As it was now no longer the plebeian burgesses as such, but the common people, that were treated as inferior, the new opposition professed from the first to be the representative of the lower classes and particularly of the small farmers; and as the new aristocracy attached itself to the patriciate, so the first movements of this new opposition were interwoven with the final struggles against the privileges of the patricians. The first names in the series of these new Roman popular leaders were Manius Curius (consul 464, 479, 480; censor 481) and Gaius Fabricius (consul 472, 476, 481; censor 479); both of them men without ancestral lineage and without wealth, both summoned--in opposition to the aristocratic principle of restricting re-election to the highest office of the state--thrice by the votes of the burgesses to the chief magistracy, both, as tribunes, consuls, and censors, opponents of patrician privileges and defenders of the small farmer-class against the incipient arrogance of the leading houses. The future parties were already marked out; but the interests of party were still suspended on both sides in presence of the interests of the commonweal. The patrician Appius Claudius and the farmer Manius Curius--vehement in their personal antagonism--jointly by wise counsel and vigorous action conquered king Pyrrhus; and while Gaius Fabricius as censor inflicted penalties on Publius Cornelius Rufinus for his aristocratic sentiments and aristocratic habits, this did not prevent him from supporting the claim of Rufinus to a second consulate on account of his recognized ability as a general. The breach was already formed; but the adversaries still shook hands across it.

The New Government

The termination of the struggles between the old and new burgesses, the various and comparatively successful endeavours to relieve the middle class, and the germs--already making their appearance amidst the newly acquired civic equality--of the formation of a new aristocratic and a new democratic party, have thus been passed in review. It remains that we describe the shape which the new government assumed amidst these changes, and the positions in which after the political abolition of the nobility the three elements of the republican commonwealth--the burgesses, the magistrates, and the senate--stood towards each other.

The Burgess-Body-- Its Composition

The burgesses in their ordinary assemblies continued as hitherto to be the highest authority in the commonwealth and the legal sovereign. But it was settled by law that--apart from the matters committed once for all to the decision of the centuries, such as the election of consuls and censors--voting by districts should be just as valid as voting by centuries: a regulation introduced as regards the patricio-plebeian assembly by the Valerio-Horatian law of 305(12) and extended by the Publilian law of 415, but enacted as regards the plebeian separate assembly by the Hortensian law about 467.(13) We have already noticed that the same individuals, on the whole, were entitled to vote in both assemblies, but that--apart from the exclusion of the patricians from the plebeian separate assembly--in the general assembly of the districts all entitled to vote were on a footing of equality, while in the centuriate comitia the working of the suffrage was graduated with reference to the means of the voters, and in so far, therefore, the change was certainly a levelling and democratic innovation. It was a circumstance of far greater importance that, towards the end of this period, the primitive freehold basis of the right of suffrage began for the first time to be called in question. Appius Claudius, the boldest innovator known in Roman history, in his censorship in 442 without consulting the senate or people so adjusted the burgess-roll, that a man who had no land was received into whatever tribe he chose and then according to his means into the corresponding century. But this alteration was too far in advance of the spirit of the age to obtain full acceptance. One of the immediate successors of Appius, Quintus Fabius Rullianus, the famous conqueror of the Samnites, undertook in his censorship of 450 not to set it aside entirely, but to confine it within such limits that the real power in the burgess-assemblies should continue to be vested in the holders of land and of wealth. He assigned those who had no land collectively to the four city tribes, which were now made to rank not as the first but as the last. The rural tribes, on the other hand, the number of which gradually increased between 367 and 513 from seventeen to thirty-one--thus forming a majority, greatly preponderating from the first and ever increasing in preponderance, of the voting-divisions--were reserved by law for the whole of the burgesses who were freeholders. In the centuries the equalization of the freeholders and non-freeholders remained as Appius had introduced it. In this manner provision was made for the preponderance of the freeholders in the comitia of the tribes, while for the centuriate comitia in themselves the wealthy already turned the scale. By this wise and moderate arrangement on the part of a man who for his warlike feats and still more for this peaceful achievement justly received the surname of the Great (-Maximus-), on the one hand the duty of bearing arms was extended, as was fitting, also to the non-freehold burgesses; on the other hand care was taken that their influence, especially that of those who had once been slaves and who were for the most part without property in land, should be subjected to that check which is unfortunately, in a state allowing slavery, an indispensable necessity. A peculiar moral jurisdiction, moreover, which gradually came to be associated with the census and the making up of the burgess-roll, excluded from the burgess-body all individuals notoriously unworthy, and guarded the full moral and political purity of citizenship.

Increasing Powers Of The Burgesses

The powers of the comitia exhibited during this period a tendency to enlarge their range, but in a manner very gradual.

From the Abolition of the Monarchy in Rome to the Union of Italy Page 28

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