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A History of Rome, Vol 1 by A H.J. Greenidge

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Dioscurias, Asia Minor chiefly at Ephesus and Apamea, and Egypt at
Alexandria. It brought Pontic fish, Hellenic wines, the spices and
medicaments of Asia and of the Eastern coast of Africa, and countless
other articles, chiefly of the type which creates the need to which it
ministers. More robust products were supplied by the West through the
trade-routes which came down to Gades, Genua and Aquileia. Hither were
brought slaves, cattle, horses and dogs; linen, canvas and wool; timber
for ships and houses, and raw metal for the manufacture of implements
and works of art. Neither in East nor West was the product brought by
the producer to the consumer. In accordance with the more recent
tendencies of Hellenistic trade, great emporia had grown up in which the
goods were stored, until they were exported by the local dealers or
sought by the wholesale merchant from an Italian port. As the Tyrrhenian
Sea became the radius of the trade of the world, Puteoli became the
greatest staple to which this commerce centred; thence the goods which
were destined for Rome were conveyed to Ostia by water or by land, and
taken by ships which drew no depth of water up the Tiber to the
city.[163] But it must not be supposed that this trade was first
controlled by Romans and Italians when it touched the shores of Italy.
Groups of citizens and allies were to be found in the great staples of
the world, receiving the products as they were brought down from the
interior and supplying the shipping by which they were transferred to
Rome.[164] They were not manufacturers, but intermediaries who reaped a
larger profit from the carrying trade than could be gained by any form
of production in their native land. The Roman and Italian trader was to
be inferior only to the money-lender as a stimulus and a stumbling-block
to the imperial government; he was, like the latter, to be a cause of
annexation and a fire-brand of war, and serves as an almost equal
illustration of the truth that a government which does not control the
operations of capital is likely to become their instrument.[165]

If we descend from the aristocracy of trade to its poorer
representatives, we find that time had wrought great changes in the lot
of the smaller manufacturer and artisan. It is true that the old
trade-gilds of Rome, which tradition carried back to the days of Numa,
still maintained their existence. The goldsmiths, coppersmiths,
builders, dyers, leather-workers, tanners and potters[166] still held
their regular meetings and celebrated their regular games. But it is
questionable whether even at this period their collegiate life was not
rather concerned with ceremonial than with business, whether they did
not gather more frequently to discuss the prospects of their social and
religious functions than to consider the rules and methods of their
trades. We shall soon see these gilds of artificers a great political
power in the State--one that often alarmed the government and sometimes
paralysed its control of the streets of Rome. But their political
activity was connected with ceremonial rather than with trade; it was as
religious associations that they supported the demagogue of the moment
and disturbed the peace of the city. They made war against any
aristocratic abuse that was dangled for the moment before their eyes;
but they undertook no consistent campaign against the dominance of
capital. Their activity was that of the radical caucus, not of the
trade-union. But, if even their industrial character had been fully
maintained and trade interests had occupied more of their attention than
street processions and political agitation, they could never have posed
as the representatives of the interests of the free-born sons of Rome.
The class of freedmen was freely admitted to their ranks, and the
freedman was from an economic point of view the greatest enemy of the
pure-blooded Italian. We shall also see that the freedman was usually
not an independent agent in the conduct of the trade which he professed.
He owed duties to his patron which limited his industrial activity and
rendered a whole-hearted co-operation with his brother-workers
impossible. It is questionable whether any gild organisation could have
stood the shock of the immense development of industrial activity of
which the more fortunate classes at Rome were now reaping the fruits.
The trades represented by Numa's colleges would at best have formed a
mere framework for a maze of instruments which formed the complex
mechanism needed to satisfy the voracious wants of the new society. The
gold-smithery of early times was now complicated by the arts of chasing
and engraving on precious stones; the primitive builder, if he were
still to ply his trade with profit, must associate it with the skill of
the men who made the stuccoed ceilings, the mosaic pavements, the
painted walls. The leather-worker must have learnt to make many a kind
of fashionable shoe, and the dyer to work in violet, scarlet or saffron,
in any shade or colour to which fashion had given a temporary vogue.
Tailoring had become a fine art, and the movable decorations of houses
demanded a host of skilled workmen, each of whom was devoted to the
speciality which he professed. It would seem as though the very
weaknesses of society might have benefited the lower middle class, and
the siftings of the harvest given by the spoils of empire might have
more than supplied the needs of a parasitic proletariate. It is an
unquestioned fact that the growing luxury of the times did benefit trade
with that doubtful benefit which accompanies the diversion of capital
from purposes of permanent utility to objects of aesthetic admiration or
temporary display; but it is an equally unquestioned fact that this
unhealthy nutriment did not strengthen to any appreciable extent such of
the lower classes as could boast pure Roman blood. The military
conscription, to which the more prosperous of these classes were
exposed, was inimical to the constant pursuit of that technical skill
which alone could enable its possessor to hold the market against freer
competitors. Such of the freedmen and the slaves as were trained to
these pursuits--men who would not have been so trained had they not
possessed higher artistic perception and greater deftness in execution
than their fellows--were wholly freed from the military burden which
absorbed much of the leisure, and blunted much of the skill, possessed
by their free-born rivals. The competition of slaves must have been
still more cruel in the country districts and near the smaller country
towns than in the capital itself. At Rome the limitations of space must
have hindered the development of home-industries in the houses of the
nobles, and, although it is probable that much that was manufactured by
the slaves of the country estate was regularly supplied to the urban
villa, yet for the purchase of articles of immediate use or of goods
which showed the highest qualities of workmanship the aristocratic
proprietor must have been dependent on the competition of the Roman
market. But the rustic villa might be perfectly self-supporting, and the
village artificer must have looked in vain for orders from the spacious
mansion, which, once a dwelling-house or farm, had become a factory as
well. Both in town and country the practice of manumission was
paralysing the energies of the free-born man who attempted to follow a
profitable profession. The frequency of the gift of liberty to slaves is
one of the brightest aspects of the system of servitude as practised by
the Romans; but its very beneficence is an illustration of the
aristocrat's contempt for the proletariate; for, where the ideal of
citizenship is high, manumission--at least of such a kind as shall give
political rights, or any trading privileges, equivalent to those of the
free citizen--is infrequent. In the Rome of this period, however, the
liberation of a slave showed something more than a mere negative neglect
of the interests of the citizen. The gift of freedom was often granted
by the master in an interested, if not in a wholly selfish, spirit. He
was freed from the duty of supporting his slave while he retained his
services as a freedman. The performance of these services was, it is
true, not a legal condition of manumission; but it was the result of the
agreement between master and slave on which the latter had attained his
freedom. The nobleman who had granted liberty to his son's tutor, his
own doctor or his barber, might still bargain to be healed, shaved or
have his children instructed free of expense. The bargain was just in so
far as the master was losing services for which he had originally paid,
and juster still when the freedman set up business on the _peculium_
which his master had allowed him to acquire during the days of his
servitude. But the contracting parties were on an unequal footing, and
the burden enforced by the manumittor was at times so intolerable that
towards the close of the second century the praetor was forced to
intervene and set limits to the personal service which might be expected
from the gratitude of the liberated slave.[167] The performance of such
gratuitous services necessarily diminished the demand for the labour of
the free man who attempted to practise the pursuit of an art which
required skill and was dependent for its returns on the custom of the
wealthier classes; and even such needs as could not be met by the
gratuitous services of freedmen or the purchased labour of slaves, were
often supplied, not by the labour of the free-born Roman, but by that of
the immigrant _peregrinus_. The foreigner naturally reproduced the arts
of his own country in a form more perfect than could be acquired by the
Roman or Italian, and as Rome had acquired foreign wants it was
inevitable that they should be mainly supplied by foreign hands. We
cannot say that most of the new developments in trade and manufacture
had slipped from the hands of the free citizens; it would be truer to
maintain that they had never been grasped by them at all. And, worse
than this, we must admit that there was little effort to attain them.
Both the cause and the consequence of the monopoly of trade and
manufacture of a petty kind by freedmen and foreigners is to be found in
the contempt felt by the free-born Roman for the "sordid and illiberal
sources of livelihood." [168] This prejudice was reflected in public law,
for any one who exercised a trade or profession was debarred from office
at Rome.[169] As the magistracy had become the monopoly of a class, the
prejudice might have been little more than one of the working principles
of an aristocratic government, had not the arts which supplied the
amenities of life actually tended to drift into the hands of the
non-citizen or the man of defective citizenship. The most abject Roman
could in his misery console himself with the thought that the hands,
which should only touch the plough and the sword, had never been stained
by trade. His ideal was that of the nobleman in his palace. It differed
in degree but not in kind. It centred round the Forum, the battlefield
and the farm.

For even the most lofty aristocrat would have exempted agriculture from
the ban of labour;[170] and, if the man of free birth could still have
toiled productively on his holding, his contempt for the rabble which
supplied the wants of his richer fellow-citizens in the towns would have
been justified on material, if not on moral, grounds. He would have held
the real sources of wealth which had made the empire possible and still
maintained the actual rulers of that empire. Italian agriculture was
still the basis of the brilliant life of Rome. Had it not been so, the
epoch of revolution could not have been ushered in by an agrarian law.
Had the interest in the land been small, no fierce attack would have
been made and no encroachment stoutly resisted. We are at the
commencement of the epoch of the dominance of trade, but we have not
quitted the epoch of the supremacy of the landed interest.

The vital question connected with agriculture was not that of its
failure or success, but that of the individuals who did the work and
shared the profits. The labourer, the soil, the market stand in such
close relations to one another that it is possible for older types of
cultivation and tenure to be a failure while newer types are a brilliant
success. But an economic success may be a social failure. Thus it was
with the greater part of the Italian soil of the day which had passed
into Roman hands. Efficiency was secured by accumulation and the smaller
holdings were falling into decay.

A problem so complex as that of a change in tenure and in the type of
productive activity employed on the soil is not likely to yield to the
analysis of any modern historian who deals with the events of the
ancient world. He is often uncertain whether he is describing causes or
symptoms, whether the primary evil was purely economic or mainly social,
whether diminished activity was the result of poverty and decreasing
numbers, or whether pauperism and diminution of population were the
effects of a weakened nerve for labour and of a standard of comfort so
feverishly high that it declined the hard life of the fields and induced
its possessors to refuse to propagate their kind. But social and
economic evils react so constantly on one another that the question of
the priority of the one to the other is not always of primary
importance. A picture has been conjured up by the slight sketches of
ancient historians and the more prolonged laments of ancient writers on
agriculture, which gives us broad outlines that we must accept as true,
although we may refuse to join in the belief that these outlines
represent an unmixed and almost incurable evil. These writers even
attempt to assign causes, which convince by their probability, although
there is often a suspicion that the ultimate and elusive truth has not
been grasped.

The two great symptoms which immediately impress our imagination are a
decline, real or apparent, in the numbers of the free population of
Rome, and the introduction of new methods of agriculture which entailed
a diminution in the class of freehold proprietors who had held estates
of small or moderate size. The evidence for an actual decline of the
population must be gathered exclusively from the Roman census
lists.[171] At first sight these seem to tell a startling tale. At the
date of the outbreak of the First Punic War (265 B.C.) the roll of Roman
citizens had been given as 382,284,[172] at a census held but three
years before the tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus (136 B.C.) the numbers
presented by the list were 307,833.[173] In 129 years the burgess roll
had shrunk by nearly 75,000 heads of the population. The shrinkage had
not always been steadily progressive; sometimes there is a sudden drop
which tells of the terrible ravages of war. But the return of peace
brought no upward movement that was long maintained. In the interval of
comparative rest which followed the Third Macedonian War the census
rolls showed a decrease of about 13,000 in ten Years.[174] Seven years
later 2,000 more have disappeared,[175] and a slight increase at the
next _lustrum_ is followed by another drop of about 14,000.[176] The
needs of Rome had increased, and the means for meeting them were
dwindling year by year. This must be admitted, however we interpret the
meaning of these returns. A hasty generalisation might lead us to infer
that a wholesale diminution was taking place in the population of Rome
and Italy. The returns may add weight to other evidence which points
this way; but, taken by themselves, they afford no warrant for such a
conclusion. The census lists were concerned, not only purely with Roman
citizens, but purely with Roman citizens of a certain type. It is
practically certain that they reproduce only the effective fighting
strength of Rome,[177] and take no account of those citizens whose
property did not entitle them to be placed amongst the _classes_.[178]
But, if it is not necessary to believe that an actual diminution of
population is attested by these declining numbers, the conclusion which
they do exhibit is hardly less serious from an economic and political
point of view. They show that portions of the well-to-do classes were
ceasing to possess the property which entitled them to entrance into the
regular army, and that the ranks of the poorer proletariate were being
swelled by their impoverishment. It is possible that such impoverishment
may have been welcomed as a boon by the wearied veterans of Rome and
their descendants. It meant exemption from the heavier burdens of
military service, and, if it went further still, it implied immunity
from the tribute as long as direct taxes were collected from Roman
citizens.[179] As long as service remained a burden on wealth, however
moderate, there could have been little inducement to the man of small
means to struggle up to a standard of moderately increased pecuniary
comfort, which would certainly be marred and might be lost by the
personal inconvenience of the levy.

The decline in the numbers of the wealthier classes is thus attested by
the census rolls. But indications can also be given which afford a
slight probability that there was a positive diminution in the free
population of Rome and perhaps of Italy. The carnage of the Hannibalic
war may easily be overemphasised as a source of positive decline. Such
losses are rapidly made good when war is followed by the normal
industrial conditions which success, or even failure, may bring. But, as
we shall soon see reason for believing that these industrial conditions
were not wholly resumed in Italy, the Second Punic War may be regarded
as having produced a gap in the population which was never entirely
refilled. We find evidences of tracts of country which were not annexed
by the rich but could not be repeopled by the poor. The policy pursued
by the decaying Empire of settling foreign colonists on Italian soil had
already occurred to the statesmen of Rome in the infancy of her imperial
expansion. In 180 B.C. 40,000 Ligurians belonging to the Apuanian people
were dragged from their homes with their wives and children and settled
on some public land of Rome which lay in the territory of the Samnites.
The consuls were commissioned to divide up the land in allotments, and
money was voted to the colonists to defray the expense of stocking their
new farms.[180] Although the leading motive for this transference was
the preservation of peace amongst the Ligurian tribes, yet it is
improbable that the senate would have preferred the stranger to its
kindred had there been an outcry from the landless proletariate to be
allowed to occupy and retain the devastated property of the State.

But moral motives are stronger even than physical forces in checking the
numerical progress of a race. Amongst backward peoples unusual
indulgence and consequent disease may lead to the diminution or even
extinction of the stock; amongst civilised peoples the motives which
attain this result are rather prudential, and are concerned with an
ideal of life which perhaps increases the efficiency of the individual,
but builds up his healthy and pleasurable environment at the expense of
the perpetuity of the race. The fact that the Roman and Italian physique
was not degenerating is abundantly proved by the military history of the
last hundred years of the Republic. This is one of the greatest periods
of conquest in the history of the world. The Italy, whom we are often
inclined to think of as exhausted, could still pour forth her myriads of
valiant sons to the confines marked by the Rhine, the Euphrates and the
Sahara; and the struggle of the civil wars, which followed this
expansion, was the clash of giants. But this vigour was accompanied by
an ideal, whether of irresponsibility or of comfort, which gave rise to
the growing habit of celibacy--a habit which was to stir the eloquence
of many a patriotic statesman and finally lead to the intervention of
the law. When the censor of 131 uttered the memorable exhortation "Since
nature has so ordained that we cannot live comfortably with a wife nor
live at all without one, you should hold the eternal safety of the State
more dear than your own brief pleasure," [181] it is improbable that he
was indulging in conscious cynicism, although there may have been a
trace of conscious humour in his words. He was simply bending to the
ideal of the people whom he saw, or imagined to be, before him. The
ideal was not necessarily bad, as one that was concerned with individual
life. It implied thrift, forethought, comfort--even efficiency of a
kind, for the unmarried man was a more likely recruit than the father of
a family. But it sacrificed too much--the future to the present; it
ignored the undemonstrable duty which a man owes to the permanent idea
of the State through working for a future which he shall never see. It
rested partly on a conviction of security; but that feeling of security
was the most perilous sign of all.

The practice of celibacy generally leads to irregular attachments
between the sexes. In a society ignorant of slavery, such attachments,
as giving rise to social inconveniences far greater than those of
marriage, are usually shunned on prudential grounds even where moral
motives are of no avail. But the existence in Italy of a large class of
female dependants, absolutely outside the social circle of the citizen
body, rendered the attachment of the master to his slave girl or to his
freedwoman fatally easy and unembarrassing. It was unfortunately as
attractive as it was easy. Amidst the mass of servile humanity that had
drifted to Italy from most of the quarters of the world there was
scarcely a type that might not reproduce some strange and wonderful
beauty. And the charm of manner might be secured as readily as that of
face and form. The Hellenic East must often have exhibited in its women
that union of wit, grace and supple tact which made even its men so
irresistible to their Roman masters. The courtesans of the capital,
whether of high or low estate,[182] are from the point of view which we
are considering not nearly so important as the permanent mistress or
"concubine" of the man who might dwell in any part of Italy. It was the
latter, not the former, that was the true substitute for the wife. There
is reason to believe that it was about this period that "concubinage"
became an institution which was more than tolerated by society.[183] The
relation which it implied between the man and his companion, who was
generally one of his freedwomen, was sufficiently honourable. It
excluded the idea of union with any other woman, whether by marriage or
temporary association; it might be more durable than actual wedlock, for
facilities for divorce were rapidly breaking the permanence of the
latter bond; it might satisfy the juristic condition of "marital
affection" quite as fully as the type of union to which law or religion
gave its blessing. But it differed from marriage in one point of vital
importance for the welfare of the State. Children might be the issue of
_concubinatus_, but they were not looked on as its end. Such unions were
not formed _liberûm quaerendorum causâ_.

The decline, or at least the stationary character, of the population may
thus be shown to be partly the result of a cause at once social and
economic; for this particular social evil was the result of the economic
experiment of the extended use of slavery as a means of production. This
extension was itself partly the result of the accidents of war and
conquest, and in fact, throughout this picture of the change which was
passing over Italy, we can never free ourselves from the spectres of
militarism and hegemony. But an investigation of the more purely
economic aspects of the industrial life of the period affords a clear
revelation of the fact that the effects of war and conquest were merely
the foundation, accidentally presented, of a new method of production,
which was the result of deliberate design and to some extent of a
conscious imitation of systems which had in turn built up the colossal
wealth, and assisted the political decay, of older civilisations with
which Rome was now brought into contact. The new ideal was that of the
large plantation or _latifundium_ supervised by skilled overseers,
worked by gangs of slaves with carefully differentiated duties, guided
by scientific rules which the hoary experience of Asia and Carthage had
devised, but, in unskilled Roman hands, perhaps directed with a reckless
energy that, keeping in view the vast and speedy returns which could
only be given by richer soils than that of Italy, was as exhaustive of
the capacities of the land as it was prodigal of the human energy that
was so cheaply acquired and so wastefully employed. The East, Carthage
and Sicily had been the successive homes of this system, and the Punic
ideal reached Rome just at the moment when the tendency of the free
peasantry to quit their holdings as unprofitable, or to sell them to pay
their debts, opened the way for the organisation of husbandry on the
grand Carthaginian model.[184] The opportunity was naturally seized with
the utmost eagerness by men whose wants were increasing, whose incomes
must be made to keep pace with these wants, and whose wealth must
inevitably be dependent mainly on the produce of the soil. Yet we have
no warrant for accusing the members of the Roman nobility of a
deliberate plan of campaign stimulated by conscious greed and
selfishness. For a time they may not have known what they were doing.
Land was falling in and they bought it up; domains belonging to the
State were so unworked as to be falling into the condition of rank
jungle and pestilent morass. They cleared and improved this land with a
view to their own profit and the profit of the State. Free labour was
unattainable or, when attained, embarrassing. They therefore bought
their labour in the cheapest market, this market being the product of
the wars and slave-raids of the time. They acted, in fact, as every
enlightened capitalist would act under similar circumstances. It seemed
an age of the revival of agriculture, not of its decay. The official
class was filled with a positive enthusiasm for new and improved
agricultural methods. The great work of the Carthaginian Mago was
translated by order of the senate.[185] Few of the members of that body
would have cared to follow the opening maxim of the great expert, that
if a man meant to settle in the country he should begin by selling his
house in town;[186] the men of affairs did not mean to become gentlemen
farmers, and it was the hope of profitable investment for the purpose of
maintaining their dignity in the capital, not the rustic ideal of the
primitive Roman, that appealed to their souls. But they might have hoped
that most of the golden precepts of the twenty-eight books, which
unfolded every aspect of the science of the management of land, would be
assimilated by the intelligent bailiff, and they may even have been
influenced by a patriotic desire to reveal to the small holder
scientific methods of tillage, which might stave off the ruin that they
deplored as statesmen and exploited as individuals. But the lessons were
thrown away on the small cultivator; they probably presupposed the
possession of capital and labour which were far beyond his reach; and
science may have played but little part even in the accumulations of the
rich, although the remarkable spectacle of small holdings, under the
personal supervision of peasant proprietors, being unable to hold their
own against plantations and ranches managed by bailiffs and worked by
slaves, does suggest that some improved methods of cultivation were
adopted on the larger estates. The rapidity with which the plantation
system spread must have excited the astonishment even of its promoters.
Etruria, in spite of the fact that three colonies of Roman citizens had
lately been founded within its borders,[187] soon showed one continuous
series of great domains stretching from town to town, with scarcely a
village to break the monotonous expanse of its self-tilled plains.
Little more than forty years had elapsed since the final settlement of
the last Roman colony of Luna when a young Roman noble, travelling along
the Etruscan roads, strained his eyes in vain to find a free labourer,
whether cultivator or shepherd.[188] In this part of Italy it is
probable that Roman enterprise was not the sole, or even the main, cause
of the wreckage of the country folk. The territory had always been
subject to local influences of an aristocratic kind; but the Etruscan
nobles had stayed their hand as long as a free people might help them to
regain their independence.[189] Now subjection had crushed all other
ambition but that of gain and personal splendour, while the ravages of
the Hannibalic war had made the peasantry an easy victim of the
wholesale purchaser. Farther south, in Bruttii and Apulia, the hand of
Rome had co-operated with the scourge of war to produce a like result.
The confiscations effected in the former district as a punishment for
its treasonable relations with Hannibal, the suitability of the latter
for grazing purposes, which had early made it the largest tract of land
in Italy patrolled by the shepherd slave,[190] had swept village and
cultivator away, and left through whole day's journeys but vast
stretches of pasture between the decaying towns.

For barrenness and desolation were often the results of the new and
improved system of management. There were tracts of country which could
not produce cereals of an abundance and quality capable of competing
with the corn imported from the provinces; but even on territories where
crops could be reared productively, it was tempting to substitute for
the arduous processes of sowing and reaping the cheaper and easier
industry of the pasturage of flocks. We do not know the extent to which
arable land in fair condition was deliberately turned into pasturage;
but we can imagine many cases in which the land recently acquired by
capitalists, whether from the State or from smaller holders, was in such
a condition, either from an initial lack of cultivation or from neglect
or from the ravages of war, that the new proprietor may well have shrunk
from the doubtful enterprise of sinking his capital in the soil, for the
purpose of testing its productive qualities. In such cases it was
tempting to treat the great domain as a sheep-walk or cattle-ranch. The
initial expenses of preparation were small, the labour to be employed
was reduced to a minimum, the returns in proportion to the expenses were
probably far larger than could be gained from corn, even when grown
under the most favourable conditions. The great difficulty in the way of
cattle-rearing on a large scale in earlier times had been the treatment
of the flocks and herds during the winter months. The necessity for
providing stalls and fodder for this period must have caused the
proprietor to limit the heads of cattle which he cared to possess. But
this constraint had vanished at once when a stretch of warm coast-line
could be found, on which the flocks could pasture without feeling the
rigour of the winter season. Conversely, the cattle-rearer who possessed
the advantage of such a line of coast would feel his difficulties
beginning when the summer months approached. The plains of the Campagna
and Apulia could have been good neither for man nor beast during the
torrid season. The full condition which freed a grazier from all
embarrassment and rendered him careless of limiting the size of his
flocks, was the combined possession of pastures by the sea for winter
use, and of glades in the hills for pasturage in summer.[191] Neither
the men of the hills nor the men of the plains, as long as they formed
independent communities, could become graziers on an extensive scale,
and it has been pointed out that even a Greek settlement of the extent
of Sybaris had been forced to import its wool from the Black Sea through
Miletus.[192] But when Rome had won the Apennines and extended her
influence over the coast, there were no limits to the extent to which
cattle rearing could be carried.[193] It became perhaps the most
gigantic enterprise connected with the soil of Italy. Its cheapness and
efficiency appealed to every practical mind. Cato, who had a sentimental
attachment to agriculture, was bound in honesty to reply to the question
"What is the best manner of investment?" by the words "Good pasturage."
To the question as to the second-best means he answered "Tolerable
pasturage." When asked to declare the third, he replied "Bad pasturage."
To ploughing he would assign only the fourth place in the descending
Scale.[194] Bruttii and Apulia were the chief homes of the ranch and the
fold. The Lucanian conquest of the former country must, even at a time
preceding the Roman domination, have formed a connection between the
mountains and the plains, and pasturage on a large scale in the mountain
glades of the Bruttian territory may have been an inheritance rather
than a creation of the Romans; but the ruin caused in this district by
the Second Punic War, the annexation to the State of large tracts of
rebel land,[195] and the reduction of large portions of the population
to the miserable serf-like condition of _dediticii_,[196] must have
offered the capitalists opportunities which they could not otherwise
have secured; and both here and in Apulia the tendency to extend the
grazing system to its utmost limits must have advanced with terrible
rapidity since the close of the Hannibalic war. It was the East coast of
Southern Italy that was chiefly surrendered to this new form of
industry, and we may observe a somewhat sharp distinction between the
pastoral activity of these regions and the agricultural life which still
continued, although on a diminished scale, in the Western

We have already made occasional reference to the accidents on which the
new industrial methods that created the _latifundia_ were designedly
based. It is now necessary to examine these accidents in greater detail,
if only for the purpose of preparing the ground for a future estimate of
the efficacy of the remedies suggested by statesmen for a condition of
things which, however naturally and even honestly created, was
deplorable both on social and political grounds. The causes which had
led to the change from one form of tenure and cultivation to another of
a widely different kind required to be carefully probed, if the
Herculean task of a reversion to the earlier system was to be attempted.
The men who essayed the task had unquestionably a more perfect knowledge
of the causes of the change than can ever be possessed by the student of
to-day; but criticism is easier than action, and if it is not to become
shamelessly facile, every constraining element in the complicated
problem which is at all recoverable (all those elements so clearly seen
by the hard-headed and honest Roman reformers, but known by them to
possess an invulnerability that we have forgotten) must be examined by
the historian in the blundering analysis which is all that is permitted
by his imperfect information, and still more imperfect realisation, of
the temporary forces that are the millstones of a scheme of reform.

The havoc wrought by the Hannibalic invasion[198] had caused even
greater damage to the land than to the people. The latter had been
thinned but the former had been wasted, and in some cases wasted, as
events proved, almost beyond repair. The devastation had been especially
great in Southern Italy, the nations of which had clung to the Punic
invader to the end. But such results of war are transitory in the
extreme, if the numbers and energy of the people who resume possession
of their wrecked homes are not exhausted, and if the conditions of
production and sale are as favourable after the calamity as they were
before. The amount of wealth which an enemy can injure, lies on the mere
surface of the soil, and is an insignificant fraction of that which is
stored in the bosom of the earth, or guaranteed by a favourable
commercial situation and access to the sea. Carthage could pay her war
indemnity and, in the course of half a century, affright Cato by her
teeming wealth and fertility. Her people had resumed their old habits,
bent wholeheartedly to the only life they loved, and the prizes of a
crowded haven and bursting granaries were the result. If a nation does
not recover from such a blow, there must be some permanent defect in its
economic life or some fatal flaw in its administrative system. The
devastation caused by war merely accelerates the process of decay by
creating a temporary impoverishment, which reveals the severity of the
preceding struggle for existence and renders hopeless its resumption.
Certainly the great war of which Italy had been the theatre did mark
such an epoch in the history of its agricultural life. A lack of
productivity began to be manifested, for which, however, subsequent
economic causes were mainly responsible. The lack of intensity, which is
a characteristic of slave labour, lessened the returns, while the
secondary importance attached to the manuring of the fields was a
vicious principle inherent in the agricultural precepts of the
time.[199] But it is probable that from this epoch there were large
tracts of land the renewed cultivation of which was never attempted; and
these were soon increased by domains which yielded insufficient returns
and were gradually abandoned. The Italian peasant had ever had a hard
fight with the insalubrity of his soil. Fever has always been the
dreaded goddess of the environs of Rome. But constant labour and
effective drainage had kept the scourge at bay, until the evil moment
came when the time of the peasant was absorbed, and his energy spent, in
the toils of constant war, when his land was swallowed up in the vast
estates that had rapid profits as their end and careless slaves as their
cultivators. Then, the moist fields gave out their native pestilence,
and malaria reigned unchecked over the fairest portion of the Italian

One of the leading economic causes, which had led to the failure of a
certain class of the Italian peasant-proprietors, was the competition to
which they were exposed from the provinces. Rome herself had begun to
rely for the subsistence of her increasing population on corn imported
from abroad, and many of the large coast-towns may have been forced to
follow her example. The corn-producing powers of the Mediterranean lands
had now definitely shifted from the regions of the East and North to
those of the South.[201] Greece, which had been barely able to feed
itself during the most flourishing period of its history, could not
under any circumstances have possessed an importance as a country of
export for Italy; but the economic evils which had fallen on this
unhappy land are worthy of observation, as presenting a forecast of the
fate which was in store for Rome. The decline in population, which could
be attributed neither to war nor pestilence, the growing celibacy and
childlessness of its sparse inhabitants,[202] must have been due to an
agricultural revolution similar to that which was gradually being
effected on Italian soil. The plantation system and the wholesale
employment of slave labour must have swept across the Aegean from their
homes in Asia Minor. Here their existence is sufficiently attested by
the servile rising which was to assume, shortly after the tribunate of
Tiberius Gracchus, the pretended form of a dynastic war; and the
troubles which always attended the collection of the Asiatic tithes, in
the days when a Roman province had been established in those regions,
give no favourable impression of the agricultural prosperity of the
countries which lay between the Taurus and the sea. As far south as
Sicily there was evidence of exhaustion of the land, and of unnatural
conditions of production, which excluded the mass of the free
inhabitants from participation both in labour and profits. But even
Sicily had learned from Carthage the evil lesson that Greece had
acquired from Asia; the plantation system had made vast strides in the
island, and the condition of the _aratores_, whether free-holders or
lessees, was not what it had been in the days of Diocles and Timoleon.
The growing economic dependence of Rome on Sicily was by no means wholly
due to any exceptional productive capacities in the latter, but was
mainly the result of proximity, and of administrative relations which
enabled the government and the speculator in corn to draw definite and
certain supplies of grain from the Sicilian cultivators. This was true
also, although to a smaller degree, of Sardinia. But Sicily and Sardinia
do mark the beginning of the Southern zone of lands which were capable
of filling the markets of the Western world. It was the Northern coast
of Africa which rose supreme as the grain-producer of the time. In the
Carthaginian territory the natural absence of an agricultural peasantry
amidst a commercial folk, and the elaboration of a definite science of
agriculture, had neutralised the ill effects which accompanied the
plantation system amongst other peoples less business-like and
scientific; the cultivators had shown no signs of unrest and the soil no
traces of exhaustion. It has been inferred with some probability that
the hostility of Cato, the friend of agriculture and of the Italian
yeoman, to the flourishing Punic state was directed to some extent by
the fear that the grain of Africa might one day drive from the market
the produce of the Italian fields;[203] and, if this view entered into
the calculations which produced the final Punic War, the very
short-sightedness of the policy which destroyed a state only to give its
lands to African cities and potentates or to Roman speculators, who
might continue the methods of the extinct community, is only too
characteristic of that type of economic jealousy which destroys an
accidental product and leaves the true cause of offence unassailed. The
destruction of Carthage had, as a matter of fact, aggravated the danger;
for the first use which Masinissa of Numidia made of the vast power with
which Rome had entrusted him, was an attempt to civilise his people by
turning them into cultivators;[204] and the virgin soil of the great
country which stretched from the new boundaries of Carthage to the
confines of the Moors, was soon reckoned amongst the competing elements
which the Roman agriculturist had to fear.

But the force of circumstances caused the Sicilian and Sardinian
cultivator to be the most formidable of his immediate competitors. The
facility of transport from Sicily to Rome rendered that island superior
as a granary to even the more productive portions of the Italian
mainland. Sicily could never have revealed the marvellous fertility of
the valley of the Po, where a bushel and a half of wheat could be
purchased for five pence half-penny, and the same quantity of barley was
sold for half this price;[205] but it was easier to get Sicilian corn to
Rome by sea than to get Gallic corn to Rome by land; and the system of
taxation and requisitions which had grown out of the provincial
organisation of the island, rendered it peculiarly easy to place great
masses of corn on the Roman market at very short notice. Occasionally
the Roman government enforced a sale of corn from the province
(_frumentum emptum_),[206] a reasonable price being paid for the grain
thus demanded for the city or the army; but this was almost the only
case in which the government intervened to regulate supplies. In the
ordinary course of things the right to collect the tithes of the
province was purchased by public companies, who paid money, not grain,
into the Roman treasury, and these companies placed their corn on the
market as best they could. The operations of the speculators in grain
doubtless disturbed the price at times. But yet the certainty, the
abundance and the facilities for transport of this supply were such as
practically to shut out from competition in the Roman market all but the
most favourably situated districts of Italy. Their chance of competition
depended mainly on their accidental possession of a good road, or their
neighbourhood to the sea or to a navigable river.[207] The larger
proprietors in any part of Italy must have possessed greater facilities
for carrying their grain to a good market than were enjoyed by the
smaller holders. The Clodian law on trade permitted senators to own
sea-going ships of a certain tonnage; they could, therefore, export
their own produce without any dependence on the middle-man, while the
smaller cultivators would have been obliged to pay freight, or could
only have avoided such payment by forming shipping-companies amongst
themselves. But such combination was not to be looked for amongst a
peasant class, barely conscious even of the external symptoms of the
great revolution which was dragging them to ruin, and perhaps almost
wholly oblivious of its cause.

It required less penetration to fathom the second of the great reasons
for the accumulation of landed property in the hands of the few; for
this cause had been before the eyes of the Roman world, and had been
expounded by the lips of Roman statesmen, for generations or, if we
credit a certain class of traditions,[208] even for centuries. This
cause of the growing monopoly of the land by the few was the system of
possession which the State had encouraged, for the purpose of securing
the use and cultivation of its public domain. The policy of the State
seems to have changed from time to time with reference to its treatment
of this particular portion of its property, which it valued as the most
secure of its assets and one that served, besides its financial end, the
desirable purpose of assisting it to maintain the influence of Rome
throughout almost every part of Italy. When conquered domain had first
been declared "public," the government had been indifferent to the type
of occupier which served it by squatting on this territory and
reclaiming land that had not been divided or sold chiefly because its
condition was too unattractive to invite either of these processes.[209]
It had probably extended its invitation even to Latin allies,[210] and
looked with approval on any member of the burgess body who showed his
enterprise and patriotism by the performance of this great public
service. If the State had a partiality, it was probably for the richer
and more powerful classes of its citizens. They could embrace a greater
quantity of land in their grasp, and so save the trouble which attended
an estimate of the returns of a great number of small holdings; they
possessed more effective means of reclaiming waste or devastated land,
for they had a greater control of capital and labour; lastly, through
their large bands of clients and slaves, they had the means of
efficiently protecting the land which they had occupied, and this must
have been an important consideration at a time when large tracts of the
_ager publicus_ lay amidst foreign territories which were barely
pacified, and were owned by communities that often wavered in their
allegiance to Rome. But, whatever the views of the government, it is
tolerably clear that the original occupiers must have chiefly
represented men of this stamp. These were the days when the urban and
the rustic tribes were sharply divided, as containing respectively the
men of the town and the men of the country, and when there were
comparatively few of the latter folk that did not possess some holding
of their own. It was improbable that a townsman would often venture on
the unfamiliar task of taking up waste land; it was almost as improbable
that a small yeoman would find leisure to add to the unaided labour on
his own holding the toil of working on new and unpromising soil, except
in the cases where some unclaimed portion of the public domain was in
close proximity to his estate.

We may, therefore, infer that from very early times the wealthier
classes had asserted themselves as the chief occupiers of the public
domain. And this condition of things continued to be unchallenged until
a time came[211] when the small holders, yielding to the pressure of
debt and bankruptcy, sought their champions amongst the tribunes of the
Plebs. The absolute control of the public domain by the State, the
absolute insecurity of the tenure of its occupants, furnished an
excellent opportunity for staving off schemes of confiscation and
redistribution of private property, such as had often shaken the
communities of Greece, and even for refusing to tamper with the existing
law of debtor and creditor.[212] It was imagined that bankrupt yeomen
might be relieved by being allowed to settle on the public domain, or
that the resumption or retention of a portion of this domain by the
State might furnish an opportunity for the foundation of fresh colonies,
and a law was passed limiting the amount of the _ager publicus_ that any
individual might possess. The enactment, whatever its immediate results
may have been, proved ineffective as a means of checking the growth of
large possessions. No special commission was appointed to enforce
obedience to its terms, and their execution was neglected by the
ordinary magistrates. The provisions of the law were, indeed, never
forgotten, but as a rule they were remembered only to be evaded. Devious
methods were adopted of holding public land through persons who seemed
to be _bonâ fide_ possessors in their own right, but were in reality
merely agents of some planter who already held land up to the permitted
limit.[213] Then came the agricultural crisis which followed the Punic
Wars. The small freeholds, mortgaged, deserted or selling for a fraction
of their value, began to fall into the meshes of the vast net which had
spread over the public domain. In some cases actual violence is said to
have been used to the smaller yeomen by their neighbouring tyrants,[214]
and we can readily imagine that, when a holding had been deserted for a
time through stress of war or military service, it might be difficult to
resume possession in the face of effective occupation by the bailiff of
some powerful neighbour. The _latifundium_--acquired, as it was
believed, in many cases by force, fraud and shameless violation of the
law--was becoming the standard unit of cultivation throughout
Italy.[215] When we consider the general social and economic
circumstances of the time, it is possible to imagine that large
properties would have grown in Italy, as in Greece, had Rome never
possessed an inch of public domain; but the occupation of _ager
publicus_ by the rich is very important from two points of view. On the
one hand, it unquestionably accelerated the process of the formation of
vast estates; and a renewed impulse had lately been given to this
process by the huge confiscations in the South of Italy, and perhaps by
the conquest of Cisalpine Gaul; for it is improbable that the domain
possessed by the State in this fertile country had been wholly parcelled
out amongst the colonies of the northern frontier.[216] But on the other
hand, the fact that the kernel of these estates was composed of public
land in excess of the prescribed limit seemed to make resumption by the
State and redistribution to the poor legally possible. The _ager
publicus_, therefore, formed the basis for future agitation and was the
rallying point for supporters and opponents of the proposed methods of
agricultural reform.

But it was not merely the negligence of the State which led to the
crushing of the small man by the great; the positive burdens which the
government was forced to impose by the exigencies of the career of
conquest and hegemony into which Rome had drifted, rendered the former
an almost helpless competitor in the uneven struggle. The conscription
had from early days been a source of impoverishment for the commons and
of opportunity for the rich. The former could obey the summons of the
State only at the risk of pledging his credit, or at least of seeing his
homestead drift into a condition of neglect which would bring the
inevitable day when it could only be rehabilitated by a loan of seed or
money. The lot of the warrior of moderate means was illustrated by the
legend of Regulus. He was believed to have written home to the consuls
asking to be relieved of his command in Africa. The bailiff whom he had
left on his estate of seven _jugera_ was dead, the hired man had stolen
the implements of agriculture and run away; the farm lay desolate and,
were its master not permitted to return, his wife and children would
lack the barest necessaries of existence.[217] The struggle to maintain
a household in the absence of its head was becoming more acute now that
corn-land was ceasing to pay, except under the most favourable
conditions, and now that the demand for conscripts was sometimes heavier
and always more continuous than it had ever been before. Perhaps
one-tenth of the adult male population of Rome was always in the
field;[218] the units came and went, but the men who bore the brunt of
the long campaigns and of garrison duty in the provinces were those to
whom leisure meant life--the yeomen who maintained their place in the
census lists by hardy toil, and who risked their whole subsistence
through the service that had been wrested from them as a reward for a
laborious career. When they ceased to be owners of their land, they
found it difficult to secure places even as labourers on some rich man's
property. The landholder preferred the services of slaves which could
not be interrupted by the call of military duty.[219]

The economic evils consequent on the conscription must have been felt
with hardly less severity by such of the Italian allies as lived in the
regions within which the _latifundia_ were growing up. To these were
added the pecuniary burdens which Rome had been forced to impose during
the Second Punic War. These burdens were for the most part indirect, for
Rome did not tax her Italian _socii_, but they were none the less
severe. Every contingent supplied from an allied community had its
expenses, except that of food during service, defrayed from the treasury
of its own state,[220] and ten continuous years of conscription and
requisition had finally exhausted the loyalty even of Rome's Latin
kindred.[221] It is true that the Italians were partially, although not
wholly, free from the economic struggle between the possessors of the
public land and the small freeholders; but there is no reason for
supposing that those of Western Italy were exempt from the consequences
of the reduction in price that followed the import of corn from abroad,
and the drain on their incomes and services which had been caused by war
could scarcely have fitted them to stand this unexpected trial. Rome's
harsh dealings with the treasonable South, although adopted for
political motives, was almost unquestionably a political blunder. She
confiscated devastated lands, and so perpetuated their devastation. She
left ruined harbours and cities in decay. She crippled her own resources
to add to the pastoral wealth of a handful of her citizens. In the East
of Italy there was a far greater vitality than elsewhere in agriculture
of the older type. The Samnites in their mountains, the Peligni,
Marrucini, Frentani and Vestini between the Apennines and the sea still
kept to the system of small freeholds. Their peasantry had perhaps
always cultivated for consumption rather than for sale; their
inhabitants were rather beyond the reach of the ample supply from the
South; and for these reasons the competition of Sicilian and African
corn did not lead them to desert their fields. They were also less
exposed than the Romans and Latins to the aggressions of the great
_possessor_; for, since they possessed no _commercium_ with Rome, the
annexation of their property by legal means was beyond the reach even of
the ingenious cupidity of the times.[222] The proof of the existence of
the yeoman in these regions is the danger which he caused to Rome. The
spirit which had maintained his economic independence was to aim at a
higher goal, and the struggle for equality of political rights was to
prove to the exclusive city the prowess of that class of peasant
proprietors which she had sacrificed in her own domains.

But, although this sacrifice had been great, we must not be led into the
belief that there was no hope for the agriculturist of moderate means
either in the present or in the future. Even in the present there were
clear indications that estates of moderate size could under careful
cultivation hold their own. The estate of Lucius Manlius, which Cato
sketches in his work on agriculture,[223] was far from rivalling the
great demesnes of the princes of the land. It consisted of 240 _jugera_
devoted to the olive and of 100 _jugera_ reserved for the vine.
Provision was made for a moderate supply of corn and for pasturage for
the cattle that worked upon the fields. But the farm was on the whole a
representative of the new spirit, which saw in the vine and the olive a
paying substitute for the decadent culture of grain. Even on an estate
of this size we note as significant that the permanent and even the
higher personnel of the household (the latter being represented by the
_villici_ and the _villicae_) was composed of slaves; yet hirelings were
needed for the harvest and the corn was grown by cottagers who held
their land on a _métayer_ tenure. But such an estate demanded unusual
capital as well as unusual care. On the tiny holdings, which were all
that the poorest could afford, the scanty returns might be eked out by
labour on the fields of others, for the small allotment did not demand
the undivided energies of its holder.[224] There was besides a class of
_politores_[225] similar to that figured as cultivating the Cornland on
the estate of Manlius, who received in kind a wage on which they could
at least exist. They were nominally _métayer_ tenants who were provided
with the implements of husbandry by their landlord; but the quantity of
grain which they could reserve to their own use was so small, varying as
it did from a ninth to a fifth of the whole of the crop which they had
reaped,[226] that their position was little better than that of the
poorest labourer by the day.[227] The humblest class of freemen might
still make a living in districts where pasturage did not reign supreme.
But it was a living that involved a sacrifice of independence and a
submission to sordid needs that were unworthy of the past ideal of Roman
citizenship. It was a living too that conferred little benefit on the
State; for the day-labourers and the _politores_ could scarcely have
been in the position on the census list which rendered them liable to
the conscription.

If it were possible to lessen the incidence of military service and to
secure land and a small amount of capital for the dispossessed, the
prospects for the future were by no means hopeless. The smaller culture,
especially the cultivation of the vine and the olive, is that to which
portions of Italy are eminently suited. This is especially true of the
great volcanic plain of the West extending from the north of Etruria to
the south of Campania and comprising, besides these territories, the
countries of the Latins, the Sabines, the Volsci and the Hernici. The
lightness and richness of the alluvion of this volcanic soil is almost
as suited to the production of cereals as to that of the vine and the
olive or the growth of vegetables.[228] But, even on the assumption that
corn-growing would not pay, there was nothing to prevent, and everything
to encourage the development of the olive plantation, the vineyard and
the market garden throughout this region. It was a country sown with
towns, and the vast throat of Rome alone would cry for the products of
endless labour. Even Cato can place the vine and the olive before
grazing land and forest trees in the order of productivity,[229] and
before the close of the Republic the government had learnt the lesson
that the salvation of the Italian peasantry depended on the cultivation
of products like these. The conviction is attested by the protective
edict that the culture of neither the vine nor the olive was to be
extended in Transalpine Gaul.[230] Market gardening was also to have a
considerable future, wherever the neighbourhood of the larger towns
created a demand for such supplies.[231] A new method of tenure also
gave opportunities to those whose capital or circumstances did not
enable them to purchase a sufficient quantity of land of their own.
Leaseholds became more frequent, and the _coloni_ thus created[232]
began to take an active share in the agricultural life of Italy. Like
the _villici_, they were a product, of the tendency to live away from
the estate; but they gained ground at the expense of the servile
bailiffs, probably in consequence of their greater trustworthiness and
keener interest in the soil.

But time was needed to effect these changes. For the present the reign
of the capitalist was supreme, and the plantation system was dominant
throughout the greater part of Italy. The most essential ingredient in
this system was the slave,--an alien and a chattel, individually a thing
of little account, but reckoned in his myriads the most powerful factor
in the economic, and therefore in the political, life of the times, the
gravest of the problems that startled the reformer. The soil of Italy
was now peopled with widely varied types, and echoes of strange tongues
from West and East could be heard on every hand. Italy seemed a newly
discovered country, on which the refuse of all lands had been thrown to
become a people that could never be a nation. The home supply of slaves,
so familiar as to seem a product of the land, was becoming a mere trifle
in comparison with the vast masses that were being thrust amongst the
peasantry by war and piracy. At the time of the protest of Tiberius
Gracchus against the dominance of slave labour in the fields scarcely
two generations had elapsed since the great influx had begun. The Second
Punic War had spread to every quarter of the West; Sicily, Sardinia,
Cisalpine Gaul and Spain all yielded their tribute in the form of human
souls that had passed from the victor to the dealer, from the dealer to
the country and the town. Only one generation had passed since a great
wave had swept from Epirus and Northern Greece over the shores of Italy.
In Epirus alone one hundred and fifty thousand prisoners had been
sold.[233] Later still the destruction of Carthage must have cast vast
quantities of agricultural slaves upon the market.[234] Asia too had
yielded up her captives as the result of Roman victories; but the
Oriental visages that might be seen in the streets of Rome or the plains
of Sicily, were less often the gift of regular war than of the piracy
and the systematised slave-hunting of the Eastern Mediterranean. Rome,
who had crushed the rival maritime powers that had attempted, however
imperfectly, to police the sea, had been content with the work of
destruction, and seemed to care nothing for the enterprising buccaneers
who sailed with impunity as far west as Sicily. The pirates had also
made themselves useful to the Oriental powers which still retained their
independence; they had been tolerated, if they had not been employed, by
Cyprus and Egypt when these states were struggling against the Empire of
the Seleucids.[235] But another reason for their immunity was the view
held in the ancient world that slave-hunting was in itself a legitimate
form of enterprise.[236] The pirate might easily be regarded as a mere
trader in human merchandise. As such, he had perhaps been useful to
Carthage;[237] and, as long as he abstained from attacking ports or
nationalities under the protectorate of Rome, there was no reason why
the capitalists in power should frown on the trade by which they
prospered. For the pirates could probably bring better material to the
slave market than was usually won in war.[238] A superior elegance and
culture must often have been found in the helpless victims on whom they
pounced; beauty and education were qualities that had a high marketable
value, and by seizing on people of the better class they were sure of
one of two advantages--either of a ransom furnished by the friends of
the captives, or of a better price paid by the dealer. There was
scarcely a pretence that the traders were mere intermediaries who bought
in a cheap market and sold in a dear. They were known to be raiders as
well, and numbers of the captives exhibited in the mart at Side in
Pamphylia were known to have been freemen up to the moment of the
auction.[239] The facility for capture and the proximity of Delos, the
greatest of the slave markets which connected the East with the West,
rendered the supply enormous; but it was equalled by the demand, and
myriads of captives are said to have been shipped to the island and to
have quitted it in a single day. The ease and rapidity of the business
transacted by the master of a slave-ship became a proverb;[240] and
honest mercantile undertakings with their tardy gains must have seemed
contemptible in comparison with this facile source of wealth.

An abundant supply and quick returns imply reasonable prices; and the
cheapness of the labour supplied by the slave-trade, whether as a
consequence of war or piracy, was at once a necessary condition of the
vitality of the plantation system and a cause of the recklessness and
neglect with which the easily replaced instruments might be used. Cato,
a shrewd man of business, never cared to pay more than fifteen hundred
denarii for his slaves.[241] This must have been the price of the best
type of labourer, of a man probably who was gifted with intelligence as
well as strength. Ordinary unskilled labour must have fetched a far
smaller sum; for the prices which are furnished by the comic poetry of
the day--prices which are as a rule conditioned by the value of personal
services or qualities of a particular kind, by the attractions of sex
and the competition for favours--do not on the average far exceed the
limit fixed by Cato.[242] For common work newly imported slaves were
actually preferred, and purchasers were shy of the _veterator_ who had
seen long service.[243] Employment in the fashionable circles of the
town doubtless enhanced the value of a slave, when he was known to have
been in possession of some peculiar gift, whether it were for cookery,
medicine or literature; but the labours of the country could easily be
drilled into the newest importation, and prices diminished instead of
rising with the advancing age and experience of the rustic slave.[244]

The cheapened labour which was now spread over Italy presented as many
varieties of moral as of physical type, and these came to be well known
to the prospective owner, not because he aimed at being a moral
influence, but because he objected to being worried by the vagaries of
an eccentric type. Sardinians were always for sale, not because they
were specially abundant, but because they showed an indocility that
rendered them a sorry possession.[245] The passive Oriental, the
Spaniard fierce and proud, required different methods of management and
inspired different precautions; yet experience soon proved that the
hellenised sons of the East had a better capacity for organising revolt
than their fellow-sufferers from the North and West, and much of the
harshness of Roman slavery was prompted by the panic which is the
nemesis of the man who deals in human lives. But more of it was due to
the indifference which springs from familiarity, and from the cold
practical spirit in which the Roman always tended to play with the pawns
of his business game, even when they were freemen and fellow-citizens. A
man like Cato, who had sense and honesty enough to look after his own
business, elaborated a machine-like system for governing his household,
the aim of which was the maximum of profit with the minimum amount of
humanity which is consistent with the attainment of such an end. The
element of humanity is, however, accidental. There is no conscious
appeal to such a feeling. The slaves seem to be looked on rather as
automata who perform certain mental and physical processes analogous to
those of men. Cato's servants were never to enter another house except
at his bidding or at that of his wife, and were to express utter
ignorance of his domestic history to all inquirers; their life was to
alternate between working and sleeping, and the heavy sleeper was valued
as presumably a peaceful character; little bickerings between the
servants were to be encouraged, for unanimity was a matter for suspicion
and fear; the death sentence pronounced on any one of them by the law
was carried out in the presence of the assembled household, so as to
strike a wholesome terror into the rest. If they wished to propagate
their kind, they must pay for the privilege, and a fixed sum was
demanded from the slave who desired to find a mate amongst his
fellow-servants.[246] The rations were fixed and only raised at the
people's festivals of the Saturnalia and Compitalia;[247] a sick slave
was supposed to need less than his usual share[248]--perhaps an
excellent hygienic maxim, but one scarcely adopted on purely hygienic
grounds. Such a life was an emphatic protest against the indulgence of
the city, the free and careless intercourse which often reversed the
position of master and slave and formed part of the stock-in-trade of
the comedian. Yet, even when the bond between the man of fashion and his
artful Servants had merely a life of pleasure and of mischief as its
end, we Are at least lifted by such relations into a human sphere, and
it is exceedingly questionable whether the warped humanity of the city
did mark so low a level as the brutalised life of the estate over which
Cato's fostering genius was spread. If we develop Cato's methods but a
little, if we admit a little more rigour and a little less
discrimination, we get the dismal barrack-like system of the great
plantations--a barrack, or perhaps a prison, nominally ruled by a
governor who might live a hundred miles away, really under the control
of an anxious and terrified slave, who divided his fears between his
master who wanted money and his servants who wanted freedom. The
_villicus_ had been once the mere intendant of the estate on which his
master lived; he was now sole manager of a vast domain for his absent
lord,[249] sole keeper of the great _ergastulum_ which enclosed at
nightfall the instruments of labour and disgorged them at daybreak over
the fields. The gloomy building in which they were herded for rest and
sleep showed but its roof and a small portion of its walls above the
earth; most of it lay beneath the ground, and the narrow windows were so
high that they could not be reached by the hands of the inmates.[250]
There was no inspection by the government, scarcely any by the
owners.[251] There was no one to tell the secrets of these dens, and if
the unwary traveller were trapped and hidden behind their walls, all
traces of him might be for ever lost.[252] When the slaves were turned
out into the fields, the safety of their drivers was secured by the
chains which bound their limbs, but which were so adjusted as not to
interfere with the movements necessary to their work.[253] Some whose
spirit had been broken might be left unbound, but for the majority bonds
were the only security against escape or vengeance.[254]

There was, however, one type of desperate character who was permitted to
roam at large. This was the guardian of the flocks, who wandered
unrestrained over the mountains during the summer months and along the
prairies in the winter season. These herdsmen formed small bands. It was
reckoned that there should be one for every eighty or hundred sheep and
two for every troop of fifty horses.[255] It was sometimes found
convenient that they should be accompanied by their women who prepared
their meals--women of robust types like the Illyrian dames to whom
child-birth was a mere incident in the daily toils.[256] Such a life of
freedom had its attractions for the slave, but it had its drawbacks too.
The landowner who preferred pasturage to tillage, saved his capital, not
only by the small number of hands which the work demanded, but also by
the niggardly outlay which he expended on these errant serfs. It was not
needful to provide them with the necessaries of life when they could
take them for themselves. When Damophilus of Enna was entreated by his
slaves to give them something better than the rags they wore, his answer
was: "Do travellers then travel naked through the land? Have they
nothing for the man who wants a coat?" [257] Brigandage, in fact, was an
established item In the economic creed of the day.

The desolation of Italy was becoming dangerous, and the master of the
lonely villa barred himself in at nights as though an enemy were at his
gates. On one occasion Scipio Africanus was disturbed in his retreat at
Liternum by a troop of bandits. He placed his armed servants on the roof
and made every preparation for repelling the assault. But the visitors
proved to be pacific. They were the very _élite_ of the fraternity of
brigands and had merely come to do honour to the great man. They sent
back their troops, threw down their arms, laid presents before his door
and departed in joyous mood.[258] The immunity of such bands proved that
a slave revolt might at any moment imperil every life and every dwelling
in some unprotected canton. It was indeed the epoch of peace, when Roman
and Phoenician armies no longer held the field in Italy, that first
suggested the hope of liberation to the slave. Hannibal would have
imperilled his character of a protector of Italian towns had he
encouraged a slave revolt, even if the Phoenician had not shrunk from a
precedent so fatal to his native land. But one of the unexpected results
of the Second Punic War was to kindle a rising in the very heart of
Latium, and it was the African slave, not the African freeman, that
stirred the last relics of the war in Italy. At Setia were guarded the
noble Carthaginians who were a pledge of the fidelity of their state.
These hostages, the sons of merchant princes, were allowed to retain the
dignity of their splendid homes, and a vast retinue of slaves from
Africa attended on their wants. The number of these was swelled by
captive members of the same nationalities whom the people of Setia had
acquired in the recent war.[259] A spirit of camaraderie sprung up
amongst men who understood one another's language and had acquired the
spurious nationality that comes from servitude in the same land. Their
numbers were obvious, the paucity of the native Setians was equally
clear, and no military force was close at hand. They planned to increase
their following by spreading disaffection amongst the servile
populations of the neighbouring country towns, and emissaries were sent
to Norba in the North and Circei in the South. Their project was to wait
for the rapidly approaching games of the Setian folk and to rush on the
unarmed populace as they were gazing at the show; when Setia had been
taken, they meant to seize on Norba and Circei. But there was treason in
their ranks. The urban praetor was roused before dawn by two slaves who
poured the whole tale of the impending massacre into his ear. After a
hasty consultation of the senate he rushed to the threatened district,
gathering recruits as he swept with his legates through the country
side, binding them with the military oath, bidding them arm and follow
him with all speed. A hasty force of about two thousand men was soon
gathered; none knew his destination till he reached the gates of Setia.
The heads of the conspiracy were seized, and such of their followers as
learnt the fact fled incontinently from the town. From this point onward
it was only a matter of hunting down the refugees by patrols sent round
the country districts. Southern Latium was freed from its terror; but it
was soon found that the evil had spread almost to the gates of Rome. A
rumour had spread that Praeneste was to be seized by its slaves, and it
was sufficient to stimulate a praetor to execute nearly five hundred of
the supposed delinquents.[260]

Two years later a rising, which almost became a war, shook the great
plantation lands of Etruria.[261] Its suppression required a legion and
a pitched battle. The leaders were crucified; others of the slaves who
had escaped the carnage were restored to their masters. But these
disturbances, that may have seemed mere sporadic relics of the havoc and
exhaustion left by the Hannibalic war, were only quelled for the moment.
It was soon found that the seeds of insecurity were deeply planted in
the settlement that was called a peace. During the year 185 the
shepherds of Apulia were found to have formed a great society of
plunder, and robbery with violence was of constant occurrence on the
grazing lands and public roads. The praetor who was in command at
Tarentum opened a commission which condemned seven thousand men. Many
were executed, although a large number of the criminals escaped to other

These movements in Italy were but the symptoms of a spirit that was
spreading over the Mediterranean lands. The rising of the serfs only
just preceded the great awakening of the masses of the freemen.[263]
Both classes were ground down by capital; both would make an effort to
shake the burden from their shoulders; and, as regards the methods of
assertion, it is a matter of little moment whether they took the form of
a national rising against a government or a protectorate, a sanguinary
struggle in the Forum against the dominance of a class, or an attack by
chattels, not yet brutalised by serfdom but full of the traditions and
spirit of freemen, against the cruelty and indifference of their owners.
In one sense the servile movements were more universal, and perhaps
better organised, than those of the men to whom, free birth gave a
nominal superiority. A sympathy for each other's sufferings pervaded the
units of the class who were scattered in distant lands. Sometimes it was
a sympathy based on a sense of nationality, and the Syrian and Cilician
in Asia would feel joy and hope stirring in his heart at the doings of
his brethren who had been deported to the far West. The series of
organised revolts in the Roman provinces and protectorate which commence
shortly after the fall of Carthage and close for the moment with the war
of resistance to the Romans in Asia, forms a single connected chain.
Dangerous risings had to be repressed at the Italian coast towns of
Minturnae and Sinuessa; at the former place four hundred and fifty
slaves were crucified, at the latter four thousand were crushed by a
military force; the mines of Athens, the slave market of Delos,
witnessed similar outbreaks,[264] and we shall find a like wave of
discontent spreading over the serf populations of the countries of the
Mediterranean just before the second great outbreak in Sicily which
darkens the close of the second century. The evil fate which made this
island the theatre of the two greatest of the servile wars is explicable
on many grounds. The opportunity offered by the sense of superiority in
numbers was far ampler here than in any area of Italy of equal size. For
Sicily was a wheat-growing country, and the cultivated plains demanded a
mass of labour which was not needed in more mountainous or less fertile
lands, where pasturage yielded a surer return than the tilling of the
soil. The pasture lands of Sicily were indeed large, but they had not
yet dwarfed the agriculture of the island. The labour of the fields was
in the hands of a vast horde of Asiatics, large numbers of whom may
conceivably have been shipped from Carthage across the narrow sea, when
that great centre of the plantation system had been laid low and the
fair estates of the Punic nobles had been seized and broken up by their
conquerors.[265] In the history of the great Sicilian outbreaks Syrians
and Cilicians meet us at every turn. These Asiatic slaves had different
nationalities and they or their fathers had been citizens of widely
separated towns. But there were bonds other than a common suffering
which produced a keen sense of national union and a consequent feeling
of ideal patriotism in the hearts of all. They were the products of the
common Hellenism of the East; they or their fathers could make a claim
to have been subjects of the great Seleucid monarchy; many, perhaps most
of them, could assert freedom by right of birth and acknowledged slavery
only as a consequence of the accidents of war or piracy. The mysticism
of the Oriental, the political ideal of the Hellene, were interwoven in
their moral nature--a nature perhaps twisted by the brutalism of slavery
to superstition in the one direction, to licence in the other, but none
the less capable of great conceptions and valiant deeds. The moment for
both would come when the prophet had appeared, and the prophet would
surely show himself when the cup of suffering had overflowed.[266]

The masters who worked this human mechanism were driving it at a pace
which must have seemed dangerous to any human being less greedy, vain
and confident than themselves. The wealth of these potentates was
colossal, but it was equalled by their social rivalry and consequent
need of money. A contest in elegance was being fought between the
Siceliot and the Italian.[267] The latter was the glass of fashion, and
the former attempted to rival, first his habits of domestic life and, as
a consequence, the economic methods which rendered these habits
possible. Here too, as in Italy, whole gangs of slaves were purchased
like cattle or sheep; some were weighed down with fetters, others ground
into subordination by the cruel severity of their tasks. All without
exception were branded, and men who had been free citizens in their
native towns, felt the touch of the burning iron and carried the stigma
of slavery to their graves.[268] Food was doled out in miserable
quantities,[269] for the shattered instrument could so easily be
replaced. On the fields one could see little but abject helplessness, a
misery that weakened while it tortured the soul. But in some parts of
Sicily bodily want was combined with a wild daring that was fostered by
the reckless owners, whose greed had overcome all sense of their own
security or that of their fellow-citizens. The treatment of pastoral
slaves which had been adopted by the Roman graziers was imitated
faithfully by the Italians and Siceliots of the island. These slaves
were turned loose with their flocks to find their food and clothing
where and how they could. The youngest and stoutest were chosen for this
hard, wild life: and their physical vigour was still further increased
by their exposure to every kind of weather, by their seldom finding or
needing the shelter of a roof, and by the milk and meat which formed
their staple food. A band of these men presented a terrifying aspect,
suggesting a scattered invasion of some warlike barbarian tribe. Their
bodies were clad in the skins of wolves and boars; slung at their sides
or poised in their hands were clubs, lances and long shepherds' staves.
Each squadron was followed by a pack of large and powerful hounds.
Strength, leisure, need, all suggested brigandage as an integral part of
their profession. At first they murdered the wayfarer who went alone or
with but one companion. Then their courage rose and they concerted
nightly attacks on the villas of the weaker residents. These villas they
stormed and plundered, slaying any one who attempted to bar their way.
As their impunity increased, Sicily became impracticable to travellers
by night, and residence in the country districts became a tempting of
providence. There was violence, brigandage or murder on every hand. The
governors of Sicily occasionally interposed, but they were almost
powerless to check the mischief. The influence of the slave-owners was
such that it was dangerous to inflict an adequate punishment.[270]

The proceedings of these militant shepherds must have opened the eyes of
the mass of the slaves to the possibilities of the position. Secret
meetings began to be held at which the word "revolt" was breathed. An
occasion, a leader, a divine sanction were for the moment lacking. The
first requisite would follow the other two, and these were soon found
combined in the person of Eunus. This man was a Syrian by birth, a
native of Apamea, and he served Antigenes of Enna. He was more than a
believer in the power of the gods to seize on men and make them the
channel of their will; he was a living witness to it in his own person.
At first he saw shadows of superhuman form and heard their voices in his
dreams. Then there were moments when he would be seized with a trance;
he was wrapt in contemplation of some divine being. Then the words of
prophecy would come; they were not his utterance but the bidding of the
great Syrian goddess. Sometimes the words were preceded by a strange
manifestation of supernatural power; smoke, sparks or flame would issue
from his open mouth.[271] The clairvoyance may have been a genuine
mental experience, the thaumaturgy the type of fiction which the best of
_media_ may be tempted to employ; but both won belief from his fellows,
eager for any light in the darkness, and a laughing acceptance from his
master, glad of a novelty that might amuse his leisure. As a matter of
fact, Eunus's predictions sometimes came true. People forgot (as people
will) the instances of their falsification, but applauded them heartily
when they were fulfilled. Eunus was a good enough _medium_ to figure at
a fashionable _séance_. His latest profession was the promise of a
kingdom to himself; it was the Syrian goddess who had held out the
golden prospect. The promise he declared boldly to his master, knowing
perhaps the spirit in which the message would be received. Antigenes was
delighted with his prophet king. He showed him at his own table, and
took him to the banquets given by his friends. There Eunus would be
questioned about his kingdom, and each of the guests would bespeak his
patronage and clemency. His answers as to his future conduct were given
without reserve. He promised a policy of mercy, and the quaint
earnestness of the imposture would dissolve the company in laughter.
Portions of food were handed him from the board, and the donors would
ask that he should remember their kindness when he came into his
kingdom. These were requests which Eunus did not forget.

With such an influence in its centre, Enna seemed destined to be the
spring of the revolt. But there was another reason which rendered it a
likely theatre for a deed of daring. The broad plateau on which the town
was set was thronged with shepherds in the winter season,[272] and some
of the great graziers of Enna owned herds of these bold and lawless men.
Conspicuous amongst these graziers for his wealth, his luxury and his
cruelty was one Damophilus, the man who had formulated the theory that
the shepherd slave should keep himself by robbing others. Damophilus was
a Siceliot, but none of the Roman magnates of the island could have
shown a grander state than that which he maintained. His finely bred
horses, his four-wheeled carriages, his bodyguard of slaves, his
beautiful boys, his crowd of parasites, were known all over the broad
acres and huge pasture lands which he controlled. His town house and
villas displayed chased silverwork, rich carpets of purple dye and a
table of royal elegance. He surpassed Roman luxury in the lavishness of
his expense, Roman pride in his sense of complete independence of
circumstance, and Roman niggardliness and cruelty in his treatment of
his slaves. Satiety had begotten a chronic callousness and even savagery
that showed itself, not merely in the now familiar use of the
_ergastulum_ and the brand, but in arbitrary and cruel punishments which
were part of the programme of almost every day. His wife Megallis,
hardened by the same influences, was the torment of her maidens and of
such domestics as were more immediately under her control. The servants
of this household had one conviction in common--that nothing worse than
their present evils could possibly be their lot.

This is the conviction that inspires acts of frenzy; but the madness of
these slaves was of the orderly, systematic and therefore dangerous
type. They would not act without a divine sanction to their whispered
plans. Some of them approached Eunus and asked him if their enterprise
was permitted by the gods. The prophet first produced the usual
manifestations which attested his inspiration and then replied that the
gods assented, if the plan were taken in hand forthwith. Enna was the
destined place; it was the natural stronghold of the whole island; it
was foredoomed to be the capital of the new race that would rule over
Sicily.[273] Heartened by the belief that Heaven was aiding their
efforts, the leaders then set to work. They secretly released such of
Damophilus's household as were in bonds; they gathered others together,
and soon a band to the number of about four hundred were mustered in a
field in the neighbourhood of Enna. There in the early hours of the
night they offered a sacrifice and swore their solemn compact. They had
gathered everything which could serve as a weapon, and when midnight was
approaching they were ready for the first attempt. They marched swiftly
to the sleeping town and broke its stillness with their cries of
exhortation. Eunus was at their head, fire streaming from his mouth
against the darkness of the night. The streets and houses were
immediately the scene of a pitiless massacre. The maddened slaves did
not even spare the children at the breast; they dragged them from their
mothers' arms and dashed them upon the ground. The women were the
victims of unspeakable insult and outrage.[274] Every slave had his own
wrongs to avenge, for the original assailants had now been joined by a
large number of the domestics of the town. Each of these wreaked his own
peculiar vengeance and then turned to take his share in the
general massacre.

Meanwhile Eunus and his immediate following had learnt news of the
arch-enemy Damophilus, He was known to be staying in his pleasance near
to the city. Thence he and his wife were fetched with every mark of
ignominy, and the unhappy pair were dragged into the town with their
hands bound behind their backs. The masters of the city now mustered in
the theatre for an act of justice; but Damophilus did not lose his wits
even when he scanned that sea of hostile faces and accusing eyes. He
attempted a defence and was listened to in silence--nay, with approval,
for many of his auditors were visibly stirred by his words. But some
bolder spirits were tired of the show or fearful of its issue. Hermeias
and Zeuxis, two of his bitterest enemies, shouted out that he was an
Impostor[275] and rushed upon him. One of the two thrust a sword through
his side, the other smote his head off with an axe. It was then the
women's turn. Megallis's female slaves were given the power to treat her
as they would. They first tortured her, then led her up to a high place
and dashed her to the ground. Eunus avenged his private wrongs by the
death of his own masters, Antigenes and Python. The scene in the theatre
had perhaps revealed more than the desire for a systematised revenge. It
may have shown that there was some sense of justice, of order in the
savage multitude. And indeed vengeance was not wholly indiscriminate.
Eunus concealed and sent secretly away the men who had given him meat
from their tables.[276] Even the whole house of Damophilus did not
perish. There was a daughter, a strange product of such a home, a maiden
with a pure simplicity of character and a heart that melted at the sight
of pain. She had been used to soothe the anguish of those who had been
scourged by her parents and to relieve the necessities of such as were
put in bonds. Hence the abounding love felt for her by the slaves, the
pity that thrilled them when her home was doomed. An escort was selected
to convey her in safety to some relatives at Catana. Its most devoted
member was Hermeias,[277] perhaps the very man whose hands were stained
by her father's blood.

The next step in the progress of the revolt was to form a political and
military organisation that might command the respect of the countless
slaves who were soon to break their bonds in the other districts of
Sicily. Eunus was elected king. His name became Antiochus, his subjects
were "Syrians." [278] It was not the first time that a slave had assumed
the diadem; for was it not being worn for the moment by Diodotus
surnamed Tryphon, the guardian and reputed murderer of Alexander of
Syria?[279] The elevation of Eunus to the throne was due to no belief in
his courage or his generalship. But he was the prophet of the movement,
the cause of its inception, and his very name was considered to be of
good omen for the harmony of his subjects. When he had bound the diadem
on his brow and adopted regal state, he elevated the woman who had been
his companion (a Syrian and an Apamean like himself) to the rank of
queen. He formed a council of such of his followers as were thought to
possess wits above the average, and he set himself to make Enna the
adequate centre of a lengthy war. He put to death all his captives in
Enna who had no skill in fashioning arms; the residue he put in bonds
and set to the task of forging weapons.

Eunus was no warrior, but he had the regal gift of recognising merit.
The soul of the military movement which spread from Enna was
Achaeus,[280] a man pre-eminent both in counsel and in action,[281] one
who did not permit his reason to be mastered by passion and whose anger
was chiefly kindled by the foolish atrocities committed by some of his
followers.[282] Under such a leader the cause rapidly advanced. The
original four hundred had swelled in three days to six thousand; it soon
became ten thousand. As Achaeus advanced, the _ergastula_ were broken
open and each of these prison-houses furnished a new multitude of
recruits.[283] Soon a vast addition to the available forces was effected
by a movement in another part of the island. In the territory of
Agrigentum one Cleon a Cilician suddenly arose as a leader of his
fellows. He was sprung from the regions about Mount Taurus and had been
habituated from his youth to a life of brigandage. In Sicily he was
supposed to be a herdsman of horses. He was also a highwayman who
commanded the roads and was believed to have committed murders of varied
types. When he heard of the success of Eunus, he deemed that the moment
had come for raising a revolt on his own account. He gathered a band of
followers, overwhelmed the city of Agrigentum and ravaged the
surrounding territory.[284]

The terrified Siceliots, and perhaps some of the slaves themselves,
believed that this dual movement might ruin the servile cause. There
were daily expectations that the armies of Eunus and Cleon would meet in
conflict. But such hopes or fears were disappointed. Cleon put himself
absolutely under the authority of Eunus and performed the functions of a
general to a king. The junction of the forces occurred about thirty days
after the outbreak at Enna, and the Cilician brought five thousand men
to the royal standard. The full complement of the slaves when first they
joined battle with the Roman power amounted to twenty thousand men;
before the close of the war their army numbered over sixty

The Roman government exhibited its usual slowness in realising the
gravity of the situation; yet it may be excused for believing that it
had only to deal with local tumults such as those which had been so
easily suppressed in Italy. The force of eight thousand men which it put
into the field under the praetor Lucius Hypsaeus may have seemed more
than sufficient. Yet it was routed by the insurgent army, now numbering
twenty thousand men, and in the skirmishes which followed the balance of
success inclined to the rebels. The immediate progress of the struggle
cannot be traced in any detail, but there is a general record of the
storming of Roman camps and the flight of Roman generals.[286]

The theatre of the war was certainly extending at an alarming rate. The
rebels had first controlled the centre and some part of the South
Western portion of the island, the region between Enna and Agrigentum;
but now they had pushed their conquests up to the East, had reached the
coast and had gained possession of Catana and Tauromenium.[287] The
devastation of the conquered districts is said to have been more
terrible than that which followed on the Punic War.[288] But for this
the slaves were not wholly, perhaps not mainly, responsible. The rebel
armies, looking to a settlement in the future when they should enjoy the
fruit of their victories, left the villas standing, their furniture and
stores uninjured, and did no harm to the implements of husbandry. It was
the free peasantry of Sicily that now showed a savage resentment at the
inequality of fortune and of life which severed them from the great
landholders. Under pretext of the servile war[289] they sallied out, and
not only plundered the goods of the conquered, but even set fire to
their villas.

The words of Eunus when, at the beginning of the revolt, he claimed Enna
as the metropolis of the new nation, and the conduct of his followers in
sparing the grandeur and comfort which had fallen into their hands, are
sufficient proofs that the revolted slaves, in spite of their possession
of the seaports of Catana and Tauromenium, had no intention of escaping
from Sicily. Perhaps even if they had willed it, such a course might
have been impossible. They had no fleet of their own; the Cilician
pirates off the coast might have refused to accept such dangerous
passengers and to imperil their reputation as honest members of the
slave trade. And, if the fugitives crossed the sea, what homes had they
to which they could return? To their own cities they were dead, and the
long arm of Rome stretched over her protectorates in the East.[290]

It was therefore with a power which intended a permanent settlement in
Sicily, that the Roman government had to cope. Its sense of the gravity
of the situation was seen in the despatch of consular armies. The first
under Caius Fulvius Flaccus seems to have effected little.[291] The
second under Lucius Calpurnius Piso, the consul of the following year,
laid siege to Enna,[292] and captured a stronghold of the rebels. Eight
thousand of the slaves were slain by the sword, all who could be seized
were nailed to the cross.[293] The crowning victories, and the nominal
pacification of the island, remained for Piso's successor, Publius
Rupilius. He drove the rebels into Tauromenium and sat down before the
city until they were reduced to unspeakable straits by famine. The town
was at length yielded through treachery; Sarapion a Syrian betrayed the
acropolis, and the Roman commander found a multitude of starving men at
his mercy, He was pitiless in his use of victory. The captives were
first tortured, then taken up to a high place and dashed downwards to
the ground. The consul then moved on Enna. The rebels defended their
last stronghold with the utmost courage and persistence. Achaeus seems
to have already fallen, but the brave Cilician leaders still held out
with all the native valour of their race. Cleon made a sortie from the
town and fought heroically until he fell covered with wounds. Cleon's
brother Coma[294] was captured during the siege and brought before
Rupilius, who questioned him about the strength and the plans of the
remaining fugitives. He asked for a moment to collect his thoughts,
covered his head with his cloak, and died of suffocation, in the hands
of his guard and in sight of the general, before a compromising word had
passed his lips. King Eunus was not made of such stern stuff. When Enna,
impregnable in its natural strength, had been taken by treachery, he
fled with his bodyguard of a thousand men to still more precipitous
regions. His companions, knowing that it was impossible to escape their
fate (for Rupilius was already moving) fell on each others swords. But
Eunus could not face this death. He took refuge in a cave, from which he
was dragged with the last poor relics of his splendid court--his cook,
his baker, his bath attendant and his buffoon. The Romans for some
reason spared his life, or at least did not doom him to immediate death.
He was kept a prisoner at Morgantia, where he died shortly afterwards
of disease.

It is said that by the date of the fall of Enna more than twenty
thousand slaves had perished.[295] Even without this slaughter, the
capture of their seaport and their armoury would have been sufficient to
break the back of the revolt.[296] It only remained to scour the country
with picked bands of soldiers for organised resistance to be shattered,
and even for the curse of brigandage to be rooted out for a while. Death
was no longer meted out indiscriminately to the rebels. Such of the
slave-owners as survived would probably have protested against wholesale
crucifixion, and the destruction of all of the fugitives would have
impaired the resources of Sicily. Thus many were spared the cross and
restored to their bonds.[297] The extent to which reorganisation was
needed before the province could resume its normal life, is shown by the
fact that the senate thought it worth while to give Sicily a new
provincial charter. Ten commissioners were sent to assist Rupilius in
the work, which henceforth bore the proconsul's name.[298] The work, as
we know it, was of a conservative character; but it is possible that no
complete charter had ever existed before, and the war may have revealed
defects in the arrangements of Sicily that had heretofore been

A climax of the type of the servile war in Sicily was perhaps needed to
bring the social problem home to thinking men in Rome. Not that it by
any means sufficed for all who pondered on the public welfare or
laboured at the business of the State. The men who measured happiness by
wealth and empire might still have retained their unshaken confidence in
the Fortune of Rome. Had a Capys of this class arisen, he might have
given a thrilling picture of the immediate future of his city, dark but
grimly national in its emergence from trial to triumph. He might have
seen her conquering arms expanding to the Euphrates and the Rhine, and
undreamed sources of wealth pouring their streams into the treasury or
the coffers of the great. If there was blood in the picture, when had it
been absent from the annals of Rome? Even civil strife and a new Italian
war might be a hard but a necessary price to pay for a strong government
and a grand mission. If an antiquated constitution disappeared in the
course of this glorious expansion, where was the loss?

But there were men in Rome who measured human life by other canons: who
believed that the State existed for the individual at least as much as
the individual for the State: who, even when they were imperialists, saw
with terror the rotten foundations on which the empire rested, and with
indignation the miserable returns that had been made to the men who had
bought it with their blood. To them the brilliant present and the
glorious future were veiled by a screen that showed the ghastly spectres
of commercial imperialism. It showed luxury running riot amongst a
nobility already impoverished and ever more thievishly inclined, a
colossal capitalism clutching at the land and stretching out its
tentacles for every source of profitable trade, the middle class fleeing
from the country districts and ousted from their living in the towns,
and the fair island that was almost a part of their Italian home, its
garden and its granary, in the throes of a great slave war.


A cause never lacks a champion, nor a great cause one whom it may render
great. Failure is in itself no sign of lack of spirit and ability, and
when a vast reform is the product of a mean personality, the individual
becomes glorified by identification with his work. From this point of
view it mattered little who undertook the task of the economic
regeneration of the Roman world. Any senator of respectable antecedents
and moderate ability, who had a stable following amongst the ruling
classes, might have succeeded where Tiberius Gracchus failed; it was a
task in which authority was of more importance than ability, and the
sense that the more numerous or powerful elements of society were united
in the demand for reform, of more value than individual genius or
honesty of purpose. This was the very circumstance that foreshadowed
failure, for the men of wide connections and established fame had shrunk
from an enterprise with which they sympathised in various degrees. In
the proximate history of the Republic there had been three men who
showed an unwavering belief in the Italian farmer and the blessings of
agriculture. These were M. Porcius Cato, P. Cornelius Scipio and Ti.
Sempronius Gracchus. But the influence of Cato's house had become
extinct with its first founder. The elder son, an amiable man and an
accomplished jurist, had not out-lived his father; the second still
survived, but seems to have inherited little of the fighting qualities
of the terrible censor. The traditions of a Roman house needed to be
sustained by the efforts of its existing representative, and the
"newness" of the Porcii might have necessitated generations of vigorous
leaders to make them a power in the land. Scipionic traditions were now
represented by Aemilianus, and the glow of the luminary was reflected in
paler lights, who received their lustre from moving in that charmed
orbit. One of these, the indefatigable henchman Laelius, had risen to
the rank of consul, and stimulated by the vigorous theorisings of his
hellenised environment, he contemplated for a moment the formation of a
plan which should deal with some of the worst evils of the agrarian
question. But he looked at the problem only to start back in affright.
The strength and truculency of the vested interests with which he would
have to deal were too much for a man whose nerve was weakened by
philosophy and experience, and Laelius by his retreat justified, if he
did not gain, the soubriquet which proclaimed his "sapience".[299] But
why was Scipio himself idle? The answer is to be found both in his
temperament and in his circumstances. With all his dash and energy, he
was something of a healthy hedonist. As the chase had delighted him in
his youth, so did war in his manhood. While hating its cruelties, he
gloried in its excitement, and the discipline of the camp was more to
his mind than the turbulence of an assembly. His mind, too, belonged to
that class which finds it almost impossible to emancipate itself from
traditional politics. His vast knowledge of the history of other
civilisations may have taught him, as it taught Polybius, that Rome was
successful because she was unique.[300] Here there was to be no break
with the past, no legislator posing as a demi-god, no obedience to the
cries of the masses who, if they once got loose, might turn and rend the
enlightened few, and reproduce on Italian soil the shocking scenes of
Greek socialistic enterprise. As things were, to be a reformer was to be
a partisan, and Scipio loved the prospect of his probable supporters as
little as that of his probable opponents. The fact of the Empire, too,
must have weighed heavily with a man who was no blind imperialist. Even
though economic reform might create an added efficiency in the army,
Scipio must have known, as Polybius certainly knew, that soldiers are
but pawns in the great game, and that the controlling forces were the
wisdom of the conservative senator, the ambition of the wealthy noble,
and the capital of the enterprising knight. The wisdom of disturbing
their influence, and awakening their resentment, could scarcely appeal
to a mind so perfectly balanced and practical as Scipio's.
Circumstances, too, must have had their share in determining his
quiescence. The Scipios had been a power in Rome in spite of the
nobility. They were used because they were needed, not because they were
loved, and the necessary man was never in much favour with the senate.
Although there was no tie of blood between Aemilianus and the elder
Scipio, they were much alike both in fortune and in temperament. They
had both been called upon to save military situations that were thought
desperate; their reputation had been made by successful war; and though
neither was a mere soldier, they lacked the taste and the patience for
the complicated political game, which alone made a man a power amidst
the noble circles and their immediate dependants at Rome.

But the last generation had seen in Tiberius Gracchus a man whose
political influence had been vast, a noble with but scant respect for
the indefeasible rights of the nobility and as stern as Cato in his
animadversions on the vices of his order, a man whose greatest successes
abroad had been those of diplomacy rather than of war, one who had
established firm connections and a living memory of himself both in West
and East, whose name was known and loved in Spain, Sardinia, Asia and
Egypt. It would have been too much to hope that this honest old
aristocrat would attempt to grapple with the evils which had first
become manifest during his own long lifetime; but it was not unnatural
that people should look to a son of his for succour, especially as this
son represented the blood of the Scipios as well as of the Gracchi. The
marriage of the elderly Gracchus with the young Cornelia had marked the
closing of the feud, personal rather than political, which had long
separated him from the elder Scipio: and a further link between the two
families was subsequently forged by the marriage of Sempronia, a
daughter of Cornelia, to Scipio Aemilianus. The young Tiberius Gracchus
may have been born during one of his father's frequent absences on the
service of the State.[301] Certainly the elder Gracchus could have seen
little of his son during the years of his infancy. But the closing years
of the old man's life seem to have been spent uninterruptedly in Italy,
and Tiberius must have been profoundly influenced by the genial and
stately presence that Rome loved and feared. But he was little more than
a boy when his father died, and the early influences that moulded his
future career seem to have been due mainly to his mother. Cornelia would
have been the typical Roman matron, had she lived a hundred years
earlier; she would then have trained sons for the battlefield, not for
the Forum. As it was, the softening influences of Greek culture had
tempered without impairing her strength of character, had substituted
rational for purely supernatural sanctions, and a wide political outlook
for a rude sense of civic duty. Herself the product of an education such
as ancient civilisations rarely bestowed upon their women, she wrote and
spoke with a purity and grace which led to the belief that her sons had
learnt from her lips and from her pen their first lessons in that
eloquence which swayed the masses and altered the fortunes of Rome.[302]
But her gifts had not impaired her tenderness. Her sons were her
"Jewels," and the successive loss of nine of the children which she had
borne to Gracchus must have made the three that remained doubly dear.
The two boys had a narrow escape from becoming Eastern princes: for the
hand of the widow Cornelia was sought in marriage by the King of
Egypt.[303] Such an alliance with the representative of the two houses
of the Gracchi and the Scipios might easily seem desirable to a
protected king, although the attractions of Cornelia may also have
influenced his choice. She, however, had no aspirations to share the
throne of the Lagidae, and the hellenism of Tiberius and of his younger
brother Caius, though deep and far-reaching, was of a kind less violent
than would have been gained by transportation to Alexandria. They were
trained in rhetoric by Diophanes an exile from Mitylene, and in
philosophy by Blossius of Cumae, a stoic of the school of Antipater of
Tarsus.[304] Many held the belief that Tiberius was spurred to his
political enterprise by the direct exhortation of these teachers; but,
even if their influence was not of this definite kind, there can be
little doubt that the teaching of the two Greeks exercised a powerful
influence on the political cast of his mind. Ideals of Greek liberty,
speeches of Greek statesmen who had come forward as champions of the
oppressed, stories of social ruin averted by the voice and hand of the
heaven-sent legislator, pictures of self-sacrifice and of resigned
submission to a standard of duty--these were lessons that may have been
taught both by rhetorician and philosopher. Nor was the teaching of
history different. In the literary environment in which the Gracchi
moved, ready answers were being given to the most vital questions of
politics and social science. Every one must have felt that the
approaching struggle had a dual aspect, that it was political as well as
social. For social conservatism was entrenched behind a political
rampart: and if reform, neglected by the senate, was to come from the
people, the question had first to be asked, Had the people a legal right
to initiate reform? The historians of that and of the preceding
generation would have answered this question unhesitatingly in the
affirmative. The _de facto_ sovereignty of the senate had not even
received a sanction in contemporary literature, while to that of the
immediate past it was equally unknown. The Roman annalists from the time
of the Second Punic War had revealed the sovereignty of the people as
the basis of the Roman constitution,[305] and the history of the long
struggle of the Plebs for freedom made the protection of the commons the
sole justification of the tribunate. From the lips of Polybius himself
Tiberius may have heard the impression which the Roman polity made on
the mind of the educated Greek: and the fact that this was a Greek
picture did not lessen its validity; for the Greek was moulding the
orthodox history of Rome, and the victims of his genius were the best
Roman intellects of the day. He might have learnt how in this mixed
constitution the people still retained their inalienable rights, how
they elected, ratified, and above all how they punished.[306] He might
have gathered that the identification of the tribunate with the
interests of the nobility was a perversion of its true and vital
function: that the tribune exists but to assist the commons and can be
subject to no authority but the people's will, whether expressed
directly by them or indirectly through his colleagues.[307] The history
of the Punic wars did indeed reveal, in the fate of a Varro or a
Minucius, how popular insubordination might be punished, when its end
was wrong. Polybius's own voice was raised in prophetic warning against
a possible demagogy of the future.[308] But that history showed the
healthy discipline of a healthy people--a people that had vanquished
genius through subordination, a peasant class whose loyalty and tenacity
were as great as those of its leaders, and without whom those leaders
would have been helpless. Where was such a class to be found now? Change
the subject or turn the page, and the Greek statesman and historian
could point to the dreadful reverse of this picture.[309] He could show
a Greek nation, gifted with political genius but doomed to political
decay--a nation whose sons accumulated money, lived in luxury with
little forethought for the future, and refused to beget children for the
State: a nation with a wealthy and cultured upper class, but one that
was literally perishing for the lack of men.[310] Was this the fate in
store for Rome? A temperament that was merely vigorous and keen might
not have been affected by such reflections. One that was merely
contemplative might have regarded them only as a subject for curious
study. But Tiberius's mind ran to neither of these two extremes. He was
a thoughtful and sensitive man of action. Sweet in temper, staid in
deportment, gentle in language, he attracted from his dependants a
loyalty that knew no limits, and from his friends a devotion that did
not even shrink from death on his behalf. Even in his pure and polished
oratory passion revealed itself chiefly in appeals to pity, not in the
harsher forms of invective or of scorn. His mode of life was simple and
restrained, but apparently with none of the pedantic austerity of the
stoic. In an age that was becoming dissolute and frivolous he was moral
and somewhat serious.[311] But his career is not that of the man who
burdens society with the impression that he has a solemn mission to
perform. Such men are rarely taken as seriously as they take themselves;
they do not win aged men of experience to support their cause; the
demeanour that wearies their friends is even likely to be found irksome
by the mob.

Roman society must have seen much promise in his youth, for honours came
early. A seat at the augural board was regarded as a tribute to his
merit rather than his birth;[312] and indeed the Roman aristocrats, who
dispensed such favours, were too clever to be the slaves of a name, when
political manipulation was in question and talent might be diverted to
the true cause. His marriage was a more important determinant in his
career. The bride who was offered him was the daughter of Appius
Claudius Pulcher, a man of consular and censorian rank and now Princeps
of the senate,[313] a clever representative of that brilliant and
eccentric house, that had always kept liberalism alive in Rome. Appius
had already displayed some of the restless individuality of his
ancestors. When the senate had refused him a triumph after a war with
the Salassi, he had celebrated the pageant at his own expense, while his
daughter, a vestal, walked beside the car to keep at bay the importunate
tribune who attempted to drag him off.[314] A similar unconventionality
was manifested in the present betrothal. The story runs that Appius
broached the question to Tiberius at an augural banquet. The proposition
was readily accepted, and Appius in his joy shouted out the news to his
wife as he entered his own front door. The lady was more surprised than
annoyed. "What need for all this haste," she said, "unless indeed you
have found Tiberius Gracchus for our girl?" [315] Appius, hasty as he
was, was probably in this case not the victim of a sudden inspiration.
The restless old man doubtless pined for reform; but he was weighed down
by years, honours and familiarity with the senate. He could not be the
protagonist in the coming struggle; but in Tiberius he saw the man of
the future.

The chances of the time favoured a military even more than a political
career; the chief spheres of influence were the province and the camp,
and it was in these that the earliest distinctions of Tiberius were won.
When a lad of fifteen he had followed his brother-in-law Scipio to
Africa, and had been the first to mount the walls of Carthage in the
vain assault on the fortress of Megara.[316] He had won the approval of
the commander by his discipline and courage, and left general regret
amongst the army when he quitted the camp before the close of the
campaign. But an experience as potent for the future as his first taste
of war, must have been those hours of leisure spent in Scipio's
tent.[317] If contact with the great commander aroused emulation, the
talk on political questions of Scipio and his circle must have inspired
profound reflection. Here he could find aspirations enough; all that was
lacking was a leader to translate them into deeds. The quaestorship, the
first round of the higher official ladder, found him attached to the
consul Mancinus and destined for the ever-turbulent province of Spain.
It was a fortunate chance, for here was the scene of his father's
military and diplomatic triumphs. But the sequel was unexpected. He had
gone to fulfil the duties of a subordinate; he suddenly found himself
performing those of a commander-in-chief or of an accredited
representative of the Roman people. The Numantines would treat only with
a Gracchus, and the treaty that saved Roman lives but not Roman honour
was felt to be really his work. In a moment he was involved in a
political question that agitated the whole of Rome. The Numantine treaty
was the topic of the day. Was it to be accepted or, if repudiated,
should the authors of the disaster, the causes of the breach of faith,
be surrendered in time-honoured fashion to the enemy as an expiation for
the violated pledge? On the first point there was little hesitation; the
senate decided for the nullity of the treaty, and it was likely that
this view would be accepted by the people, if the measures against the
ratifying officials were not made too stringent. For on this point there
was a difference of opinion. The poorer classes, whose sons and brothers
had been saved from death or captivity by the treaty, blamed Mancinus as
the cause of the disaster, but were grateful to Tiberius as the author
of the agreement. Others who had less to lose and could therefore afford
to stand on principle, would have enforced the fullest rigour of the
ancient rules and have delivered up the quaestor and tribunes with the
defaulting general.[318] It was thought that the influence of Scipio,
always great with the agricultural voters, might have availed to save
even Mancinus, nay that, if he would, he might have got the peace
confirmed.[319] But his efforts were believed to have been employed in
favour of Tiberius. The matter ended in an illogical compromise. The
treaty was repudiated, but it was decreed that the general alone should
be surrendered.[320] A breach in an ancient rule of religious law had
been made in favour of Tiberius.

But, in spite of this mark of popular favour, the experience had been
disheartening and its effect was disturbing. Although it is impossible
to subscribe to the opinion of later writers, who, looking at the matter
from a conservative and therefore unfavourable aspect, saw in this early
check the key to Tiberius's future action,[321] yet anger and fear leave
their trace even on the best regulated minds. The senate had torn up his
treaty and placed him for the moment in personal peril. It was to the
people that he owed his salvation. If circumstances were to develop an
opposition party in Rome, he was being pushed more and more into its
ranks. And a coolness seems to have sprung up at this time between him
and the man who had been his great _exemplar_. Tiberius took no counsel
of Scipio before embarking on his great enterprise; support and advice
were sought elsewhere. He may have already tested Scipio's lack of
sympathy with an active propaganda; shame might have kept back the hint
of a plan that might seem to imply a claim to leadership. But it is
possible that there was some feeling of resentment against the warrior
now before Numantia, who had done nothing to save the last Numantine
treaty and the honour of the name of Gracchus.

His reticence could scarcely have been due to ignorance of his own
designs; for his brother Caius left it on record that it was while
journeying northward from Rome on his way to Numantia that Tiberius's
eyes were first fully opened to the magnitude of the malady that cried
aloud for cure.[322] It was in Etruria, the paradise of the capitalist,
that he saw everywhere the imported slave and the barbarian who had
replaced the freeman. It was this sight that first suggested something
like a definite scheme. A further stimulus was soon to be found in
scraps of anonymous writing which appeared on porches, walls and
monuments, praying for his succour and entreating that the public land
should be recovered for the poor.[323] The voiceless Roman people was
seeking its only mode of utterance, a tribune who should be what the
tribune had been of old, the servant of the many not the creature of the
few. To Gracchus's mother his plans could hardly have been veiled. She
is even said to have stimulated a vague craving for action by the
playful remark that she was still known as the mother-in-law of Scipio,
not as the mother of the Gracchi.[324]

But there was need of serious counsel. Gracchus did not mean to be a
mere demagogue, coming before the people with a half-formed plan and
stirring up an agitation which could end merely in some idle resolution.
There were few to whom he could look for advice, but those few were of
the best. Three venerable men, whose deeds and standing were even
greater than their names, were ready with their support. There was the
chief pontiff, P. Licinius Crassus Mucianus, the man who was said to
combine in a supreme degree the four great blessings of wealth, birth,
eloquence and legal lore;[325] there was the brother of Crassus, P.
Mucius Scaevola,[326] the greatest lawyer of his age and already
destined to the consulship for the following year; lastly there was
Tiberius's father-in-law, the restless Appius, now eagerly awaiting the
fulfilment of a cherished scheme by the man of his own choice.[327]

Thus fortified, Tiberius Gracchus entered on his tribunate, and
formulated the measure which was to leave large portions of the public
domain open for distribution to the poor. In the popular gatherings with
which he opened his campaign, he dwelt on the nature of the evils which
he proposed to remedy. It was the interest of Italy, not merely of the
Roman proletariate, that was at stake.[328] He pointed out how the
Italian peasantry had dwindled in numbers, and how that portion of it
which still survived had been reduced to a poverty that was irremediable
by their own efforts. He showed that the slave gangs which worked the
vast estates were a menace, not a help, to Rome. They could not be
enlisted for service in the legions; their disaffection to their masters
was notorious; their danger was being proved even now by the horrible
condition of Sicily, the fate of its slave-owning landlords, the long,
difficult and eventful war which had not even yet been brought to a
close.[329] Sometimes the language of passion replaced that of reason in
his harangues to the crowds that pressed round the Rostra. "The beasts
that prowl about Italy have holes and lurking-places where they may make
their beds. You who fight and die for Italy enjoy but the blessings of
air and light. These alone are your heritage. Homeless, unsettled, you
wander to and fro with your wives and children. Our generals are in the
habit of inspiring their soldiers to the combat by exhorting them to
repel the enemy in defence of their tombs and ancestral shrines. The
appeal is idle and false. You cannot point to a paternal altar, you have
no ancestral tomb. No! you fight and die to give wealth and luxury to
others. You are called the masters of the world; yet there is no clod of
earth that you can call your own." [330]

The proposal, which was ushered in by these stirring appeals, seemed at
first sight to be of a moderate and somewhat conservative character. It
professed to be the renewal of an older law, which had limited the
amount of domain land which an individual might possess to five hundred
_jugera_;[331] it professed, that is, to reinforce an injunction which
had been persistently disobeyed, for this enactment restricting
possession had never been repealed. The extent to which a proposal of
this kind is a re-enactment, in the spirit as well as in the letter,
depends entirely on the length of time which has elapsed since the
original proposal has begun to be violated. A political society, which
recognises custom as one of the bases of law, must recognise desuetude
as equally valid. A law, which has not been enforced for centuries,
would, by the common consent of the courts of such nations as favour
progressive legislation, be regarded as no law at all. Again, the age of
an ordinance determines its suitability to present conditions. It may be
justifiable to revive an enactment that is centuries old; but the
revival should not necessarily dignify itself with that name. It must be
regarded as a new departure, unless the circumstances of the old and the
new enactment can be proved to be approximately the same. Our attempts
to judge the Gracchan law by these considerations are baffled by our
ignorance of the real date of the previous enactment, the stringency of
whose measures he wished to renew. If it was the Licinian law of the
middle of the fourth century,[332] this law must have been renewed, or
must still have continued to be observed, at a period not very long
anterior to the Gracchan proposal; for Cato could point his argument
against the declaration of war with Rhodes by an appeal to a provision
attributed to this measure[333]--an appeal which would have been
pointless, had the provision fallen into that oblivion which persistent
neglect of an enactment must bring to all but the professed students of
law. We can at least assert that the charge against Gracchus of reviving
an enactment so hoary with age as to be absurdly obsolete, is not one of
the charges to be found even in those literary records which were most
unfriendly to his legislation.[334]

The general principle of the measure was, therefore, the limitation to
five hundred _jugera_ of the amount of public land that could be
"possessed" by an individual. The very definition of the tenure
immediately exempted large portions of the State's domain from the
operation of this rule.[335] The Campanian land was leased by the State
to individuals, not merely possessed by them as the result of an
occupation permitted by the government; it, therefore, fell outside the
scope of the measure;[336] but, as it was technically public land and
its ownership was vested in the State, it would have been hazardous to
presume its exemption; it seems, therefore, to have been specifically
excluded from the operation of the bill, and a similar exception was
probably made in favour of many other tracts of territory held under a
similar tenure.[337] Either Gracchus declined to touch any interest that
could properly describe itself as "vested," even though it took merely
the form of a leasehold, or he valued the secure and abundant revenue
which flowed into the coffers of the State from these domains. There
were other lands strictly "public" where the claim of the holders was
still stronger, and where dispossession without the fullest compensation
must have been regarded as mere robbery. We know from later legislation
that respect was had to such lands as the Trientabula, estates which had
been granted by the Roman government at a quit rent to its creditors, as
security for that portion of a national debt which had never been
repaid. It is less certain what happened in the case of lands of which
the usufruct alone had been granted to communities of Roman citizens or
Latin colonists. Ownership in this case still remained vested in the
Roman people, and if the right of usufruct had been granted by law, it
could be removed by law. In the case of Latin communities, however, it
was probably guaranteed by treaty, which no mere law could touch: and so
similar were the conditions of Roman and Latin communities in this
particular, that it is probable that the land whose use was conferred on
whole communities by these ancient grants, was wholly spared by the
Gracchan legislation. In the case of those commons which were possessed
by groups of villagers for the purposes of pasturage (_ager
compascuus_),[338] it is not likely that the group was regarded as the
unit: and therefore, even in the case of such an aggregate possessing
over five hundred _jugera_, their occupation was probably left

All other possessors must vacate the land which exceeded the prescribed
limit. Such an ordinance would have been harsh, had no compensation been
allowed, and Gracchus proposed certain amends for the loss sustained. In
the first place, the five hundred _jugera_ retained by each possessor
were to be increased by half as much again for each son that he might
possess: although it seems that the amount retained was not to exceed
one thousand _jugera_.[339] Secondly, the land so secured to existing
possessors was not to be held on a merely precarious tenure, and was not
to be burdened by the payment of dues to the State; even if ownership
was not vested in its holders, they were guaranteed gratuitous
undisturbed possession in perpetuity.[340] Thirdly, the bill as
originally drafted even suggested some monetary compensation for the
land surrendered.[341] This compensation was probably based on a
valuation of stock, buildings, and recent permanent improvements, which
were to be found on the territory now reverting to the State. It must
have applied for the most part only to arable land, and practically
amounted to a purchase by the State of items to which it could lay no
legal claim; for it was the soil alone, not the buildings on the soil,
over which its lordship could properly be asserted.

The object of reclaiming the public land was its future distribution
amongst needy citizens. This distribution might have taken either of two
forms. Fresh colonies might have been planted, or the acquired land

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