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JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY STUDIES
HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL SCIENCE
HERBERT B. ADAMS, Editor
* * * * *
History is past Politics and Politics present History--_Freeman_
* * * * *
PUBLIC LANDS AND AGRARIAN LAWS
BY ANDREW STEPHENSON, PH.D.
_Professor of History, Wesleyan University_
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THE JOHNS HOPKINS PRESS
Copyright, 1891, BY THE JOHNS HOPKINS PRESS.
In the following pages it has been my object to trace the history of the
domain lands of Rome from the earliest times to the establishment of the
Empire. The plan of the work has been to sketch the origin and growth of
the idea of private property in land, the expansion of the _ager publicus_
by the conquest of neighboring territories, and its absorption by means of
sale, by gift to the people, and by the establishment of colonies, until
wholly merged in private property. This necessarily involves a history of
the agrarian laws, as land distributions were made and colonies established
only in accordance with laws previously enacted.
My reason for undertaking such a work as the present is found in the fact
that agrarian movements have borne more or less upon every point in Roman
constitutional history, and a proper knowledge of the former is necessary
to a just interpretation of the latter.
This whole question presents numerous obscurities before which it has been
necessary more than once to hesitate; it offers, both in its entirety and
in detail, difficulties which I have at least earnestly endeavored
to lessen. These obscurities and difficulties, arising in part from
insufficiency of historical evidence and in part from the conflicting
statements of the old historians, have been recognized by all writers and
call forth on my part no claim for indulgence.
This monograph is intended as a chapter merely of a history of the public
lands and agrarian laws of Rome, written for the purpose of a future
comparison with the more recent agrarian movements in England and America.
MlDDLETOWN, CONN. _May_ 8, 1891.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
Sec. 1. LANDED PROPERTY
" 2. QUIRITARIAN OWNERSHIP
" 3. AGER PUBLICUS
" 4. ROMAN COLONIES
Sec. 5. LEX CASSIA
" 6. AGRARIAN MOVEMENTS BETWEEN 486 AND 367
(a) Extension of Territory by conquest up to the year 367 B.C.
(b) Colonies Founded between 454 and 367
Sec. 7. LEX LICINIA
" 8. AGRARIAN MOVEMENTS BETWEEN 367 AND 133
(a) Extension of Territory by conquest between 367 and 133
(b) Colonies Founded between 367 and 133
Sec. 9. LATIFUNDIA
" 10. INFLUENCE OF SLAVERY
" 11. LEX SEMPRONIA TIBERIANA
" 12. LEX SEMPRONIA GAIANA
Sec.13. LEX THORIA
" 14. AGRARIAN MOVEMENTS BETWEEN 111 AND 86
" 15. EFFECT OF THE SULLAN REVOLUTION
" 16. AGRARIAN MOVEMENTS BETWEEN 86 AND 59
" 17. LEX JULIA AGRARIA
" 18. DISTRIBUTION OF LAND AFTER THE CIVIL WAR BETWEEN CAESAR AND POMPEY
" 19. DISTRIBUTIONS FROM THE DEATH OF CAESAR TO THE TIME OF AUGUSTUS
(a) Lex Agraria of Lucius Antonius
(b) Lex de Colonis in Agros Deducendis
(c) Second Triumvirate
PUBLIC LANDS AND AGRARIAN LAWS OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC.
SEC. 1.--LANDED PROPERTY.
The Romans were a people that originally gave their almost exclusive
attention to agriculture and stock-raising. The surnames of the most
illustrious families, as Piso (miller), Porcius (swine-raiser), Lactucinius
(lettuce-raiser), Stolo (a shoot), etc., prove this. To say that a man was
a good farmer was, at one time, to bestow upon him the highest praise.
This character, joined to the spirit of order and private avarice which
in a marked degree distinguished the Romans, has contributed to the
development among them of a civil law which is perhaps the most remarkable
monument which antiquity has left us. This civil code has become the basis
of the law of European peoples, and recommends the civilization of Rome to
the veneration of mankind.
The corner-stone of this legislation was the constitution of the law of
property. This property applies itself to everything in the law of Rome,
to land, to persons and to obligations.
_Urbs_, the name of the village, takes its origin, according to an
etymology given by Varro, from the furrow which the plow traced about
the habitations of the earliest dwellers. But what is of more interest to
us is that the legal signification of _Urbs_ and _Roma_ was different. The
former was the village comprised within the sacred enclosure; the latter
was the total agglomeration of habitations which composed the village,
properly so called, and the outskirts, or suburbs. The powers of
certain magistrates ceased with the sacred limits of the _Urbs_, while the
privileges accorded to a citizen of Rome extended to the village and the
suburbs and finally embraced the entire Roman world.
The most ancient documents which have reached us from the history of India
and Egypt reveal that they had landed property fully established, while
Roman annals reveal to us the very creation of this institution. Whatever
modern criticism may deduce, Dionysius, Plutarch, Livy, and Cicero agree in
representing the first king of Rome as merely establishing public property
in Roman soil. This national property, the people possessed in common and
not individually. Such appears to us to be the quiritarian property _par
excellence_ and its primitive form was a variety of public community
of which individual property was but a later solemn emancipation. To this
historic theory attaches the true notion of quiritarian land of which we
will speak in greater detail hereafter.
As regards the organization and constitution of individual and private
property, the traditions themselves attribute this to the second king of
Rome, the real founder of Roman society, who divided the territory among
the citizens, marking off the limits of individual shares and placing them
under the protection of religion. In this way a religious charter was
granted to the institutions of private property. Thus a primitive division
of territory appears to have been the basis of these varied traditions, but
the precise form of this division eludes us.
The Roman territory was confined for many ages to a surface of very limited
extent, which properly bore the name of _Ager Romanus_. This name with
signification slightly changed appeared to be still in use in the time of
the empire, and even at the present day a portion of the Roman territory
which very nearly corresponds to the ancient territory of the imperial
period is called _Agro Romano._ That which was properly called _Ager
Romanus_ at first only occupied the surface of a slightly expanded arc
whose chord was the river Tiber. Primitive Rome did not extend beyond
the Tiber into Etruria, and toward Latium her possessions did not extend
beyond the limits of some five or six miles reckoning from the Palatine.
Toward the east the towns of Antemnae, Fidenae, Caenina, Collatia and Gabia
lay in the immediate neighborhood, thus limiting the extension of the city
in that direction within a radius of five or six miles; and northward
the Anio formed the limit. To the southwest as you approach Lavinium,
the sixth milestone marked the boundary of Rome. Thus with the possible
exception of a small strip of land extending upon either bank of the Tiber
to its mouth, and embracing the old site of Ostia, have we marked out
all of ancient Rome. Strabo says it could be gone round in a single
day. And according to this same author it was within these limits that the
annual auspices could be taken.
Both city and land increased with time. Property seemed to have been added
and lost successively during the reign of the kings. The last increase
of the _Ager Romanus_ was due to the labors of Servius Tullius, and it was
in the reign of this king that it reached its greatest limit. Dionysius
says: "As soon as he (Servius) was invested with the government, he divided
the public lands among such of the Romans as having no lands of their own,
cultivated those of others.... He added two hills to the city, that called
the Viminal and the Esquiline hill, each of which forms a considerable
city; these he divided among such Romans as had no houses, to the intent
that they might build them.... This king was the last who enlarged the
circumference of the city by the addition of these two hills to the other
five, having first consulted the auspices as the law decided, and performed
the other religious rites. Further than this the city has not since then
been extended." Without doubt these possessions received great additions in
later times, but they were not incorporated in the _Ager Romanus_ as
the preceding had been. The subjugated territories kept their ancient names
while their lands were made the object of distributions to the people, of
public sales to the citizens who also extended their possessions outside of
Roman territory, or else the new conquests were abandoned to municipia,
given up to colonies, or became a part of that which was called _Ager
Publicus_. In fine, it was a fundamental principle of the public law of
Rome that the lands and the persons of the people conquered belonged to the
conqueror, the Roman people, who either in person or by their delegates
disposed of them as it seemed best. Among the ancients war always decided
concerning both liberty and property.
The result of all these facts was that the Roman territory was made the
object of a division or a primitive distribution either among the three
races of the first population, or a little later among the citizens or
inhabitants. This very same principle has been frequently observed in
recent times in regard to confiscated territories and conquered
Now what was the allotment of the first distribution of land?
Upon this topic the ancient authorities are blind and confusing to such an
extent as to be wholly inadequate for the solution of the difficulty. Among
the more recent authorities, two opposing systems have been sustained, the
one represented by Montesquieu, and the other by Niebuhr. (1) According to
Montesquieu, the kings of Rome divided the land into perfectly equal lots
for all the citizens and the title of the law of the Twelve Tables relative
to successions was for no other object than to establish this ancient
equality of the division of lands. (2) Niebuhr, on the contrary,
claimed that territorial property was primitively the attribute of the
patriciate and everyone who was not a member of this noble race was
incapable of possessing any part of the territory. From this theory the
author deduced numerous consequences which are important both to law and
history. Neither of these systems is free from errors. Montesquieu seems to
have made no difference between patrician and plebeian in using the term
_citizen_, while it is no longer disputed that the plebeian was not a
burgess and consequently had no civic rights save those granted to him by
the ruling class. His idea of goods must have, at least, become chimerical
at a very early date, as this equality was so little suspected by the
ancients that Plutarch, after having spoken of the efforts of Lycurgus
to overturn the inequality of wealth among the Spartans, accuses Numa of
having neglected a necessity so important. It is moreover difficult to
see how Montesquieu could think that testamentary disposition tended to
maintain equality when the privilege was accorded to every citizen of
disposing of his entire patrimony by will even to the prejudice of his
children. Again, the law of debts was hardly favorable to equality.
Niebuhr clearly denied the existence of the plebs until Ancus
incorporated the Latins and bestowed upon them peculiar privileges thus
forming a new and third class distinct from both patricians and clients.
Had Niebuhr succeeded in establishing this view, the right to landed
property would appear to be wholly vested in the patricians, for a client,
from the very nature of his position, could hold nothing independent of
his master. But this theory has fallen to the ground and no writer of the
present day pretends to uphold it. The plebeians existed from the very
first and some of them held land in full private ownership very little
different from the quiritarian ownership of the patricians. Cicero, who in
his Republic has occupied himself with the ancient constitution of Rome
and has spoken in detail of the division of the lands, always speaks of the
distribution among the citizens without regard to quality of patrician
or plebeian, _divisit viritim civibus_. He has nowhere written that
territorial riches were the exclusive appanage of the patriciate. It must
be confessed, however, that it is doubtful whether he intended to embrace
the plebeians in his _civibus_. For more than two centuries before the time
of Cicero the plebeians had enjoyed the full rights of Roman citizenship,
but for more than that length of time property had been concentrated in
the hands of the aristocracy. This result was the consequence of the Roman
constitution and the establishment of a populous city in the midst of a
narrow surrounding country. Roman policy had never been conducive to this
concentration, and it will hereafter appear that the nobility who had the
chief direction and administration of public affairs had little by little
usurped the property which formed the domain of the state, _i.e. Ager
Publicus_, and swallowed up the revenues due the treasury.
[Footnote 1: Cato, _De Re Rustica_, I, lines 3-8. "Majores nostri ... virum
bonum cum laudabant, ita laudabant, bonum agricolam bonumque colonum.
Amplissime laudari existimabatur, qui ita laudabatur."]
[Footnote 2: Muirhead, _Roman Law_, 36 _et seq_.]
[Footnote 3: Varro, _De Lingua Latina_, V, 143.]
[Footnote 4: Frag, to Digest, 287 and 147 of Title 16, Bk. 50 with notes of
Schultung and Small.]
[Footnote 5: Plutarch's _Romulus_, Sec. 19.]
[Footnote 6: Mommsen, _History of Rome_, l, 194.]
[Footnote 7: Sismondi, _Etudes sur l'econ. polit._, 1, 2, Sec. 1.]
[Footnote 8: Pseudo Fabius Pictor, Bk. I, p. 54; Plut., _Numa_, 16; Festus
V deg. Pectustum Palati, p. 198 and 566, Lindemann.]
[Footnote 9: Arnold, _Roman History_, I, ch. 3, par. 4.]
[Footnote 10: Mommsen, I, 75.]
[Footnote 11: Strabo, Bk. 5, 253.]
[Footnote 12: Strabo, Bk. 5, ch. 3, Sec. 2.]
[Footnote 13: Arnold, I, ch. 3.]
[Footnote 14: Dionysius, II, 55; V, 33, 36; III, 49-50; Livy, I, 23-36.]
[Footnote 15: Dionysius, IV, 13.]
[Footnote 16: Varro, _De Lingua Latina_, V, 33.]
[Footnote 17: Sigonius, _De Antiq. Juris Civ. Rom_., Bk. I, ch. 2.]
[Footnote 18: Hume's _Hist, of Eng_., I, ch. 4: IV, ch. 61.]
[Footnote 19: _Esprit des lois_, Liv. 27, c. 1.]
[Footnote 20: _Roman Hist_., II, 164; III, 175 and 211.]
[Footnote 21: Lycurgus and Numa, II; Cicero, _De Repub_., II, 9.]
[Footnote 22: Muirhead, _Roman Law_, 46 and note--"uti legasset suae rei
ita jus esto."]
[Footnote 23: Muirhead, 92-96.]
[Footnote 24: Niebuhr, I.]
[Footnote 25: Momm., I, 126; Ihne, I; Nitzsch, _Geschichte der roemischen
Republik_, 52; Lange, _Roemische Geschichte_, I, 18.]
[Footnote 26: Dureau de la Malle, _Mem. sur les pop. de l'Italie, 500 et
SEC. 2.--QUIRITARIAN OWNERSHIP.
Citizenship was the first requisite to the right of property in Roman
territory. This rule, although invariable and inherent in the Roman state,
bent under the influence of international politics or the philosophy of
law, yet its severity affords us a notable characteristic of the law of
ancient Rome. Cicero and Gaius have preserved to us an important monument
of this law in a fragment of the Twelve Tables which proclaims the solemn
principle, _adversus hostem aeterna auctoritas esto. Hostis_ in the old
Latin language was synonymous with stranger, _perigrinus_ This Roman
name was moreover applied to a person who had forfeited the protection
of the law by reason of a criminal condemnation, and who was therefore
_Auctoritas_ also had in old Latin a different signification from what it
has in later Latin. It expressed the idea of the right to claim and defend
in equity. It was very nearly equivalent to the right of property. The
sense of the Roman law was, then, that the _peregrinus_ could not bar or
proceed against a Roman, a disposition somewhat similar to the old law of
England. And as it was necessary to be a citizen in order to acquire by
the civil and solemn means which dominated the law of property in Rome, it
followed that the _peregrini_ were excluded from all right to property in
land by these laws. This exclusive legislation for a long time governed
Europe and did not disappear even from the Code Napoleon of 1819.
We have a forcible example of the severity of the old Roman law in this
regard in the text of Gaius,--_Aut enim ex jure quiritium unusquisque
dominus erat, aut non intelligebatur dominus._
_Dominium_ was therefore inseparable from _Jus Quiritium,_ the law of
the Roman city, the _optimum jus civium Romanorum_. The _peregrinus_ was
excluded from landed property both Roman and private; he could neither
inherit nor transmit; claim nor defend in equity. Moreover the name
_peregrinus_ was not confined to the stranger proper but was also bestowed
upon subjects of Rome who, being deprived of their property and also
of political liberty by right of conquest, had not received the right of
citizenship which was for a long time confined within very narrow limits.
It would thus appear conclusive from the law quoted that the client and
plebeian could not at first hold land _optimo ex jure quiritium_.
Thus the tenure of the patricians was threefold: First, they had full
property in the land; second, they had a seigniorial right, _jus in re_, in
the land of their clients and the plebeians whose property belonged to the
_populus, i.e._ the generality of the patricians; in the third place, in
their own hands, they held lands which were portions of the domain and
which were held by a very precarious tenure called _possessio_.
According to Ihne, all lands in Rome were held by the above mentioned
tenure until the enactment of the Icilian law _de Aventino publicando_
which involved a change of tenure by converting the former dependent and
incumbered tenure of the plebeians into full property.
[Footnote 1: De Officiis, I, 12; Gaius, Frag., 234: Digest, 50, 16.]
[Footnote 2: Varro, De L.L.V. 14; Plautus, _Trinummus_, Act I, Scene 2, V.
75; Harper's _Latin Dictionary_; Cicero, _De Off_., I, 12: "Hostis enim
apud majores nostros is dicibatur, quem nunc peregrinum dicimus."]
[Footnote 3: Cic., _loc. cit._; Gaius, Frag., 234.]
[Footnote 4: Forcellini, _Lexic._; Harper's _Latin Lex_.]
[Footnote 5: _i.e._ The descendents of a person escheated could bring no
action for the recovery of the property.]
[Footnote 6: Giraud, _Recherches sur le Droit de Propriete_, p. 210.]
[Footnote 7: Gaius, Bk. II, 40.]
[Footnote 8: Ulpian, Frag., Title XIX, 4; Giraud, 216.]
SEC. 3.--AGER PUBLICUS.
In her early history Rome was continually making fresh conquests, and in
this way adding to her territory. She steadfastly pursued a course of
destruction to her neighbors in order that she might thereby grow rich and
powerful. In this way large tracts of territory became Roman land, the
property of the state or _Ager Publicus._
This public land extended in proportion to the success of the Roman arms,
since the confiscation of the territory of the vanquished was, in the
absence of more favorable terms, a part of the law of war. All conquered
lands before being granted or sold to private individuals were _Ager
Publicus_ a term which with few exceptions came to embrace the whole
This _Ager Publieus_ was farther increased by towns voluntarily
surrendering themselves to Rome without awaiting the iron hand of war.
These were commonly mulcted of one-third of their land. "The soil of
the country is not the product of labor any more than is water or air.
Individual citizens cannot therefore lay any claim to lawful property in
land as to anything produced by their own hands." The state in this
case, as the representative of the rights and interests of society, decides
how the land shall be divided among the members of the community, and the
rules laid down by the state to regulate this matter are of the first and
highest importance in determining the civil condition of the country and
the prosperity of the people. Whenever but one class among the people
is privileged to have property in land a most exclusive oligarchy is
formed. When the land is held in small portions by a great number and
nobody is legally or practically excluded from acquiring land, there we
find provided the elements of democracy.
According to the strictest right of conquest in antiquity the defeated lost
not only their personal freedom, their moveable and landed property, but
even life itself. All was at the mercy of the conquerors. In practice a
modification of this right took place and in Rome extreme severity was
applied only in extreme cases, generally as a punishment for treason.
This magnanimity was not rare and it even went so far as to restore the
whole of the territory to the people subdued. But let us not suppose
that this humanity toward a conquered people sprang from any pity inspired
by their forlorn condition. It was due merely to the interest of the
conquerors themselves. The conquered lands must still be cultivated and the
depleted population restored. For this reason the conquered had generally
not only life and freedom left them but also the means of livelihood,
_i.e._ some portion of their land. This portion they held subject to no
restrictions or services save those levied upon quiritarian property. It
was private property to the full legal extent of the expression, thus being
in the unlimited disposition of the individual. These people formed
the nucleus of the plebeians, the freemen who were members of the Roman
state without actually having any political rights.
The _Ager Publicus_ was the property of the state and as such could be
alienated only by the state. This alienation could be accomplished in
(a). By public sale;
(b). By gratuitous distribution.
(a). The public sale was merely an auction to the highest bidder and in the
later days of the monarchy and early part of the republic, rich plebeians
must have become possessed of large tracts of land in this way; the
privilege of acquiring property in land having been extended to them some
time before the Servian reform.
(b). The gratuitous distribution of land was accomplished by means of
Agrarian Laws or royal grant and had for its object the establishment of
colonies for purposes of defence, the rewarding of veterans or meritorious
soldiers, or in later times, the providing for impoverished plebeians.
But even in the earliest times a portion of the domain lands was excluded
from sale or private appropriation, in order to serve as a resource for
the needs of the state.
This was the general usage of ancient republics and this maxim of reserved
lands was recommended by Aristotle as the first principle of political
Such reserved _ager publicus_ was leased either in periods of five years
(quinquennial leaseholds) or perpetually, _i.e. _, by emphyteutic lease
or copyhold. From these lands the treasury received an income of from
one-tenth to one-fifth of the annual crops.
Besides these legal methods mentioned there was another very common one
which was seemingly never established by any law and therefore existed
merely by title of tolerance. I speak of the indefinite _possessio_ which
was nothing but an occupation on the part of the patricians of the land
belonging to the state and was in nature quite similar to the so-called
"squatting" commonly practiced in some of our western states and
territories. The title to the enjoyment of the public lands was at first
clearly vested in the patricians nor was this right extended to the
plebeians until after they had been admitted to full citizenship. With
regard to the state the _possessor_ was merely a tenant at will and
could be removed whenever desired; but as regarded other persons he was
like the owner of the soil and could alienate the land which he
occupied either for a term of years, or forever, as if he were the real
proprietor. The public land thus occupied was looked to as a resource
upon the admission of new citizens. They customarily received a small
freehold according to the general notion of antiquity that a burgess must
be a landowner. This land could only be found by a divison of that which
belonged to the public, and a consequent ejectment of the tenants at will.
In the Greek states every large accession to the number of citizens was
followed by a call for a division of the public lands and, as this division
involved the sacrifice of many existing interests, it was regarded with
aversion by the old burgesses as an act of revolution.
A great part of the wealth of the Romans consisted in domains of this kind,
and the question will occur to the thoughtful mind how the government
was able to keep the most distinguished part of her citizens in a legal
position so uncertain and alarming. English law is very different from the
Roman in this respect and would decide in favor of the tenant and against
the state. It is fairly possible that this uncertainty of tenure tended to
render the government more stable and less liable to sudden revolutionary
movements, thus having the same effect upon the Roman government which
funded debts have upon the nations of to-day.
[Footnote 1: Long, _Decline of the Roman Rep_., I, ch. 11.]
[Footnote 2: Muirhead, _Roman Law_, 92.]
[Footnote 3: Ortolan, _Histoire de la legislation Romaine_, p. 21.]
[Footnote 4: Mommsen, I, 131; Arnold, I, 157.]
[Footnote 5: Dionysius, IV, 11, Livy.]
[Footnote 6: Ihne, I, 175.]
[Footnote 7: Ihne, I, 175.]
[Footnote 8: Livy, Bk. I, c. 38, with note by Drachenborch; Livy, Bk. VII,
[Footnote 9: Siculus Flaccus, _De Conditione Agrorum_, 2, 3: "Ut vero
Romani omnium gentium potiti sunt, agros alios ex hoste captos in victorem
populum partiti sunt, alios verro agros vendiderunt, ut Sabinorum ager qui
[Footnote 10: Cicero, in Verrem, II, Bk. 3, Sec. 6.]
[Footnote 11: Giraud, _Droit de propriete chez les romains_, 160.]
[Footnote 12: Ihne, I, 175.]
[Footnote 13: Muirhead, 92; Giraud, 165.]
[Footnote 14: Higin., _De Limit. Const. apud Goes. Rei Agr. Script._, pp.
[Footnote 15: Giraud, 164.]
[Footnote 16: Dionysius, II, 7.]
[Footnote 17: Aristotle, _Polit._, [Greek: Z. Keph. th. 7: Anagkaion toinun
eis duo merae diaeraesthai taen choran kai ton men einai koinaen, taen de
[Footnote 18: Giraud, 163.]
[Footnote 19: Festus, p. 209, Lindemann; Cicero, ad Att. II, 15; Philipp.
V, 7; De Leg. Agr. I, 2, III, 3; De Off. II, 22; Livy, II, 61, IV, 51, 53,
VI, 4, 15; Suet. Julius Caesar, 38; Octavius, 13, 32; Caesar, De Bell. Civ.,
I, 17; Orosius, V, 18.]
[Footnote 20: Aggenus Urbicus, p. 69, ed. Goes.]
[Footnote 21: Giraud, 185-187; Mommsen, I, 110; Ortolan, 227; Hunter,
_Roman Law,_ 367.]
SEC. 4.--ROMAN COLONIES.
Probably in no other way does the Roman government so clearly reveal its
nature and strength as in its method of colonization. No other nation,
ancient or modern, has ever so completely controlled her colonies as did
the Roman. Her civil law, indeed, reflected itself in both political and
international relations. In Greece, as soon[l] as a boy had attained a
certain age his name was inscribed upon the tribal rolls and henceforth he
was free from the _potestas_ of his father and owed him only the marks
of respect which nature demanded. So too, at a certain age, the colonies
separated themselves from their mother city without losing their
remembrance of a common origin. This was not so in Rome. The children
were always under the _potestas_ of their parents. By analogy therefore,
the colonies ought to remain subject to their mother city. Greek colonies
went forth into a strange land which had never been conquered by Hellenic
arms or hitherto trod by Grecian foot. Roman colonies were established
by government upon land which had been previously conquered and which
therefore belonged to the Roman domain. The Greek was fired with an
ambition to obtain wealth and personal distinction, being wholly free to
bend his efforts to personal ends. Not so the Roman. He sacrificed self for
the good of the state. Instead of the allurements of wealth he received
some six jugera of land, free from taxation it is true, but barely enough
to reward the hardest labor with scanty subsistence. Instead of the hope of
personal distinction, he in most cases sacrificed the most valuable of his
rights, _jus suffragii et jus_ _honorum_ and suffered what was called
_capitis diminutio_. He devoted himself, together with wife and family, to
a life-long military service. In fact the Romans used colonization as a
means to strengthen their hold upon their conquests in Italy and to
extend their dominion from one centre over a large extent of country. Roman
colonies were not commercial. In this respect they differed from those of
the Phoenicians and Greeks. Their object was essentially military
and from this point of view they differed from the colonies of both the
ancients and moderns. Their object was the establishment of Roman power.
The colonists marched out as a garrison into a conquered town and were
exposed to dangers on all sides. Every colony acted as a fortress to
protect the boundary and keep subjects to their allegiance to Rome. This
establishment was not a matter of individual choice nor was it left to any
freak of chance. A decree of the senate decided when and where a colony
should be sent out, and the people in their assemblies elected individual
members for colonization.
From another point of view Roman colonies were similar to those of Greece,
since their result was to remove from the centre to distant places the
superabundant population, the dangerous, unquiet, and turbulent.
But the difference in the location of the colonies was easy to distinguish.
In general the Phoenicians and the Greeks as well as modern people founded
their colonies in unoccupied localities. Here they raised up new towns
which were located in places favorable to maritime and commercial
relations. The Romans, on the contrary, avoided establishing colonies in
new places. When they had taken possession of a city, they expelled from it
a part of the inhabitants, whether to transfer them to Rome as at first,
or a little later, when it became necessary to discourage the increase of
Roman population, to more distant places. The population thus expelled was
replaced with Roman and Latin citizens. Thus a permanent garrison was
located which assured the submission of the neighboring countries and
arrested in its incipiency every attempt at revolt. In every respect these
colonies remained under surveillance and in a dependence the most complete
and absolute upon the mother city, Rome. Colonies never became the means
of providing for the impoverished and degraded until the time of Gaius
Gracchus. When new territory was conquered, there went the citizen soldier.
Thus these colonies mark the growth of Roman dominion as the circumscribed
rings mark the annual growth of a tree. These colonies were of two kinds,
Latin and Roman.
1. Latin colonies were those which were composed of Latini and Hernici,
or Romans enjoying the same rights as these, _i.e._ possessed of the Latin
right rather than the Roman franchise. They were established inland as road
fortresses and being located in the vicinity of mountain passes or main
thoroughfares acted as a guard to Rome, and held the enemy in check.
2. Roman, or Burgess, colonies were those composed wholly of Roman
citizens who kept their political rights and consequent close union with
their native city. In some cases Latini were given the full franchise and
permitted to join these colonies. In position as well as rights, these
colonies were distinguished from the Latin, being with few exceptions
situated upon the coast and thus acting as guards against foreign invasion.
_Table of Latin Colonies in Italy_.
COLONIES. | LOCATION. | B.C. | AUTHORITIES.
1 Signia. | Latium. | ? | Livy, 1, 56; Dionys., 4, 63.
2 Cerceii. | " | ? | Id.
3 Suessa Pometia.| " | ? | Livy, 2, 16.
4 Cora. | " | ? | Livy, 2, 16.
5 Velitrae. | " | 494 | Livy, 2, 30, 31 ; Dionys.,
| | | 6, 42, 43.
6 Norba. | " | 492 | Livy, 2, 34; Dionys , 7, 13.
7 Antium. | " | 467 | " 3, 1; " 9, 59.
8 Ardea. | " | 442 | " 4, 11; Diodor., 12,34.
9 Satricum. | " | 385 | " 6, 14.
10 Sutrum. | Etruria. | 383 | Vell., 1, 14.
11 Nepete. | " | 383 | Livy, 6, 21; Vell.
12 Setia. | Latium. | 382 | Vell., 1,14; Livy, 6, 30.
13 Cales. | Campania. | 334 | " 1,14; " 8,16.
14 Fregellae. | Latium. | 328 | Livy, 8, 22.
15 Luceria. | Apulia. | 314 | " Epit., 60.
16 Suessa. | | 313 | " 9, 28.
17 Pontiae. | Isle of Latium.| 313 | " 9, 28.
18 Saticula. | Samnium. | 313 | " 9, 22; Vell., 1, 14;
| | | Festus, p. 340.
19 Interamna | | |
Lirinas. | Latium. | 312 | Livy, 9, 28; Vell, 1, 14;
| | | Diodor., 19, 105.
20 Sora. | " | 303 | Livy, 10, 1; Vell., 1, 14.
21 Alba. | " | 303 | " 10, 1; " 1, 14.
22 Narnia. | Umbria. | 299 | " 10, 10.
23 Carseola. | Latium. | 298 | " 10, 13.
24 Venusia. | Apulia. | 291 | Vell., 1, 14; Dionys. Ex.,
| | | 2335.
25 Hatria. | Picenum. | 289 | Livy, Epit., 11.
26 Cosa. | Campania. | 273 | " " 14; Vell., 1, 14.
27 Paestum. | Lucania. | 273 | Id. Id.
28 Ariminum. | | 268 | Vell., 1, 14; L. Epit., 15;
| | | Eutrop., 2, 16.
29 Beneventum. | Samnium. | 268 | Vell., 1, 14; L. Epit., 15;
| | | Eutrop., 2, 16.
30 Firmum. | Picenum. | 264 | Vell., 1, 14.
31 Aesernia. | Samnium. | 263 | " 1, 14; L. Epit., 16.
32 Brundisium. | Calabria. | 244 | " 1, 14; " 19.
33 Spoletium. | Umbria. | 241 | " 1, 14; " 20.
34 Cremona. | Gallia Cis. | 218 | Tacitus, _Hist_., 3,35.
35 Placentia. | " " | 218 | L. Epit., 20; Polyb., 3, 40;
| | | V. 1, 14, 8.
36 Copia. | Lucania. | 193 | Livy, 34, 53.
37 Valentia. | Bruttii. | 192 | " 34, 40; 35,40.
38 Bononia. | Gallia Cis. | 189 | " 37, 57; Vell., 1, 15.
39 Aquileia. | Gallia Trans. | 181 | " 40, 34; " "
_Table of Civic Colonies in Italy._
COLONIES. | LOCATION. | B.C. | AUTHORITY.
1 Ostea. | Latium. | 418 | Livy, 1, 33; Dionys., 3, 44;
| | | Polyb., 6, 29; Cic. de R.R.,
| | | 2, 18, 33.
2 Labici. | " | 418 | Livy, 4, 47, 7.
3 Antium. | " | 338 | " 8, 14.
4 Auxur. | " | 329 | " 8, 21; 27, 38; Vell. 1, 14.
5 Minturnae. | Campania. | 296 | Livy, 10, 21.
6 Sinuessa. | " | 296 | " 10, 21; 27, 38.
7 Sena Gallica. | Umbria. | 283 | " Epit., 11; Vell., 1, 14, 8.
8 Castrum Novum. | Picenum. | 283 | Livy, Epit., 11; Vell.,1,14,8.
9 Aesium. |Umbria. | 247 | Vell., 1, 14, 8.
10 Alsium. | Etruria. | 247 | " 1, 14, 8; L. Epit., 19;
| | | L., 36, 3.
11 Fregena. | " | 245 | Livy, 36, 3.
12 Pyrgi. | " | 191 | " "
13 Puteoli. | Campania. | 194 | " 34, 45.
14 Volturnum. | " | 194 | Id.
15 Liturnum. | " | 194 | Id.
16 Salernum. | " | 194 | Id.
17 Buxentum. | Lucania. | 194 | Livy, 34, 45.
18 Sipontum. | Apulia. | 194 | Id.
19 Tempsa. | Bruttii. | 194 | Id.
20 Croton. | " | 194 | Id.
21 Potentia. | Picenum. | 184 | Livy, 39, 44.
22 Pisaurum. | Umbria. | 184 | " " "
23 Parma. | Gallia Cis. | 183 | " " 55.
24 Mutina. | Gallia Cis. | 183 | Livy, 39, 55.
25 Saturnia. | Etruria. | 183 | " " "
26 Graviscae. | " | 181 | " 40, 39.
27 Luna. | " | 180 | " 41, 13.
28 Auximum. | Picenum. | 157 | Vell., 1, 15, 3.
29 Fabrateria. | Latium. | 124 | " 1, 15, 4.
30 Minervia. | Bruttii. | 122 | " 1, 15, 4; Appian B.C.,
| | | 2, 23.
31 Neptunia. | Iapygia. | 122 | Id.
32 Dertona. | Liguria. | 100 | Vell., 1, 15, 5.
33 Eporedia. | Gallia Trans. | 100 | " " "
34 Narbo Martius. | " Narbo. | 118 | Mommsen. (sic.)
[Footnote 1: Bouchaud, M.A., _Dissertation sur les colonies romaines_, pp.
114-222, en Memoires de l'institut Sciences, Morals et Politique, III.]
[Footnote 2: Muirhead's Article on _Roman Law_ in Ency. Brit.; Ihne, I,
[Footnote 3: Momm., I, 145.]
[Footnote 4: Momm., _loc. cit_.]
[Footnote 5: Brutus (App. B.C., II, 140) calls the colonists, [Greek:
phylakas ton pepolemaekoton].]
[Footnote 6: Ihne, I, 236.]
[Footnote 7: Cicero, Ad Att., I,19: "Sentinam urbis exhaurire, et Italiae
solitudinem frequentori posse arbitrabor."]
[Footnote 8: Momm., I, 145.]
[Footnote 9: Marquardt u. Momm., IV, 35-51; Momm., _History of Rome_, I,
108, 539; Madvigi Opuscula Academica, I, 208-305.]
[Footnote 10: Marquardt u. Momm., IV, 35-51; Ihne, vols. I-V; Momm., vols.
I-V; Madvigi Opus., _loc. cit_.]
Sec. 5.--Lex Cassia.
Every year added to the difference between the patrician and plebeian, the
rich and the poor; a difference which had now grown so great as to threaten
seriously the very existence of the state. The most sagacious of all the
plans which had been proposed to stop this evil, was that set forth by
Spurius Cassius, a noble patrician now acting as consul for the third[l]
time. In the year 268, he submitted to the burgesses a proposal to have
the public land surveyed, that portion belonging to the populus set aside
and the remainder divided among the plebeians or leased for the benefit
of the public treasury.
He thus attempted to wrest from the senate the control of the public land
and, with the aid of the Latini and the plebeians, to put an end to the
system of occupation. The lands which he proposed to divide were solely
those which the state had acquired through conquest since the general
assignment by king Servius, and which it still retained. This was the
first measure by which it was proposed to disturb the possessors in their
peaceful occupation of the state lands, and, according to Livy, such a
measure had never been proposed from then to the time in which he was
writing, under Augustus, without exciting the greatest disturbance.
Cassius might well suppose that his personal distinction and the equity
and wisdom of the measure would carry it through, even amidst the storm of
opposition to which it was subjected. Like many other reformers equally
well meaning, he was mistaken.
The citizens who occupied this land had grown rich by reason of its
possessions. Some of them received it as an inheritance, and doubtless
looked upon it as their property as much as the _Ager Romanus_. These to a
man opposed the bill. The patricians arose en masse. The rich plebeians,
the aristocracy of wealth, took part with them. Even the commons were
dissatisfied because Spurius Cassius proposed in accordance with federal
rights and equity to bestow a portion of the land upon the Latini and
Hernici, their confederates and allies. The bill proposed by Cassius,
together with such provisions as were necessary, became a law, according to
Niebuhr, because the tribunes had no power to bring forward a law of any
kind before the plebeian tribes obtained a voice in the legislature by the
enactment of the Publilian law in 472 B.C.; so that when they afterwards
made use of the agrarian law to excite the public passions it must have
been one previously enacted but dishonestly set aside and, in Dionysius'
account, this is the form which the commotion occasioned by it takes.
Though this is doubtless true, yet the law, by reason of the combined
opposition, became a dead letter and the people who would have been most
benefited by its enforcement joined with Cassius' enemies at the expiration
of his term of office to condemn him to death. In this way does ignorance
commonly reward its benefactors. This agitation aroused by Cassius, stirred
the Roman Commonwealth, now more than twenty years old, to its very
foundations, but it had no immediate effect upon the _ager publicus_. The
rich patrician together with the few plebeians who had wealth enough to
farm this land, still held undisputed possession. The poor plebeian still
continued to shed his blood on the battle field to add to Roman territory,
but no foot of it did he obtain. Wealth centralized. Pauperism increased.
[Footnote 1: Dionysius, VIII, 68; "[Greek: Oi de para touton taen upateian
paralabontaes poplios Ouerginios kai Sporios Kassios, to triton tote
apodeichtheis upotos, k. t. l.]"]
[Footnote 2: Dionysius, VIII, 69; Livy, II, 41, _seq_.]
[Footnote 3: Dionysius, VIII, 81.]
[Footnote 4: Dionysius, VIII, 69; Mommsen, I, 363.]
[Footnote 5: Niebuhr, II, 166.]
[Footnote 6: Livy, II, 41; "Tum primum lex agraria promulgata est nunquam
deinde usque ad hanc memoriam sine maximus motibus rerum agitata."]
[Footnote 7: Livy, II, 41; Dionysius, VIII, 69.]
[Footnote 8: Niebuhr, II.]
[Footnote 9: Dionysius, VIII, 81: [Greek: "Ekklaesiai te sunegeis hypo ton
tote daemarchon eginonto kai apaitaeseis taes hyposcheseos." See also VIII,
87, line 25 _et seq._].]
SEC. 6.--AGRARIAN MOVEMENTS BETWEEN 486 AND 367.
Modern historians who have written upon the Roman Republic have, so far as
I know, passed immediately from the consideration of the _Lex Cassia_ to
the law of Licinius Stolo. Meanwhile more than a century had passed away.
Cassius died in 485, Licinius Stolo proposed his law in 376. During this
century which had beheld the organization of the republic and the growth,
by tardy processes, of the great plebeian body many agrarian laws were
proposed and numerous divisions of the public land took place. Both
Dionysius and Livy mention them. The poor success of the proposition of
Cassius and the evil consequences to himself in no way checked the zeal
of the tribunes. Propositions of agrarian laws followed one another with
wonderful rapidity. Livy enumerates these propositions, but almost wholly
without detail and without comments upon their tendencies or points of
difference from one another or from the law of Cassius. As this law failed
of its object by being disregarded, we may safely conclude that the most of
these propositions were but a reproduction of the law of Cassius.
In 484, and again in 483, the tribune proposed agrarian laws but what their
nature was, Livy, who records them, does not tell us. From some vague
assertions which he makes we may conclude that the point of the law was
well known, and was but a repetition of that of Cassius. The consul
Caeso Fabius, in 484, and his brother Marcus in the following year, secured
the opposition of the senate and succeeded in defeating their laws.
Livy (II, 42,) mentions very briefly a new proposition brought forward
by Spurius Licinius in 482. Here we are able to complete his account by
reference to Dionysius, who says that, in 483, a tribune named Caius
Maenius had proposed an agrarian law and declared that he would oppose
every levy of troops until the senate should execute the law ordaining the
creation of decemvirs to determine the boundaries of the domain land and,
in fine, forbid the enrolment of citizens. The senate was able through the
consuls, Marcus Fabius and Valerius, the ancient colleague of Cassius, to
invent a means of avoiding this difficulty. The authority of the tribunes
by the old Roman law, did not reach without the walls of the city, while
that of the consuls was everywhere equal and only bounded by the limits of
the Roman world. They moved their curule chairs and other insignia of their
authority without the city walls and proceeded with the enrolments. All who
refused to enroll were treated as enemies of the republic. Those who
were proprietors had their property confiscated, their trees cut down, and
their houses burned. Those who were merely farmers saw themselves bereft
of their farm-implements, their oxen and all things necessary for the
cultivation of the soil. The resistance of the tribunes was powerless
against this systematic oppression on the part of the patricians; the
agrarian law failed and the enrolment progressed.
There is some difficulty in determining the facts of the law proposed by
Spurius Licinius of which Livy speaks. Dionysius calls this tribune, not
Licinius but [Greek: Spurios Sikilios]. The Latin translation of Dionysius
has the name Icilius and this has been the name adopted by Sigonius and
other historians. Livy tells us that the Icilian family was at all times
hostile to the patricians and mentions many tribunes by this name who were
staunch defenders of the commons. In accepting this correction, therefore,
it is not necessary to confound this Icilius with the one who proposed the
partition of the Aventine among the plebeians. Icilius, according to both
Livy and Dionysius, made the same demand as the previous tribunes,
_i.e.,_ that the decemvirs should be nominated for the survey and
distribution of the domain lands, according to previous enactment. He
further declared that he would oppose every decree of the senate either for
war or the administration of the interior until the adoption and execution
of his measures. Again the senate avoided the difficulty and escaped, by
a trick, the execution of the law. Appius Claudius, according to
Dionysius, advised the senate to search within the tribunate for a
remedy against itself, and to bribe a number of the colleagues of Icilius
to oppose his measure. This political perfidy was adopted by the senate
with the desired effect. Icilius persisted in his proposition and declared
he would rather see the Etruscans masters of Rome than to suffer for
a longer time the usurpation of the domain lands on the part of the
This somewhat circumstantial account has revealed to us that at this time
it took a majority of the tribunes to veto an act of their colleague. At
the time of the Gracchi the veto of a single tribune was sufficient to
hinder the passage of a law, and Tiberius was for a long time thus checked
by his colleague, Octavius. Then the tribunician college consisted of ten
members, and it would be no very difficult thing to detach one of the
number either by corruption or jealousy. But it is evident that, at the
time we are considering, it took a majority of the tribunes to veto an
act of a colleague; moreover, the college consisted of five members. This
latter fact is seen in the statement of Livy, when he mentions
the opposition which four of the tribunes offered to their colleague,
Pontificius, in 480. In this same case he attributes to Appius Claudius
the conduct which Dionysius attributed to him in the previous year. But he
causes Appius to state, in his speech favoring the corruption of certain
tribunes, "that the veto of one tribune would be sufficient to defeat all
the others." This is contrary to the statement of Dionysius
and would seem improbable, for, if the opposition of one tribune was
sufficient, the patricians would not have deemed it necessary to purchase
four. That would be contrary to political methods.
Of the two propositions of the tribunes, Icilius, in 482, and Pontificius,
in 480, the results were the same. The opposition of their colleagues
defeated them. But this persistent opposition rather than crushing seemed
to stir up renewed attacks. We have seen the tribunes, Menius, Icilius, and
Pontificius, successively fail. The next movement was led by a member of
the aristocracy, Fabius Caeso, consul for the third time in 477. He
undertook to remove from the hands of the tribunes the terrible arm of
agrarian agitation which they wielded constantly against the patricians, by
causing the patricians themselves to distribute the domain lands equally
among the plebeians, saying: "that those persons ought to have the
lands by whose blood and sweat they had been gained." His proposition was
rejected with scorn by the patricians, and this attempt at reconciliation
failed as all the attempts of the tribunes had. The war with Vaii which,
according to Livy, now took place hindered for a while any agrarian
movements; but, in 474, the tribunes Gaius Considius and Titus Genucius
made a fruitless attempt at distribution, and, in 472, Dionysius speaks of
a bill brought forward by Cn. Genucius which is probably the same bill.
In 468, the two consuls, Valerius and Aemilius, faithfully supported the
tribunes in their demand for an agrarian law. The latter seems to have
supported the tribunes because he was angry that the senate had refused
to his father the honor of a triumph; Valerius, because he wished to
conciliate the people for having taken part in the condemnation of Cassius.
Dionysius, according to his custom, takes advantage of the occasion to
write several long speeches here, and one of them is valuable to us. He
causes the father of Aemilius to set forth in a formal speech the true
character of the agrarian laws and the right of the state to again assume
the lands which had been taken possession of. He further says: "that it
is a wise policy to proceed to the division of the lands in order to
diminish the constantly increasing number of the poor, to insure a far
greater number of citizens for the defense of the country, to encourage
marriages, and, in consequence, to increase the number of children and
defenders of the republic." We see in this speech the real purpose, the
germ, of all the ideas which Licinius Stolo, the Gracchi, and even Caesar,
strove to carry out. But the Roman aristocracy was too blind to comprehend
these words of wisdom. All these propositions were either defeated or
_Lex Icilia._ In the year 454, Lucius Icilius, one of the tribunes for
that year, brought forward a bill that the Aventine hill should be conveyed
to the plebeians as their personal and especial property. This hill had
been the earliest home of the plebeians, yet they had been surrounded by
the lots and fields of the patricians. That part of the hill which was
still in their possession was now demanded for the plebeians. It was a
small thing for the higher order to yield this much, as the Aventine stood
beyond the Pomoerium, the hallowed boundary of the city, and, at best,
could not have had an area of more than one-fourth of a square mile, and
this chiefly woodland. The consuls, accordingly, made no hesitation about
presenting the bill to the senate before whom Icilius was admitted to speak
in its behalf. The bill was accepted by the senate and afterwards confirmed
by the Centuries. The law provided,--"that all the ground which has
been justly acquired by any persons shall continue in the possession of the
owners, but that such part of it as may have been usurped by force or fraud
by any persons and built upon, shall be given to the people; those persons
being repaid the expenses of such buildings by the estimation of umpires
to be appointed for that purpose, and that all the rest of the ground
belonging to the public, be divided among the people, they paying no
consideration for the same." When this was done the plebeians took
possession of the hill with solemn ceremonies. This hill did not furnish
homes for all the plebeians, as some have held; nor, indeed, did they wish
to leave their present settlements in town or country to remove to the
Aventine. Plebeians were already established in almost all parts of the
city and held, as vassals of the patricians, considerable portions of Roman
territory. This little hill could never have furnished homes of any
sort to the whole plebeian population. What it did do was to furnish to
the plebeians a trysting place in time of strife with their patrician
neighbors, where they could meet, apart and secure from interruption, to
devise means for resisting the encroachments of the patricians and to
further establish their rights as Roman citizens. Thus a step toward their
complete emancipation was taken. For a moment the people were soothed
and satisfied by their success, but soon they began to clamor for more
complete, more radical, more general laws. An attempt seems to have been
made in 453 to extend the application of the _lex Icilia_ to the _ager
publicus,_ in general, but nothing came of it. In 440, the tribune,
Petilius, proposed an agrarian law. What its conditions were Livy has not
informed us, but has contented himself with saying that "Petilius made a
useless attempt to bring before the senate a law for the division of the
domain lands." The consuls strenuously opposed him and his effort came
In our review of the agrarian agitation we must mention the forceless and
insignificant attempt made by the son of Spurius Melius, in 434. Again, in
422, we find that other attempts were made which availed nothing. Yet the
tribunes who attempted thus to gain the good will of the people set forth
clearly the object which they had in view in bringing forward an agrarian
bill. Says Livy; "They held out the hope to the people of a division of the
public land, the establishment of colonies, the levying of a _vectigal_
upon the possessors, which _vectigal_ was to be used in paying the
In the year 419, and again in 418, unavailing attempts were made for the
division of lands among the plebeians. Spurius Maecilius and Spurius
Metilius, the tribunesfor the year 412, proposed to give to the people,
in equal lots, the conquered lands. The patricians ridiculed this law,
stating that Rome itself was founded upon conquered soil and did not
possess a single acre of land that had not been taken by force of arms,
and that the people held nothing save that which had been assigned by the
republic. The object, then, of the tribunes was to distribute the fortunes
of the entire state. Such vapid foolishness as this failed not of the
effect which the patricians aimed at. Appius Claudius counselled the
adoption of the excellent means invented by his grandfather. Six tribunes
were bought over by the caresses, flatteries, and money of the patricians
and opposed their vetoes to their colleagues who were thus compelled to
In the following year, 411, Lucius Sextius, in no way discouraged by the
ill success of his predecessors, proposed the establishment of a colony
at Bolae, a town in the country of the Volscians, which had been recently
conquered. The patricians opposed this by the same method which they
had adopted in the preceding case, the veto by tribunes. Livy criticises
the impolitic opposition of the patricians in these words: "This was a most
seasonable time, after the punishment of the mutiny, that the division of
the territory of Bolae should be presented as a soother to their minds; by
which proceeding they would have diminished their eagerness for an agrarian
law, which tended to expel the patricians from the public land unjustly
possessed by them. Then this very indignity exasperated their minds, that
the nobility persisted not only in retaining the public lands, which they
got possession of by force, but would not even grant to the commons the
unoccupied land lately taken from the enemy, and which would, like the
rest, soon become the prey of the few."
In 409, Icilius, without doubt a member of that plebeian family which had
furnished so many stout defenders of the liberties of the people, was
elected tribune of the people and brought forward an agrarian bill, but
a plague broke out and hindered any further action. In 407, the tribune,
Menius, introduced an agrarian bill and declared that he would oppose the
levies until the persons who unjustly held the public domains consented to
a division. A war broke out and agrarian legislation was drowned amid the
din of arms. Some years now elapsed without the mention of any agrarian
laws. The siege of Veii commenced in 406 and lasted for six years, during
which time military law was established, giving occupation and some sort
of satisfaction to the plebeians. In 397, an agrarian movement was set on
foot, but the plebeians were partially satisfied by being allowed to elect
one of their number as _tribunus consularis_ for the following year, thus
obtaining a little honor but no land. After the conquest of Veii, there was
a movement on the part of the plebeians to remove from Rome and settle upon
the confiscated territory of the Veians; this was only staid by concessions
on the part of the patricians. A decree of the senate was passed,--"that
seven jugera, a man, of Vientian territory, should be distributed to the
commons and not only to the fathers of families, but also that all persons
in their house in the state of freedom should be considered, and that they
might be willing to rear up children with that prospect." In 384, six
years after the conquest of Rome by the Gauls, the tribunes of the year
proposed a law for the division of the Pomptine territory (_Pomptinus
Ager_) among the plebeians. The time was not a favorable one for the
agitation of the people, as they were busy with the reconstruction of their
houses laid waste by the Gauls, and the movement came to nothing. The
tribune, Lucius Licinius, in 383, revived this movement but it was not
successfully carried till the year 379, when the senate, well disposed
towards the commons by reason of the conquest of the Volscians, decreed the
nomination of five commissioners to divide the Pomptine territory among
the plebs. This was a new victory for the people and must have inspired
them with the hope of one day obtaining in full their rights in the public
We have now passed in review the agrarian laws proposed and, in some cases,
enacted between the years 485 and 376, _i.e._ between the _lex Cassia_ and
the _lex Licinia_, which the greater part of the historians have neglected.
We have now come to the propositions of that illustrious plebeian whose
laws, whose character, and whose object have been so diversely appreciated
by all those persons who have studied in any way the constitutional history
of Rome. We wish to enter into a detailed examination of the _lex Licinia_,
but before so doing have deemed it expedient to thus pass in review the
agrarian agitations. The result of this work has, we trust, been a better
understanding of the real tendency, the true purpose, of the law which is
now to absorb our attention. It was no innovation, as some writers of the
day assert, but in reality confined itself to the well beaten track of its
predecessors, striving only to make their attainments more general, more
substantial and more complete.
[Footnote 1: "Solicitati, eo anno, sunt dulcedine agrariae legis animi
plebis,. . . vana lex vanique legis auctores." Livy, II, 42.]
[Footnote 2: Dionysius, VIII, 606, 607.]
[Footnote 3: Livy, _loc. cit._: Dionysius, _loc. cit._]
[Footnote 4: Dionys., VIII, 554.]
[Footnote 5: Dionys., VIII, 555.]
[Footnote 6: Val. Max., Fg. of Bk. X: "Spurii, patre incerto geniti."]
[Footnote 7: Livy, _loc. cit._; Dionys., _loc. cit.]
[Footnote 8: Dionys., IX, 558; Livy, II, 43.]
[Footnote 9: Dionys., IX, 559-560: "[Greek: tous kategontos taen choran
taen demosian." . . . "Kai Sikilios oudenos eti kurios aen.]".]
[Footnote 10: Livy, _loc. cit._]
[Footnote 11: Livy, II, 44: "Et unum vel adversus omnes satis esse ...
quatuorque tribunorum adversus unum."]
[Footnote 12: Dionys., IX, 562.]
[Footnote 13: Livy, _loc. cit._; Dionys., _loc. cit._]
[Footnote 14: Livy, II, 48: "Captivum agrum plebi, quam maxime aequaliter
darent. Verum esse habere eos quorum sanguine ac sudore partus sit.
Aspernati Patres sunt."]
[Footnote 15: Livy, II, 61, 63, 64.]
[Footnote 16: Dionys., IX, 606, 607; Livy, III, 1. The authorities are
somewhat conflicting at this point, and I have followed the account of
[Footnote 17: Schwegler, _Roemische Geschichte, _II, 484; Dionys., X, 31, p.
[Footnote 18: Dionys., X, 31, l. 13; Ihne, _Hist. of Rome_, I, 191,
note; Lange, _Roem. Alter._, I, 619. Also see art. in Smith's _Dict. of
[Footnote 19: _I.e._ outside of the _'quadrata'_' but _[Greek:
emperiechomenos tae poleis]_, Dionys., X, 31, l. 18: "pontificale
pomoerium, qui auspicato olim quidem omnem urbem ambiebat praeter
Aventinum." Paul, ex Fest., p. 248, Muell.]
[Footnote 20: Dionys., X, 32.]
[Footnote 21: Dionys., X, 32.]
[Footnote 22: Momm., I, 355.]
[Footnote 23: Dionys., X, 34.]
[Footnote 24: Livy, IV, 12: Neque ut de agris dividendis plebi referrent
consules ad senatum pervincere potuit.... Ludibrioque erant minae tribuni.]
[Footnote 25: "Agri publici dividendi, coloniaramque deducendarum
ostentatae spes, et vectigali possessoribus imposito, in stipendium militum
erogandi aeris." Livy, IV, 36.]
[Footnote 26: Livy, _loc. cit._]
[Footnote 27: Livy, IV, 48.]
[Footnote 28: Livy, IV, 49.]
[Footnote 29: Livy, IV, 51.]
[Footnote 30: Livy, VI, 5.]
[Footnote 31: Quinque viros Pomptino agro dividendo. Livy, VI, 21.]
(a) _Extension of Territory by Conquest up to the Year 367 B.C._
1. Coreoli, captured in 442.
2. Bolae, captured in 414.
3. Labicum, captured in 418.
4. Fidenae, captured in 426 and all the territory confiscated.
5. Veii, captured in 396. This was the chief town of the
Etruscans, equal to Rome in size, with a large tributary
country; territory confiscated.
Approximate amount of land added to the Roman domain,
150 square miles.
(b) _Colonies Founded between 454 and 367._
| | | NO. OF | NO. OF | TOTAL NO.|
COLONIES. | PLACE | DATE.| COLONISTS. | JUG. TO | OF JUG. | ACRES.
| | | | EACH. | |
| | | | | |
Labici. | Latium. | 418 | 1500 | 2 | 3000 | 1875
| | | | | |
Ardea. | Latium. | 442 | 300 | 2 | 600 | 375
Satricum. | " | 385 | 300 | 2 | 600 | 375
Sutrium. | Etruria.| 383 | 300 | 2 | 600 | 375
Nepete. | " | 383 | 300 | 4 | 1200 | 750
Setia. | Latium. | 382 | 300 | 4 | 1200 | 750
| Total | 7200 | 4500
SEC. 7.--LEX LICINIA.
Party lines were, at the time of the enactment of the Licinian Law,
strongly marked in Rome. One of the tribunes chosen after the return of the
plebeians from Mons Sacer was a Licinius. The first military tribune with
consular power elected from the plebeians was another Licinius Calvus. The
third great man of this distinguished family was Caius Licinius Calvus
Stolo, who, in the prime of life and popularity, was chosen among the
tribunes of the plebs for the seventh year following the death of Manlius
the Patrician. Another plebeian, Lucius Sextius by name, was chosen tribune
at the same time. If not already, he soon became the tried friend of
Licinius. Sextius was the younger but not the less earnest of the two. Both
belonged to that portion of the plebeians supposed to have been latterly
connected with the liberal patricians. The more influential and by far the
more reputable members of the lower estate were numbered in this party.
Opposed to it were two other parties of plebeians. One consisted of the few
who, rising to wealth or rank, cast off the bonds uniting them to the lower
estate. They preferred to be upstarts among patricians rather than leaders
among plebeians. As a matter of course, they became the parasites of the
illiberal patricians. To the same body was attached another plebeian party.
This was formed of the inferior classes belonging to the lower estate.
These inferior plebeians were generally disregarded by the higher classes
of their own estate as well as by the patricians of both the liberal and
illiberal parties. They were the later comers, or the poor and degraded
among all. As such they had no other resource but to depend on the
largesses or the commissions of the most lordly of the patricians. This
division of the plebeians is a point to be distinctly marked. While there
were but two parties, that is the liberal and the illiberal among the
patricians, there were no less than three among the plebeians. Only one of
the three could be called a plebeian party. That was the party containing
the nerve and sinew of the order, which united only with the liberal
patricians, and with them only on comparatively independent terms. The
other two parties were nothing but servile retainers of the illiberal
It was to the real plebeian party that Licinius belonged, as also did his
colleague Sextius, by birth. A tradition of no value represented the
patrician and the plebeian as being combined to support the same cause
in consequence of a whim of the wife and daughter through whom they were
connected. Some revolutions, it is true, are the effect of an instant's
passion or an hour's weakness. Nor can they then make use of subsequent
achievements to conceal the caprices or the excitements in which they
originated. But a change, attempted by Licinius with the help of his
father-in-law, his colleague, and a few friends reached back one hundred
years and more (B.C. 486) to the law of the martyred Cassius, and forward
to the end of the Commonwealth. It opened new honors as well as fresh
resources to the plebeians.
Probably the tribune was raised to his office because he had shown the
determination to use its powers for the good of his order and of his
country. Licinius and Sextius together brought forward the three bills
bearing the name of Licinius as their author. One, says the historian, ran
concerning debts. It provided that, the interest already paid being
deducted from the principal, the remainder should be discharged in equal
installments within three years. The statutes against excessive rates of
interest, as well as those against arbitrary measures of exacting the
principal of a debt, had utterly failed. It was plain, therefore, to any
one who thought upon the matter,--in which effort of thought the power of
all reformers begins,--that the step to prevent the sacrifice of the debtor
to the creditor was still to be taken. Many of the creditors themselves
would have acknowledged that this was desirable. The next bill of the three
related to the public lands. It prohibited any one from occupying more than
five hundred jugera, about 300 acres; at the same time it reclaimed all
above that limit from the present occupiers, with the object of making
suitable apportionments among the people at large. Two further clauses
followed, one ordering that a certain number of freemen should be employed
on every estate; another forbidding any single citizen to send out more
than a hundred of the larger, or five hundred of the smaller cattle to
graze upon the public pastures. These latter details are important, not
so much in relation to the bill itself as to the simultaneous increase of
wealth and slavery which they plainly signify. As the first bill undertook
to prohibit the bondage springing from too much poverty, so the second
aimed at preventing the oppression springing from too great opulence. A
third bill declared the office of military tribune with consular power
to be at an end. In its place the consulate was restored with full
provision that one of the two consuls should be taken from the plebeians.
The argument produced in favor of this bill appears to have been the urgent
want of the plebeians to possess a greater share in the government than was
vested in their tribunes, aediles, and quaestors. Otherwise, said Licinius
and his colleague, there will be no security that our debts will be settled
or that our lands will be obtained. It would be difficult to frame three
bills, even in our time, reaching to a further, or fulfilling a larger
reform. "Everything was pointed against the power of the patricians
in order to provide for the comfort of the plebeians." This to a certain
degree was true. It was chiefly from the patrician that the bill concerning
debts detracted the usurious gains which had been counted upon. It was
chiefly from him that the lands indicated in the second bill were to be
withdrawn. It was altogether from him that the honors of the consulship
were to be derogated. On the other hand the plebeians, save the few
proprietors and creditors among them, gained by every measure that had been
proposed. The poor man saw himself snatched from bondage and endowed with
an estate. He who was above the reach of debt saw himself in the highest
office of the state. Plebeians with reason exulted. Licinius evidently
designed reuniting the divided members of the plebeian body. Not one of
them, whether rich or poor, but seems called back by these bills to stand
with his own order from that time on. If this supposition was true, then
Licinius was the greatest leader whom the plebeians ever had up to the time
of Caesar. But from the first he was disappointed. The plebeians who
most wanted relief cared so little for having the consulship opened to the
richer men of their estate that they would readily have dropped the bill
concerning it, lest a demand should endanger their own desires. In the same
temper the more eminent men of the order, themselves among the creditors of
the poor and the tenants of the domain, would have quashed the proceedings
of the tribunes respecting the discharge of debt and the distribution of
land, so that they carried the third bill only, which would make them
consuls without disturbing their possessions. While the plebeians continued
severed from one another, the patricians drew together in resistance to the
bills. Licinius stood forth demanding, at once, all that it had cost his
predecessors their utmost energy to demand, singly and at long intervals,
from the patricians. Nothing was to be done but to unite in overwhelming
him and his supporters. "Great things were those that he claimed and not to
be secured without the greatest contention." The very comprehensiveness
of his measures proved the safeguard of Licinius. Had he preferred but one
of these demands, he would have been unhesitatingly opposed by the
great majority of the patricians. On the other hand he would have had
comparatively doubtful support from the plebs. If the interests of the
poorer plebeians alone had been consulted, they would not have been much
more active or able in backing their tribunes, while the richer men would
have gone over in a body to the other side with the public tenants and the
private creditors among the patricians. Or, supposing the case reversed and
the bill relating to the consulship brought forward alone, the debtors and
the homeless citizens would have given the bill too little help with hands
or hearts to secure its passage as a law. The great encouragement therefore
to Licinius and Sextius must have been their conviction that they had
devised their reform on a sufficiently expanded scale. As soon as the bills
were brought forward every one of their eight colleagues vetoed their
reading. Nothing could be done by the two tribunes except to be resolute
and watch for an opportunity for retaliation. At the election of the
military tribunes during that year, Licinius and Sextius interposed
their vetoes and prevented a vote being taken. No magistrates could remain
in office after their terms expired, whether there were any successors
elected or not to come after them. The commonwealth remained without any
military tribunes or consuls at its head, although the vacant places were
finally filled by one _interrex_ after another, appointed by the senate to
keep up the name of government and to hold the elections the moment the
tribunes withdrew their vetoes, or left their office. At the close of the
year Licinius and Sextius were both re-elected but with colleagues on the
side of their antagonists. Some time afterwards it became necessary to let
the other elections proceed. War was threatening, and in order to go to
the assistance of their allies Licinius and Sextius withdrew their vetoes
and ceased their opposition for a time. Six military tribunes were chosen,
three from the liberal and three from the illiberal patricians. The
liberals doubtless received all the votes of the plebeians as they had
no candidates. They had in all probability abstained from running for an
office, bills for the abolition of which were held in abeyance. They showed
increasing inclination to sustain Licinius and his colleague, both by
re-electing them year after year and by at length choosing three other
tribunes with them in favor of the bills. The prospects of the measure were
further brightened by the election of Fabius Ambustus, the father-in-law
of Licinius and his zealous supporter, to the military tribunate. This
seems to have been the seventh year following the proposal of the bills.
This can not be definitely determined, however. During this long period of
struggle, Licinius had learned something. It was constantly repeated
in his hearing that not a plebeian in the whole estate was fit to take
the part in the auspices and the religious ceremonies incumbent upon the
consuls. The same objections had overborne the exertions of Caius Canuleius
three-quarters of a century before. Licinius saw that the only way to
defeat this argument was by opening to the plebeians the honorable office
of _duumvirs_, whose duty and privilege it was to consult the Sibyline
books for the instruction of the people in every season of doubt and peril.
They were, moreover, the presiding officers of the festival of Apollo, to
whose inspirations the holy books of the Sibyl were ascribed, and were
looked up to with honor and respect. This he did by setting forth an
additional bill, proposing the election of _decemvirs_. The passage of
this bill would forever put to rest one question at least. Could he be a
decemvir, he could also be a consul. This bill was joined to the other
three which were biding their time. The strife went on. The opposing
tribunes interposed their vetoes. Finally it seems that all the offices of
tribune were filled with partisans of Licinius, and the bills were likely
to pass when Camillus, the dictator, swelling with wrath against bills,
tribes and tribunes, came forward into the forum. He commanded the
tribunes to see to it that the tribes cast no more votes. But on the
contrary they ordered the people to continue as they had begun. Camillus
ordered his lictors to break up the assembly and proclaim that if a man
lingered in the forum, the dictator would call out every man fit for
service and march from Rome. The tribunes ordered resistance and declared
that if the dictator did not instantly recall his lictors and retract his
proclamation, they, the tribunes, would, according to their right, subject
him to a fine five times larger than the highest rate of the census, as
soon as his dictatorship expired. This was no idle threat, and Camillus
retreated so fairly beaten as to abdicate immediately under the pretense
of faulty auspices. The plebeians adjourned satisfied with their day's
victory. But before they could be again convened some influence was brought
to bear upon them so that when the four bills were presented only the two
concerning land and debts were accepted. This was nothing less than a fine
piece of engineering on the part of the patricians to defeat the whole
movement and could have resulted in nothing less. Licinius was disappointed
but not confounded. With a sneer at the selfishness as well as the
blindness of those who had voted only for what they themselves most wanted
he bade them take heed that they could not eat if they would not drink.
He refused to separate the bills. The consent to their division would
have been equivalent to consenting to the division of the plebeians. His
resolution carried the day. The liberal patricians as well as the plebeians
rallied to his support. A moderate patrician, a relation of Licinius, was
appointed dictator, and a member of the same house was chosen master of the
horse. These events prove that the liberal patricians were in the majority.
Licinius and Sextius were re-elected for the tenth time, A.C. 366, thus
proving that the plebeians had decided to eat and drink.
The fourth bill, concerning the decemvirs was almost instantly laid
before the tribes and carried through them. It was accepted by the higher
assemblies and thus became a law. It is not evident why this bill was
separated from the others, especially when Licinius had declared that they
should not be separated. Possibly it was to smooth the way for the other
three more weighty ones, especially the bill concerning the consulship.
There seems to have been an interruption here caused by an invasion of the
Gauls. As soon as this was over the struggle began again. The tribes
assembled. "Will you have our bills?" asked Licinius and Sextius for the
last time. "We will," was the reply. It was amid more violent conflicts,
however, than had yet arisen that the bills became laws at last.
It takes all the subsequent history of Rome to measure the consequences of
the Revolution achieved by Licinius and Sextius; but the immediate working
of their laws could have been nothing but a disappointment to their
originators and upholders. We can tell little or nothing about the
regard paid to the _decemvirs_. The priestly robes must have seemed an
unprecedented honor to the plebeian. For some ten years the law regarding
the consulship was observed, after which time it was occasionally
violated, but can still be called a success. The laws of relief, as may
be supposed of all such sumptuary enactments, were violated from the first.
No general recovery of the public land from those occupying more than five
hundred jugera ever took place. Consequently there was no general
division of land among the lackland class. Conflicting claims and jealousy
on the part of the poor must have done much to embarrass and prevent the
execution of the law. No system of land survey to distinguish between
_ager publicus_ and _ager privatus_ existed. Licinius Stolo himself was
afterwards convicted of violating his own law. The law respecting debts
met with much the same obstacles. The causes of embarrassment and poverty
being much the same and undisturbed, soon reproduced the effects which no
reduction of interest or installment of principal could effectually remove.
It is not our intention, however, to express any doubt that the enactments
of Licinius, such as they were, might and did benefit the small farmer
and the day laborer. Many were benefited. In the period immediately
following the passing of the law, the authorities watched with some
interest and strictness over the observance of its rules and frequently
condemned the possessors of large herds and occupiers of public domain to
heavy fines. But in the main the rich still grew richer and the poor
and mean, poorer and more contemptible. Such was ever the liberty of the
Roman. For the mean and the poor there was no means of retrieving their
poverty and degradation.
These laws, then, had little or no effect upon the domain question or the
re-distribution of land. They did not fulfil the evident expectation of
their author in uniting the plebeians into one political body. This was
impossible. What they did do was to break up and practically abolish the
patriciate. Henceforth were the Roman people divided into rich and poor
[Footnote 1: Livy, VI, 34.]
[Footnote 2: Livy, VI, 35: "unam de aere alieno, ut deduco eo de capite,
quod usuris pernumeratum esset, id, quod superesset, triennio aequis
[Footnote 3: Livy, VI, 35; Niebuhr, III, p.16; Varro, De R.R., 1: "Nam
Stolonis illa lex, quae vetat plus D jugera habere civem Romanorum." Livy,
VI, 35: "alteram de modo agrorum, ne quis plus quingenta jugera agri
posideret." Marquardt u. Momm., _Roem. Alterthuemer,_ IV, S. 102.]
[Footnote 4: Appian, _De Bello Civile_, I, 8.]
[Footnote 5: Livy VI, 35; See Momm., I, 382; Duruy, _Hist. des Romains_,
[Footnote 6: Livy, VI, 37.]
[Footnote 7: Livy, VI, 35: "creatique tribuni Caius Licinius et Lucius
Sextius promulgavere leges adversus opes patriciorum et pro commodis
[Footnote 8: Ihne, I, 314.]
[Footnote 9: Livy, VI, 35: "Cuncta ingentia, et quae sine certamine
obtineri non possent."]
[Footnote 10: Livy, VI, 35.]
[Footnote 11: Livy, VI, 36.]
[Footnote 12: Livy, VI, 36. Fabius quoque tribunis militum, Stolonis socer,
quarum legum auctor fuerat, earum sua.]
[Footnote 13: Livy, _loc. cit._]
[Footnote 14: Appian, _De Bell. Civ._, I, 9.]
[Footnote 15: Momm., I, 240: "decemviri sacris faciundis." Lange, _loc.
[Footnote 16: Livy, VI, 38; Momm., _loc. cit._]
[Footnote 17: Livy, VI, 38; Momm., _loc. cit._]
[Footnote 18: Dion Cassius, Fragment, XXXIII, with Reimer's note.]
[Footnote 19: Livy, VI, 42.]
[Footnote 20: Livy, VI, 42: et comitia consulum adversa nobilitate habita,
quibus Lucius Sextius de plebe primus consul factus.]
[Footnote 21: Livy, _loc. cit._]
[Footnote 22: Livy, VI, 42; Ovid, Faustus, I, 641, seq.:
"Furius antiquam populi superator Hetrusci
Voverat et voti solverat ante fidem
Causa quod a patribus sumtis secesserat annis
Vulgus; et ipsa suas Roma timebat opes."]
[Footnote 23: Momm., I, 389.]
[Footnote 24: Momm., I, 384.]
[Footnote 25: Arnold, _Roman History_, II, 35; Ihne, _Essay on the Roman
Constitution_, p. 72. Ihne, _Roman Hist._, I, 332-334. Long, I, ch. XI.
Lange, _loc. cit._]
[Footnote 26: Livy, VII, 16: "Eodem anno Caius Licinius Stolo a Marco
Popillio Laenate sua legi decem milibus aeris est damnatus, quod mille
jugerum agri cum filio possideret, emancipandoque filium fraudem legi
fecisset." Appian, _Bell. Civ._, 1, 8; "_[Greek: taen gaen es tous
oikeious epi upokrisei dienemon.]_"]
[Footnote 27: Momm., I, 389.]
[Footnote 28: Momm., I, 389, 390.]
[Footnote 29: Momm., I, 389, 390.]
SEC. VIII.--AGRARIAN MOVEMENTS BETWEEN 367 AND 133.
The first agrarian movement after the enactment of lex Licinia took place
in the year 338, after the battle of Veseris in which the Latini and their
allies were completely conquered. According to Livy, the several peoples
engaged in this rebellion were mulcted of a part of their land which was
divided among the plebeians. Each plebeian receiving an allotment in the
territory of the Latini had 2 jugera assigned him, while those in Privernum
received 2-3/4, and those in Falernian territory received 3 jugera each (p.
252). This distribution of domain lands seems to have been spontaneous on
the part of the senate. But it led to grave consequences as the Latini,
indignant at their being despoiled of their lands, resorted again to arms.
The plebeians, moreover, were roused to the verge of rebellion by the
consul Aemilius who had been alienated from the patricians by their
refusing him a triumph, and now strove to ingratiate himself with the
commons by making them dissatisfied with their meagre allotments. The
law, however, was carried into execution, and thus showed that the senate
acquiesced in and even initiated laws when they did not in any way
interfere with their possession, but referred only to territory which had
just been conquered.
_Agrarian Law of Curius._ Beyond the distribution of the _ager publicus_
which formed the basis of the numerous colonies of this period and which
will be considered in their proper place, the next agrarian movement was
that of Curius Dentatus. At the close of the third Samnite War the
people were in great distress, as agricultural pursuits had been greatly
interrupted by continued warfare. Now there seemed to be a chance of
remedying this. Large tracts of land had been taken from the Samnites and
Sabines, and it was now at the disposal of the Roman state for purposes
of colonization and division among the impoverished citizens. In the year
287, a bill was introduced by Manius Curius Dentatus, the plebeian
consul for this year, and hero of the third Samnite War. He proposed
giving to the citizens assignments of land in the Sabine country of seven
jugera each. It is certain that this bill met with great opposition but
we have not been informed as to the causes. It is safe to conclude,
however, that the question was whether assignments of land with full right
of property should be made in districts which the great land-owners wished
to keep open for occupation in order that they might pasture herds thereon.
The senate and the nobility so bitterly opposed the plan that the plebeians
despairing of success, withdrew to the Janiculum and only on account of
threatening war did they consent to the proposals of Quintus Hortensius.
By this move the _lex Hortensia_ was passed and, doubtless, the _agraria
lex_ was enacted at the same time although nothing definite is known
concerning this point. The people must have been pacified by some other
means than the mere granting of more political power. Nothing less than a
share of the conquered territory would have satisfied them or induced them
to return and again take up the burden of war.
_Lex Flaminia._ Fifty four years after the enactment of the law of Curius
Dentatus, in the year 232, the tribune Caius Flaminius, the man who
afterwards was consul and fell in the bloody battle of lake Trasimenus,
brought forward and carried a law for the distribution of the _Gallicus
Ager_ among the plebeians. This territory had been taken from the
Galli Semnones fifty-one years before and was now occupied as pasture land
by some large Roman families. This territory lay north of Picenum and
extended as far as Ariminum(Rimini.) This was an excellent opportunity
for awarding lands to Roman veterans for military service, and thus to
establish a large number of small farms, rather than to leave the land in
the possession of the rich who resided in Rome and, consequently, formed no
frontier protection against the inroads of barbarians from the north. By
alloting the land, the Latin race and Latin tongue would help to Romanize
territory already conquered by Roman arms. The only thing opposed to this
was the possession of the land by the aristocracy. But they had no legal
claim to the land and could be dispossessed without any indemnification.
The senate opposed this measure to the utmost of their ability and, after
all other means had failed, threatened to send an army against the tribune
if he urged his bill through the tribes. They further induced his father to
make use of his _potestas_ in restraining his son. When Flaminius was
bringing up the bill for decision he was arrested by his father. "Come
down, I bid thee," said the father. And the son humbled "by private
authority," obeyed. It finally became necessary for the plebeians to
take their stand on the formal constitutional law and to cause the _agraria
lex_ to be passed by a vote of the assembly of the tribes without a
previous resolution or subsequent approbation of the senate. Polybius
dates a change for the worse in the Roman constitution from this time.
The relief of the plebeians was further promoted by the foundation of
In the year 200, after Scipio returned as conqueror of Carthage, the senate
decreed that he should be assigned some lands for his soldiers, but Livy
does not tell us where they were to be assigned; whether they were to be
a part of the ancient _ager publicus_ or of the territory of Carthage,
Sicily, or Campania, _i.e._ the new conquests of Rome. He merely says that
for each year of service in Spain or Africa the soldiers were to receive
two jugera each, and that the distributions should be made by the
_decenvirs_. In spite of the insufficiency of these details the passage
reveals to us two important facts:
1. Decemvirs as well as triumvirs were at times appointed to make
distributions of domain lands in accordance with the provisions of an
2. It reveals the profound modifications which Roman customs had passed
through. The riches which began at this time to flow into Rome by reason
of the many successful wars revolutionized the economic conditions of
the city. It is not necessary to see only a proof of corruption in this
tendency of all classes to grasp for riches and to desire luxury and ease.
We must also consider that comfort was more accessible and that the price
of everything, especially of the necessaries of life, had increased. In
consequence of this it was difficult for soldiers to support themselves
with their pay. The presents of a few sesterces given them as prize money
in no way made sufficient recompense for all the miseries and privations
which they had passed through during their long absence. Grants of land
were the only means of recompensing their military services. This is the
first example that we have found of soldiers being thus rewarded, and it
consequently initiated a custom which became most frequent especially in
the time of the empire. Upon the conquest of Italy which followed the
expedition of Pyrrhus, the Romans found themselves led into a long series
of foreign wars; Sicily furnished the stepping-stone to Africa; Africa to
Spain; all these countries becoming Roman provinces. As soon as the second
Punic war closed, Hannibal formed an alliance with the king of Macedonia.
A war-cloud rose in the east. The AEtolians asked aid from Rome, and
statesmen could foretell that it would be impossible for Roman armies not
to interfere between Greece and Macedonia. But these countries had been
from ancient times most intimately connected with the orient, _i.e._, Asia,
where the Seleucidae still ruled, so that a war with Greece, which was
inevitable, could not fail to bring on a war with the successors of
Alexander, and, these hostilities once engaged in, who could say where
these accidents of war would cease, or when Roman arms could be laid aside?
In this critical condition it was prudent to attach the soldiers to the
republic by bonds and interests the most intimate, to make them proprietors
and to assure subsistence to their families during their long absence.
These wars did not much resemble those of the early republic which had for
a theatre of war the country in the immediate vicinity of Rome.
The senate continued to take the initiative in agrarian movements. In 172,
after the close of the wars against the Ligurians and Gauls, we again see
the senate spontaneously decreeing a new division of the lands. A part of
the territory of Liguria and Cisalpine Gaul was confiscated and a _senatus
consultum_ ordered a distribution of this land to the commons. The praetor
of the city A. Atilius, was authorized to appoint _decemvirs_, whose names
Livy gives, to assign ten jugera to Roman citizens and three jugera to
Latin allies. Thus the senate, with a newly-born sagacity, rendered
useless the demands of the tribune and recognized the justice and the
utility of the agrarian laws against which it had so long protested.
Indeed, it justified the propositions of the first author of an agrarian
law by admitting to a share in the conquered lands the Latin allies who had
so often contributed to their growth. This is the last agrarian law which
Livy mentions. The Persian war broke out in this year, and an account of
it fills the remaining books of this author which have come down to
us. However, prior to the proposition of Tiberius Gracchus, we find
in Varro the mention of a new assignment of land of seven jugera
_viritim_, made by a tribune named Licinius in the year 144; but the author
has given such a meagre mention of it that we are unable to determine where
these lands were located. If we join to these facts the cession of public
territories to the creditors of the state, in 200, we shall have mentioned
all agrarian laws and distributions of territory which took place before
the _lex Sempronia Tiberiana_ in 133.
_Condition of the Country at the time of the Gracchan Rogations._ During
the period between 367 and 133 we find no record of serious disputes
between the patricians and commons. Indeed, the senate usually took the
lead in popular measures; lands were assigned without any demand on the
part of the plebeians. We must not be deceived by this seeming harmony. In
the midst of this apparent calm a radical change was taking place in Roman
society. It is necessary for us to understand this new condition of affairs
in the republic before it will be possible to comprehend the rogations of
One of the greatest dangers to the republic at this time reveals itself in
the claims of the Italians. These people had poured out their blood
for Rome; they had contributed more than the Romans themselves to the
accomplishing of those rapid conquests which, after the subjugation of
Italy, quickly extended the power of Rome. In what way had they been
rewarded? After the terrible devastations which afflicted Italy in the
Hannibalic war had ceased, the Italian allies found themselves ruined.
Whilst Latium, which contained the principal part of the old tribes of
citizens, had suffered comparatively little, a large portion of Samnium,
Apulia, Campania, and more particularly of Lucania and Bruttium, was almost
depopulated; and the Romans in punishing the unfaithful "allies" had acted
with ruthless cruelty. When at length peace was concluded, large
districts were uncultivated and uninhabited. This territory, being either
confiscated from the allies for taking part with Hannibal, or deserted by
the colonists, swelled the _ager publicus_ of Rome, and was either given to
veterans or occupied by Roman capitalists, thus increasing the revenues
of a few nobles.
If a nation is in a healthful condition politically and economically so
that the restorative vigor of nature is not impeded by bad restrictive
laws, the devastations of land and losses of human life are quickly
repaired. We might the more especially have expected this in a climate
so genial and on a soil so fertile as that of Italy. But Roman laws so
restricted the right of buying and selling land that in every Italian
community none but members of that community, or Roman citizens, could
buy or inherit. This restriction upon free competition, by giving the
advantage to Roman citizens, was in itself sufficient to ruin the
prosperity of every Italian town. This law operated continually and
unobservedly and resulted in placing, year by year, a still larger
quantity of the soil of Italy in the hands of the Roman aristocracy.
In order to palliate the evils of conquest or at least to hide their
conditions of servitude, the Romans had accorded to a part of the Italians
the title of allies, and to others the privileges of _municipia_. These
privileges were combined in a very skillful manner in the interest of Rome,
but this skill did not hinder the people from perceiving that they depended
upon the mere wish of the conquerors and consequently were not rights, but
merely favors to be revoked at will. The Latini, who had been the first
people conquered by Rome and who had almost always remained faithful,
enjoyed under the name of _jus Latii_ considerable privileges. They held in
great part the civil and political rights of Roman citizens. They were
able by special services individually to become Roman citizens and thus
to obtain the full _jus Romanum_. There were other peoples who, although
strangers to Latium, had been admitted, by reason of their services to
Rome, to participate in the benefits of the _jus Latii_. The other peoples,
admitted merely to the _jus Italicum_, did not enjoy any of the civil or
political rights of Roman citizens, nor any of the privileges of Latin
allies; at best they kept some souvenirs of their departed independence in
their interior administration, but otherwise were considered as subjects
of Rome. And yet it was for the aggrandizement of this city that they shed
their blood upon all the fields of battle which it pleased Rome to choose;
it was for the glory and extension of the Roman power that they gained
these conquests in which they had no share. Some who had attempted to
regain their independence were not even accorded the humble privileges of
the other people of Italy, but were reduced to the state of prefectures.
These were treated as provinces and governed by prefects or proconsuls
sent out from Rome. Such were Capua, Bruttium, Lucania, the greater
part of Samnium, and Cisalpine Gaul, which country, indeed, was not even
considered as a part of Italy. Those who had submitted without resistance
to the domination of the Romans, and had rendered some services to them,
had bestowed upon them the title of _municipia_. These _municipia_
governed themselves and were divided into two classes:
(1.) _Municipia sine suffragio_, for example, Caere and Etruria, had
only interior privileges; their inhabitants could not vote at Rome and,
consequently, could not participate in the exercise of sovereignty.
(2.) _Municipia cum suffragio_ had, outside of their political and civil
rights, the important right of voting at Rome. These citizens of
villages had then, as Cicero said of the citizens of Arpinum, two
countries, one _ex natura_, the other _ex jure_. Lastly, there were
some cities in the south of Italy, _i.e._ in Magna Graecia, that had
received the name of federated cities. They did not appear to be
subject to Rome; their contingents of men and money were looked upon as
voluntary gifts; but, in reality, they were under the domination of
Rome, and had, at Rome, defenders or patrons chosen because of their
influence with the Roman citizens and charged with maintaining their
interests. Such was the system adopted by Rome. It would have been easy for
a person in the compass of a few miles to find villages having the _jus
Latii_, others with simply the _jus Italicum_, colonies, prefectures,
municipia _cum_ et _sine suffragio_. The object of the Romans was evident.
They planned to govern. Cities alike in interests and patriotic motives
were separated by this diversity of rights and the jealousies and hatreds
which resulted from it. Concord, which was necessary to any united and
general insurrection, was rendered impossible between towns, some of which
were objects of envy, others, of pity. Their condition, moreover, was
such that all, even the most fortunate, had something to gain by showing
themselves faithful; and all, even the most wretched, had something to
fear if they did not prove tractable. These Italians, with all the varied
privileges and burdens enumerated above, far outnumbered the Roman
citizens. A comparison of the numbers of the census of 115 and that of
70 shows that the numbers of Italians and Romans were as three to two.
All these Italians aspired to Roman citizenship, to enjoy the right to vote
to which some of their number had been admitted, and the struggle which
was sometime to end in their complete emancipation had already commenced.
During the first centuries of Roman history, Rome was divided into two
classes, patricians and plebeians. The plebeians by heroic efforts had
broken down the barriers that separated them from the patricians. The
privilege of intermarriage, the possibility of obtaining the highest
offices of the state, the substitution of the _comitia tributa_ for the
other two assemblies, had not made of Rome "an unbridled democracy," but
all these benefits obtained by tribunician agitation, all the far-reaching
advances gained by force of laws and not of arms, had constituted at Rome a
single people and created a true Roman nation. There were now at Rome only
rich and poor, nobles and proletariat. With intelligence and ability a
plebeian could aspire to the magistracies and thence to the senate. Why
should not the Italians be allowed the same privilege? It was neither just
nor equitable nor even prudent to exclude them from an equality of rights
and the common exercise of civil and political liberty. The Gracchi
were the first to comprehend the changed state of affairs and the result of
Roman conquest and administration in Italy. Their demands in favor of the
Italians were profoundly politic. The Italians would have demanded, with
arms in their hands, that which the Gracchi asked for them, had not this
attempt been made. They failed; Fulvius Flaccus, Marius, and Livius
Drusus failed in the same attempt, being opposed both by the nobility
and the plebs.
The agrarian laws, as we have seen, had been proposed by the senate, in the
period which we are considering. How was it then that the Gracchi had been
compelled to take the initiative and that the senate had opposed them? This
contradiction is more apparent than real. It explains itself in great part
by the following considerations. Upon the breaking down of the aristocracy
of birth, the patriciate, the senate was made accessible to the plebeians
who had filled the curule magistracies and were possessed of 800,000
sesterces. Knights were also eligible to the senate to fill vacancies, and
it was this fact which caused the equestrian order to be called _seminarium
senatus_. For some time the new nobles, in order to strengthen their
victory and make it permanent, had formed an alliance with the plebeians.
For this reason were made the concessions and distributions of land which
the old senators were unable to hinder. These concessions were the work of
the plebeians who had been admitted to the senate. But when their position
was assured and it was no longer necessary for them to make concessions
to the commons in order to sustain themselves, they manifested the same
passions that the patricians had shown before them. Livy has expressed the
situation very clearly: "These noble plebeians had been initiated into the
same mysteries, and despised the people as soon as they themselves ceased
to be despised by the patricians." Thus, then, the unity and fusion
which had been established by the tribunician laws disappeared and there
again existed two peoples, the rich and the poor.
If we examine into the elements of these two distinct populations,
separated by the pride of wealth and the misery and degradation of poverty,
we shall understand this. The new nobility was made up partially of the
descendants of the ancient patrician _gentes_ who had adapted themselves to
the modifications and transformations in society. Of these persons, some
had adopted the ideas of reform; they had flattered the lower classes
in order to obtain power; they profited by their consulships and their
prefectures to increase or at least conserve their fortunes. Others having
business capacity gave themselves up to gathering riches; to usurious
speculations which at this time held chief place among the Romans. Even
Cato was a usurer and recommended usury as a means of acquiring wealth. Or
they engaged in vast speculations in land, commerce, and slaves, as Crassus
did a little later. The first mentioned class was the least numerous. To
those nobles who gave their attention to money-getting must be added those
plebeians who elevated themselves from the masses by means of the
curule magistracies. These were insolent and purse-proud, and greedy to
increase their wealth by any means in their power. Next to these two
divisions of the nobility came those whom the patricians had been wont
to despise and to relegate to the very lowest rank under the name of
_aerarii_; merchants, manufacturers, bankers, and farmers of the
revenues. These men were powerful by reason of their union and community of
interests, and money which they commanded. They formed a third order and
even became so powerful as to control the senate and, at times, the whole
republic. In the time of the Punic wars the senate had been obliged to let
go unpunished the crimes committed by the publican Posthumius and the means
which he had employed in order to enrich himself at the expense of the
republic, because it was imprudent to offend the order of publicans.
Thus constituted an order or guild, they held it in their hands at will to
advance or to withhold the money for carrying on wars or sustaining the
public credit. In this way they were the masters of the state. They also
grasped the public lands, as they were able to command such wealth that no
individual could compete with them. They thus became the only farmers of
the domain lands, and they did not hesitate to cease paying all tax on
these. Who was able to demand these rents from them? The senate? But they
either composed the senate or controlled it. The magistrates? There was no
magistracy but that of wealth. The tribunes and the people? These they had
disarmed by frequent grants of land of two to seven jugera each, and by the
establishment of numerous colonies. This was beyond doubt the real reason
for their frequent distributions. They had all been made from land recently
conquered. The ancient _ager_ had not been touched, and little by little
the Licinian law had fallen into disuetude.
[Footnote 1: Livy, VIII, 11, 12.]
[Footnote 2: Ihne, I, 447.]
[Footnote 3: I have followed Ihne and Arnold in giving this date, but there
is reason for placing it later as Valerius Maximus says, IV, 3,5: "Manius
Curius cum Italia Pyrrhum regem exegisset ... decretis a senatu septenis
jugeribus agri populo."]
[Footnote 4: "Manii Curii nota conscio est, perniciosum intellegi civem
cui septem jugera non essent satis." Pliny, _Hist. Nat._, XVIII.; Aurelius
Victor, De Viris Illus.: Septenis "jugeribus viritim dividendis, quibus qui
contentus non esset, eum perniciosum intellegi civem, nota et praeclare
concione Manius Curius dictitabat." The same author speaks of four jugera
being given by Curius, "Quaterna dono agri jugera viritim populo dividit."
Juvenal implies a distribution of two jugera; Sat. XIV, V, 161-164:
"Mox etiam fructis aetate, ac Punica passis
Proelia vel Pyrrhum immanem glacosque Molossos,
Tandem pro multis vix jugera bina dabantur
Vulneribus Merces ea sanguinis atque labores."]