Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

to undertake the death of a fellow-citizen against whom there was no other proof than the accusation of Minucius, most uncertainly sustained by sqme appearances of ambition. But the doubts of Cincinnatus were such as he would scarcely have admitted into his mind, a few years earlier, and they were now soon overborne. He named Servilius Ahala to the mastership of the Knights, and ordered the Capitol and the fortresses of the city to be occupied by the Patricians and their retainers under arms.” As soon as the Dictator could proceed, on the following morning, to the Forum, his master, Servilius Ahala, called Maelius forth to answer to the charge of treason. None present could have believed, however much surprised some may have been, that the Plebeian was guilty of any other crime than having sought to profit by the necessities of the poor in accomplishing the designs in which he was probably but the imitator of Canuleius or others like him. But on the one side stood the Patricians, that is, assuredly, the violent amongst them, determined, now that they had a Dictator of the same mind, to make an example of the ambitious Plebeian ; while on the other were collected a multitude, in part too indifferent and in part too bewildered to give their aid to the man by whom none of their number, at least, had been directly or indirectly wronged. On being seized by one of the master's attendants, Maelius cried out to be defended; but Servilius Ahala, hot-blooded and impatient, dashed, with a band of armed companions, into the very centre of the crowd, and slew his victim in their sight, as in that of the Dictator. Cincinnatus gave praise to Ahala for having saved the Commonwealth, and, addressing the people, ordered them to be grateful that they had not lost their liberties, as he said, “for a few pounds of meal.” The house of the murdered man was demolished, and his property confiscated to the public treasury, except his stores of corn, which were given out, at a nominal price, to the multitude. Minucius, the Prefect, in whose name the grain was distributed, gained so much popularity as to be regarded like an eleventh Tribune, according to the historian;" but Servilius Ahala, brought to trial, three years afterwards, by one of the Tribunes,” a namesake of the murdered Maelius, was forced to go into exile. If it had been proved that men like Maelius could not succeed in uniting their cause with that of the necessitous, the separation between the poor and the ambitious Plebeians would have seemed doomed to go unrepaired. The characteristics of the preceding are those also of the following events, through which we read, though still uncertainly, of vigor followed by inertness, and inertness turned again to vigor, amongst the factions of the Commonwealth. The inactivity of the Plebeians, more striking than any degree of energy on their part, would appear continued for years after the murder of Maelius. Of the multiplied efforts and hopes which had filled their early days and their fathers' lives, but one apparently remained. Instead of renewing the contest, as an estate, with that which still continued to be superior, the Plebeians seem to have been absorbed, if not contented, in maintaining the ground they had gained; and that, too, without attempting the fortifications, so to speak, which its defence required. The old historian is constantly repeating the same story of demands on the part of the Plebeians that Consular Tribunes should be elected for the year, in place of Consuls; but even when their point was so far gained, the conclusion of the narrative never fails to record the election of Patricians alone.” In this manner, the lower estate was not only prevented from bolder aspirations, but was even humiliated by continual disappointment in relation to the privileges it had previously obtained. This was the effect of its own dissensions. The great defect in the Roman institutions was perceived, as far back as in the time of their formation, to be the exaggerated authority with which every principal magistrate was endowed. It resulted, like many other faults less frequently observed, from the division of the early Commonwealth between the two great classes of its citizens; in consequence of which, the Consul, on the one hand, considered himself as belonging to the Patricians, and the Tribune, on the other, felt himself bound to the Plebeians, rather than to all his fellow-citizens. Either would, therefore, push his powers to their extreme limit, believing the interests of his order to be his first duty, and, further, that these depended more upon his boldness than his moderation. It is only at rare intervals that any proof is given of greater wisdom, on either side; such men as Valerius Publicola and Marcus Duilius being few and far between in Roman history. Another of the same stamp appears just now, in the person of Mamercus AEmilius, a Patrician of the highest birth and reputation, who was appointed Dictator, for the second time, about five years after the death of Maelius.” Desirous, as the historian remarks, of doing something in peace to distinguish his dictatorship,” AEmilius carried a law through the Centuries and the upper assemblies, to reduce the term of the censorship from five years to eighteen months; as if the office, though only nine years old, were already become dangerous to the personal liberties of the citizens. That it might so speedily increase in authority will be evident, on recollection that the control of the Census was actually the control of taxation and of rank; each man, or rather each, class, being held by the Censors to a different rate of contribution and a different position amongst the Centuries. The Censors in office at the time when Æmilius proposed his law showed what their powers were, by removing him, as soon as he resigned his dictatorship, from his Tribe, and imposing an enormous sum upon him as an AErarian, that is, as one of the class received, as a body, into the assembly of the Tribes, without being admitted to any Tribe of the one-and-twenty, in particular. So extravagant an abuse of authority could not fail to provoke redress, as well from the Plebeians as from the Patricians, to whom AEmilius belonged. The mark of the Censors, as a sentence of the sort was styled, could be effaced, as soon as the term of those who made it expired; and AEmilius was not only relieved of his pecuniary burdens and restored to his former honors, but was afterwards elevated to the dictatorship,” in which he had proved his wisdom and his forbearance. None of the Plebeians were nearly so prominent during these comparatively quiet years. Whether it were from depression of spirit or of influence, their ability to carry forward the great work committed in part to them was often a power like that of the citizens in the play, that they had no power to do.” Sometimes, however, the leaves were stirred, and the shoots encouraged, as by a more cheerful breeze. A law, for instance, was put forward by the Trib

45 The occupation, which was most probably ordered by the Dictator, is told by Zonaras, VII. 20.

46 Liv., IV. 15. 48 Spurius Maelius, Tribune in 47 This can be all that is meant A. C. 436. Liv., IV. 21. The by the tradition to which Livy re- exile is mentioned in Val. Max., W. fers, IV. 16. Minucius received 3. 2. other marks of favor, and finally became a Plebeian. Ibid.

49 As, for instance, in the sixth tandem, ut tribuni militum consulari year (A. C. 433) after the assassina- potestate crearentur: victoriae praetion of Maelius : —“Tribuni plebis, mium, quod petebatur, ut plebeius assiduis concionibus prohibendo con- crearetur, nullum fuit: omnes patrisularia comitia, quum res prope ad cii creati sunt.” Liv., IV. 25. interregnum perducta esset, evicere

* A. C. 434. Liv., IV. 17, 23. quod monimentum esset dictaturae, * “In pace aliquid operis edere, cupiens,” etc. Liv., IV. 24.

& Liv., IV. 31. 59 Coriolanus, Act II. sc. 3.

« НазадПродовжити »