« НазадПродовжити »
rentilian bill. It may have been for the same purpose that the Consuls of a year or two afterwards procured the passage of a law by which their authority of laying fines upon the Plebeians was restricted, and the same power conferred on other magistrates.” So the appointment of three Patrician commissioners to make a voyage in quest of the laws of Greece,” and, perhaps, of other lands besides, was a fresh device, on the part of their order, to gain time against the long evaded claims of the Tribunes. On the other hand, however, the Plebeians were insisting upon their satisfaction, and renewing the older demands for lands. The adversaries of both measures were accused, and condemned to the payment of heavy fines: ” signs clear as the dawn, that the estate which sat in darkness was determined to have its day. On the return of the commissioners from Greece, there was no further delay. Another pestilence had fallen upon the city, in token, as the Plebeians would say, of the gods' displeasure at the injustice done them; and though it might be unsafe to think that the Patricians agreed with their interpretation, yet it is a fact that ten magistrates were speedily appointed by the Centuries, under the title of Decemvirs, to enter upon the great work of framing a legal and constitutional code for the Roman people. If it had been the design of Terentilius Arsa, ten years before, that, of his ten commissioners, five should be Plebeians, it failed; for the ten were undoubtedly all Patricians, though it is very probable that some were taken of the milder as well as of the severer party. Appius Claudius, the same, probably, whose arraignment before the Tribes has been previously noticed, and who, if he were the same, had returned from exile and been chosen Consul, was, by virtue of his office,” one, and soon the chief, of the Decemvirs. The powers which he and his colleagues received were enormous. All other officers were suspended from their functions while those of the decemvirate continued; and even the common liberties of the people, apparently, too, of the superior” as well as the inferior class, were in abeyance, until the Decemvirs should decide upon their resumption. The only restriction upon this boundless authority was that imposed by the Tribunes, who, before laying down their offices, secured the maintenance of the laws of Mons Sacer, and that concerning the Aventine.” Yet, as it was through the exertions of the Tribunes that the bill of Terentilius had been enlarged, and the election of the Decemvirs obtained, the sanguine Plebeians might trust, even through the professions and hypocrisies of Appius Claudius,” to obtain the justice they had long implored or required. In one year the Decemvirs, while alternately en80 If, as Niebuhr says, the two commissioners from Greece were Consuls, the Prefect, and the two certainly amongst them. Quaestors for the year were joined 81 See Dion. Hal., X. 55, 66.
77 Cic., De Rep., II. 35. Dion. 79 Dion. Hal., X. 33 et seq., 42. Hal., X.50. Liv., III. 31. 78 Liv., III. 31.
to five others chosen by the Cen- * Liv., III. 32. turies. Vol. II. p. 144. The three & Dion. Hal., X, 54.
WOL. I. 55
gaged in the administration of the Commonwealth, had so well employed themselves as to produce ten tables of written laws. They asked, however, a longer term in order to complete their labors; but, though all appear to have sought a reëlection, Appius alone succeeded. Of his new associates, three were Plebeians;* yet the tradition, that the second Decemvirs assumed fresh pretensions, and were attended each by his twelve lictors, instead of taking turns in superiority, implies their faithlessness or their feebleness under the overweening influence of their colleague. Two more tables were the fruits of the second year;” and to the bitterness of these the imperfections of the entire code were in after times referred. But as there are only fragments of the Twelve Tables in existence, they can be judged only together; and the following chapter will inquire into them, not, again, merely as a whole, but, further, as the result of the first works of the Tribunes in Rome.
84 Arnold, Hist. Rome, Vol. I. 85 The two years were from the pp. 299, 300. spring of A. C. 451 to that of 449.
DURING the period over which we have passed, while institutions of private and public character were formed or established among successive generations, the law upon which they would naturally most depend was fluctuating and undetermined. Its original principles, such, even, as have been partially defined in a preceding chapter, were in a loose and unstable condition, so long as they followed the variable decisions of the different magistracies and tribunals of the Commonwealth. The Consul was not bound by the decisions of his predecessors, nor even by any system he may have himself adopted at the beginning of his year. The Pontiff could alter his canons as easily as they had been framed, and though the doctrines of his religion were supposed to be immutable, none knew the meaning of an unchangeable obedience to their behests. So strong, however, was the acquiescence of the Romans in the customs and ordinances of their forefathers, that there could seldom have arisen any great departure from precedent or established principles of any general kind; and most of the ecclesiastical as of the civil ordinances, though unwritten, were nevertheless preserved by tradition or obeyed by impulse, as if they had been unalterable. The real evil of dependence upon this priesthood or that magistracy, for the delivery as well as the execution or the interpretation of unseen laws, was felt by the Plebeians, who, whether justice, even according to the Roman standard, were on their side or not, could never claim it with the same confidence that would have existed under a visible and undeniable code. It is fairly, therefore, to be called their triumph, that the Twelve Tables were composed. The mission of the three commissioners to Greece has been often regarded as a proof that many parts of the great code of the Roman Commonwealth were derived from foreign sources; but though there was assuredly some reference to the laws of Greece in framing the Twelve Tables, it was made, if we judge aright, only in order to perfect the form, and not to change the substance, of the Roman, that is to say, the Italian laws, which the Decemvirs gathered from the usages and institutions of their own country. The only novelty of the Tables, apart, of course, from some alterations of which we shall presently