Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

ment between their author and his Patrician partisan; but the dubious terms in which they are preserved can be interpreted only by the circumstances of their enactment, which seem to prove the determination of humbling the extreme party of the Patricians. One law declared the decrees of the Tribes to be binding upon all classes; another empowered the Centuries to pass their bills with the previous, perhaps the nominal, approval of the higher assemblies; and a third ordered that one of the Censors should always be elected from the Plebeians. The last law requires no explanation ; while the first two are almost completely unintelligible as they stand recorded. It is only through remembering in what spirit they were framed, and on reading the lamentations of the injury they wrought upon the Patricians,42 or the extreme Patricians, that some great blow appears to have been dealt by the party called moderate, acting through the authority of their Dictator. We may, perhaps, extend our interpretation farther.43 The Senate was at this time largely, though not predominantly, composed of Plebeians, most of whom, joining the moderate Patricians, would constitute a formidable minority, and sometimes even, as perhaps at present, an actual majority, in that great body. But the Curies were still in the exclusive possession of the Patricians, who, greatly reduced in point of numbers, would, as an estate, be actuated by continual hostility 44 to the measures supported by the Plebeians, and even to those which were acceptable to the moderate men, forming the smaller proportion of their own order. It may have been against the Curies, therefore, that the proceedings of Publilius Philo and his party were directed; and we may, perhaps, read the first law as having deprived the Patrician assembly of its veto upon the bills which passed the Tribes, and the second, as having stripped it of the same right with regard to the laws of the Centuries.

41 The whole passage from Livy consulem fieri liceret, censor creare(VIII. 12) may be transcribed : - tur." “ Dictatura popularis et orationibus 42 To continue with Livy's acin Patres criminosis fuit, et quod tres count: -“ Plus eo anno domi acleges secundissimas plebei, adversas ceptum cladis ab consulibus ac dicnobilitati, tulit : unam, ut plebi- tatore, quam ex victoria eorum belliscita omnes Quirites tenerent; alte- cisque rebus foris auctum imperium, ram, ut legum, quæ comitiis centu- Patres credebant.” riatis ferrentur, ante initum suffra- 43 Especially with Niebuhr's aid. gium, Patres auctores fierent; ter- See the chapter on the Publilian tiam, ut alter utique ex plebe, quum laws in his third volume. eo ventum sit, ut utrumque plebeium

Publilius may be followed farther in his career, as the representative of the party to which he belonged. Two years after the passage of his laws, he was elected the first Plebeian Prætor, in spite of determined opposition on the part of his old antagonists.45 The next year, another Æmilius Mamercinus, probably the brother of the former Consul, being named Dictator, appointed Publilius Philo to the mastership of the Knights. Four years later, when his energies had been already so often tried, he was chosen Censor. 47 Mere list of offices as this may be, it proves the continued popularity of the man and the continued superiority of his faction.

45 A. C. 334. Liv., VIII. 15. 46 Liv., VIII. 16.

44 “ And it is often seen,” as Lord Bacon wrote, “ that a few that are stiff do tire out a great number that are more moderate." Essays,

True history would be that which, embracing a people rather than individuals in its inquiries, should turn, as in the instance of our own subject, with greater interest to the liberty of the whole nation than it is bound to feel for the fortunate or the illustrious citizens alone. But the necessity of reading the history of Rome through the lives of a few preëminent Romans is only consistent with the character of all ancient freedom, in which, as we have previously seen, the wolves were oftener able to make their lair than the sheep to find a fold. One result of warfare will be the still greater precedence of the individual warrior as we continue in our history. Another, perhaps, though this is far less certain, will prove to consist in the corruption of other classes, -of the poor, of the middle ranks, and of the women. The year after the censorship of Publilius Philo is marked by a tradition, that one hundred and seventy matrons were condemned for poisoning great numbers of distinguished men ; 48 and the mere tradition throws a lurid shade over some lives, at least, which were led amongst the conquering nation. Such things, however, were rather the shadows of coming events than of the general circumstances in which the Romans of that day actually found themselves.

47 Liv., VIII. 17. It was the rolled, and of course by the Cenyear in which the twenty-eighth sors. and twenty-ninth Tribes were en- 48 Liv., VIII. 18.

There were other influences, besides, to result from the wars in which the present generation seems to have been more entirely absorbed than almost any one which went before. A share in the great plunder which Valerius Corvus gave his soldiers after the battle of Suessula“ was enough to make, not only the receiver, but all who coveted his luck, earnest for the campaigns to come. So a portion in the assignments of lands, after the subjugation of Latium and Campania, 50 was at once the satisfaction of the veteran and the excitement of the recruit. The more equitable the distribution of the spoils, whether in land or booty, the more plainly we perceive, on the one hand, the effect of the laws which had raised the condition of the Plebeians, and, on the other, the motive that was furnished to the lower estate to insist upon commencing or prosecuting the campaign they would in old times have endeavoured to elude, or openly refused, as in instances we have witnessed, to undertake at all. The successful issue of the wars in which they thus engaged, with all their strength, resulted from other causes than mere superiority of discipline or arms. But the constitution of the Roman legion, supposed to have been fully introduced, at this period, into the armies of the Commonwealth, was certainly both a consequence and, in a less degree, a cause of personal activity and general independence amongst the soldiers, that is, the citizens of Rome. Each individual became of more or less importance; and

49 Liv., VII. 37.

50 Liv., VIII. 11.

na

even the supernumeraries, before well worthy of their name, now had some duties to perform, as when, in the great battle under Vesuvius, they were gathered into a sort of reserve, which bore no inconsiderable part in the decision of the conflict.51 Incessant and sanguinary campaigns like those against the Latins and Samnites, more alarming enemies than most who armed themselves against Rome in former times, suffered few who were fit for military service to be overlooked, as in the days when the Patricians, at Regillus, assisted by the immortals, were able to scorn the aid of the Plebeians. The swifter movements of the legion, in contradistinction to those of the heavy-armed phalanx, were of sensible influence, one may conjecture, upon the habits of the whole nation, as well as of the soldiery.

If the appointed work of the Roman people, under Providence, was to strengthen itself as we have supposed, in order to accomplish the overthrow of heathen civilization, we are bound to inquire into the condition of the people whom it conquered, as well in its first, as in its latest wars. Indeed, its earliest methods of profiting by conquests are, in many respects, the most remarkable; for, while through these the Commonwealth increased its citizens, most of its subsequent victories did but bring it subjects.

In the time of our present narrative, the liberty of Rome was spread over a wider country than

51 Liv., VIII. 10.

« НазадПродовжити »