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manner in which a law enacted during the second war with Carthage, in order to check the extravagances of female attire and indulgence, was brought up for repeal about five years after the peace, and actually expunged, through the cajoleries or the menaces of the Roman women, as well as by the more usual exertions of their advocates.78 But the tenure of the laws was commonly too firm to be thus destroyed by a single adverse claim, while the domain they held was of a much wider description. The efforts, for example, of a certain Tribune to transfer the election of the priests from their respective Colleges to the Tribes were resisted even by the Tribes themselves, though, in proposing his bill, he stood, it is narrated, facing the Forum, instead of turning to the other side of the rostra towards the Comitium, where the Patrician members of the assembly were collected. It was, perhaps, a different spirit that caused the removal of the freedmen from their various Tribes into one alone,80 wherein they would not only be powerless as citizens, but could be stigmatized as men. The cloudy authority that had appeared to be controlled since the days of Licinius and Hortensius was again escaping from its imprisonment 78 See Liv., XXXIV. I et seq. 80 Done by Sempronius Gracchus, through the incantations of warfare, and assuming the same colossal shape it had worn before, though wealth as well as birth was now the secret of its cruelty and its impunity. No laws will now prevent the rich from becoming, like the Patricians of old, the sovereign class in Rome.
79 The Tribune was Licinius then (A. C. 168) Censor. Liv., Crassus. Varro, De Re Rust., I. 2. XLV. 5. Cf. De Vir. II., LVII. Cic., De Amicit., 25. A. C. 145. Some exceptions were made in favor The Tribunes of these years were of freedmen who had sons above five not, it must be plainly observed, the years old, or whose property exsame in stamp with their predeces- ceeded a certain sum. See Liv., sors. See the incidents in Liv., XLV. 15. Epit. XLVIII., LV.
Nor was it merely in such respects as these that the Roman institutions began to show the changes they could not escape in the midst of the influences they seemed to fear, as well as of the crimes they certainly allowed. The discovery of the secret rites of
Bacchanalia, the foulest orgies that could be practised even under heathenism, was equivalent to the discovery of the corruptions to which the last generations of the ancient world, especially in its central point at Rome, were doomed. The shameful mysteries were instantly suppressed; but it was impossible to return to the comparatively simple observances of the elder times; and when the books of Numa, or some so styled, were found beneath the Janiculum, they were publicly burned by order of the Senate, lest the instructions they contained should subvert the few remaining solemnities of religion by exposing their degeneracy. It was harder to resist the innovations of the present than to defy the associations of the past; and though the philosophers who came as ambassadors from Athens were decidedly, but politely, dismissed by the Senate, because their
Liv., XL, 29.
81 A. C. 186. Liv., XXXIX. 8 et seq., 41.
82 A. C. 181. De Vir. III., III.
eloquent learning was attracting too many hearers, 83 and though, again, some foreign priests were more unceremoniously ordered to depart from Rome and out of Italy,84 the very air men breathed was fraught with another life than had touched the minds of a former age. A single reverberation of the thousand blows, yet muffled as they were, upon the bars and bolts of ancient days, comes to our ears, though in uncertain tones, through a pair of laws which made the declaration of the auspices, once so august, the common privilege of all the magistrates of Rome.85
One name, over which we have several times passed with simple mention, appears in such prominence as to represent the earnestness with which many hearts yet clung to the earlier liberties of their country. It is that of Marcus Porcius, the first of his family or nation to be called Cato, the Wise. 86 He was born in Tusculum, where his house stood close to the birthplace of Curius Dentatus, then remembered as the hero of the olden time, and in many respects so near the standard of Cato in after years as to have been apparently the model of his youth. His first military duties were performed under Fabius Maximus, during the campaign which followed the defeat at Thrasymene; and the reverence for the generation preceding his own, instilled by the memory of his fellow-townsman, was deepened by the
83 A. C. 155. The philosophers 84 A. C. 139. Val. Max., I. 3.3. were Carneades, Critolaus, and Di- 85 The Ælian and the Fufian ogenes. Cic., De Orat., II. 37. laws. Cic., De Prov. Cons., 19; They were sent away at Cato's in- In Pison., 4, etc. stance. Plut., Cat. Maj., 22, 23. 86 Plut., Cat. Maj., 1.
example of his general. But as no one is made a man by mere admiration or even imitation of others, be they ever so great and wise, the energy of Cato in serving his country and in advancing himself was the mainspring of his career. He followed Claudius Nero on the march to the Metaurus, and crossed the seas with Cornelius Scipio, on the memorable expedition to Sicily and Africa. The ædileship, to which he was elected soon after the peace with Carthage, opened the way to independent achievements, such as he sought and found, a few years subsequently, in Spain, where, as has been previously related, he gained great victories in his consulship. Afterwards serving as lieutenant in the campaign decided at Thermopylæ against the Ætolians and their ally Antiochus, he finally returned to Rome, whither he had already removed from Tusculum, and was within a few years chosen to the censorship,87 in which he so distinguished himself as to be styled in history Cato the Censor. It was in this office that he most strenuously labored to secure the practice of his theories; and if any authority could have given him success, it would have been that on which, in former times, the punishment of the bad and the estimation of the good, not only in their lives, but in their memories, had been made to depend.
We know, beforehand, that the policy of Cato failed as much when he was armed with the powers of the
censorship as when he stood unarmed, yet strong in the love with which he was inspired by the past. If any image has been evoked, in the preceding pages, of the people and the circumstances with which he had to deal, it needs only to be joined with the figure he himself still wears in history, as the rough and zealous reformer, bred amongst sturdy men in Tusculum, taught in the school of honest, though they were sometimes savage, heroes, and introduced after such preparation into the midst of a city filled, in front, with the rich, the luxurious, and the proud, though there was a multitude, abject and indolent, to be seen, hardly to be counted, in the background. Ca
5 failure is then explained. In opposing his fellow-citizens who denied the age that was gone except so far as it had prepared the age to come, Cato had no other means at his command but bitterness, accusation, and contention, through which there never has been, and never will be, a smooth course for reform or simple integrity towards a prosperous issue. “He seemed,” as his admiring biographer writes, “ to be of this opinion, that to prosecute the wicked was as good an occupation as an upright man could have” ; 88 and from the time when his battles abroad were over, his life was one long contest with those whom he arraigned or by whom he was himself accused.89 The
S8 Plut., Cat. Maj., 15. So in Plut., Apophth., Tom. VI. pp. 748 Sect. 16:—“Cato averred that the et seq., ed. Reiske. Commonwealth had need of great 89 • Quadragies quater accusatus, purification, to effect which the gloriose absolutus.” De Vir. Ill., severest, not the mildest, physician XLVII. Cf. Liv., XXXIX. 40. was required.” So likewise in The appellation of Orator, which