Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

he saw gathered together there, with intents he well knew to be evil, to withdraw. As soon as he perceived, what he must have expected, that his commands were despised, he ordered some of the Patricians to be arrested; and when Appius, the Consul, who was in their group, bade them stand fast, nor fear an officer whose authority was binding only on the Plebeians, the Tribune, inflamed with wrath, sent his attendant to eject the Consul himself from the Forum. Appius ordered his lictor to seize Laetorius; but at this the multitude was stirred, and, after a brief but violent affray, the commands of the Tribune were enforced by a thousand attendants instead of one. The other Consul, Quinctius, and some of the liberal Senators who were with him, contrived to prevent any further tumult; although there could have been little tranquillity while every Tribe successively gave in its adhesion to the bill, and their leaders stood exulting, doubtless, and haranguing from the tribunal. The bill was no sooner passed, than a band of Plebeians hastened to the Capitol, in order, probably, to hold it as security for the acceptance of the bill, now become a decree of the Tribes, by the Senate and the Curies, without whose united consent the decree would never become a law. The menace, however, if meant as such, does not appear to have been required; for the Senate accepted and the Curies confirmed the proposal of the Tribes” as readily, to all appearance, as if Appius Claudius and his party had been driven, not only from the Forum, but from the city. It has been sometimes thought, indeed, that the conflict in the Forum was more violent than appears in history, and that one or both of the Tribunes by whom the law was framed fell, slain in the strife preceding the votes of the Tribes.” If it were so, there can have been few memories, amongst all that were familiar to their successors, more precious than those of Caius Laetorius and Volero Publilius, the champions and the martyrs of Plebeian liberty. The Publilian law, as it was always styled, was soon after" strengthened by another bill proposed by the Tribune Spurius Icilius,” empowering the Tribunes to proceed against any one who should interrupt them in presence of the Tribes, by fining the offender, or adducing him before the assembly to be more severely sentenced.” The new law, however, was not to protect the Tribunes generally, but particularly, as the presiding magistrates of the Tribes; and little scrutiny need be made, in order to perceive its intention to have been the security of the assembly itself, in proceedings like those which Appius Claudius had nearly interrupted and in that way ruined. The Icilian law is thus an appropriate illustration of the spirit called into action by the Publilian, and is undoubtedly worthy of being considered a proof that the Plebeians had obtained some legislative power by the latter law. The different conduct of Appius and Quinctius, the Consuls, respecting the passage of the Publilian bill, was not lost upon the Plebeians, who revered their friends with nearly as much fidelity as they detested their enemies. On taking the field, according to the custom of every year, Quinctius was enabled to keep the enemy at bay and lay waste their territory, while Appius Claudius was twice defeated by the foe to whom his army was opposed. Each Consul, of course, commanded the same sort of soldiers; but the orders of the one were reluctantly executed by his men, who grudged him a triumph, – whereas the other, Quinctius, was cheerfully obeyed and joyfully hailed victorious. The second defeat of Appius was so shameful, that he punished many officers who had fled, by flogging and death, besides ordering every tenth man in the ranks to be beheaded. Much as this sentence must have exasperated the army and the people against the Consul, there was no resistance offered amongst the troops, nor did the Tribunes at the time conceive, apparently, the idea that he was to be accused of having inflicted a cruel punishment upon his faithless soldiers. But when, in the year succeeding, Appius came forward, hot and haughty,” to hinder the revival of the Agrarian law, he was then attacked, as if the long account of his own and his father's offences were to be rendered at last. Accused by two of the Tribunes, and defended, as it seems, only by a minority of the Patricians, Appius changed neither countenance nor speech, but actually made the Plebeians hesitate to pronounce their judgment. As they recovered their spirits, however, his sank; and before sentence could be declared, he either went into exile, or, as is less probable, put an end to his days.” It could not have been possible for his enemies to refrain from rejoicing that they whom he and his father had wronged were avenged. His colleague, Quinctius, on the other hand, who had been kind and calm as any Patrician knew how to be, lived long and laudably; five times afterwards elected Consul, and serving the Commonwealth with such extraordinary merit, that the name of Capitolinus was rather honored by him than an honor to him.

48 “Lex silentio perfertur.” Liv., Especially see Niebuhr's Hist., Wol. II. 57. Dion. Hal., IX. 48, 49. II. pp. 104 et seq.

WOL. I. 53

49 Arnold's Hist., Wol. I. p. 179. 50 Dionysius (VII. 17) gives an earlier date ; but no one can hesitate

* Dionysius (loc. cit.) speaks of the fine as the only punishment exacted by the law. Many modern

to follow Niebuhr, who says, “It’” — the Icilian law — “must have been passed after the Publilian.” Vol. II. pp. 51, 109.

51 Whom Dionysius mentions both at the time of the secession and at the trial of Coriolanus, W. 88, VII. 26.

writers represent it as the bail exacted from the offender. The statement in the text is therefore conjectural. The effect of the law is described by Cicero: – “Contra verba atque interfationem legibus sacratis armatus [tribunus].” Pro Sext., 37.

A time of trouble followed the fall of Appius. In the same year, Tiberius AEmilius, a Patrician of no great strength, but then in the consulship, declared in favor of the Agrarian law” that Appius had, unfortunately for himself, opposed. The same AEmilius, being again Consul, three years afterwards, joined the Tribunes in their efforts to bring about the division of the public lands,” now mooted for twenty years in vain. After all the advantages gained by the Plebeians, in the humiliation of their opponents and the extension of their own privileges, it would appear that their desires to have houses and homes were not merely too reasonable, but too simple, to be resisted. Nor is the refusal of the Patricians to loosen the hold they and their fathers had always had upon the domain of the Commonwealth to be regarded as the only cause of the continued failures we have met, from time to time, of the attempts to put the law of Cassius into execution. It must be clearly understood, that, however ill-disposed the greater proportion of the higher estate may have been to provide for the poor of the lower, their denial of charity, even though it were a charity of uncommon kind, was supported by the indifference of a large number of the Plebeians, who, being themselves possessed of comfortable estates, cared not a straw for the relief of the indigent beneath them. Almost yearly, nevertheless, there were benevolent or ambitious men in office, to put themselves at the head of the lower classes and call for a distribution of the spoils which had been won from warfare, in the shape of lands and dwellings. But the very difficulty that has hitherto been silently passed over in these pages, of deciding whether the Tribune or the Consul were acting from selfish

53 As if, says Livy, he had been beians; but Niebuhr maintains the a third Consul. II. 61. exile. See his History, Vol. II.

5* Livy (II. 61) and Dionysius note 754. (IX. 54) both say that he died by * His father, Lucius, who had his own hand to escape the shame thrice been Consul, took the same of being condemned by the Ple- side. Dion. Hal., IX. 51.

56 Liv., III. 1.

« НазадПродовжити »