From the Abolition of the Monarchy in Rome to the Union of Italy Page 01

The History Of Rome

Book Second From The Abolition Of The Monarchy In Rome To The Union Of Italy


Theodor Mommsen

Translated With The Sanction Of The Author


William Purdie Dickson, D.D., LL.D. Professor Of Divinity In The University Of Glasgow

A New Edition Revised Throughout And Embodying Recent Additions


BOOK SECOND From The Abolition Of The Monarchy In Rome To The Union Of Italy

CHAPTER I Change Of The Constitution- Limitation Of The Power Of The Magistrate

CHAPTER II The Tribunate Of The Plebs And The Decemvirate

CHAPTER III The Equalization Of The Orders, And The New Aristocracy

CHAPTER IV Fall Of The Etruscan Power-- The Celts

CHAPTER V Subjugation Of The Latins And Campanians By Rome

CHAPTER VI Struggle Of The Italians Against Rome

CHAPTER VII Struggle Between Pyrrhus And Rome, And Union Of Italy

CHAPTER VIII Law-- Religion-- Military System-- Economic Condition-- Nationality

CHAPTER IX Art And Science


From The Abolition Of The Monarchy In Rome To The Union Of Italy

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Change Of The Constitution-- Limitation Of The Power Of The Magistrate

Political And Social Distinctions In Rome

The strict conception of the unity and omnipotence of the state in all matters pertaining to it, which was the central principle of the Italian constitutions, placed in the hands of the single president nominated for life a formidable power, which was felt doubtless by the enemies of the land, but was not less heavily felt by its citizens. Abuse and oppression could not fail to ensue, and, as a necessary consequence, efforts were made to lessen that power. It was, however, the grand distinction of the endeavours after reform and the revolutions in Rome, that there was no attempt either to impose limitations on the community as such or even to deprive it of corresponding organs of expression--that there never was any endeavour to assert the so-called natural rights of the individual in contradistinction to the community--that, on the contrary, the attack was wholly directed against the form in which the community was represented. From the times of the Tarquins down to those of the Gracchi the cry of the party of progress in Rome was not for limitation of the power of the state, but for limitation of the power of the magistrates: nor amidst that cry was the truth ever forgotten, that the people ought not to govern, but to be governed.

This struggle was carried on within the burgess-body. Side by side with it another movement developed itself--the cry of the non-burgesses for equality of political privileges. Under this head are included the agitations of the plebeians, the Latins, the Italians, and the freedmen, all of whom--whether they may have borne the name of burgesses, as did the plebeians and the freedmen, or not, as was the case with the Latins and Italians--were destitute of, and desired, political equality.

A third distinction was one of a still more general nature; the distinction between the wealthy and the poor, especially such as had been dispossessed or were endangered in possession. The legal and political relations of Rome led to the rise of a numerous class of farmers--partly small proprietors who were dependent on the mercy of the capitalist, partly small temporary lessees who were dependent on the mercy of the landlord--and in many instances deprived individuals as well as whole communities of the lands which they held, without affecting their personal freedom. By these means the agricultural proletariate became at an early period so powerful as to have a material influence on the destinies of the community. The urban proletariate did not acquire political importance till a much later epoch.

On these distinctions hinged the internal history of Rome, and, as may be presumed, not less the history--totally lost to us--of the other Italian communities. The political movement within the fully-privileged burgess-body, the warfare between the excluded and excluding classes, and the social conflicts between the possessors and the non-possessors of land--variously as they crossed and interlaced, and singular as were the alliances they often produced --were nevertheless essentially and fundamentally distinct.

Abolition Of The Life-Presidency Of The Community

As the Servian reform, which placed the --metoikos-- on a footing of equality in a military point of view with the burgess, appears to have originated from considerations of an administrative nature rather than from any political party-tendency, we may assume that the first of the movements which led to internal crises and changes of the constitution was that which sought to limit the magistracy. The earliest achievement of this, the most ancient opposition in Rome, consisted in the abolition of the life-tenure of the presidency of the community; in other words, in the abolition of the monarchy. How necessarily this was the result of the natural development of things, is most strikingly demonstrated by the fact, that the same change of constitution took place in an analogous manner through the whole circuit of the Italo-Grecian world. Not only in Rome, but likewise among the other Latins as well as among the Sabellians, Etruscans, and Apulians--and generally, in all the Italian communities, just as in those of Greece--we find the rulers for life of an earlier epoch superseded in after times by annual magistrates. In the case of the Lucanian canton there is evidence that it had a democratic government in time of peace, and it was only in the event of war that the magistrates appointed a king, that is, an official similar to the Roman dictator. The Sabellian civic communities, such as those of Capua and Pompeii, in like manner were in later times governed by a "community-manager" (-medix tuticus-) changed from year to year, and we may assume that similar institutions existed among the other national and civic communities of Italy.

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