Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

quent history of their country. But the immediate working of their laws, though dependent for description upon exceedingly scanty statements, will serve, in part at least, to terminate our present, and introduce our coming narrative. Of the regard paid to the new Decemvirs, or of their influence in uniting the two estates to which they belonged, we actually know nothing. The operation of the law concerning the consulship is better ascertained. The authority of this great office was, after the institution of the praetorship, in addition to the censorship already in existence, a very different affair from the absolute power of its early occupants; yet, as the commission of the Consuls was still supreme in all respects a mile beyond the city walls, and as the military superiority with which it invested them was undisturbed, the Plebeians were satisfied with the dignity it still maintained, and to which they were themselves, for the first time, raised. Sometimes, it is true, the Patrician candidates were alone elected; on other occasions, the election of a Plebeian, if not prevented, was virtually nullified by the appointment of a Patrician Dictator;” and there were reasons, at one period, for the Plebeians to dread, that, even though their candidates might be chosen, they were taken from so small a number of families as to threaten them with an oligarchy amongst themselves.” But, as a general remark, it may be safely said, that the elevation of the lower estate was secured by the law which opened the consulship and the priesthood of the Commonwealth to their ambition. It marks the character of the Romans, and, therefore, of their liberty, that the laws of ambition, as they may be called, which Licinius carried, should alone have really succeeded. The recovery and the distribution of the public domain were never actually accomplished. They who had lands to surrender would resist, either from unwillingness to part with estates they considered, and in some cases with apparent reasonableness, to be their own, or else from sheer determination to elude the laws they had not been able to suppress. Others, who waited to receive the lands, would be exasperated by delay, and by discontent, at last, that they had not gained a principality, instead of a little, and, as it might easily happen, a worthless farm. Conflicting claims amongst the poor would lead to angry feelings or silent sufferings; and much as may have been done, much more was surely and necessarily left undone. The law respecting debts would meet the same sort of obstacles; and though many were relieved and some undoubtedly discharged, the causes of embarrassment and of downright poverty, being undisturbed, soon wrought effects which no reduction of interest or instalment of principal could relieve. It must be confessed how much easier it is to describe the inefficacy than the efficacy of laws like these concerning debts and lands, even if their own inherent defects were not so plain. The chronicles composed by their opponents would bear little testimony to the good they really did in Rome. Unfortunately, however, for the reputation both of the Licinian laws and of their author, there has been preserved an account of his own transgressions against them. About ten years from their passage, and after having been twice elected, in that interval, to the consulship, Licinius Stolo was brought to trial for being the occupant of one thousand jugers of the public lands, in violation of the limits he had himself prescribed. If his defence were made, as it appears to have been, on the ground that his son occupied half the land which was charged to him, the plea alone would have warranted his condemnation, inasmuch as the son could have been no more than a nominal tenant under the control and to the advantage of the father.” Licinius was sentenced to pay a heavy fine,” and the history of his laws must be concluded with the evidence of his shame.” Nor is it to be denied that the stain upon Licinius was one upon the principles of the whole people, as well as of the individual man. The freedom of many ancient nations had met its doom; and the few hopes of Greece were shrinking, or soon to shrink, before Philip of Macedon. It was only natural, at a moment like this, that, if the liberty of Rome were quickened with new life, its mortality should be proved by such an offence as that of Licinius Stolo.

3. See Liv., VII. 21, 22, etc.; * Arnold remarks that eight Plethere being no less than fourteen beian families furnished Consuls for Dictators within a comparatively twenty years. Hist. Rome, Vol. brief period. II. p. 65.

* “Dissimulandi criminis gra- * Which they who wish may tia.” Val. Max., VIII. 6. 3. complete from Dion. Hal., Excerpt.,

* Liv., VII. 16. “Primus om- XIV. 22. See, in some exculpanium sua lege punitus est.” De tion, App., Bell. Civ., I. 8. Wir. Ill., Cap. XX.

END OF WOL. I.

« НазадПродовжити »