execution was indefinitely postponed,[766] and the same treatment was meted out to the similar proposals of Caius Gracchus. Two of his Italian colonies, Neptunia near Tarentum and Scylacium, seem actually to have survived; but this may have been due to the fact that the work of settlement had already commenced on these sites, and that the government did not venture to rescind any measure which had been already put into execution. It was indeed possible to stifle the settlement on the site of Carthage, for here the superstition of the people supported the objections of the senate, and the question of the abrogation of this colony had been raised to such magnitude by the circumstances of Gracchus's fall that to withdraw would have been a sign of weakness. But even this objectionable settlement in Africa gave proof of the scruples of the senate in dealing with an accomplished fact. When the Rubrian law was repealed, it was decided not to take from the coloni the lands which had already been assigned; no religious pretext could be given for their disturbance, for the land of Carthage was not under the ban that doomed the city to desolation; and the colonists remained in possession of allotments, which were free from tribute, were held as private property, and furnished one of the earliest examples of a Roman tenure of land on provincial soil.[767] The assignment was by the nature of the case changed from that of the colonial to that of the purely agrarian type; the settlers were members of Rome alone and had no local citizenship, although it is probable that some modest type of urban settlement did grow up outside the ruined walls of Carthage to satisfy the most necessary requirements of the surrounding residents.

The benefits conferred by the Gracchi on the poorer members of the proletariate were also respected. The corn law may have been left untouched for the time being[768]--a natural concession, for the senate could only hope to rule by its influence with the urban mob, and, in the case of so simple an institution, any modification would have been so patent an infringement of the rights of the recipients as to have immediately excited suspicion and anger. With the agrarian law it was different. Its repeal was indeed impossible; but the land-hunger of the dispossessed capitalists might to some extent be appeased by a measure that was not only tolerable, but welcome; and modifications, so gradual and subtle that their meaning would be unintelligible to the masses, might subsequently be introduced to remedy observed defects, to calm the apprehensions of the allies, and perhaps to secure the continuance of large holdings, if economic causes should lead to their revival. The agrarian legislation of the ten years that followed the fall of Caius Gracchus, seems to have been guided by the wishes of the senate; but much of it does not bear on its surface the signs which we might expect of capitalistic influence or oligarchic neglect of the poor. Large portions of it seem rather to reveal the desire of banishing for ever a harrowing question which was the opportunity of the demagogue; and the peculiar mixture of prudence, liberality, and selfishness which this legislation reveals, can only be appreciated by an examination of its separate stages.

Shortly after the death of Caius Gracchus--perhaps in the very year of his fall--a law was passed permitting the alienation of the allotments.[769] This measure must have been as welcome to the lately established possessors as it was to the large proprietors; it removed from the former a galling restraint which, like all such legal prohibitions, formed a sentimental rather than an actual grievance, but one that was none the less keenly felt on that account; while to the latter it offered the opportunity of satisfying those expectations, which the initial struggles of the newly created farmers must in many cases have aroused. The natural consequence of the enactment was that the spurious element amongst the peasant-holders, represented by those whose tastes and capacities utterly unfitted them for agriculture, parted with their allotments, which went once more to swell the large domains of their wealthier neighbours.[770] We do not know the extent or rapidity of this change, or the stage which it had reached when the government thought fit to introduce a new agrarian law, which may have been two or three years later than the enactment which permitted alienation.[771] The new measure contained three important provisions.[772] Firstly, it forbade the further distribution of public land, and thus put an end to the agrarian commission which had never ceased to exist, and had continued to enjoy, if not to exercise, its full powers since the restoration of its judicial functions by Caius Gracchus. We cannot say to what extent the commission was still Encountering claims on its jurisdiction and powers of distribution at the time of its disappearance; but fourteen years is a long term of power for such an extraordinary office, whose work was necessarily one of perpetual unsettlement; and the disappearance of the triumvirs must have been welcome, not only to the existing Roman occupants of land which still remained public, but to those of the Italians to whom the commission had ever been a source of apprehension. The extinction of the office must have been regarded with indifference by those for whom the commission had already provided, and by the large mass of the urban proletariate which did not desire this type of provision. The residuum of citizens which still craved land may be conceived to have been small, for eagerness to become an agriculturist would have suggested an earlier claim; and the passing of the commission was probably viewed with no regret by any large section of the community. The law then proceeded to establish the rights of all the occupants of land in Italy that had once been public and had been dealt with by the commission. To all existing occupants of the land which had been assigned, perfect security of tenure was given, and this security may have been extended now, as it certainly was later, to many of the occupants who still remained on public land which had not been subjected to distribution. So far as the land which had been assigned was concerned, this law could have made no specification as to the size of the allotments, for the law permitting alienation had made it practically private property and given its purchaser a perfectly secure title. Hence the accumulations which followed the permit to alienate were secured to their existing possessors, and a legal recognition was given to the formation of such large estates as had come into existence during the last three years. But the security of tenure was conditioned by the reimposition of the dues payable to the State, which had been abolished by Drusus. We are not informed whether these dues were to be henceforth paid only by those who had received allotments from the land commission, or by all in whose hands such allotments were at the moment to be found; perhaps the intention was to impose them on all lands that had been public before the tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus; although many of the larger proprietors, who had recently added to their holdings, might have urged in their defence that they had acquired the land as private property and that it was burdened by no dues at the time of its acquisition. But, even if this burden fell mainly on the class of smaller possessors, it could scarcely be regarded as a grievance, for it had formed part of the Gracchan scheme, and there was no legitimate reason why the newly established class of cultivators should be placed in a better position than the older occupants of the public domain, who still paid dues both on arable land and for the privilege of pasturing their flocks. The temporary motive which had led to their abolition had now ceased to exist, for the agricultural colonies of Drusus, who had promised land free from all taxes, had not been established, and the chief, almost the sole, example of a recent assignment on such liberal principles was to be discovered in distant Africa. But, even if the cultivators grumbled, their complaints were not dangerous to the government. They would have found no echo at Rome, where the urban proletariate was content with the easier provision which had been made for its support; and the new revenues from the public land were made still more acceptable to the eyes of the masses by the provision contained in this agrarian law that they should be employed solely for the benefit of needier citizens. The precise nature of the promised employment is unhappily unknown, our authority merely informing us that "they were to be used for purposes of distribution". We cannot understand by these words free gifts either in money or corn; for such extreme measures never entered even into the social ideals of Caius Gracchus, and the senate to its credit never deigned to purchase popularity through the pauperising institutions by which the Caesars maintained the security of their rule in Rome. The words might imply an extension of the system of the sale of cheap corn, or a cheapening of the rates at which it was supplied; but the Gracchan system seems hardly to have admitted of extension, so far as the number of recipients was concerned, and cheaper sales would hardly have been encouraged by a government, which, anxious as it was to secure popularity, was responsible for the financial administration of the State and looked with an anxious eye upon the existing drain on the resources of the treasury.[773] Perhaps the new revenues were held up to the people as a guarantee that the sale of cheap corn would be continued, and public confidence was increased when it was pointed out that there was a special fund available for the purpose. If we abandon the view that the promised employment of the revenues in the interest of the people referred to the distribution of corn, there remains the possibility that it had reference to the acquisition of fresh land for assignation. This promise would indeed have rendered practicable the partial realisation of the shadowy schemes of Drusus, which had never been officially withdrawn; but it is doubtful whether it would have done much to strengthen the hold of the government upon the urban voter; for the whole scheme of this new land law seems to prove that the agrarian question was viewed with indifference, and no pressure seems to have been put on the government to carry their earlier promises into effect.

Apart from the welcome prospect implied in the abolition of the agrarian commission, no positive guarantee against disturbance had yet been given to the Latins and Italians. This was formally granted, in terms unknown to us, at the appropriate hands of Marcus Livius Drusus during his tenure of the consulship.[774] The senate, now that it had satisfied the larger proprietors and the urban proletariate, and could boast that it had at least not injured the smaller cultivators, completed its work of pacification by holding out the hand of fellowship to the allies. It was tacitly understood that the new friend was not to ask for more, but he might be induced to look to the senate as his refuge against the rapacity of the mob and the recklessness of its leaders.

Shortly afterwards the tribune Spurius Thorius[775] carried a law which again abolished the vectigal on the allotments. If we regard this measure as an independent effort on the part of the tribune, it may have been an answer to the protests of the smaller agriculturists still struggling for existence; if it was dictated by the senate, it may have been due to the absorption of the allotments by the larger proprietors and their unwillingness to pay dues for land which they had added to their private property. But, to whatever party we may assign it, we may see in it also the desire to reach a final settlement of the agrarian question by abolishing all the invidious distinctions between the different tenures of land which had once formed part of the public domain. It removed the injustice of burdening the small holding with a rent which was not exacted from estates that had been partly formed by accretions of such allotments; and by the abolition of all dues[776] it tended to remove all land which had been assigned, from the doubtful category to which it had hitherto belonged of possessions which, though in a sense private, still recognised the overlordship of the State, and to revive in all its old sharpness the simple distinction between public and private land. This tendency makes it probable that the law of Thorius is identical with one of which we possess considerable fragments; for this partially preserved enactment is certainly as sweeping a measure as could have been devised by any one eager to see the agrarian question, so far as it affected Italian soil, finally removed from the region of political strife.

Internal evidence makes it probable that this law was passed in the year 111 B.C.,[777] and consequently at the close of that period of comparative quiescence which was immediately followed by the political storm raised by the conduct of the war in Numidia. It may, therefore, be regarded as a product of senatorial enlightenment, although its provisions would be quite as consistent with the views of a tolerably sober democrat. The main scope of the enactment is to give the character of absolute private ownership, unburdened by any restrictions such as the payment of dues to the State, to nearly all the land which had been public at the time of the passing of the agrarian law of Tiberius Gracchus. The first provisions refer to lands which had not been dealt with by the agrarian commissioners. Any occupant of the public domain, who has been allowed to preserve his allotment intact, because it does not exceed the limit fixed by the earlier laws, and any one who has received public land from the State in exchange for a freehold which he has surrendered for the foundation of a colony, is henceforth to hold such portions of the public domain as his private property. The same provision holds for all land that has been assigned, whether by colonial or agrarian commissioners. The first class of assignments are those incidental to the one or two colonies of Caius Gracchus, and perhaps of Drusus, that were actually established in Italy. Even at the time of settlement such land must have been made the private property of its holders; and this law, therefore, but confirms the tenure, and implies the validity of the act of colonisation. Such land is mentioned as having been "given and assigned in accordance with a resolution of the people and the plebs," and all eases in which recent colonial laws had been repealed or dropped--cases which would include Caius Gracchus's threatened partition of the Campanian territory--are tacitly excluded. The second class of assignments refer to those made by the land-commissioners during the whole period of their chequered existence, and the land whose private character is thus confirmed, must have covered much the larger part of what had once been the State's domain in Italy.

A certain portion of this domain still remains, however, the property of the State and is not converted into private land. The whole of the soil which had been given in usufruct to colonies and municipal towns, is retained in its existing condition; the holders, whether Latin colonists or Roman citizens, are confirmed in their possessions; but, as the land still remains public, they are doubtless expected to continue to pay their quit-rent to the State. Similar provision is made for a peculiar class of land, which had been given by Rome as security for a national debt. The debt had never been liquidated, probably because the creditors preferred the land. This they were now to retain on condition of continued payment of the quit-rent, which marked the fact that the State was still its nominal owner. A public character is also maintained for land which had been assigned for the maintenance of roads. Here we find the only instance of an actual assignation of the Gracchan commissioners which was not converted, into private property; the obvious reason for this exception being that these occupants performed a specific and necessary duty, which would disappear if their tenure was converted into absolute ownership. Exception against ownership was also made for those commons on which the occupants of surrounding farms had an exclusive right of sending their flocks to pasture;[778] for the conversion of such grazing land into private lots would have injured the collective interests, and conferred little benefit on the individuals of the group.[779] The remaining classes of land which still remain the property of the State, are the roads of Italy, such public land as had been specially exempted from distribution by the legislation of the Gracchi, and such as had remained public on other grounds. The only known instance of the first class is the Campanian territory, which continued to be let on leases by the State and to bring to the treasury a sure and considerable revenue; the second class was probably represented by land which was not arable and had for this reason escaped distribution. The law provides that it is not to be occupied but to serve the purposes of grazing-land, and a limit is fixed to the number of cattle and sheep belonging to a single owner to which it is to afford free pasturage. For the enjoyment of grazing-rights beyond this limit dues are to be paid to the contractors who have purchased the right of collection from the State.

The law then quits the public domains of Italy for those of Africa and Corinth, partly for the purpose of specifying with exactitude the rights of the various occupiers and tenants who were settled on the territories, but chiefly with the object of effecting the sale of some of the public domain in the province of Africa and the dependency of Achaea. This intention of alienation is perhaps the chief reason why the great varieties of tenure of the African soil are marshalled before us with such detail and precision; for it was necessary, in view of the contemplated sale, to re-assert the stability of rights that should be secure by their very nature or had been guaranteed by solemn compact. But the occasion of a comprehensive settlement of the agrarian question in Italy was no doubt gladly seized as affording the right opportunity for surveying, revising, and establishing the claims of those who were in enjoyment of what was, or had been, the provincial domain of Rome across the seas. The rights of Roman citizens and subjects are indifferently considered, and amongst the former those of the settlers who had journeyed to Africa in accordance with the promises of the Rubrian law are fully recognised. The degree of permanence accorded to the manifold kinds of tenure passed in review can not be determined from our text; but, even when all claims that deserved a permanent recognition had been subtracted, there still remained a residuum of land, leased at quinquennial intervals by the censors, which might be alienated without the infliction of injury on established rights. We do not know to what extent this sale, the mechanism for which was minutely provided for in the law, was carried in Africa; its application to the domain land of Corinth was either withdrawn or, if carried out, was but slight or temporary; for Corinthian land remained to be threatened by later agrarian legislation. It is not easy to suggest a motive for this sale; for it would seem a short-sighted policy to part, on an extensive scale and therefore presumably at a cheapened rate, with some of the most productive land in the world, such as was the African domain of the period, in order to recoup the treasury for the immediate pecuniary injury which it was suffering in the loss of the revenues from the public land of Italy. Perhaps the government had grown suspicious of the operations of the middle-men, and, since they had restricted their activity by limiting the amount of public land in Italy, deemed a similar policy advisable in relation to some of their foreign dependencies.

The length at which we have dwelt on this law is proportionate to its importance in the political history of the times, and if we possessed fuller knowledge of its effects, we should doubtless be able to add, in their social history as well. Its economic results, however, are exceedingly obscure, and possibly it produced none worthy of serious consideration; for the artificial stability which it may have seemed to give to the existing tenure of land could in no way check the play of economic forces. If these tendencies were still in favour of large holdings,[780] the process of accumulation must have continued, and, as we have before remarked, the accumulator was in a securer position when purchasing land which was admittedly the private property of its owner, than when buying allotments which might be held to be still liable to the public dues. On the other hand, the remission of the impost must have relieved, and the sense of private ownership inspired, the labours of the smaller proprietors; and the perpetuation of a considerable proportion of the Gracchan settlers is probable on general grounds. The reason why it is difficult to give specific reasons for this belief is that, at the time when we next begin to get glimpses of the condition of the Italian peasant class, the great reform had been effected which incorporated the nations of Italy into Rome. The existence of numerous small proprietors in the Ciceronian period is attested, but many of these may have been citizens recently given to Rome by the Italian stocks, amongst whom agriculture on a small scale had never become extinct.

But the political import of this measure is considerable. By restricting to narrow limits all the land of Italy to which the State could make a claim, it altered the character of agrarian agitation for the future. It did not indeed fulfil its possible object of obviating such measures; but it rendered the vested interests of all Italian cultivators secure, with the exception of the lessees of the leased domain, who perhaps had no claim to permanence of tenure. This domain was represented chiefly by the Campanian land: and the reformer who would make this territory his prey, injured the finances of the State more than the interests of the individual. If he desired more, he must seek it either in the foreign domains of Rome or by the adoption of some scheme of land purchase. Assignment of lands in particular districts of Italy or in the provinces naturally took the form of colonisation, and this is the favourite shape assumed by the agrarian schemes of the future. Rome was still to witness many fierce controversies as to the merits of the policy of colonial expansion, and as to the wisdom of employing public property and public revenues to this end; the rights of the conqueror to the lands of his vanquished fellow-citizens were also to be cruelly asserted, and the civil wars also invited a species of brigandage for the attainment of possession which too often replaced the judgments of the courts; but never again do we find a regular political warfare waged between the rich and the poor for the possession of territories to which each of the disputants laid claim. The storm which had burst on the Roman world with the land law of Tiberius Gracchus had now spent its force. It had undoubtedly produced a great change on the face of Italy; but this was perhaps more striking in appearance than in reality; neither the work of demolition, nor the opportunities offered for renewal, attained the completeness which they had presented in the reformer's dreams.

But the peace of the citizen body was not the only blessing believed to be secured by this removal of a temptation to tamper with Italian lands. The anxieties of the Latins and Italians were also quieted, although it may be questioned whether the memory of past wrongs, now rendered irrevocable by the progress of recent agrarian experiments, did not enter into the agitation for the conferment of the franchise, which they still continued to sustain. The last great law, following the spirit of the enactment of Drusus which had preceded it by about a year, does indeed show traces of an anxiety to respect Italian claims. Apart from the fact, which we have already mentioned, that all lands which had been granted in usufruct to colonists, were still to be public and were, therefore, in the case of Latin colonies, to be at the disposal of the communities to which they had been granted by treaty, the law contains a special provision for the maintenance of the rights of Latins and Italians, so far as they are in harmony with the rights allowed to Roman citizens by the enactment.[781] The guarantees which had been sanctioned by Drusus, were therefore respected; but their observance was conditioned by the rule that all prohibitions now created for Romans should be extended to the allies. As we do not know the purport of Drusus's measure, or the practices current on the Roman domains occupied by Latins, we cannot say whether this clause produced any derogation of their rights; but it must have limited the right of free pasturage on the public commons, if they had possessed this in a higher degree than was now permitted, and the right to occupy public land was also forbidden them in the future. But it was from the negative point of view that the law might be interpreted as creating or perpetuating a grievance; for some of the positive benefits which it conferred seem to have been limited to Romans. The land which it makes private property, is land which has been assigned by colonial or agrarian commissioners, or land which has been occupied up to a certain limit. If colonial land had really been assigned to Latins by Caius Gracchus, their rights are retained by this law, if they had been made Roman citizens at the time of the settlement; but if they had been admitted as participants in the agrarian distribution throughout Italy, their rights as owners are not confirmed with those of Roman citizens; and the Latin who merely occupied land was not given the privilege of the Roman possessor of becoming the owner of the soil, if his occupation were restricted within a certain limit.[782] He still retained merely a precarious possession, for which dues to the State were probably exacted. It was something to have rights confirmed, but they probably appeared less valuable when those of others were extended. A more generous treatment could hardly have been expected from a law of Rome dealing with her own domain, primarily in the interests of her own citizens; but the Italians were tending to forget their civic independence, and chose rather to compare their personal rights with those of the Roman burgesses. Such a comparison applied to the final agrarian settlement must have done something to emphasise their belief in the inferiority of their position.

This review of the legislation on social questions which was initiated or endured by the senate, shows the tentative attitude adopted by the nobility in their dealings with the people, and proves either a statesmanlike view of the needs of the situation or the entire lack of a proud consciousness of their own immunity from attack. Even had they possessed the power to dictate to the Comitia, they were hemmed in on another side; for they had not dared to raise a protest against the law of Gracchus which transferred criminal jurisdiction over the members of their own order to the knights. The equestrian courts sat in judgment on the noblest members of the aristocracy; for the political or personal motives which urged to prosecution were stronger even than the camaraderie of the order, and governors of provinces were still in danger of indictment by their peers. Within two years of the transference of the courts, Quintus Mucius Scaevola, known in later life as "the Augur" and famed for his knowledge of the civil law, returned from his province of Asia to meet the accusation of Titus Albucius.[783] The knights did not begin by a vindictive exercise of their authority. Although Asia was the most favoured sphere of their activity, Scaevola was acquitted. Seven years later they gave a stern and perhaps righteous example of their severity in the condemnation of Caius Porcius Cato.[784] The accused when consul had obtained Macedonia as his province, and had waged a frontier war with the Scordisci, which ended in the annihilation of his forces and his own narrow escape from the field of battle. His ill-success perhaps deepened the impression made by his extortions in Macedonia, and he was sentenced to the payment of a fine. Neither in the case of the acquittal nor in that of the condemnation does political bias seem to have influenced the judgment of the courts, and the equestrian jurors may have seemed for a time to realise the best hopes which had inspired their creation.

The attention of the leading members of the nobility was probably too absorbed by the problem of adapting senatorial rule to altered circumstances to allow them the leisure or the inclination to embark on fresh legislative projects of their own. Our record of these years is so imperfect that it would be rash to conclude that the scanty proposals on new subjects which it reveals exhausted the legislative activity of the senate; but had they done so, the circumstance would be intelligible; for the work that invited the attention of the senate in its own interest, was one of consolidation rather than of reform; the political feeling of the time put measures of a distinctly reactionary character, such as might have been welcomed by the more conservative members of the order, wholly out of the question; and the government was not likely, except under compulsion, to undertake legislation of a progressive type. The only important law of the period certainly proceeding from governmental circles, and dealing with a question that was novel, in the sense that it had not been heard of for a considerable number of years and had played no part in the Gracchan movements, was one passed by the consul Marcus Aemilius Scaurus. It dealt with the voting power of the freedmen,[785] and probably confirmed its restriction to the four city tribes. It is difficult to assign a political meaning to this law, as we do not know the practice which prevailed at the time of Scaurus's intervention; but it is probable that the restriction imposed by the censors of 169, who had confined the freedmen to a single tribe,[786] had not been observed, that great irregularity prevailed in the manner of their registration, and that Scaurus's measure, which was a return to the arrangement reached at the end of the fourth century, was intended to restrict the voting privileges of the class. This interpretation of his intention would seem to show that the increasing liberality of the Roman master had created a class the larger portion of which was not dependent on the wealthier and more conservative section of the citizen body, or was at least enabled to assert its freedom from control through the secrecy of the ballot. The interests of the class were almost identical with those of the free proletariate, in which the descendants of the freedmen were merged: and the law of Scaurus, which strengthened the country vote by preventing this urban influence spreading through all the tribes, may be an evidence that the senate distrusted the present passivity of the urban folk, and looked forward with apprehension to a time when they might have to rely on the more stable element which the country districts supplied. We shall see in the sequel that this anticipation of the freedmen's attitude was not unjustified, and that the increase of their voting power still continued to be an effective battle-cry for the demagogue who was eager to increase his following in the city.

Scaurus was also the author of a sumptuary law.[787] It came appropriately from a man who had been trained in a school of poverty, and shows the willingness of the nobility to submit, at least in appearance, to the discipline which would present it to the world as a self-sacrificing administration, reaping no selfish reward for its intense labour, and submitting to that equality of life with the average citizen which is the best democratic concession that a powerful oligarchy can make. The activity of the censorship was exhibited in the same direction. Foreign and expensive dishes were prohibited by the guardians of public morals, as they were by Scaurus's sumptuary law:[788] and the censors of 115, Metellus and Domitius, undertook a scrutiny of the stage which resulted in the complete exclusion from Rome of all complex forms of the histrionic art and its reduction to the simple Latin type of music and song.[789] Their energy was also displayed in a destructive examination of the morals of their own order, and as a result of the scrutiny thirty-two senators were banished from the Curia.[790] To guard the senate-house from scandal was indeed the necessary policy of a nobility which knew that its precarious power rested on the opinion of the streets; and the efforts of the censors, directed like those of their predecessors, to a regeneration which had a national type as its goal, show that that opinion could not yet have been considered wholly cosmopolitan or corrupt. The frequent splendour of triumphal processions, such as those which celebrated the victories of Domitius and Fabius over the Allobroges, of Metellus over the Dalmatians, and of Scaurus over the Ligurians,[791] produced a comfortable impression of the efficiency of the government in extending or preserving the frontiers of the empire; the triumph itself was the symbol of success, and few could have cared to question the extent and utility of the achievement. Satisfied with the belief that they were witnessing the average type of successful administration, the electors pursued the course, from which they so seldom deflected, of giving their unreserved confidence to the ancient houses; and this epoch witnessed a striking instance of hereditary influence, if not of hereditary talent, when Metellus Macedonicus was borne to his grave by sons, of whom four had held curule office, three had possessed the consulship, and one had fulfilled in addition the lofty functions of the censor and enjoyed the honour of a triumph.[792]

Yet distinction without a certain degree of fitness was now, as at every other time, an impossibility in Rome. The nobility, although it did not love originality, extended a helping hand to the capacity that was willing to support its cause and showed the likelihood of dignifying its administration; a career was still open to talent and address, if they were held to be wisely directed; and the man of the period who best deserves the title of leader of the State, was one who had not even sprung from the second strata of Roman society, but had struggled with a poverty which would have condemned an ordinary man to devote such leisure as he could spare for politics to swelling the babel of the Forum and the streets. It is true that Marcus Aemilius Scaurus bore a patrician name, and was one of those potential kings who, once in the senate, might assume the royal foot-gear and continue the holy task, which they had performed from the time of Romulus, of guarding and transmitting the auspices of the Roman people. But the splendour of the name had long been dimmed. Even in the history of the great wars of the beginning of the century but one Aemilius Scaurus appears, and he holds but a subordinate command as an officer of the Roman fleet. The father of the future chief of the senate had been forced to seek a livelihood in the humble calling of a purveyor of charcoal.[793] The son, resolute, ambitious and conscious of great powers, long debated with himself the question of his future walk in life.[794] He might remain in the ranks of the business world, supply money to customers in place of coal, and seize the golden opportunities which were being presented by the extension of the banking industry in the provincial world. Had he chosen this path, Scaurus might have been the chief of the knights and the most resolute champion of equestrian claims against the government. But his course was decided by the afterthought that the power of words was greater than that of gold, and that eloquence might secure, not only wealth, but the influence which wealth alone cannot attain. The fame which he gained in the Forum led inevitably to service in the field. He reaped distinction in the Spanish campaigns and served under Orestes in Sardinia. His narrow means rather than his principles may have been the reason why his aedileship was not marked by the generous shows to which the people were accustomed and by which their favour was usually purchased; in Scaurus's tenure of that office splendour was replaced by a rigorous performance of judicial duties;[795] but that such an equivalent could serve his purpose, that it should be even no hindrance to his career, proves the respect that his strenuous character had won from the people, and the anticipation formed by the government of the value of his future services. Now, when he was nearing his fiftieth year, he had secured the consulship, the bourne of most successful careers, but not to be the last or greatest prize of a man whose stately presence, unbending dignity, and apparent simplicity of purpose, could generally awe the people into respect, and whose keenness of vision and talent for intrigue impressed the senatorial mind with a sense of his power to save, when claims were pressing and difficulties acute.[796] His consulship, though without brilliancy, added to the respectable laurels that he had already attained. A successful raid on some Illyrian tribes[797] showed at least that he had retained the physical endurance of his youth; while his legislation on sumptuary matters and the freedman's vote showed the spirit of a milder Cato, and the moderate conservatism, not distasteful to the Roman of pure blood, which would preserve the preponderance in political power to the citizen untainted by the stain of servitude. A stormy event of his period of office gave the crowd an opportunity of seeing the severity with which a magistrate of the older school could avenge an affront to the dignity of his office. Publius Decius, who was believed to be a conscious imitator of Fulvius Flaccus in the exaggerated vehemence of his oratory, and who had already proved by his prosecution of Opimius that he was ready to defend certain features of the Gracchan cause even when such championship was fraught with danger, was in possession of the urban praetorship at the time when Scaurus held the consulship. One day the consul passed the open court of justice when the praetor was giving judgment from the curule chair. Decius remained seated, either in feigned oblivion or in ostentatious disregard of the presence of his superior. The politic wrath of Scaurus was aroused; an enemy had been delivered into his hands, and the people might be given an object-lesson of the way in which the most vehement champion of popular rights was, even when covered with the dignity of a magistracy, but a straw in the iron grasp of the higher Imperium. The consul ordered Decius to rise, his official robe to be rent, the chair of justice to be shattered in pieces, and published a warning that no future litigant should resort to the court of the contumacious praetor.[798] The vulgar mind is impressed, when it is not angered, by such scenes of violence. A repute for sternness is the best cloak for the flexibility which, if revealed, would excite suspicion. Scaurus to the popular mind was an embodiment of stiff patrician dignity, perhaps happily devoid of that touch of insolence which is often the mark of a career assured without a struggle; of a self-complacent dignity, quietly conscious of its own deserts and demanding their due reward, of the calmness of a soul that is above suspicion and refuses to admit even in its inmost sanctuary the thought that its motives can be impugned. Meanwhile certain disrespectful onlookers were expressing wonder at his mysteriously growing wealth and marvelling as to its source. But, marvel as they might, they never drove Scaurus to the necessity of an explanation. We shall find him as an old man repelling all attacks by the irresistible appeal to his services and his career. The condemnation of Scaurus appealed to the conservative as a blow struck at the dignity of the State itself; to the man of a more open mind it was at least the shattering of a delightful illusion.

The period which witnessed the crowning of the efforts of the poor and struggling patrician was also sufficiently liberal, or sufficiently poor in aristocratic talent, to admit the initial steps in the official career of a genuine son of the people. It was now that Caius Marius was laboriously climbing the grades of curule rank, and showing in the pursuit of political influence at home the rugged determination which had already distinguished him in the field. A Volscian by descent, he belonged to Rome through the accident of birth in the old municipality of Arpinum, which since the early part of the second century had enjoyed full Roman citizenship and therefore gave its citizens the right of suffrage and of honours in the capital. Born of good yeoman stock in the village of Cereatae in the Arpinate territory,[799] he had passed a boyhood which derived no polish from the refinements, and no taint from the corruptions, of city life. In his case there was no puzzling discrepancy between the outer and the inner man. His frame and visage were the true index of a mind, somewhat unhewn and uncouth, but with a massive reserve of strength, a persistence not blindly obstinate, a patience that could wear out the most brilliant efforts of his rivals and opponents. He did not court hostility, but simply shouldered his way sturdily to the front, encouraged by Rome's better spirits, who saw in him the excellent officer with qualities that might make the future general, and appealing to the people, when they gradually became familiar with his presence, as a type of that venerable myth, the rustic statesman of the past. The poverty of his early lot was perhaps exaggerated by historians[800] who wished to point the contrast between his humble origin and his later glory, and to find a suitable cradle for his rugged nature; even the initial stages of his career afford no evidence of a struggle against pressing want, nor is there any proof that he was supported by the bounty of his powerful friends. Even if he entered the army as a common foot-soldier, he would merely have shared the lot of many a well-to-do yeoman who obeyed the call of the conscription. With Marius, however, military service was not to be an incident, but a profession. The needs of a widening empire were calling for special capacities such as had never been demanded in the past. The career of Scaurus had shown the successful pleader surmounting the obstacle of poverty; even the higher barrier of birth might be leaped amidst the democratising influences of the camp. The nobility was not sufficiently self-centred to be wholly blind to its own interests; and it was easier to patronise a soldier than a pleader. In the latter case the aspirant's political creed must be examined; in the former the last question that would be asked was whether the officer possessed any political creed at all. It might be a question of importance for the future with respect to the candidature for those offices which alone conferred high military command, even though there was as yet no dream of the sword becoming the arbiter of political life; but the genuine commander, engaged in the difficult task of remodelling an army, had no eye but for the bearing and qualities of the soldier, and would not scruple to cast aside his patrician prejudices in a despairing effort to find the fittest instruments for the perfecting of his great design. It was Marius's fortunate lot to enter the field at a time of trial, and to serve his first campaign under a general, who was combating the adverse forces of influence, licence and incompetence in the official staff supplied by the government and represented by the young scions of the nobility. To the camp before Numantia, where Scipio was scourging his men into obedience, rooting out the amenities of life, and astonishing his officers with new ideas of the meaning of a campaign, Marius brought the very qualities on which the general had set his heart. An unflinching courage, shown on one occasion in single combat when he overthrew a champion of the foe, a power of physical endurance which could submit to all changes of temperature and food, a minute precision in the performance of the detailed duties of the camp, soon led to his rapid advancement and to his selection as a member of the intimate circle which surrounded the commander-in-chief. Every great specialist has a small claim to the gift of prophecy; for he possesses an instinct which reveals more than his reason will permit him to prove; and we need not wonder at the story that, when once the debate grew warm round Scipio's table as to who would succeed him as the chosen commander of the Roman host, he lightly touched the shoulder of Marius and answered "Perhaps we shall find him here".[801]

The higher commands in the army could be sought only through a political career; and Marius, inspired with the highest hopes by Scipio's commendation, was forced to breathe the uncongenial atmosphere of the city and to fight his way upwards to the curule offices. There is no proof that he took advantage of the current of democratic feeling which accompanied the movements of the Gracchi. It was, perhaps, as well that he did not; for such an association might have long delayed his higher political career. The nobles who posed as democrats probably attached more importance to forensic skill than to military merit; and the support which Marius enjoyed was sought and found amongst the representatives of the opposite party. Scipio's death removed a man who might have been a powerful advocate on his behalf; the vague relationship of clientship in which the family of Marius had stood to the clan of the Herennii[802]--a relation common between Roman families and the members of Italian townships, and in this case probably dating from a time before Arpinum had received full Roman rights--seems never to have led to active interference on his behalf on the part of the representatives of that ancient Samnite house. Perhaps the Herennii were too weak to assist the fortunes of their client; they certainly give no names to the Fasti of this period. It is also possible that the proud soldier was galled by the memory of the hereditary yoke, and sought assistance where it would be given simply as a mark of merit, not as a duty conditioned by the claim to irksome reciprocal obligations. The all-powerful family of the Caecilii Metelli, who were at this time vigorously fulfilling the destiny of office which heaven had prescribed for their clan, stretched out a helping hand to the distinguished soldier;[803] a family born to military command might consult its interests, while it gratified its sympathies, by attaching to its clientèle a warrior who had received the best training of the school of Africanus. After he had held the military tribunate and the quaestorship,[804] Marius attained the tribunate of the Plebs with the assistance of Lucius Caecilius Metellus.[805] He was in his thirty-ninth year when he entered on the first office which gave him the opportunity of claiming the attention of the people by the initiation of legislative measures. The slowness of his rise may have led him to believe that he might accelerate his career by taking his fortune into his own hands; certainly if the law which bore his name was not unwelcome to the better portion of the nobility, the methods by which he forced it through did not commend themselves even to his patron. His proposal was meant to limit the exercise of undue influence at the Comitia, and although the law doubtless referred to legislative meetings summoned for every purpose, it was chiefly directed to securing the independence of the voter in such public trials as still took place before the people,[806] and was perhaps inspired by scenes that might have been witnessed at the acquittal of Opimius one year previously. One of the clauses of the bill provided that the exits to the galleries, through which the voters filed to give their suffrages to the tellers, should be narrowed,[807] the object being to exclude the political agents who were accustomed to occupy the sides of the passages, and influence or intimidate, by their presence if not by their words, the voting citizen at the critical moment when he was about to record his verdict. Such methods were probably found effective even where the ballot was used, but their success must have been even greater in trials for treason, at which voting by word of mouth was still employed. It was difficult for a government, which had accepted the ballot, to offer a decent resistance to a measure of this kind. The proposal attacked indifferently political methods which might be, and probably were, employed by both parties; and, although its success would no doubt inflict more injury on the government than on the opposition, it could not be repudiated by the senate on the ground that it was tainted by an aggressively "popular" character. The opposition which it actually encountered was apparently based on the formal ground that the heads of the administration had not been sufficiently consulted. The law was not the outcome of any senatorial decree, nor had the senate's opinion been deliberately taken on the utility of the measure. The consul Cotta persuaded the house to frame a resolution expressing dissatisfaction with the proposal as it stood, and to summon Marius for an explanation. The summons was promptly obeyed, but the expected scene of humiliation of the untried parvenu was rudely interrupted at an early period of the debate. Marius knew that he had the people and the tribunician college with him, and that even the most perverse ingenuity could never construe the measure as a factious opposition to the interests of the State. Obedience to the senate would in this instance mean the sacrifice of a reputation for political honesty and courage; it might be better to burn his boats and to trust for the future to the generosity of the people for the gifts which the nobility so grudgingly bestowed. He chose to regard the controversy as one of those cases of hopeless conflict between the members of the magistracy, for the solution of which the law had provided regular though exceptional means. He fell back on the majesty of the tribunician power, and threatened Cotta with imprisonment if he did not withdraw his resolution.[808] It is probable that up to this point no decree expressing wholesale condemnation of the bill had been passed, and the senate might therefore be coerced through the magistrate, without its authority being utterly disregarded. Cotta turned to his colleague Metellus, known to be the friend of the obstinate tribune, and Metellus rising gave the consul his support. Marius, undaunted by the attitude of his patron, hurried matters to a close. He summoned his attendant to the Curia, and bade him take Metellus himself into custody and conduct him to a place of confinement. Metellus appealed to the other tribunes, but none would offer his help; and the senate was forced to save the situation by sacrificing its vote of censure. So rapid and complete a victory, even on an issue of no great importance, delighted the popular mind. The senate was then in good favour at Rome; but a chance for realising their superiority over the greatest of their servants was always welcome to the people. They also loved those exhibitions of physical force by which the genius of Rome had solved the difficulties of her constitution: and the violence of a tribune was as impressive now as was that of a consul four years later. Marius had gained a character for sturdy independence and unshaken constancy, which was to produce unexpected results in the political world of the future, and was to be immediately tested in a manner that must have proved profoundly disappointing to many who acclaimed him. It seems as though this victory over the resolution of the senate may have urged certain would-be reformers to believe that measures of a Gracchan type might win the favour of the people, and secure the support of a tribunician college which seemed to be out of sympathy with the government. Some proposal dealing with the distribution of corn,[809] perhaps an extension of the existing scheme, was made. It found no more resolute opponent than Marius, and his opposition helped to secure its utter defeat. In this resistance we may perhaps see the genuinely neutral character of the man; for the attribution of interested motives, although the historian's favourite revenge for the difficulties of his task, endows his characters with a foresight which is as abnormal as their lack of principle; although it is questionable whether Marius would have gained by identifying himself with a cause which had not yet emerged from the ruin of its failure.

The lack of official support and the alienation of a section of the people may perhaps be traced in the successive defeats of his candidature for the curule and plebeian aedileships,[810] although in the elections to these offices the attention of the people was so keenly directed to the candidate's pecuniary means as a guarantee of their gratification by brilliant shows, that the aedileship must have been of all magistracies the most difficult of attainment by merit unsupported by wealth. Even when the rejected candidate had won favour on other grounds, the electors could salve their consciences with the reflection that the aedileship was no obligatory step in an official career, and that, where merit and not money was in question, they could show their appreciation of personal qualities in the elections to the praetorship. A year after his repulse Marius turned to the candidature for this office, which conveyed the first opportunity of the tenure of an independent military command. He was returned at the bottom of the poll, and even then had to fight hard to retain his place in the praetorian college.[811] A charge of undue influence was brought against the man who had struggled successfully to preserve the purity of the Comitia, and it was pretended that a slave of one of his closest political associates had been seen within the barriers mixing with the voters. That the charge was supported by powerful influences, or was generally believed to be correct, is perhaps shown by the conduct of the censors of the succeeding year who expelled this associate from the senate.[812] The jurors[813] before whom the case was tried--representatives, as we must suppose, of the equestrian order and therefore presumably uninfluenced by senatorial hostility--were long perplexed by the conflict of evidence. During the first days of the trial it seemed as though the doom of Marius was sealed, and his unexpected acquittal was only secured by the scrutiny of the tablets revealing an equality of votes, a condition which, according to the rules of Roman process, necessitated a favourable verdict.

His praetorship, in accordance with the rules which now governed this magistracy in consequence of the multiplication of the courts of justice, confined his energies to Rome. We do not know what department of this office he administered; but, as the charge of no department could make an epoch in the career of any one but a lawyer gifted with original ideas, we are not surprised to find that Marius's tenure of this magistracy, although creditable, did not excite any marked attention.[814] After his praetorship he obtained his first independent military command in Farther Spain. Such a province had always its little problems of pacification to present to an energetic commander, and Marius's military talents were moderately exercised by the repression of the habitual brigandage of its inhabitants.[815] His tenure of a foreign command may have added to his wealth, for provincial government could be made to increase the means of the most honest administrator. It was still more important that his tenure of the praetorship had added him to the ranks of the official nobility. His birth was now no bar to any social distinction to which his simple and resolute soul might think it profitable to aspire: and a family of the patrician Julii was not ashamed to give one of its daughters to the adventurer from Arpinum.[816] Thus Marius remained for a while; to Roman society an interesting specimen of the self-made man, marked by a bluntness and directness appropriate to the type and provocative of an amused regard; to the professed politician a man with a fairly successful but puzzling political career, and one that perhaps needed not to be too seriously considered. For to all who understood the existent conditions of Roman public life, his attainment of the consulship and of a dominant position in the councils of the State must have seemed impossible. There was but one contingency that could make Marius a necessary man. This was war on a grand scale. But the contingency was distant, and, even if it arose, the government might employ his skill while keeping him in a subordinate position.

The career of Marius is not the only proof that the tradition of successful opposition to the senate could be easily revived. In the year following his tribunate a new and successful effort was made in the direction of transmarine colonisation.[817] The pretext for the measure was the necessity for preserving command of the territory which had been won by the great victories of Domitius and Fabius on the farther side of the Alps; the strategic value of the foundation was undeniable, and the opposition of the government was probably directed by the form which it was proposed that the new settlement should take. It was not to be a mere fort in the enemy's country, like the already-established Aquae Sextiae,[818] but a true colonia of Roman citizens,[819] the creation of which was certain to lead to excessive complications in the foreign policy which dealt with the frontiers of the north. Such a colony would become the centre of an active trade with the surrounding tribes; though professedly founded in the people's interest, it would rapidly become a mere feeler for extending the operations of the great mercantile class; the growth of Roman trade-interests would necessarily involve a policy of defence and probably of expansion, which would tell heavily on the resources of the State. The success of the government was dependent on the restriction of its efforts, and there is nothing surprising in the hearty opposition which it offered to the projected colony of Narbo Martius. Even after the original measure sanctioning the settlement had passed the Comitia, senatorial influence led to the promulgation of a new proposal in which the people was asked to reconsider its decision.[820] But the project had found an ardent champion in the young Lucius Crassus, who strengthened the position which he had won in the previous year, by a speech weighty beyond the promise of his age.[821] In his successful advocacy of a national undertaking he was not afraid to impugn the authority of the senate, and reaped an immediate reward in being selected, despite his youth, as one of the commissioners for establishing the settlement.[822]

It is probable that without the support of the equestrian order the project for the foundation of Narbo Martius might have fallen through. The man of popular sympathies whose measures attracted their support was tolerably certain of success, and the man who posed as the champion of the order was still more firmly placed. The latter position was occupied for a considerable time by Caius Servilius Glaucia, whose tribunate probably belongs to the close of the period which we are describing.[823] Glaucia himself, probably one of those scions of the nobility whom an original bent of mind had alienated from the narrow interests of his order, was a man who, lacking in the gift of passionate but steadfast seriousness which makes the great reformer, possessed powers admirably adapted for holding the popular ear and inspiring his auditors with a kind of robust confidence in himself. Ready, acute and witty,[824] he possessed the happy faculty of taking the Comitia, under the guise of the plain and honest man, into his confidence. The very ignorance of his auditors became a respectable attribute, when it was figured as ingenuous simplicity which needed protection against the tortuous wiles of the legislator and the official draughtsman. On one occasion he told his audience that the essence of a law was its preamble. If, when read to them, it was found to contain the words "dictator, consul, praetor or magister equitum," the bill was no concern of theirs. But, if they caught the utterance "and whosoever after this enactment," then they must wake up, for some new fetter of law was being forged to bind their limbs.[825] A man of this unconventional type was not likely to be popular in the senate, and the opprobrious name, which he subsequently bore in the Curia,[826] is a proof of the liveliness which he imparted to debate.

At the time of Glaucia's tribunate some subtle movement seems to have been on foot for undoing the judiciary law of Caius Gracchus and ousting the knights from their possession of the court before which senators most frequently appeared. The law which dealt with the crime of extortion by Roman officials had been frequently renewed, and, whenever a proposal was made for recasting the enactment with a view to effecting improvements in procedure, the equestrian tenure of the court was threatened; for a new law might state qualifications for the jurors differing from those which had given this department of jurisdiction to the knights. The relief of the order was therefore great when the necessary work of revision was undertaken by one who showed himself an ardent champion of equestrian claims.[827] Glaucia's alteration in procedure was thorough and permanent. He introduced the system of the "second hearing "--an obligatory renewal of the trial, which rendered it possible for counsel to discuss evidence which had been already given, and for jurors to get a grasp of the mass of scattered data which had been presented to their notice--[828] and he also made it possible to recover damages, not only from the chief malefactor, but from all who had dishonestly shared his spoils.[829] These principles continued to be observed in trials for extortion to the close of the Republic, and may have been the only permanent relic of Glaucia's feverish political career. But for the moment the clauses of his law which dealt with the qualifications of the jurors, were those most anxiously awaited and most heartily acclaimed. He had stemmed a reaction and consolidated, beyond hope of alteration for a long term of years, the system of dual control established by Caius Gracchus.

The careers and successes of Marius, Crassus and Glaucia exhibit the spirit of unrest which broke at intervals through the apathetic tolerance displayed by the people towards the rule of the nobility. These alternations of confidence and distrust find their counterpart in the religious history of the times; but a panic springing from a belief in the anger of the gods was even more difficult to control than the alarm excited by the attitude of the government. Such a panic knew no distinctions of station, sex or age; it seized on citizens who cared nothing for the problems of administration, it was strong in proportion to the weakness of its victims, and gathered from the dark thoughts and wild words of the imbecile the poison which infected the sober mind and assumed, from the very universality of the sickness, the guise of a healthy effort at rooting out some deep-seated pollution from the State. The gloomy record of the religious persecutions of the past made it still more difficult for a government, which prided itself on the retention of the ancient control of morals, which gloried in its monopoly of an historic priesthood that had often set its hand to the work of extirpation, to stifle such a cry. The demand for atonement was the voice of the conserver of Rome's moral life, of the patriotic devotee who was striving earnestly to reclaim the waning favour of her tutelary gods. If it was further believed that the seat of the corruption was to be found amidst the families of the nobility itself, the last barrier to resistance had been broken down, for even to seem to shield the unholy thing was to make its lurking place an object of horror and execration.

The nerves of the people were first excited by various prodigies that had appeared; a confirmation of their fears might have been found in the utter destruction of the army of Porcius Cato in Thrace;[830] and a strange calamity soon gave an index to the nature of the offence which excited the anger of the gods. When Helvius, a Roman knight, was journeying with his wife and daughter from Rome to Apulia, they were enveloped in a sudden storm. The alarm of the girl urged the father to seek shelter with all speed. The horses were loosed from the vehicle, the maiden was placed on one, and the party was hastening along the road, when suddenly there was a blinding flash and, when it had passed, the young Helvia and her horse were seen prone upon the ground. The force of the lightning had stripped every garment and ornament from her body, and the dead steed lay a few paces off with its trappings riven and scattered around it.[831] Death by a thunderbolt had always a meaning, which was sometimes hard to find; but here the gods had not left the inquiring votary utterly in doubt. The nakedness of the stricken maiden was a riddle that the priests could read. It was a manifest sign that a virginal vow had been broken, and that some of the keepers of the eternal fire were tainted with the sin of unchastity. The destruction of the horse seemed to portend that a knight would be found to be a partner in the crime.[832] Evidence was invited and was soon forthcoming. The slave of a certain Barrus came forward and deposed to the corruption of three of the vestal virgins, Aemilia, Licinia and Marcia.[833] He pretended that the incestuous intercourse had been of long standing, and he named his own master amongst many other men whom he declared to be the authors of the sacrilege. The maidens were believed to have added to their lovers to screen their first offence; the sacrifice of their honour became the price of silence; and their first corrupters were forced to be dumb when jealousy was mastered by fear. The knowledge of the crime is believed to have been widely spread amongst the circles of the better class, until the conspiracy of silence was broken down by the action of a slave,[834] and all who would not be deemed accomplices were forced to add their share to the weight of the accusing testimony.

A scandal of this magnitude called for a formal trial by the supreme religious tribunal, and towards the close of the year[835] Lucius Metellus, the chief pontiff, summoned the incriminated vestals before the college. Aemilia was condemned, but Licinia and Marcia were acquitted. There was an immediate outcry; the pontiff's leniency was severely censured; and the anger and fear of the people emboldened a tribune, Sextus Peducaeus, to propose for the first time that the secular arm should wrest from the pontifical college the spiritual jurisdiction that it had abused. He carried a resolution that a special commission should be established by the people to continue the investigation.[836] The judges were probably Roman knights after the model of the Gracchan jurors; the president was the terrible Lucius Cassius Longinus, already known for his severity as a censor and famed for his penetration as a criminal judge. This fatal penetration, which had endowed his tribunal with the nickname "the reef of the accused," [837] was now welcomed as a surety that the inquiry would be searching, and that the innocence which survived it would be so well established that all doubt and fear would be dissolved. This commission condemned, not only the two vestals whom the pontiffs had acquitted, but many of their female intermediaries as well.[838] Some of their supposed paramours must also have been convicted; amongst the accused was Marcus Antonius, who was in future days to share the realm of oratory with Lucius Crassus. He was on the eve of his departure to Asia, where he was to exercise the duties of a quaestor, when he was summoned to appear before the court over which Cassius presided. He might have pleaded the benefit of his obligation to continue his official duties;[839] but he preferred to waive his claim and face his judges. His escape was believed to have been mainly due to the heroic conduct of a young slave, who, presented of his own free will to the torture, bore the anguish of the rack, the scourge and the fire without uttering a word that might incriminate his master.[840] The free employment of such methods in trials for incest throws a grave doubt on the value of the judgment which they elicited; and, when a court is established for the purpose of appeasing the popular conscience, a part at least of its conduct may be easily suspected of being preordained. Cassius's rigour in this matter was thought excessive;[841] but, even had he and the jurors meted out nothing but the strictest justice, the memory of their sentence would long have rankled in the minds of the influential families whose members they had condemned, and thus perpetuated the tradition of their unnecessary severity. It may be doubted, however, whether a secular court was competent to inflict the horrible penalties of pontifical jurisdiction, to condemn the vestal to a living grave and her paramour to death by the scourge;[842] interdiction, and perhaps in the more serious cases the death by strangling usually reserved for traitors, may have been meted out to the men, while the women may have been handed over to their relatives for execution. But even this exemplary visitation of the vices which lurked in the heart of the State was not deemed sufficient to appease the gods or to quiet the popular conscience. To punish the guilty was to offer the barest satisfaction to heaven and to conscience; a fuller atonement was demanded, and the Sibylline oracles, when consulted on the point, were understood to ordain the cultivation of certain strange divinities by the living sacrifice of four strangers, two of Hellenic and two of Gallic race.[843] The accomplishment of this act must have been a severe strain on the reason and conscience of a government which sixteen years later absolutely prohibited the performance of human sacrifice[844] and soon made efforts to stamp out the barbarous ritual even in its foreign dependencies.[845] Even this concession to the panic of the times could not be regarded as fraught with much worldly success. The gods seemed still to retain an unkind feeling both to the city and the government. Two years later there was a return of dreadful prodigies, and a great part of Rome was laid waste by a terrible fire. A few months more and news was brought from Africa which shook to its very foundations the fabric of senatorial rule.[846]



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