Rival Demagogism Of The Senate The Livian Laws

As a matter of course, the senate offered to the proletariate not merely the same advantages as Gracchus had already assured to it in corn and otherwise, but advantages still greater. Commissioned by the senate, the tribune of the people Marcus Livius Drusus proposed to relieve those who received land under the laws of Gracchus from the rent imposed on them,(27) and to declare their allotments to be free and alienable property; and, further, to provide for the proletariate not in transmarine, but in twelve Italian, colonies, each of 3000 colonists, for the planting of which the people might nominate suitable men; only, Drusus himself declined--in contrast with the family-complexion of the Gracchan commission--to take part in this honourable duty. Presumably the Latins were named as those who would have to bear the costs of the plan, for there does not appear to have now existed in Italy other occupied domain-land of any extent save that which was enjoyed by them. We find isolated enactments of Drusus-- such as the regulation that the punishment of scourging might only be inflicted on the Latin soldier by the Latin officer set over him, and not by the Roman officer--which were to all appearance intended to indemnify the Latins for other losses. The plan was not the most refined. The attempt at rivalry was too clear; the endeavour to draw the fair bond between the nobles and the proletariate still closer by their exercising jointly a tyranny over the Latins was too transparent; the inquiry suggested itself too readily, In what part of the peninsula, now that the Italian domains had been mainly given away already--even granting that the whole domains assigned to the Latins were confiscated--was the occupied domain-land requisite for the formation of twelve new, numerous, and compact burgess-communities to be discovered? Lastly the declaration of Drusus, that he would have nothing to do with the execution of his law, was so dreadfully prudent as to border on sheer folly. But the clumsy snare was quite suited for the stupid game which they wished to catch. There was the additional and perhaps decisive consideration, that Gracchus, on whose personal influence everything depended, was just then establishing the Carthaginian colony in Africa, and that his lieutenant in the capital, Marcus Flaccus, played into the hands of his opponents by his vehement and maladroit actings. The "people" accordingly ratified the Livian laws as readily as it had before ratified the Sempronian. It then, as usual, repaid its latest, by inflicting a gentle blow on its earlier, benefactor, declining to re-elect him when he stood for the third time as a candidate for the tribunate for the year 633; on which occasion, however, there are alleged to have been unjust proceedings on the part of the tribune presiding at the election, who had been formerly offended by Gracchus. Thus the foundation of his despotism gave way beneath him. A second blow was inflicted on him by the consular elections, which not only proved in a general sense adverse to the democracy, but which placed at the head of the state Lucius Opimius, who as praetor in 629 had conquered Fregellae, one of the most decided and least scrupulous chiefs of the strict aristocratic party, and a man firmly resolved to get rid of their dangerous antagonist at the earliest opportunity.

Attack On The Transmarine Colonialization Downfall Of Gracchus

Such an opportunity soon occurred. On the 10th of December, 632, Gracchus ceased to be tribune of the people; on the 1st of January, 633, Opimius entered on his office. The first attack, as was fair, was directed against the most useful and the most unpopular measure of Gracchus, the re-establishment of Carthage. While the transmarine colonies had hitherto been only indirectly assailed through the greater allurements of the Italian, African hyaenas, it was now alleged, dug up the newly-placed boundary-stones of Carthage, and the Roman priests, when requested, certified that such signs and portents ought to form an express warning against rebuilding on a site accursed by the gods. The senate thereby found itself in its conscience compelled to have a law proposed, which prohibited the planting of the colony of Junonia. Gracchus, who with the other men nominated to establish it was just then selecting the colonists, appeared on the day of voting at the Capitol whither the burgesses were convoked, with a view to procure by means of his adherents the rejection of the law. He wished to shun acts of violence, that he might not himself supply his opponents with the pretext which they sought; but he had not been able to prevent a great portion of his faithful partisans, who remembered the catastrophe of Tiberius and were well acquainted with the designs of the aristocracy, from appearing in arms, and amidst the immense excitement on both sides quarrels could hardly be avoided. The consul Lucius Opimius offered the usual sacrifice in the porch of the Capitoline temple; one of the attendants assisting at the ceremony, Quintus Antullius, with the holy entrails in his hand, haughtily ordered the "bad citizens" to quit the porch, and seemed as though he would lay hands on Gaius himself; whereupon a zealous Gracchan drew his sword and cut the man down. A fearful tumult arose. Gracchus vainly sought to address the people and to disclaim the responsibility for the sacrilegious murder; he only furnished his antagonists with a further formal ground of accusation, as, without being aware of it in the confusion, he interrupted a tribune in the act of speaking to the people--an offence, for which an obsolete statute, originating at the time of the old dissensions between the orders,(28) had prescribed the severest penalty. The consul Lucius Opimius took his measures to put down by force of arms the insurrection for the overthrow of the republican constitution, as they were fond of designating the events of this day. He himself passed the night in the temple of Castor in the Forum; at early dawn the Capitol was filled with Cretan archers, the senate-house and Forum with the men of the government party--the senators and the section of the equites adhering to them--who by order of the consul had all appeared in arms and each attended by two armed slaves.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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