Public Lands and Agrarian Laws of the Roman Republic by Andrew Stephenson

Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Lesley Halamek and PG Distributed Proofreaders JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY STUDIES IN HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL SCIENCE HERBERT B. ADAMS, Editor * * * * * History is past Politics and Politics present History–_Freeman_ * * * * * NINTH SERIES VII-VIII PUBLIC LANDS AND AGRARIAN LAWS OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC BY ANDREW
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Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Lesley Halamek and PG Distributed Proofreaders



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History is past Politics and Politics present History–_Freeman_

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_Professor of History, Wesleyan University_

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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.





” 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

” 8. AGRARIAN MOVEMENTS BETWEEN 367 AND 133 (a) Extension of Territory by conquest between 367 and 133 (b) Colonies Founded between 367 and 133



(b) Lex de Colonis in Agros Deducendis (c) Second Triumvirate




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.[1] 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.[2] 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,[3] 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[4] 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_[5] and its primitive form was a variety of public community[6] 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.[7]_ That which was properly called _Ager Romanus_ at first only occupied the surface of a slightly expanded arc whose chord was the river Tiber.[8] 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;[9] and northward the Anio[10] 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[11] of Ostia, have we marked out all of ancient Rome. Strabo[12] 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[13] 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.[14] 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[15] 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,[16] 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[17] 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[18] territories and conquered peoples.

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.[19] (2) Niebuhr,[20] 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,[21] 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.[22] Again, the law of debts was hardly favorable[23] to equality.

Niebuhr clearly[24] 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[25] 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[26] 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 seq_.]


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.[1] Hostis_ in the old Latin language was synonymous with stranger, _perigrinus_[2] 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 designated _peregrinus_.[3]

_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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6]

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._[7]

_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[8] 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.]


In her early history Rome was continually making fresh conquests, and in this way adding to her territory.[1] 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._[2]

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_[3] a term which with few exceptions came to embrace the whole Roman world.

This _Ager Publieus_ was farther increased by towns[4] voluntarily surrendering themselves to Rome without awaiting the iron hand of war. These were commonly mulcted of one-third of their land.[5] “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[6] 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.[7] 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[8] 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.[9]

This magnanimity was not rare and it even went so far as to restore the whole of the territory to the people subdued.[10] 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.[11] These people formed the nucleus of the plebeians, the freemen who were members of the Roman state[12] 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.[13] This alienation could be accomplished in two ways:

(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.[14]

(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,[15] 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,[16] 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[17] by Aristotle as the first principle of political economy.

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[18] 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[19] 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_[20] 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.[21] 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, c. 31.]

[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 dicitur quaestorius.”]

[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. 159-160.]

[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 ton idioton.]]

[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.]


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[2] 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[3] 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_[4] _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[5] 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[6] 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,[7] 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.[8] 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[9] 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[10] 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, 235.]

[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[2] 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[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] The bill proposed by Cassius, together with such provisions as were necessary, became a law, according to Niebuhr,[8] 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.[9] 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._].]


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.[1] 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,[2] 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,[3] 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[4] 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[5] law failed and the enrolment progressed.

There is some difficulty in determining the facts of the law proposed by Spurius Licinius[6] 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,[7] 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,[8] 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 possessors.[9]

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,[10] 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.”[11] This is contrary to the statement of Dionysius[12] 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,[13] 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[14] 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[15] 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[16] 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 eluded.

_Lex Icilia._ In the year 454,[17] 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.[18] 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,[19] 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.[20] 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.”[21] 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[22] 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,_[23] 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.”[24] The consuls strenuously opposed him and his effort came to naught.

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[25] in paying the soldiers.”

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 tribunes[26]for 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 retire.[27]

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[28] 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,[29] 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[30] 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[31] 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 domains.

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 Dionysius.]

[Footnote 17: Schwegler, _Roemische Geschichte, _II, 484; Dionys., X, 31, p. 657, 43.]

[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 Antiquities_.]

[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 —————————————–+———+———–+———–


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 patricians.

It was to the real plebeian party that Licinius belonged, as also did his colleague Sextius,[1] 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[2] 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[3] 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[4] 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[5] 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.[6] 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[7] 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[8] 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.”[9] 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[10] 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,[11] 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[12] 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[13] 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[14] 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_.[15] 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,[16] 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.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20] There seems to have been an interruption here caused by an invasion of the Gauls.[21] 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[22] 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[23] violated, but can still be called a success. The laws[24] 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[25] 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.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29] Henceforth were the Roman people divided into rich and poor only.

[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 portionibus persolveretur.”]

[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_, II, 78.]

[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 plebis.”]

[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. cit._]

[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.]


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,[1] 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[2] state for purposes of colonization and division among the impoverished citizens. In the year 287,[3] 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[4] each. It is certain that this bill met with great opposition but we have not been informed as to the causes.[5] 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.[6] By this move the _lex Hortensia_[7] 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,[8] 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_[9] among the plebeians. This territory[10] 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[11](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.[12] 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,”[13] 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.[14] Polybius dates a change for the worse in the Roman constitution from this time.[15] The relief of the plebeians was further promoted by the foundation[16] of new colonies.

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[17] 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 agrarian law.

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[18] 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[19] 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[20] 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 the Gracchi.

One of the greatest dangers to the republic at this time reveals itself in the claims[21] 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.[22] 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[23] 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[24] 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,[25] 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_.[26] 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[27] 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[28] 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[29] 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[30] 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_.[31] 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[32] participate in the exercise of sovereignty.

(2.) _Municipia cum suffragio_ had, outside of their political and civil rights, the important right of voting[33] 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[34] 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[35] 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.[36] A comparison of the numbers of the census of 115 and that of 70 shows that the numbers of Italians and Romans were[37] 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[38] 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[39] Flaccus, Marius,[40] and Livius Drusus[41] 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.”[42] 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[43] 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,[44] 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[45] 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.”]