Re-Reading My Weblog: June 2005
Morning Must-Read: Stephanie Lo and Kenneth Rogoff: Secular Stagnation, Debt Overhang, and Other Rationales for Sluggish Growth, Six Years on

Liveblogging 300 BC: Summer: Rights of Roman Citizens

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Titus Livius: The History of Rome:

During this consulate of Marcus Valerius and Quintus Appulcius, affairs abroad wore a very peaceable aspect. Their losses sustained in war, together with the truce, kept the Etrurians quiet. The Samnites, depressed by the misfortunes of many years, had not yet become dissatisfied with their new alliance. At Rome, also, the carrying away of such multitudes to colonies, rendered the commons tranquil, and lightened their burthens.

But, that things might not be tranquil on all sides, a contention was excited between the principal persons in the commonwealth, patricians on one hand, and plebeians on the other, by the two Ogulnii, Quintus and Cneius, plebeian tribunes, who, seeking every where occasions of criminating the patricians in the hearing of the people, and having found other attempts fruitless, set on foot a proceeding by which they might inflame, not the lowest class of the commons, but their chief men, the plebeians of consular and triumphal rank, to the completion of whose honours nothing was now wanting but the offices of the priesthood, which were not yet laid open to them. They therefore published a proposal for a law, that, whereas there were then four augurs and four pontiffs, and it had been determined that the number of priests should be augmented, the four additional pontiffs and five augurs should all be chosen out of the commons.

How the college of augurs could be reduced to the number of four, except by the death of two, I do not understand: for it is a rule among the augurs, that their number should be composed of threes, so that the three ancient tribes, the Ramnes, Titienses, and Luceres, should have each its own augur; or, in case there should be occasion for more, that each should increase its number of augurs, in equal proportion with the rest, in like manner as when, by the addition of five to four, they made up the number nine, so that there were three to each tribe.

However, as it was proposed that they should be chosen out of the commons, the patricians were as highly offended at the proceeding, as when they saw the consulship made common; yet they pretended that the business concerned not them so much as it did the gods, who would:

take care that their own worship should not be contaminated; that, for their parts, they only wished that no misfortune might ensue to the commonwealth.

But they made a less vigorous opposition, as being now accustomed to suffer defeat in such kind of disputes; and they saw their adversaries, not, as formerly, grasping at that which they could scarcely hope to reach, the higher honours; but already in possession of all those advantages, on the uncertain prospect of which they had maintained the contest, manifold consulships, censorships, and triumphs....

The people ordered that the tribes should be instantly called; and there was every appearance that the law would be accepted. It was deferred, however, for that day, by a protest, from which on the day following the tribunes were deterred; and it passed with the approbation of a vast majority. The pontiffs created were, Publius Decius Mus, the advocate for the law; Publius Sempronius Sophus, Caius Marcius Rutilus, and Marcus Livius Denter. The five augurs, who were also plebeians, were, Caius Genucius, Publius Aelius Paetus, Marcus Minucius Fessus, Caius Marcius, and Titus Publilius. Thus the number of the pontiffs was made eight; that of the augurs nine.

In the same year Marcus Valerius, consul, procured a law to be passed concerning appeals; more carefully enforced by additional sanctions.

This was the third time, since the expulsion of the kings, of this law being introduced, and always by the same family. The reason for renewing it so often was, I believe, no other, than that the influence of a few was apt to prove too powerful for the liberty of the commons. However, the Porcian law seems intended, solely, for the security of the persons of the citizens; as it visited with a severe penalty any one for beating with stripes or putting to death a Roman citizen. The Valerian law, after forbidding a person, who had appealed, to be beaten with rods and beheaded, added, in case of any one acting contrary thereto, that it shall yet be only deemed a wicked act. This, I suppose, was judged of sufficient strength to enforce obedience to the law in those days; so powerful was then men's sense of shame; at present one would scarcely make use of such a threat seriously.

The Aequans rebelling, the same consul conducted the war against them; in which no memorable event occurred; for, except ferocity, they retained nothing of their ancient condition. The other consul, Appuleius, invested the town of Nequinum in Umbria.... That business, therefore, came unfinished into the hands of the succeeding consuls, Marcus Fulvius Paetinus and Titus Manlius Torquatus...