Further, it was on the proposition of the consuls decreed by the centuries that in future every magistrate--and therefore the dictator among the rest--should be bound at his nomination to allow the right of appeal: any one who should nominate a magistrate on other terms was to expiate the offence with his life. In other respects the dictator retained his former powers; and in particular his official acts could not, like those of the consuls, be cancelled by a tribune.

The plenitude of the consular power was further restricted in so far as the administration of the military chest was committed to two paymasters (-quaestores-) chosen by the community, who were nominated for the first time in 307. The nomination as well of the two new paymasters for war as of the two administering the city-chest now passed over to the community; the consul retained merely the conduct of the election instead of the election itself. The assembly in which the paymasters were elected was that of the whole patricio-plebeian freeholders, and voted by districts; an arrangement which likewise involved a concession to the plebeian farmers, who had far more command of these assemblies than of the centuriate -comitia-.

A concession of still greater consequence was that which allowed the tribunes to share in the discussions of the senate. To admit the tribunes to the hall where the senate sat, appeared to that body beneath its dignity; so a bench was placed for them at the door that they might from that spot follow its proceedings. The tribunician right of intercession had extended also to the decrees of the senate as a collective body, after the latter had become not merely a deliberative but a decretory board, which probably occurred at first in the case of a -plebiscitum- that was meant to be binding for the whole community;(12) it was natural that there should thenceforth be conceded to the tribunes a certain participation in the discussions of the senate-house. In order also to secure the decrees of the senate-- with the validity of which indeed that of the most important -plebiscita- was bound up--from being tampered with or forged, it was enacted that in future they should be deposited not merely under charge of the patrician -quaestores urbani- in the temple of Saturn, but also under that of the plebian aediles in the temple of Ceres. Thus this struggle, which was begun in order to get rid of the tribunician power, terminated in the renewed and now definitive sanctioning of its right to annul not only particular acts of administration on the appeal of the person aggrieved, but also any resolution of the constituent powers of the state at pleasure. The persons of the tribunes, and the uninterrupted maintenance of the college at its full number, were once more secured by the most sacred oaths and by every element of reverence that religion could present, and not less by the most formal laws. No attempt to abolish this magistracy was ever from this time forward made in Rome.

Notes For Book II Chapter II

1. II. I. Right Of Appeal

2. I. XIII. Landed proprietors

3. I. VI. Character Of The Roman Law

4. II. I. Collegiate Arrangement

5. I. XI. Property

6. I. XI. Punishment Of Offenses Against Order

7. That the plebeian aediles were formed after the model of the patrician quaestors in the same way as the plebeian tribunes after the model of the patrician consuls, is evident both as regards their criminal functions (in which the distinction between the two magistracies seems to have lain in their tendencies only, not in their powers) and as regards their charge of the archives. The temple of Ceres was to the aediles what the temple of Saturn was to the quaestors, and from the former they derived their name. Significant in this respect is the enactment of the law of 305 (Liv. iii. 55), that the decrees of the senate should be delivered over to the aediles there (p. 369), whereas, as is well known, according to the ancient --and subsequently after the settlement of the struggles between the orders, again preponderant--practice those decrees were committed to the quaestors for preservation in the temple of Saturn.

8. I. VI. Levy Districts

9. I. III. Clan-Villages

10. II. II. Secession To The Sacred mount

11. II. II. Intercession

12. II. II. Legislation


The Equalization Of The Orders, And The New Aristocracy

Union Of The Plebians

The tribunician movements appear to have mainly originated in social rather than political discontent, and there is good reason to suppose that some of the wealthy plebeians admitted to the senate were no less opposed to these movements than the patricians. For they too benefited by the privileges against which the agitation was mainly directed; and although in other respects they found themselves treated as inferior, it probably seemed to them by no means an appropriate time for asserting their claim to participate in the magistracies, when the exclusive financial power of the whole senate was assailed. This explains why during the first fifty years of the republic no step was taken aiming directly at the political equalization of the orders.

But this league between the patricians and the wealthy plebeians by no means bore within itself any guarantee of permanence. Beyond doubt from the very first a portion of the leading plebeian families had attached themselves to the movement-party, partly from a sense of what was due to the fellow-members of their order, partly in consequence of the natural bond which unites all who are treated as inferior, and partly because they perceived that concessions to the multitude were inevitable in the issue, and that, if turned to due account, they would result in the abrogation of the exclusive rights of the patriciate and would thereby give to the plebeian aristocracy a decisive preponderance in the state. Should this conviction become --as was inevitable--more and more prevalent, and should the plebeian aristocracy at the head of its order take up the struggle with the patrician nobility, it would wield in the tribunate a legalized instrument of civil warfare, and it might, with the weapon of social distress, so fight its battles as to dictate to the nobility the terms of peace and, in the position of mediator between the two parties, compel its own admission to the offices of state.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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