The Italian domain-question was settled in a similar spirit. The Italian colonies of Gaius, especially Capua, were cancelled, and such of them as had already been planted were again broken up; only the unimportant one of Tarentum was allowed to subsist in the form of the new town Neptunia placed alongside of the former Greek community. So much of the domains as had already been distributed by non-colonial assignation remained in the hands of the recipients; the restrictions imposed on them by Gracchus in the interest of the commonwealth--the ground-rent and the prohibition of alienation--had already been abolished by Marcus Drusus. With reference on the other hand to the domains still possessed by right of occupation--which, over and above the domain-land enjoyed by the Latins, must have mostly consisted of the estates left with their holders in accordance with the Gracchan maximum(2)--it was resolved definitively to secure them to those who had hitherto been occupants and to preclude the possibility of future distribution. It was primarily from these lands, no doubt, that the 36,000 new farm-allotments promised by Drusus were to have been formed; but they saved themselves the trouble of inquiring where those hundreds of thousands of acres of Italian domain-land were to be found, and tacitly shelved the Livian colonial law, which had served its purpose;--only perhaps the small colony of Scolacium (Squillace) may be referred to the colonial law of Drusus. On the other hand by a law, which the tribune of the people Spurius Thorius carried under the instructions of the senate, the allotment-commission was abolished in 635, and there was imposed on the occupants of the domain-land a fixed rent, the proceeds of which went to the benefit of the populace of the capital--apparently by forming part of the fund for the distribution of corn; proposals going still further, including perhaps an increase of the largesses of grain, were averted by the judicious tribune of the people Gaius Marius. The final step was taken eight years afterwards (643), when by a new decree of the people(3) the occupied domain-land was directly converted into the rent-free private property of the former occupants. It was added, that in future domain-land was not to be occupied at all, but was either to be leased or to lie open as public pasture; in the latter case provision was made by the fixing of a very low maximum of ten head of large and fifty head of small cattle, that the large herd- owner should not practically exclude the small. In these judicious regulations the injurious character of the occupation-system, which moreover was long ago given up,(4) was at length officially recognized, but unhappily they were only adopted when it had already deprived the state in substance of its domanial possessions. While the Roman aristocracy thus took care of itself and got whatever occupied land was still in its hands converted into its own property, it at the same time pacified the Italian allies, not indeed by conferring on them the property of the Latin domain-land which they and more especially their municipal aristocracy enjoyed, but by preserving unimpaired the rights in relation to it guaranteed to them by their charters. The opposite party was in the unfortunate position, that in the most important material questions the interests of the Italians ran diametrically counter to those of the opposition in the capital; in fact the Italians entered into a species of league with the Roman government, and sought and found protection from the senate against the extravagant designs of various Roman demagogues.

The Proletariate And The Equestrian Order Under The Restoration

While the restored government was thus careful thoroughly to eradicate the germs of improvement which existed in the Gracchan constitution, it remained completely powerless in presence of the hostile powers that had been, not for the general weal, aroused by Gracchus. The proletariate of the capital continued to have a recognized title to aliment; the senate likewise acquiesced in the taking of the jurymen from the mercantile order, repugnant though this yoke was to the better and prouder portion of the aristocracy. The fetters which the aristocracy wore did not beseem its dignity; but we do not find that it seriously set itself to get rid of them. The law of Marcus Aemilius Scaurus in 632, which at least enforced the constitutional restrictions on the suffrage of freedmen, was for long the only attempt--and that a very tame one--on the part of the senatorial government once more to restrain their mob-tyrants. The proposal, which the consul Quintus Caepio seventeen years after the introduction of the equestrian tribunals (648) brought in for again entrusting the trials to senatorial jurymen, showed what the government wished; but showed also how little it could do, when the question was one not of squandering domains but of carrying a measure in the face of an influential order. It broke down.(5) The government was not emancipated from the inconvenient associates who shared its power; but these measures probably contributed still further to disturb the never sincere agreement of the ruling aristocracy with the merchant- class and the proletariate. Both were very well aware, that the senate granted all its concessions only from fear and with reluctance; permanently attached to the rule of the senate by considerations neither of gratitude nor of interest, both were very ready to render similar services to any other master who offered them more or even as much, and had no objection, if an opportunity occurred, to cheat or to thwart the senate. Thus the restoration continued to govern with the desires and sentiments of a legitimate aristocracy, and with the constitution and means of government of a -tyrannis-. Its rule not only rested on the same bases as that of Gracchus, but it was equally ill, and in fact still worse, consolidated; it was strong, when in league with the populace it overthrew serviceable institutions, but it was utterly powerless, when it had to face the bands of the streets or the interests of the merchants.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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