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

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to the rustic's jesting query whether the bearers of the litter were
carrying a corpse: and of the consul who had scourged the quaestor of
Teanum Sidicinum, the man of noblest lineage in his state, because the
men's baths, in which the consul's wife had elected to bathe, were not
adequately prepared for her reception.[673] Since the objections of the
populace to the extension of the franchise were the result of prejudice
rather than of reason, they might be weakened if the sense of jealousy
and distrust could be diverted from the people's possible rivals to the
common oppressors of Rome and Italy.

The appeal to sentiment might have been successful, had not the most
sordid passions of the mob been immediately inflamed by the oratory of
the opponents of the measure. The most formidable of these opponents was
drawn from the ranks of Gracchus's own supporters; for the franchise
question had again proved a rock which could make shipwreck of the unity
of the democratic party. His _protégé_, the consul Fannius, was not
ashamed to appeal to the most selfish instincts of the populace. "Do you
suppose," he said, "that, when you have given citizenship to the Latins,
there will be any room left for you at public gatherings, or that you
will find a place at the games or festivals? Will they not swamp
everything with their numbers?" [674]

Fannius, as a moderate, was an excellent exponent of senatorial views,
and it was believed that many noble hands had collaborated in the
crushing speech which inflicted one of its death-blows on the Gracchan

The opportunity for active opposition had at last arrived, and the
senate was emboldened to repeat the measure which four years earlier had
swept the aliens out of Rome. Perhaps in consequence of powers given by
the law of Pennus, the consul Fannius was empowered to issue an edict
that no Italian, who did not possess a vote in the Roman assemblies,
should be permitted within five miles of Rome at the time when the
proposal about the franchise was to be submitted to the Comitia.[676]
Caius answered this announcement with a fiery edict of his own, in which
he inveighed against the consul and promised his tribunician help to any
of the allies who chose to remain in the city.[677] The power which he
threatened to exercise was probably legal, since there is no reason to
suppose that the tribunician _auxilium_ could be interposed solely for
the assistance of members of the citizen body;[678] but he must have
known that the execution of this promise was impracticable, since the
injured party could be aided only by the personal interposition of the
tribune, and it was clear that a single magistrate, burdened with many
cares, and living a life of the most varied and strenuous activity,
could not be present in every quarter of Rome and in a considerable
portion of the surrounding territory. Even the cooperation of his ardent
colleague Flaccus could not have availed for the protection of many of
his Italian friends, and the course of events so soon taught him the
futility of this means of struggling for Italian rights that when,
somewhat later in the year, one of his Italian friends was seized by a
creature of Fannius before his eyes, he passed by without an attempt at
aid. His enemies, he knew, were at the time eager for a struggle in
which, when they had isolated him from his Italian supporters, physical
violence would decide the day: and he remarked that he did not wish to
give them the pretext for the hand-to-hand combat which they
desired.[679] One motive, indeed, of the invidious edict issued by the
consul seems to have been to leave Gracchus to face the new position
which his latest proposal had created, without any external help; but as
external help, if successfully asserted, could only have taken the form
of physical violence, there was reasonable ground for holding that the
decree excluding the Italians was the only means of preventing a serious
riot or even a civil war. The senate could scarcely have feared the
moral influence of the Italians on the voting populace of Rome, and they
knew that, in the present state of public sentiment, the constitutional
means of resistance which had failed against Tiberius Gracchus might be
successfully employed against his brother. The whole history of the
first tribunate of Caius Gracchus proves the frank recognition of the
fact that the tribunician veto could no longer be employed against a
measure which enlisted anything like the united support of the people;
but, like all other devices for suspending legislation, its employment
was still possible for opponents, and welcome even to lukewarm
supporters, when the body politic was divided on an important measure
and even the allies of its advocate felt their gratitude and their
loyalty submitted to an unwelcome strain. Resistance by means of the
intercession did not now require the stolid courage of an Octavius, and
when Livius Drusus threatened the veto,[680] there was no question of
his deposition. Some nerve might have been required, had he made this
announcement in the midst of an excited crowd of Italian postulants for
the franchise; but from this experience he was saved by the
precautionary measure taken by the senate. It is probable that Drusus's
announcement caused an entire suspension of the legal machinery
connected with the franchise bill, and that its author never ventured to
bring it to the vote.

It is possible that to this stage of Gracchus's career belongs a
proposal which he promulgated for a change in the order of voting at the
Comitia Centuriata. The alteration in the structure of this assembly,
which had taken place about the middle of the third century, had indeed
done much to equalise the voting power of the upper and lower classes;
but the first class and the knights of the eighteen centuries were still
called on to give their suffrage first, and the other classes doubtless
voted in the order determined by the property qualification at which
they were rated. As the votes of each century were separately taken and
proclaimed, the absolute majority required for the decisions of the
assembly might be attained without the inferior orders being called on
to express their judgment, and it was notorious that the opinion of
later voters was profoundly influenced by the results already announced.
Gracchus proposed that the votes of all the classes should be taken in
an order determined solely by the lot.[681] His interest in the Comitia
Centuriata was probably due to the fact that it controlled the consular
elections, and a democratic consulship, which he had vainly tried to
secure by his support of Fannius, might be rendered more attainable by
the adoption of the change which he advocated. The great danger of the
coming year was the election of a consul strongly identified with the
senatorial interest--of a man like Popillius who would be keen to seize
some moment of reaction and attempt to ruin the leaders of the reform
movement, even if he could not undo their work. It is practically
certain that this proposal of Gracchus never passed into law, it is
questionable whether it was ever brought before the Comitia. The
reformer was immediately plunged into a struggle to maintain some of his
existing enactments, and to keep the favour of the populace in the face
of insidious attempts which were being made to undermine their
confidence in himself.

The senate had struck out a new line of opposition, and they had found a
willing, because a convinced, instrument for their schemes. It is
inconceivable that a council, which reckoned within itself
representatives of all the noblest houses at Rome, should not have
possessed a considerable number of members who were influenced by the
political views of a Cato or a Scipio, or by the lessons of that
humanism which had carried the Gracchi beyond the bounds of Roman
caution, but which might suffuse a more conservative mind with just
sufficient enlightenment to see that much was wrong, and that moderate
remedies were not altogether beyond the limits of practicability. But
this section of senatorial opinion could find no voice and take no
independent action. It was crushed by the reactionary spirit of the
majority of the peers, and frightened at the results to which its
theories seem to lead, when their cautious qualifications, never likely
to find acceptance with the masses, were swept away by more
thorough-going advocates. But the voice, which the senate kept stifled
during the security of its rule, might prove valuable in a crisis. The
moderate might be put forward to outbid the extremist; for his
moderation would certainly lead him to respect the prejudices of the
mob, while any excesses, which he was encouraged or instructed to
commit, need not touch the points essential to political salvation, and
might be corrected, or left to a natural dissolution, when the crisis
had been passed and the demagogue overthrown. The instrument chosen by
the senate was Marcus Livius Drusus,[682] the tribune who had threatened
to interpose his veto on the franchise bill. There is no reason why the
historian should not treat the political attitude of this rival of
Gracchus as seriously as it seems to have been treated by Drusus's
illustrious son, who reproduced, and perhaps borrowed from his father's
career, the combination of a democratic propaganda, which threw specious
unessentials to the people, with the design of maintaining and
strengthening the rule of the nobility. The younger Drusus was, it is
true, a convert to the Italian claims which his father had resisted; but
even this advocacy shows development rather than change, for the party
represented by the elder Drusus was by no means blind to the necessity
for a better security of Italian rights. The difference between the
father and the son was that the one was an instrument and the other an
agent. But a man who is being consciously employed as an instrument, may
not only be thoroughly honest, but may reap a harvest of moral and
mental satisfaction at the opportunities of self-fulfilment which chance
has thrown in his way. The position may argue a certain lack of the
sense of humour, but is not necessarily accompanied by any conscious
sacrifice of dignity. Certainly the public of Rome was not in the secret
of the comedy that was being played. It saw only a man of high birth and
aristocratic culture, gifted with all the authority which great wealth
and a command of dignified oratory can give,[683] approaching them with
bounties greater in appearance than those which Gracchus had recently
been willing to impart, attaching no conditions to the gift and, though
speaking in the name of the senate, conveying no hint of the deprivation
of any of the privileges that had so recently been won. And the new
largess was for the Roman people alone; it was not depreciated by the
knowledge that the blessings, which it conferred or to which it was
added, would be shared by rivals from every part of Italy.

An aspirant for favour, who wished to enter on a race with the recent
type of popular leader, must inevitably think of provision for the poor;
but a mere copy or extension of the Gracchan proposals was impossible.
No measure that had been fiercely opposed by the senate could be
defended with decency by the representative, and, as Drusus came in
after time to be styled, the "advocate" of that body.[684] Such a scheme
as an extension of the system of corn distribution would besides have
shocked the political sense both of the patron and his clients, and
would not have served the political purposes of the latter, since such a
concession could not easily have been rescinded. The system of agrarian
assignation, in the form in which it had been carried through by the
hands of the Gracchi, had at the moment a complete machinery for its
execution, and there was no plausible ground for extending this measure
of benevolence. The older system of colonisation was the device which
naturally occurred to Drusus and his advisers, and the choice was the
more attractive in that it might be employed in a manner which would
accentuate certain elements in the Gracchan scheme of settlement that
had not commended themselves to public favour. The masses of Rome
desired the monopoly of every prize which the favourite of the moment
had to bestow; but Gracchus's colonies were meant for the middle class,
not for the very poor, and the preliminary to membership of the
settlements was an uncomfortable scrutiny into means, habits and
character.[685] The masses desired comfort. Capua may have pleased them,
but they had little liking for a journey across the sea to the site of
desolated Carthage. The very modesty of Gracchus's scheme, as shown in
the number of the settlements projected and of the colonists who were to
find a home in each, proved that it was not intended as a benefit to the
proletariate as a whole. Drusus came forward with a proposal for twelve
colonies, all of which were probably to be settled on Italian and
Sicilian soil;[686] each of these foundations was to provide for three
thousand settlers, and emigrants were not excluded on the ground of
poverty. An oblique reflection on the disinterestedness of Gracchus's
efforts was further given in the clause which created the commissioners
for the foundation of these new colonies, Drusus's name did not appear
in the list. He asked nothing for himself, nor would he touch the large
sums of money which must flow through the hands of the commissioners for
the execution of so vast a scheme.[687] The suspicion of self-seeking or
corruption was easily aroused at Rome, as it must have been in any state
where such large powers were possessed by the executive, and where no
control of the details of execution or expenditure had ever been
exercised by the people; and Gracchus's all-embracing energy had
betrayed him into a position, which had been accepted in a moment of
enthusiasm, but which, disallowed as it was by current sentiment and
perhaps by the law, might easily be shaken by the first suggestion of
mistrust. The scheme of Drusus, although it proved a phantom and perhaps
already possessed this elusive character when the senate pledged its
credit to the propounder of the measure, was of value as initiating a
new departure in the history of Roman colonisation. Even Gracchus had
not proposed to provide in this manner for the dregs of the city, and
the first suggestion for forming new foundations simply for the object
of depleting the plethora of Rome--the purpose real or professed of many
later advocates of colonisation--was due to the senate as an accident in
a political game, to Drusus perhaps as the result of mature reflection.
Since his proposal, which was really one for agrarian assignation on an
enormous scale, was meant to compete with Gracchus's plan for the
founding of colonies, it was felt to be impossible to burden the new
settlers with the payment of dues for the enjoyment of their land.
Gracchus's colonists were to have full ownership of the soil allotted to
them, and Drusus's could not be placed in an inferior position. But the
existence of thirty-six thousand settlers with free allotments would
immediately suggest a grievance to those citizens who, under the
Gracchan scheme of land-assignment, had received their lots subject to
the condition of the payment of annual dues to the State. If the new
allotments were to be declared free, the burden must be removed from
those which had already been distributed.[688] Drusus and the senate
thus had a logical ground for the step which seems to have been taken,
of relieving all the land which had been distributed since the tribunate
of the elder Gracchus from the payment of _vectigal_. It was a popular
move, but it is strange that the senate, which was for the most part
playing with promises, should have made up its mind to a definite step,
the taking of which must have seriously injured the revenues of the
State. But perhaps they regarded even this concession as not beyond
recall, and they may have been already revolving in their minds those
tortuous schemes of land-legislation, which in the near future were to
go far to undo the work of the reformers.

The senate also permitted Drusus to propose a law for the protection of
the Latins, which should prove that the worst abuses on which Gracchus
dwelt might be removed without the gift of the franchise. The enactment
provided that no Latin should be scourged by a Roman magistrate, even on
military service.[689] Such summary punishment must always have been
illegal when inflicted on a Latin who was not serving as a soldier under
Roman command and was within the bounds of the jurisdiction of his own
state; the only conceivable case in which he could have been legally
exposed to punishment at the hands of Roman officials in times of peace,
was that of his committing a crime when resident or domiciled in Rome.
In such circumstances the penalty may have been summarily inflicted, for
the Latins as a whole did not possess the right of appeal to the Roman
Comitia.[690] The extension of the magisterial right of coercion over
the inhabitants of Latin towns, and its application in a form from which
the Roman citizen could appeal, were mere abuses of custom, which
violated the treaties of the Latin states and were not first forbidden
by the Livian law. But the declaration that the Latin might not be
scourged by a Roman commander even on military service, was a novelty,
and must have seemed a somewhat startling concession at a time when the
Roman citizen was himself subject to the fullest rigour of martial law.
It was, however, one that would appeal readily to the legal mind of
Rome, for it was a different matter for a Roman to be subject to the
martial law of his own state, and for the member of a federate community
to be subjected to the code of this foreign power. It was intended that
henceforth the Latin should suffer at least the degrading punishment of
scourging only after the jurisdiction and on the bidding of his own
native commander; but it cannot be determined whether he was completely
exempted from the military jurisdiction of the Roman commander-in-chief
--an exemption which might under many circumstances have proved fatal to
military discipline and efficiency. There is every reason to suppose
that this law of Drusus was passed, and some reason to believe that it
continued valid until the close of the Social War destroyed the
distinctions between the rights of the Latin and the Roman. Its enactment
was one of the cleverest strokes of policy effected by Drusus and the
senate; for it must have satisfied many of the Latins, who were eager
for protection but not for incorporation, while it illustrated the
weakness, and as it may have seemed to many, the dishonesty, of
Gracchus's seeming contention that abuses could only be remedied by the
conferment of full political rights. The whole enterprise of Drusus
fully attained the immediate effect desired by the senate. The people
were too habituated to the rule of the nobility to remember grievances
when approached as friends; the advances of the senate were received in
good faith, and Drusus might congratulate himself that a representative
of the Moderates had fulfilled the appropriate task of a mediator
between opposing factions.[691]

We might have expected that Gracchus, in the face of such formidable
competition, would have stood his ground in Rome and would have
exhausted every effort of his resistless oratory in exhibiting the
dishonesty of his opponents and in seeking to reclaim the allegiance of
the people. But perhaps he held that the effective accomplishment of
another great design would be a better object-lesson of his power as a
benefactor and a surer proof of the reality of his intentions, as
contrasted with the shadowy promises of Drusus. He availed himself of
his position of triumvir for the foundation of the colony of Junonia--an
office which the senate gladly allowed him to accept--and set sail for
Africa to superintend in person the initial steps in the creation of his
great transmarine settlement.[692] His original plan was soon modified
by the opposition which it encountered; the promised number of
allotments was raised to six thousand, and Italians were now invited to
share in the foundation.[693] Both of these steps were doubtless the
result of the senate's dalliance with colonial schemes and with the
Latins, but the latter may also be interpreted as a desperate effort to
get the colony under weigh at any cost. Fulvius Flaccus, who was also
one of the colonial commissioners, either stayed at Rome during the
entire period of his colleague's absence or paid but the briefest visit
to Africa; for he is mentioned as the representative of the party's
interests in Rome during Gracchus's residence in the province. The
choice of the delegate was a bad one. Not only was Flaccus hated by the
senate, but he was suspected by the people. These in electing him to the
tribunate had forgiven his Italian leanings when the Italian cause was
held to be extinct; but now the odium of the franchise movement clung to
him afresh, and suspicion was rife that the secret dealings with the
allies, which were believed to have led to the outbreak of Fregellae,
had never been interrupted or had lately been renewed. The difficulties
of his position were aggravated by faults of manner. He possessed
immense courage and was an excellent fighter; but, like many men of
combative disposition, he was tactless and turbulent. His reckless
utterances increased the distrust with which he was regarded, and
Gracchus's popularity necessarily waned with that of his

Meanwhile the effort was being made to reawaken Carthage and to defy the
curse in which Scipio had declared that the soil of the fallen city
should be trodden only by the feet of beasts. No scruple could be
aroused by the division of the surrounding lands; the site where
Carthage had stood was alone under the ban,[695] and had Gracchus been
content with mere agrarian assignment or had he established Junonia at
some neighbouring spot, his opponents would have been disarmed of the
potent weapon which superstition invariably supplied at Rome. As it was,
alarming rumours soon began to spread of dreadful signs which had
accompanied the inauguration of the colony.[696] When the colonists
according to ancient custom were marching to their destined home in
military order with standards flying, the ensign which headed the column
was caught by a furious wind, torn from the grip of its resisting
bearer, and shattered on the ground. When the altars had been raised and
the victims laid upon them, a sudden storm-blast caught the offerings
and hurled them beyond the boundaries of the projected city which had
recently been cut by the share. The boundary-stones themselves were
visited by wolves, who seized them in their teeth and carried them off
in headlong flight. The reality of the last alarming phenomenon, perhaps
of all these omens, was vehemently denied by Gracchus and by
Flaccus;[697] but, even if the reports now flying abroad in Rome had any
basis in fact, the circumstances of the foundation did not deter the
leader nor frighten away his colonists. Gracchus proceeded with his work
in an orderly and methodical manner, and when he deemed his personal
supervision no longer essential, returned to Rome after an absence of
seventy days. He was recalled by the news of the unequal contest that
was being waged between the passionate Fulvius and the adroit Drusus.
Clearly the circumstances required a cooler head than that possessed by
Flaccus; and there was the threat of a still further danger which
rendered Gracchus's presence a necessity. The consulship for the
following year was likely to be gained by one of the most stalwart
champions of ultra-aristocratic views. Lucius Opimius had been defeated
when seeking that office in the preceding year, chiefly through the
support which Gracchus's advocacy had secured to Fannius. Now there was
every chance of his success;[698] for Opimius's chief claim to
distinction was the prompt action which he had shown in the conquest of
Fregellae, and the large numbers of the populace who detested the
Italian cause were likely to aid his senatorial partisans in elevating
him to the consulship. The consular elections might exercise a
reactionary influence on the tribunician; and, if Gracchus's candidature
was a failure, he might be at the mercy of a resolute opponent, who
would regard his destruction as the justifiable act of a saviour
of society.

When Caius returned, the people as a whole seemed more apathetic than
hostile. They listened with a cold ear both to appeals and promises, and
this coldness was due to satiety rather than suspicion. They had been
promised so much within the last few months that demagogism seemed to be
a normal feature of existence, and no keen emotion was stirred by any
new appeal to their vanity or to their interests. Such apathy, although
it may favour the military pretender, is more to be dreaded than actual
discontent by the man who rules merely by the force of character and
eloquence. Criticism may be met and faced, and, the keener it is, the
more it shows the interest of the critics in their leader. Pericles was
hated one moment, deified the next; but no man could profess to be
indifferent to his personality and designs. Gracchus took the lesson to
heart, and concentrated his attention on the one class of his former
supporters, whose daily life recalled a signal benefit which he had
conferred, a class which might be moved by gratitude for the past and
hope for the future. One of his first acts after his return was to
change his residence from the Palatine to a site lying below the
Forum.[699] Here he had the very poor as his neighbours, the true urban
proletariate which never dreamed of availing itself of agrarian
assignments or colonial schemes, but set a very real value on the
corn-distributions, and may have believed that their continuance would
be threatened by Gracchus's fall from power. It is probable, however,
that, even without this motive, the characteristic hatred which is felt
by the partially destitute for the middle class, may have deepened the
affection with which Gracchus was regarded by the poorer of his
followers, when they saw him abandoned by the more outwardly respectable
of his supporters. The present position of Gracchus showed clearly that
the powerful coalition on which he had built up his influence had
crumbled away. From a leader of the State he had become but the leader
of a faction, and of one which had hitherto proved itself powerless to
resist unaided a sudden attack by the government.

From this democratic stronghold he promulgated other laws, the tenor of
which is unknown, while he showed his sympathy with the lower orders in
a practical way which roused the resentment of his fellow-magistrates.
[700] A gladiatorial show was to be given in the Forum on a certain day,
and most of the magistrates had erected stands, probably in the form of
a rude wooden amphitheatre, which they intended to let on hire.[701]
Gracchus chose to consider this proceeding as an infringement of the
people's rights. It was perhaps not only the admission by payment, but
the opinion that the enclosure unduly narrowed the area of observation
and cut off all view of the performance from the surrounding crowd,[702]
that aroused Gracchus's protest, and he bade the magistrates pull down
the erection that the poorer classes might have a free view of the
spectacle. His request was disregarded, and Gracchus prepared a surprise
for the obstinate organisers. On the very night before the show he
sallied out with the workmen that his official duties still placed at his
disposal; the tiers of seats were utterly demolished, and when day dawned
the people beheld a vacant site on which they might pack themselves as
they pleased. To the lower orders it seemed the act of a courageous
champion, to the officials the wild proceeding of a headstrong
demagogue. It could not have improved Gracchus's chances with the
moneyed classes of any grade; he had merged their chances of enjoyment
with that of the crowd and violated their sense of the prerogatives
of wealth.

But, although Gracchus may have been acting violently, he was not acting
blindly. He must have known that his cause was almost lost, but he must
also have been aware that the one chance of success lay in creating a
solidarity of feeling in the poorer classes, which could only be
attained by action of a pronounced and vigorous type. To what extent he
was successful in reviving a following which furnished numerical support
superior, or even equivalent to, the classes alienated by his conduct or
won over by the intrigues of his opponents, is a fact on which we have
no certain information. Only one mention has been preserved of his
candidature for a third tribunate: and this narrative, while asserting
the near approach which Gracchus made to victory, confesses the
uncertainty of the accounts which had been handed down of the election.
The story ran that he really gained a majority of the votes, but that
the tribune who presided, with the connivance of some of his colleagues,
basely falsified the returns.[703] It is a story that cannot be tested
on account of our ignorance of the precautions taken, and therefore of
the possibilities of fraud which might be exhibited, in the elections of
this period. At a later period actual records of the voting were kept,
in case a decision should be doubted;[704] and had an appeal to a
scrutiny been possible at this time, Gracchus was not the man to let the
dubious result remain unchallenged. But the story, even if we regard it
as expressing a mere suspicion, suggests the profound disappointment of
a considerable class, which had given its favourite its united support
and received the news of his defeat with surprise and resentment. It
breathes the poor man's suspicion of the chicanery of the rich, and may
be an index that Gracchus retained the confidence of his humbler
supporters until the end.

The defeat, although a terrible blow, did not crush the spirit of
Gracchus; it only rendered it more bitter and defiant. It was now that
he exulted openly in the destructive character of his work, and he is
said to have answered the taunts of his enemies by telling them that
their laughter had a painful ring, and that they did not yet know the
great cloud of darkness which his political activity had wrapped around
their lives.[705] The dreaded danger of Opimius's election was soon
realised, and members of the newly appointed tribunician college were
willing to put themselves at the orders of the senate. The surest proof
that Gracchus had fallen would be the immediate repeal of one of his
laws, and the enactment which was most assailable was that which, though
passed under another's name, embodied his project for the refoundation
of Carthage. This Rubrian law might be attacked on the ground that it
contravened the rules of religious right, the violation of which might
render any public act invalid;[706] and the stories which had been
circulated of the evil omens that had attended the establishment of
Junonia, were likely to cause the scruples of the senate to be supported
by the superstition of the people. Gracchus still held an official
position as a commissioner for colonies, if not for land-distribution
and the making of roads, but none of these positions gave him the
authority to approach the people or the power to offer effective legal
resistance to the threatened measure; any further opposition might
easily take the form of a breach of the peace by a private individual
and give his enemies the opportunity for which they were watching; and
it was therefore with good reason that Gracchus at first determined to
adopt a passive attitude in the face of the proposal of the tribune
Minucius Rufus for the repeal of the Rubrian law.[707] Even Cornelia
seems to have counselled prudence, and it was perhaps this crisis in her
son's career which drew from her the passionate letter, in which the
mother triumphs over the patriot and she sees the ruin of the Republic
and the madness of her house in the loss which would darken her
declining years.[708] This protest is more than consistent with the
story that she sent country folk[709] to swell the following and protect
the person of her son, when she saw that he would not yield without
another effort to maintain his cause. The change of attitude is said to
have been forced on Gracchus by the exhortations of his friends and
especially of the impetuous Fulvius. The organisation of a band such as
Gracchus now gathered round him, although not in itself illegal, was a
provocation to riot; and a disastrous incident soon occurred which gave
his opponents the handle for which they had long been groping. At the
dawn of the day, on which the meeting was to be held for the discussion,
and perhaps for the voting, on the repeal of the threatened law,
Gracchus and his followers ascended to the Capitol, where the opposite
party was also gathering in strength. It seems that the consul Opimius
himself, although he could not preside at the final meeting of the
assembly, which was purely plebeian, was about to hold a Contio[710] or
to speak at one summoned by the tribunes. Gracchus himself did not
immediately enter the area in which the meeting was to be held, but
paced the portico of the temple buried in his thoughts.[711] What
immediately followed is differently told; but the leading facts are the
same in every version.[712] A certain Antullus or Antullius, spoken of
by some as a mere unit amongst the people, described by others as an
attendant or herald of Opimius, spoke some words--the Gracchans said, of
insolence: their opponents declared, of patriotic protest--to Gracchus
or to Fulvius, at the same time stretching out his arm to the speaker
whom he addressed. The gesture was misinterpreted, and the unhappy man
fell pierced with iron pens, the only weapons possessed by the unarmed
crowd. There could be no question that the first act of violence had
come from Gracchus's supporters, and the end for which Opimius had
waited had been gained. Even the eagerness with which the leader had
disclaimed the hasty action of his followers might be interpreted as a
renewed infringement of law. He had hurried from the Capitol to the
Forum to explain to all who would listen the unpremeditated nature of
the deed and his own innocence of the murder; but this very action was a
grave breach of public law, implying as it did an insult to the majesty
of the tribune in summoning away a section of the people whom he was
prepared to address.[713]

The meeting on the Capitol was soon dissolved by a shower of rain,[714]
and the tribunes adjourned the business to another day; while Gracchus
and Fulvius Flaccus, whose half-formed plans had now been shattered,
hastened to their respective homes. The weakness of their position had
been that they refused to regard themselves in their true light as the
leaders of a revolution against the government. Whatever their own
intentions may have been, it is improbable that their supporters
followed them to the Capitol simply with the design of giving peaceful
votes against the measure proposed: and, had Antullius not fallen, the
meeting on the Capitol might have been broken up by a rush of Gracchans,
as that which Tiberius once harangued had been invaded by a band of
senators. Success and even salvation could now be attained solely by the
use of force; and the question of personal safety must have appealed to
the rank and file as well as to the leaders, for who could forget the
judicial massacre which had succeeded the downfall of Tiberius? But the
security of their own lives was probably not the only motive which led
numbers of their adherents to follow the two leaders to their
homes.[715] Loyalty, and the keen activity of party spirit, which
stimulates faction into war, must also have led them to make a last
attempt to defend their patrons and their cause. The whole city was in a
state of restless anticipation of the coming day; few could sleep, and
from midnight the Forum began to be filled with a crowd excited but
depressed by the sense of some great impending evil.[716]

At daybreak the consul Opimius sent a small force of armed men to the
Capitol, evidently for the purpose of preventing the point of vantage
being seized by the hostile democrats, and then he issued notices for a
meeting of the senate. For the present he remained in the temple of
Castor and Pollux to watch events. When the fathers had obeyed his
summons, he crossed the Forum and met them in the Curia. Shortly after
their deliberations had begun, a scene, believed to have been carefully
prepared, began to be enacted in the Forum.[717] A band of mourners was
seen slowly making its way through the crowded market-place; conspicuous
on its bier was the body of Antullius, stripped so that the wound which
was the price of his loyalty might be seen by all. The bearers took the
route that led them past the senate-house, sobbing as they went and
wailing out the mourning cry. The consul was duly startled, and curious
senators hastened to the door. The bier was then laid on the ground, and
the horrified aristocrats expressed their detestation of the dreadful
crime of which it was a witness. Their indignation may have imposed on
some members of the crowd; others were inclined to mock this outburst of
oligarchic pathos, and to wonder that the men who had slain Tiberius
Gracchus and hurled his body into the Tiber, could find their hearts
thus suddenly dissolved at the death of an unfortunate but
undistinguished servant. The motive of the threnody was somewhat too
obvious, and many minds passed from the memory of Tiberius's death to
the thought of the doom which this little drama was meant to presage for
his brother.

The senators returned to the Curia, and the final resolution was taken.
Opimius was willing to venture on the step which Scaevola had declined,
and a new principle of constitutional law was tentatively admitted. A
state of siege was declared in the terms that "the consul should see
that the State took no harm," [718] and active measures were taken to
prepare the force which this decree foreshadowed. Opimius bade the
senators see to their arms, and enjoined each of the members of the
equestrian centuries to bring with him two slaves in full equipment at
the dawn of the next day.[719] But an attempt was made to avert the
immediate use of force by issuing a summons to Gracchus and Flaccus to
attend at the senate and defend their conduct there.[720] The summons
was perfectly legal, since the consul had the right to demand the
presence of any citizen or even any inferior magistrate; but the two
leaders may well be excused for their act of contumacy in disobeying the
command. They knew that they would merely be putting themselves as
prisoners into the hands of a hostile force; nor, in the light of past
events, was it probable that their surrender and punishment would save
their followers from destruction. Preparations for defence, or a
counter-demonstration which would prove the size and determination of
their following, might lead the senate to think of negotiation. Its
members had an inducement to take this view. Their legal position, with
respect to the step which they were now contemplating, was unsound; and
although they might claim that they had the government in the shape of
its chief executive officer on their side, and that their late policy
had attracted the support of the majority of the citizens, yet there was
no uncontested precedent for the legitimacy of waging war against a
faction at Rome; they had no mandate to perform this mission, and its
execution, which had lately been rendered illegal by statute law, might
subsequently be repudiated even by many of those whom they now regarded
as their supporters. Yet we cannot wonder at the uncompromising attitude
of the senate. They held themselves to be the legitimate government of
the State; they had learnt the lesson that a government must rest either
on its merits or on force; they were unwilling to repeat the scandalous
scene which, on the occasion of Tiberius Gracchus's death, had proved
their weakness, and were perhaps unable to resort to such unpremeditated
measures in the face of the larger following of Caius; they could enlist
on their side some members of the upper middle class who would share in
the guilt, if guilt there was: and lastly they had at their mercy two
men, of whom one had twice shaken the commonwealth and the other had
gloried in the prospect of its self-mutilation in the future.

The wisdom and justice of resistance appealed immediately to the mind of
Flaccus, whose combative instincts found their natural satisfaction in
the prospect of an interchange of blows. The finer and more complex
spirit of Gracchus issued in a more uncertain mood. The bane of the
thinker and the patriot was upon him. Was a man who had led the State to
fight against it, and the rule of reason to be exchanged for the base
arbitrament of the sword? None knew the emotions with which he turned
from the Forum to gaze long and steadfastly at the statue of his father
and to move away with a groan;[721] but the sight of his sorrow roused a
sympathy which the call to arms might not have stirred. Many of the
bystanders were stung from their attitude of indifference to curse
themselves for their base abandonment of the man who had sacrificed so
much, to follow him to his house, and to keep a vigil before his doors.
The night was passed in gloomy wakefulness, the spirits of the watchers
were filled with apprehension of the common sacrifice which the coming
day might demand, and the silence was only broken when the voluntary
guard was at intervals relieved by those who had already slumbered.
Meanwhile the neighbours of Flaccus were being startled by the sounds of
boisterous revelry that issued from his halls. The host was displaying
an almost boyish exuberance of spirits, while his congenial comrades
yelled and clapped as the wine and the jest went round. At daybreak
Fulvius was dragged from his heavy slumbers, and he and his companions
armed themselves with the spoils of his consulship, the Gallic weapons
that hung as trophies upon his walls.[722] They then set out with
clamorous threats to take possession of the Aventine. The home that
Icilius had won for the Plebs was to be the scene of another struggle
for freedom. It was in later times pretended that Fulvius had taken the
step, from which even Catilina shrank, of calling the slaves to arms on
a promise of freedom.[723] We have no means of disproving the
allegation, which seems to have occurred with suspicious frequency in
the records left by aristocratic writers of the popular movements which
they had assisted to crush. But it is easy to see that the devotion of
slaves to their own masters during such struggles, and the finding of
their bodies amidst the slain, would be proof enough to a government,
anxious to emphasise its merits as a saviour of society, that general
appeals had been made to the servile class. Such a deduction might
certainly have been drawn from a view of the forces mustered under
Opimius; for in these the slaves may have exceeded the citizens in

Gracchus's mind was still divided between resistance and resignation. He
consented to accompany his reckless friend to the Aventine, as the only
place of refuge; but he declined to don his armour, merely fastening
under his toga a tiny dagger,[725] as a means of defence in the last
resort, or perhaps of salvation, did all other measures fail. The
presage of his coming doom was shared by his wife Licinia who clung to
him at the door, and when he gently disengaged himself from her arms,
made one more effort to grasp his robe and sank senseless on the
threshold. When Gracchus reached the Aventine with his friends, he found
that Flaccus and his party had seized the temple of Diana and had made
hasty preparations for fortifying it against attack. But Gracchus,
impressed with the helplessness or the horror of the situation,
persuaded him to make an effort at accommodation, and the younger son of
Flaccus, a boy of singular beauty, was despatched to the Curia on the
mission of peace.[726] With modest mien and tears streaming from his
eyes he gave his message to the consul. Many--perhaps most--of those who
listened were not averse to accept a compromise which would relieve the
intolerable strain and avert a civil strife. But Opimius was inflexible;
the senate, he said, could not be approached by deputy; the principals
must descend from the Aventine, lay down their arms, deliver themselves
up to justice as citizens subject to the laws, and then they might
appeal to the senate's grace; he ended by forbidding the youth to
return, if he could not bring with him an acceptance of these final
terms. The more pacific members of the senate could offer no effective
objection, for it was clear that the consul was acting within his legal
rights. The coercion of a disobedient citizen was a matter for the
executive power and, though Opimius had spoken in the name of the
senate, the authority and the responsibility were his. Retirement would
have been their only mode of protest; but this would have been a
violation of the discipline which bound the Council to its head, and
would have betrayed a suspicious indifference to the cause which was
regarded as that of the constitution. It is said that, on the return of
the messenger, Gracchus expressed willingness to accept the consul's
terms and was prepared to enter the senate and there plead his own cause
and that of his followers.[727] But none of his comrades would agree,
and Flaccus again despatched his son with proposals similar to those
which had been rejected. Opimius carried out his injunction by detaining
the boy and, thirsting for battle to effect the end which delay would
have assured, advanced his armed forces against the position held by
Flaccus. He was not wholly dependent on the improvised levies of the
previous day. There were in Rome at that moment some bands of Cretan
archers,[728] which had either just returned from service with the
legions or were destined to take part in some immediate campaign. It was
to their efforts that the success of the attack was mainly due. The
barricade at the temple might have resisted the onslaught of the
heavily-armed soldier; but its defenders were pierced by the arrows, the
precinct was strewn with wounded men, and the ranks were in utter
disorder when the final assault was made. There were names of
distinction which lent a dignity to the massacre that followed. Men like
Publius Lentulus, the venerable chief of the senate, gave a perpetual
colour of respectability to the action of Opimius by appearing in their
panoplies amongst the forces that he led.[729]

When the rout was complete and the whole crowd in full flight, Flaccus
sought escape in a workshop owned by a man of his acquaintance; but the
course of his flight had been observed, the narrow court which led to
the house was soon crowded by pursuers, who, maddened by their ignorance
of the actual tenement that concealed the person of Flaccus, vowed that
they would burn the whole alley to the ground if his hiding-place were
not revealed.[730] The trembling artisan who had befriended him did not
dare to betray his suppliant, but relieved his scruples by whispering
the secret to another. The hiding place was immediately revealed, and
the great ex-consul who had laid the foundations of Rome's dominion in
farther Gaul, a man strenuous and enlightened, ardent and faithful but
perhaps not overwise, was hacked to pieces by his own citizens in an
obscure corner of the slums of Rome. His elder son fell fighting by his
side. To the younger, the fair ambassador of that day, now a prisoner of
the consul, the favour was granted of choosing his own mode of death.
Early Rome had repudiated the principle of visiting the sins of the
fathers upon the children;[731] but the cold-blooded horrors of the
Oriental and Hellenic world were now becoming accepted maxims of state
to a government trembling for its safety and implacable in its revenge.

Meanwhile Gracchus had been saved from both the stain of civil war and
the humiliation of capture by his foes. No man had seen him strike a
blow throughout the contest. In sheer disgust at the appalling scene he
had withdrawn to the shrine of Diana, and was there prepared to compass
his own death.[732] His hand was stayed by two faithful friends,
Pomponius and Laetorius,[733] who urged him to escape. Gracchus obeyed,
but it was believed by some that, before he left the temple, he
stretched forth his hand to the goddess and prayed that the Roman people
might never be quit of slavery as a reward for their ingratitude and
treachery.[734] This outburst of anger, a very natural consequence of
his own humiliating plight, is said to have been kindled by the
knowledge that the larger portion of the mob had already listened to a
promise of amnesty and had joined the forces of Opimius. Unlike most
imprecations, that of Gracchus was destined to be fulfilled.

The flight of Gracchus led him down the slope of the Aventine to the
gate called Trigemina which stood near the Tiber's bank. In hastening
down the hill he had sprained his ankle, and time for his escape was
only gained by the devotion of Pomponius,[735] who turned, and
single-handed kept the pursuing enemy at bay until trampling on his
prostrate body they rushed in the direction of the wooden bridge which
spanned the river. Here Laetorius imitated the heroism of his comrade.
Standing with drawn sword at the head of the bridge, he thrust back all
who tried to pass until Gracchus had gained the other bank. Then he too
fell, pierced with wounds. The fugitive had now but a single slave to
bear him company in his flight; it led them through frequented streets,
where the passers-by stopped on their way, cheered them on as though
they were witnessing a contest of speed, but gave no sign of help and
turned deaf ears to Gracchus's pleading for a horse; for the pursuers
were close behind, and the dulled and panic-stricken mob had no thought
but for themselves. The grove of Furrina[736] received them just before
they were overtaken by the pursuing band; and in the sacred precinct the
last act was accomplished. It was known only that master and slave had
been found lying side by side. Some believed that the faithful servant
had slain Gracchus and then pierced his own breast; others held that
they were both living when the enemy came upon them, but that the slave
clung with such frantic devotion to his master that Gracchus's body
could not be reached until the living shield had been pierced and torn
away.[737] The activity of the pursuers had been stimulated by greed,
for Opimius had put a price upon the heads of both the leaders of the
faction on the Aventine. The bearers of these trophies of victory were
to receive their weight in gold. The humble citizens who produced the
head of Flaccus are said to have been defrauded of their reward; but the
action of the man who wrested the head of Gracchus from the first
possessor of the prize and bore it on a javelin's point to Opimius, long
furnished a text to the moralist who discoursed on the madness of greed
and the thirst of gold. Its unnatural weight is said to have revealed
the fact that the brain had been extracted and the cavity filled with
molten lead.[738] The bodies of the slain were for the most part thrown
into the Tiber, but one account records that that of Gracchus was handed
over to his mother for burial.[739] The number of the victims of the
siege, the pursuit and the subsequent judicial investigation is said to
have been three thousand.[740] The resistance to authority, which was
all that could be alleged against the followers of Gracchus, was
treated, not as a riot, but as a rebellion. The Tullianum saw its daily
dole of victims, who were strangled by the executioner; the goods of the
condemned were confiscated by the State and sold at public auction. All
public signs of mourning were forbidden to their wives;[741] and the
opinion of Scaevola, the greatest legal expert of the day, was that some
property of his niece Licinia, which had been wrecked in the general
tumult, could be recovered only from the goods of her husband, to whom
the sedition was due.[742] The attitude of the government was, in fact,
based on the view that the members of the defeated party, whether slain
or executed, had been declared enemies of the State. Their action had
put them outside the pale of law, and the decree of the senate, which
had assisted Opimius in the extreme course that he had taken, was an
index that the danger, which it vaguely specified, aimed at the actual
existence of the commonwealth and undermined the very foundations of
society. Such was the theory of martial law which Opimius's bold action
gave to his successors. Its weakness lay in the circumstance that it was
unknown to the statutes and to the courts; its plausibility was due
partly to the fact that, since the desuetude of the dictatorship, no
power actually existed in Rome which could legally employ force to crush
even the most dangerous popular rising, and partly to the peculiarities
of the movement which witnessed the first exercise of this authority.
The killing of Caius Gracchus and his followers, however useless and
mischievous the act may have been, had about it an air of spurious
legality, with which no ingenuity could invest the murder of Tiberius
and his adherents. The fallen chiefs were in enjoyment of no magisterial
authority that could justify either their initial action or their
subsequent disobedience; they had fortified a position in the town, and
had certainly taken up arms, presumably for the purpose of inflicting
grievous harm on loyal fellow-citizens. As their opponents were
certainly the government, what could they be but declared foes who had
been caught red-handed in an act of treason so open and so violent that
the old identity of "traitors" and "enemies" was alone applicable to
their case? Thus legal theory itself proclaimed the existence of civil
war, and handed on to future generations of party leaders an instrument
of massacre and extirpation which reached its culminating point in the
proscription list of Sulla.

Opimius, after he had ceased to preside at his death-dealing commission,
expressed the view that he had removed the rabies of discord from the
State by the foundation of a temple to Harmony. The bitter line which
some unseen hand scribbled on the door,[743] expressed the doubt, which
must soon have crept over many minds, whether the doctor had not been
madder than the patient, and the view, which was soon destined to be
widely held, that the authors of the discord which had been professedly
healed, the teachers who were educating Rome up to a higher ideal of
civil strife, were the very men who were now in power.[744] We shall see
in the sequel with what speed Time wrought his political revenge. In the
hearts of men the Gracchi were even more speedily avenged. The Roman
people often alternated between bursts of passionate sentiment and
abject states of cowardly contentment; but through all these phases of
feeling the memory of the two reformers grew and flourished. To accept
the Gracchi was an article of faith impressed on the proudest noble and
the most bigoted optimate by the clamorous crowd which he addressed. The
man who aped them might be pronounced an impostor or a traitor; the men
he aped belonged almost to the distant world of the half-divine. Their
statues were raised in public places, the sites on which they had met
their death were accounted holy ground and were strewn with humble
offerings of the season's fruits. Many even offered to their images a
daily sacrifice and sank on their knees before them as before those of
the gods.[745] The quiet respect or ecstatic reverence with which the
names and memories of the Gracchi were treated, was partly due to a
vague sense in the mind of the common man that they were the authors of
the happier aspects of the system under which he lived, of the brighter
gleams which occasionally pierced the clouds of oppression and
discomfort; it was also due to the conviction in the mind of the
statesman, often resisted but always recurring, that their work was
unalterable. To undo it was to plunge into the dark ages, to attempt to
modify it was immediately to see the necessity of its renewal. At every
turn in the paths of political life the statesman was confronted by two
figures, whom fear or admiration raised to gigantic proportions. The
orthodox historian would angrily declare that they were but the figures
of two young men, whose intemperate action had thrown Rome into
convulsion and who had met their fate, not undeserved however
lamentable, the one in a street riot, the other while heading an armed
sedition. But the criticism contained the elements of its own
refutation. The youth, the brotherhood, the martyrdom of the men were
the very elements that gave a softening radiance to the hard contour of
their lives. The Gracchi were a stern and ever-present reality; they
were also a bright and gracious memory. In either character they must
have lived; but the combination of both presentments has secured them an
immortality which age, wisdom, experience and success have often
struggled vainly to secure. That strange feeling which a great and
beautiful life has often inspired, that it belongs to eternity rather
than to the immediate past, and that it has few points of contact with
the prosaic round of present existence, had almost banished from
Cornelia's mind the selfish instincts of her loss, and had perhaps even
dulled the tender memories which cluster round the frailer rather than
the stronger elements in the characters of those we love. Those who
visited her in her villa at Misenum, where she kept her intellectual
court, surrounded by all that was best in letters, and exchanging
greetings or gifts with the potentates of the earth, were amazed at the
composure with which she spoke of the lives and actions of her
sons.[746] The memory drew no tear, her voice conveyed no intonation of
sorrow or regret. She spoke of them as though they were historical
figures of the past, men too distant and too great to arouse the weak
emotion which darkens contemplation. Some thought that her mind had been
shaken by age, or that her sensibility had been dulled by misfortune.
"In this they proved their own utter lack of sensibility" says the
loving biographer of the Gracchi: They did not know, he adds, the signs
of that nobility of soul, which is sometimes given by birth and is
always perfected by culture, or the reasonable spirit of endurance which
mental and moral excellence supply. The calmness of Cornelia proved, as
well, that she was at one with her children after their death, and their
identity with a mind so pure is as great a tribute to their motives as
the admiration or fear of the Romans is to their intellect and their
deeds, Cornelia deserved a memorial in Rome for her own intrinsic worth;
but the demeanour of her latter days justifies the legend engraved on
the statue which was to be seen in the portico of Metellus: "To
Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi".[747]

We are now in a position to form some estimate of the political changes
which had swept over Rome during the past twelve years. The
revolutionary legislation of this period was, strictly speaking, not
itself the change, but merely the formula which marked an established
growth; nor can any profit be derived from drawing a marked contrast
between the aims and methods of the two men who were responsible for the
most decisive of these reforms. A superficial view of the facts might
lead us to suppose that Tiberius Gracchus had bent his energies solely
to social amelioration, and that it was reserved for his brother Caius
to effect vast changes in the working, though not in the structure, of
the constitution. But even a chronological survey of the actions of
these two statesmen reveals the vast union of interests that suddenly
thrust themselves forward, with a vehemence which demanded either such a
resistance as no political society is homogeneous enough to maintain, or
such concessions as may be graciously made by a government which after
the grant may still retain most of the forms and much of the substance
of its former power. So closely interwoven were social and political
questions, so necessary was it for the attempted satisfaction of one
class immediately to create the demand for the recognition or
compensation of another, that Tiberius Gracchus had no sooner formulated
his agrarian proposals than he was beset with thoughts of legislating
for the army, transferring some of the judicial power to the equestrian
order, and granting the franchise to the allies. Even the belief that
these projects were merely a device for securing his own ascendency,
does not prove that their announcement was due to a brilliant discovery
of their originator, or that he created wants which he thereupon
proposed to satisfy. The desperate statesman seizes on the grievance
which is nearest to hand; it is true that he may increase a want by
giving the first loud and clear expression to the low and confused
murmurings of discontent; but a grievance that lives and gives violent
tokens of its presence, as did that of the Italian allies in the
Fregellan revolt, must be real, not fictitious: and when it finds a
remedy, as the needs of the poor and the political claims of the knights
did under the régime of Caius Gracchus, the presumption is that the
disease has been of long standing, and that what it has for a long time
lacked was not recognition, but the opportunity and the intelligence
necessary to secure redress. Caius Gracchus was as little of a political
explorer as his brother; it did not require the intuition of genius to
see facts which formed the normal environment of every prominent
politician of the age. His claim to greatness rests, partly on the
mental and moral strength which he shared with Tiberius and which gave
him the power to counteract the force of inertia and transmute vague
thought, first into glowing words and then into vigorous action; partly
on the extraordinary ingenuity with which he balanced the interests and
claims of classes so as to form a coalition which was for the time
resistless: and partly on the finality with which he removed the
jealousies of the hour from the idle arena of daily political strife,
and gave them their place in the permanent machinery of the
constitution, there to remain as the necessary condition of the
precarious peace or the internecine war which the jarring elements of a
balance of power bring in turn to its possessors.

Since the reality of the problems with which the Gracchi dealt is
undeniable, and since few would be inclined to admit that the most
effective treatment of a problem, whether social or political, is to
refuse it a solution, any reasonable criticism of their reforms must be
based solely on a consideration of their aims and methods. The land
question, which was taken up by both these legislators, attracts our
first attention. The aim of the resumption and redistribution of the
public domain had been the revival of the class of peasant holders, whom
legend declared, perhaps with a certain element of truth, to have formed
the flower of the civic population during the years when Rome was
struggling for a place amongst the surrounding peoples and in the
subsequent period of her expansion over Italy. Such an aim may be looked
at from two points of view. It may be regarded as an end in itself,
without any reference to its political results, or it may be looked on
as an effort to increase the power and security of the State without any
peculiar consideration of the comfort and well-being of its individual
members. The Gracchan scheme, regarded from the first point of view,
can, with respect to its end as distinguished from its methods, be
criticised unfavourably only by those who hold that an urban life does
under all circumstances convey moral, mental and physical benefits which
are denied by the conditions of residence in country districts. It is
true that the objector may in turn point out that the question of the
standard of comfort to be attained in either sphere is here of supreme
importance; but such an issue brings us at once within the region of
means and not of ends, and an ideal of human life cannot be judged
solely with reference to the practicability of its realisation. It is
the second point of view from which the aim of this land legislation may
be contemplated, which first gives the critic the opportunity of denying
the validity of the end as well as the efficiency of the means. If the
new agriculturist was meant to be an element of strength to the Roman
State, to save it from the selfishness of a narrow oligarchy, the
instability of a city mob and the corruption of both, to defend the
conquests which the city had won or to push her empire further, it was
necessary to prove that he could be of utility both as a voting unit and
as a soldier in the legions. His capacity for performing the first
function efficiently was, at the very least, extremely questionable. The
reality of the farmer's vote obviously depended on the closeness of his
residence to the capital, since there is not the least trace, at this or
at any future time during the history of the Republic, of the formation
of any design for modifying the rigidly primary character of the popular
assemblies of Rome. The rights of the voter at a distance had always
been considered so purely potential, that the inland and northern
settlements which Rome established in Italy had generally been endowed
with Latin rights, while the colonies of Roman citizens clustered more
closely round their mother; and men had always been found ready to
sacrifice the active rights of Roman citizenship, on account of the
worthlessness of their possession in a remote colony. It was even
difficult to reconcile the passive rights of Roman citizenship with
residence at a distance from the capital; for all the higher
jurisdiction was centred in Rome and could not easily be sought by the
inhabitants of distant settlements.[748] But, even if we exclude the
question of relative distance from the centre of affairs, it was still
not probable that the dweller in the country would be a good citizen
according to the Hellenic comprehension of that phrase. When Aristotle
approves of a country democracy, simply because it is not strictly a
democracy at all,[749] he is thinking, not merely of the farmer's lack
of interest in city politics, but of the incompatibility of the
perpetual demands which rural pursuits make on time and energy with
attendance on public business at the centre of affairs. The son of the
soil soon learns that he owes undivided allegiance to his mother: and he
will seldom be stirred by a political emotion strong enough to overcome
the practical appeals which are made by seed-time and harvest. But the
opportunities for discarding civic obligations were far greater in Rome
than in the Greek communities. The Roman assemblies had no stated days
of meeting, laws might be promulgated and passed at any period of the
year, their tenor was explained at public gatherings which were often
announced on the very morning of the day for which they were summoned,
and could be attended only by those whom chance or leisure or the
habitual pursuit of political excitement had brought to the Capitol or
the Forum. There was not at this period a fixed date even for the
elections of the higher magistrates. An attempt was perhaps made to
arrange them for the summer, when the roads were passable, the labours
of spring were over, and the toils of harvest time had not yet
commenced.[750] But the creation of the magistrates with Imperium
depended to a large extent on the convenience of the consuls, one of
whom had sometimes to be summoned back from a campaign to preside at the
Comitia which were to elect his successors; while even the date of the
tribunician elections might have been conditioned by political
considerations. The closing events of the life of Tiberius Gracchus
prove how difficult it was to secure the attendance of the country voter
even when an election of known political import was in prospect; while
Caius realised that the best security for the popular leader, whether as
a legislator or a candidate, was to attach the urban resident to himself
by the ties of gratitude and interest. We can scarcely admit, in the
face of facts like these, that the agriculturist created by the Gracchan
reforms was likely to render any signal political assistance to his
city. It is true that the existence of a practically disfranchised
proletariate may have a modifying influence on politics. It could not in
Rome serve the purpose, which it sometimes fulfils in the modern world,
of moulding the opinion of the voter; but even in Rome it suggested a
reserve that might be brought up on emergencies. A state, however, does
not live on emergencies but on the constant and watchful activity of its
members. Such activity could be displayed at Rome only by the leisured
senator or the leaders of the city mob. The forces that had worked for
oligarchy in the past might under changed conditions produce a narrow
type of urban democracy; but they presented no hope of the realisation
of a true popular government.

It might be hoped, however, that the newly created farmer might add to
the military, if not the political, strength of the State. The hope, so
far as it rested on the agriculturist himself, was rendered something of
an anachronism by the present conditions of service. Even in the old
days a campaign prolonged beyond the ordinary duration of six months had
often effected the ruin of the peasant proprietor; and now that the
cautious policy of the protectorate had been so largely abandoned and
Rome's military efforts, no longer limited to wars of defence or
aggression, were directed to securing her ascendency in distant
dependencies by means of permanent garrisons, service in the legions was
a still more fatal impediment to industrial development. Rome had not
yet learnt the lesson that an empire cannot be garrisoned by an army of
conscripts; but she was becoming conscious of the inadequacy of her own
military system, and this consciousness led her to take the easy but
fatal step of throwing far the larger burden of foreign service on the
Latins and Italian allies. Any increase in the number and efficiency of
her own military forces would thus remove a dangerous grievance, while
it added to the strength which, in the last resort, could alone secure
the permanence of her supremacy even in Italy. Such an increase was
finally effected in the only possible manner--by the adoption of a
system of voluntary enlistment and by carrying still further the
increasing disregard for those antiquated conditions of wealth and
status, which were a part of the theory that service was a burden and
wholly inconsistent with the new requirement that it should become a
profession. Although it must be confessed that little assistance in this
direction was directly tendered by the Gracchan legislation, yet it
should be remembered that, even if we exclude from consideration the
small efforts made by Caius to render military service a more attractive
calling, the increase of the farmer class might of itself have done much
to solve the problem. Although the single occupant of a farm was clearly
incapable of taking his part in expeditions beyond the seas without
serious injury to his own interests, yet the sons of such a man might
have performed a considerable term of military service without
disastrous consequences to the estate, and where the inheritance had
remained undivided and several brothers held the land in common, the
duties of the soldier and the farmer might have been alternated without
leaving the homestead divested of its head. The recognition of the
military life as a profession must have profited still more by the
policy which encouraged the growth of the country population; for the
energy of the surplus members of the household, whose services were not
needed or could not be adequately rewarded on the farm, would find a
more salutary outlet in the stirring life of the camp than in the
enervating influences of the city. The country-side might still continue
to supply a better physique and a finer morale than were likely to be
discovered in the poorer quarters of Rome.

The objects aimed at in the Gracchan scheme of land-reform, although in
some respects difficult of realisation, have aroused less hostile
criticism than the methods which were adopted for their fulfilment. It
may be held that the scheme of practical confiscation, which, advocated
by Tiberius Gracchus, plunged him at once into a fierce political
struggle and encountered resistance which could only be overcome by
unconstitutional means, might have been avoided had the reformer seen
that an economic remedy must be ultimate to be successful, and that an
economic tendency can only be resisted by destroying the conditions
which give it the false appearance of a law. The two conditions which
were at the time fatal to the efforts of the moderate holder of land,
are generally held to have been the cheapness and, under the inhumane
circumstances of its employment, even efficiency of slave labour, and
the competition of cheap corn from the provinces. The remedial measures
which might immediately present themselves to the mind of a modern
economist, who was unfettered by a belief in free trade or in the
legitimacy of securing the cheapest labour available, are the
prohibition of, or restrictions on, the importation of slaves, and the
imposition of a duty on foreign corn. The first device might in its
extreme form have been impracticable, for it would have been difficult
to ensure such a supervision of the slave market as to discriminate
between the sale of slaves for agricultural or pastoral work and their
acquirement for domestic purposes. A tax on servile labour employed on
land, or the moderate regulation which Caesar subsequently enforced that
a certain proportion of the herdsmen employed on the pasture lands
should be of free birth,[751] would have been more practicable measures,
and perhaps, if presented as an alternative to confiscation, might not
have encountered an unconquerable resistance from the capitalists,
although their very moderation might have won them but a lukewarm
support from the people, and ensured the failure that attends on
half-measures which do not carry their meaning on their face and lack
the boldness which excites enthusiasm. But the real objection which the
Gracchi and their circle would have had to legislation of this type,
whether it had been suggested to them in its extreme shape or in some
modified form, would have been that it could not have secured the object
at which they aimed. Such measures would merely have revived the free
labourer, while their dream was to re-establish the peasant proprietor,
or at least the occupant who held his land on a perfectly secure tenure
from the State. And even the revival of the free labourer would only
have been exhibited on the most modest scale; for such legislation would
have done nothing to reclaim arable land which had degenerated into
pasturage, and to reawaken life in the great deserted tracts, whose
solitude was only broken by the rare presence of the herdsman's cabin.
To raise a cry for the restoration of free labour on this exiguous scale
might have exposed a legislator to the disappointment, if not derision,
of his friends and invited the criticism, effective because popular, of
all his secret foes. The masters of the world were not likely to give
enthusiastic support to a leader who exhibited as their goal the lonely,
barren and often dangerous life of sheep-driver to some greedy
capitalist, and who offered them the companionship, and not the service,
of the slaves that their victorious arms had won.

The alternative of protective legislation for the defence of Italian
grain may be even more summarily dismissed. It was, in the first place,
impossible from the point of view of political expediency. The Gracchi,
or any other reforming legislators, had to depend for their main support
on the voting population of the city of Rome: and such a constituency
would never have dreamed for a moment of sanctioning a measure which
would have made the price of corn dearer in the Roman market, even if
the objections of the capitalists who placed the foreign grain on that
market could have been successfully overcome. So far from dreaming of
the practicability of such a scheme, Caius Gracchus had been forced to
allow the sale of corn at Rome at a cost below the current market-price.
But, even had protection been possible, it must have come as the last,
not as the first, of the constructive measures necessary for the
settlement of the agrarian question. It might have done something to
keep the small farms standing, but these farms had to be created before
their maintenance was secured; and if adopted, apart from some scheme
aiming at a redivision of the land, such a protective measure would
merely have benefited such existing owners of the large estates as still
continued to devote a portion of their domains to agriculture. The fact,
however, which may be regarded as certain, that foreign corn could
undersell that of Italy in the Roman market, and probably in that of all
the great towns within easy access of the sea, may seem a fatal flaw in
the agrarian projects of the Gracchi. What reason was there for
supposing that the tendencies which in the past had favoured the growth
of large holdings and replaced agriculture by pasturage, should remain
inoperative in the future? Tiberius Gracchus's own regulation about the
inalienability of the lands which he assigned, seemed to reveal the
suspicion that the tendencies towards accumulation had not yet been
exhausted, and that the occupants of the newly created farms might not
find the pursuit of agriculture so profitable as to cling to them in
scorn of the enticements of the encroaching capitalist. Doubtless the
prohibition to sell revealed a weakness in the agricultural system of
the times; but the regulation was probably framed, not in despair of the
small holder securing a maintenance, but as a protection against the
money-lender, that curse of the peasant-proprietor, who might now be
less willing to approach the peasant, when the security which he
obtained could under no circumstances lead to his acquiring eventual
ownership. With respect to the future, there was reasonable hope that
the farmer, if kept in tolerable security from the strategic advances of
his wealthier neighbours, would be able to hold his own. In a modern
state, possessing a teeming population and a complex industrial
organisation, where the profits of a widely spread commercial life have
raised the standard of comfort and created a host of varied needs, the
view may reasonably be taken that, before agriculture can declare itself
successful, it must be able to point to some central market where it
will receive an adequate reward for the labour it entails. But this view
was by no means so prevalent in the simpler societies of antiquity. The
difficulties of communication, which, with reference to transport, must
have made Rome seem nearer to Africa than to Umbria, and must have
produced a similar tendency to reliance on foreign imports in many of
the great coast towns, would alone have been sufficient to weaken the
reliance of the farmer on the consumption of his products by the larger
cities. The belief that the homestead might be almost self-sufficient
probably lingered on in remote country districts even in the days of the
Gracchi; or, if absolute self-existence was unattainable, the
necessities of life, which the home could not produce, might be procured
without effort by periodical visits to the market or fair, which formed
the industrial centre of a group of hamlets. The seemingly ample size of
the Gracchan allotments, some of which were three times as great as the
larger of the colonial assignments of earlier days,[752] pointed to the
possibility of the support of a large family, if the simpler needs of
life were alone considered. The farmer's soul need not be vexed by
competition if he was content to live and not to trade, and it might
have been hoped that the devotion to the soil, which ownership inspires,
might have worked its magic even on the lands left barren through
neglect. There might even be a hope for the cultivator who aimed at the
markets of the larger towns; for, if corn returned no profit, yet oil
and wine were not yet undersold, and were both of them commodities which
would bring better returns than grain to the minute and scrupulous care
in which the smaller cultivator excels the owner of a great domain. The
failure of corn-growing as a productive industry, perhaps the
legislation of the Gracchi itself, must have given a great impetus to
the cultivation of the vine and the olive, the value attached to which
during the closing years of the Republic is, as we have seen, attested
by the fact that the extension of these products was prohibited in the
Transalpine regions in order to protect the interests of the
Roman producer.

An agricultural revival was, therefore, possible; but its success
demanded a spirit that would enter readily into the work, and submit
without a murmur to the conditions of life which the stern task
enjoined. It was here that the agrarian legislation of the Gracchi found
its obstacle. So far as it did fail--so far, that is, as it was not
sufficient to prevent the renewed accumulation of the people in the
towns and the continued depopulation of the country districts--it failed
because it offended against social ideals rather than against economic
tendencies. Many of the settlers whom it planted on the allotments, must
already have been demoralised by the feverish atmosphere of Rome; while
others of a saner and more vigorous type may have soon looked back on
the capital, not as the lounging-place of the idler, but as the exchange
of the world, or have turned their thoughts to the provinces as the
sphere where energy was best rewarded and capital gave its speediest
returns. Of the other social measures of this period, colonisation, in
so far as it had a purely agricultural object, is subject to the
criteria that have been applied to the agrarian movements of the time;
although it is possible that the formation of new or the remodelling of
old political societies, which must have followed the scheme of Drusus,
had this been ever realised, would have infused a more vigorous life in
agricultural settlements of this type than was likely to be awakened in
those which formed a mere outlying part of Rome or some existing
municipality. We have seen how the colonial plan of Drusus differed in
its intention from that of Caius Gracchus; but the latter statesman had,
in the settlement which he projected at Junonia, planned a foundation
which would proximately have lived on the wealth of its territory rather
than on its trade, and must always have been, like Carthage of old, as
much an agricultural as a commercial state. To an agrarian project such
as this no economic objection could have been offered and, had the
scheme of transmarine colonisation been fully carried out, the provinces
themselves might have been made to benefit the farming class of Italy,
whose economic foes they had become. The distance also of such
settlements from Rome would have blunted the craving for the life of the
capital, which beset the minds and paralysed the energies of the
occupants of Italian land.

But, on the whole, the Gracchan scheme of colonisation was, as we have
seen, commercial rather than agricultural, and was probably intended to
benefit a class that was not adapted to rural occupations, either by
association or training. By this enterprise Caius Gracchus showed that
he saw with perfect clearness the true reason, and the final evidence,
of the stagnation of the middle class. A nation which has abandoned
agriculture and allows itself to be fed by foreign hands, even by those
of its own subjects, is exposed to military dangers which are obvious,
and to political perils somewhat more obscure but bearing their evil
fruit from time to time; but such treason to the soil is no sign of
national decay, if the legions of workers have merely transferred their
allegiance from the country to the town, from agriculture to manufacture
and commerce. In Italy this comforting explanation was impossible.
Except perhaps in Latium and Campania, there were few industrial
centres; many of those that existed were in the hands of Greeks, many
more had sunk under the stress of war and had never been revived. The
great syndicates in which Roman capital was invested, employed slaves
and freedmen as their agents; the operations of these great houses were
directed mainly to the provinces, and the Italian seaports were employed
merely as channels for a business which was speculative and financial
and, so far as Italy was concerned, only to a very slight, if to any,
degree productive. To re-establish the producer or the trader of
moderate means, was to revive a stable element in the population, whose
existence might soften the rugged asperity with which capital confronted
power on the one hand and poverty on the other. But to revive it at Rome
would have demanded artificial measures, which, attacking as they must
have done the monopolies possessed by the Equites, would have defeated
the legislator's immediate object and probably proved impracticable,
while such a revival would also have accentuated the centralisation,
which might be useful to the politician but was deplored by the social
reformer. The debilitated class might, however, recover its elasticity
if placed in congenial surroundings and invited to the sites which had
once attracted the enterprise of the Greek trader; and Caius Gracchus's
settlements in the south of Italy were means to this end. We have no
warrant for pronouncing the experiment an utter failure. Some of these
colonies lived on, although in what guise is unknown. But even a
moderate amount of success would have demanded a continuity in the
scheme, which was rudely interrupted by the fall of its promoter, and it
is not to be imagined that the larger capitalists, whose power the
reformer had himself increased, looked with a friendly eye upon these
smaller rivals. The scheme of social reform projected by Gracchus found
its completion in his law for the sale of corn. When he had made
provision for the born agriculturist and the born tradesman, there still
remained a residuum of poorer citizens whose inclination and habits
prompted them to neither calling. It was for these men that the monthly
grant of cheapened grain was intended. Their bread was won by labour,
but by a labour so fitful and precarious that it was known to be often
insufficient to secure the minimum means of subsistence, unless some
help was furnished by the State. The healthier form of state-aid--the
employment of labour--was certainly practised by Caius Gracchus, and
perhaps the extensive public works which he initiated and supervised,
were intended to benefit the artisan who laboured in their construction
as well as the trader who would profit by their completion.

Whatever may be our judgment on the merits and results of this social
programme, the importance of the political character which it was to
assume, from the close of the career of Caius Gracchus to the downfall
of the Republic, can hardly be exaggerated. The items of reform as
embodied in his legislation became the constant factors in every
democratic programme which was to be issued in the future. In these we
see the demand for land, for colonial assignations, for transmarine
settlements, for a renewal or extension of the corn law, perpetually
recurring. It is true that this recurrence may be in part due to the
very potency of the personality of the first reformer and to the magic
of the memory which he left behind him. Party-cries tend to become
shibboleths and it is difficult to unravel the web that has been spun by
the hand of a master. Even the hated cry for the Italian franchise,
which had proved the undoing of Caius Gracchus, became acceptable to
party leaders and to an ever-growing section of their followers, largely
because it had become entwined with his programme of reform. But the
vigorous life of his great manifesto cannot be explained wholly on this
ground. It is a greater exaltation of its author to believe that its
life was due to its intrinsic utility, and that Gracchus indicated real
needs which, because they remained unsatisfied until the birth of the
Principate, were ever the occasion for the renewal of proposals so
closely modelled on his own.

When we turn from the social to the political changes of this period, we
are on far less debatable ground. Although there may be some doubt as to
the intention with which each reform was brought into existence by Caius
Gracchus, its character as illustrated by its place in the economy of
the commonwealth is so clearly stamped upon it and so potently
manifested in the immediately following years, that a comprehensive
discussion of the nature of his single measures would be merely an
unprofitable effort to recall the past or anticipate the future. But the
collective effect of his separate efforts has been subjected to very
different interpretations, and the question has been further complicated
by hazardous, and sometimes overconfident, attempts to determine how far
the legislator's intentions were fulfilled in the actual result of his
reforms. Because it can be shown that the changes introduced by
Gracchus, or, to be more strictly accurate, the symptoms which elicited
these changes, ultimately led to monarchical rule, Gracchus has been at
times regarded as the conscious author and possessor of a personal
supremacy which he deliberately intended should replace the intricate
and somewhat cumbrous mechanism which controlled the constitutional
government of Rome; because he sowed the seeds of a discord so terrible
as to be unendurable even in a state which had never known the absence
of faction and conflict, and had preserved its liberties through
carefully regulated strife, his work has been held to be that of some
avenging angel who came, not to renew, but to destroy. There is truth in
both these pictures; but the Gracchus whom they portray as the force
that annihilated centuries of crafty workmanship, as the first precursor
of the coming monarchy, is the Gracchus who rightly lives in the
historic imagination which, unfettered by conditions of space or time,
prefers the contemplation of the eternity of the work to that of the
environment of the worker; it is a presentment which would be applicable
to any man as able and as resolute as Gracchus, who attempted to meet
the evils created by a weak and irresponsible administration, partly by
the restoration of old forms, partly by the recognition of new and
pressing claims. There is a point at which reform, except it go so far
as to blot out a constitution and substitute another in its place, must
act as a weakening and dissolving force. That point is reached when an
existing government is effectually hampered from exercising the
prerogatives of sovereignty and no other power is sufficiently
strengthened to act as its unquestioned substitute. The dissolution will
be easier if reform bears the not uncommon aspect of conservatism, and a
nominal sovereign, whose strength, never very great, has been sapped by
disuse and the habit of mechanical obedience, is placed in competition
with a somewhat effete usurper. It is not, however, fair to regard
Gracchus as a radical reactionary who was the first to drag a prisoned
and incapable sovereign into the light of day. Had he done this, he
would have been the author of a revolution and the creator of a new
constitution. But this he never attempted to be, and such a view of his
work rests on the mistaken impression that, at the time of his reforms,
the senate was recognised as the true government of Rome. Such a
pretension had never been published nor accepted. We are not concerned
with its reality as a fact; but no sound analysis, whether undertaken by
lawyer or historian, would have admitted its theoretical truth. The
literary atmosphere teemed with theories of popular sovereignty of a
limited kind, and Gracchus, while recognising this sovereignty, did
little to remove its limitations. It is true that, like his brother, he
legislated without seeking the customary sanction of the senate; but
initial reforms could never have been carried through, had the
legislator waited for this sanction; and the future freedom of the
Comitia from senatorial control was at best guaranteed by the force of
the example of the Gracchi, not by any new legal ordinances which they
ordained. Earlier precedents of the same type had not been lacking, and
it was only the comprehensiveness of the Gracchan legislation which
seemed to give a new impetus to the view that in all fundamental
matters, which called for regulation by Act of Parliament, the people
was the single and uncontrolled sovereign. Thus was developed the idea
of the possibility of a new period of growth, which should refashion the
details of the structure of the State into greater correspondence with
the changed conditions of the times. As the earlier process of change
had raised the senate to power, the latter might be interpreted as
containing a promise that a new master was to be given to the Roman
world. But it is highly improbable that to Gracchus or to any of his
contemporaries was the true nature of the prophecy revealed. For the
moment a balance of power was established, and the moneyed class stood
midway between the opposing factions of senate and people. Its new
powers were intended to constrain the senate into efficiency rather than
to reduce it to impotence, and to create these powers Gracchus had
endowed the equestrian order with that right of audit which, in the
earlier theory of the constitution, had been held to be one of the
securest guarantees of the power of the people. Gracchus predicted the
strife that was likely to follow this friction between the government
and the courts; but this prediction, while it perhaps reveals the hope
that in the issues of the future the mercantile class would generally be
found on the side of the people, betrays still more clearly the belief
that the people, and their patron of the moment, were utterly incapable
of standing alone, and that no true democratic government was possible
for Rome. In spite of his Hellenism Gracchus betrayed two
characteristics of the true Roman. He believed in the advisability of
creating a political impasse, from which some mode of escape would
ultimately be devised by the wearied and lacerated combatants; and he
held firmly to the view that the people, considered strictly in itself,
had no organic existence; that it never was, and never could be, a power
in its own right. He made no effort to give the Roman Comitia an
organisation which would have placed it on something like the
independent level of a Greek Ecclesia. Such an omission was perhaps the
result of neglect rather than of deliberation; but this very neglect
proves that Gracchus had in no way emancipated himself from the typical
Roman idea that the people could find expression only through the voice
of a magistrate. This idea unquestionably made the leader of the moment
the practical head of the State during any crisis that called for
constant intervention on the part of the Comitia; but there is no reason
to suppose a belief on the part of Gracchus that such intervention would
be unremittingly demanded, would become as integral a part of the
every-day mechanism of government as the senate's direction of the
provinces or the knight's control of the courts. But even had he held
this view, the situation which it conjured up need not have borne a
close resemblance to monarchy. The natural vehicle for the expression of
the popular will would have been the tribunate--an office which by its
very nature presented such obvious hindrances to personal rule as the
existence of colleagues armed with the power of veto, the short tenure
of office, and the enjoyment of powers that were mainly negative. It is
true that the Gracchi themselves had shown how some of these
difficulties might be overcome. The attempt at re-election, the
accumulation of offices, the disregard of the veto, were innovations
forced on them by the knowledge, gained from bitter experience, that
reform could proceed only from a power that was to some extent outside
the constitution, and that the efficient execution of the contemplated
measures demanded the concentration of varied types of authority in a
single hand. Perhaps Caius faced the situation more frankly than his
brother; but his consciousness of the necessity of such an occasional
power in the State was accompanied by the belief that it would prove the
ruin of the man who grasped it, that the work might be done but that the
worker would be doomed. These gloomy anticipations were not the result
of disordered nerves, but the natural fruit of the coldly calculating
intellect which saw that supremacy either of or through the people was
an illusion, that the power of the nobility must be resisted by keener
and more durable weapons than the Comitia and its temporary leaders,
that the authority of the senate might yield to a slow process of
attrition, but would never be engulfed by any cataclysmic outburst of
popular hostility. It was no part of the statesman's task to pry into
the future and vex himself with the query whether a new and permanent
headship of the State might not be created, to play the all-pervading
part which destiny had assigned to the senate. The senate's power had
not vanished, it was not even vanishing. It was a solid fact, fully
accepted by the very masses who were howling against it. Its decadence
would be the work of time, and all the great Roman reformers of the past
had left much to time and to fortune. The materials with which the
Gracchi worked were far too composite to enable them to forecast the
shape of the structure of which they were laying the foundations. The
essential fact of the future monarchy, the growth of the military power,
must have been almost completely hidden from their eyes. It is true
that, in relation to the fall of the Republic and the growth of the
monarchical idea, the Gracchi were more than mere preparatory or
destructive forces. They furnished faint types, which were gladly
welcomed by subsequent pretenders, of what a constitutional monarch
should be. But it is ever hazardous to identify the destroyer with the
creator or the type with the prophet.


The common destiny which had attended the Gracchi was manifested even in
the consequences of their fall. At both crises a brilliant but
disturbing element had vanished, the work of the reformer remained,
because it was the utterance of the people before whose sacred name the
nobility continued to bow, the political atmosphere was cleared, the
legitimate organs of government resumed their acknowledged sway. To
speak of a restoration of power to the nobility after the fall of Caius
Gracchus is to belie both the facts of history and the impressions of
the times. There is little probability that either the nobles or the
commons felt that the two years of successful agitation amounted to a
change of government, or that the senate ever abandoned the conviction
that the reformer, embarrassing as his proceedings might be on account
of the obvious necessity for their acceptance, must succumb to the
devices which had long formed the stock-in-trade of a successful
senatorial campaign; while the transition from the guidance of Gracchus
to that of the accredited representatives of the nobility was rendered
all the easier by the facts that the authority of the tribune had long
been waning, and that, for some months before his death, a large section
of the people had been greedily fixing its eyes on an attractive
programme which had been presented in the name of the senate. The
suppression of the final movement had, it is true, been marked by an
unexampled severity; but these stern measures had followed on an actual
appeal to arms, which had elicited a response from the passive or
quaking multitude and had made them in some sense participants in the
slaughter. If it was terrible to think that three thousand citizens had
been butchered in the streets or in the Tullianum, it was comforting to
remember that they had been officially denounced as public enemies by
the senate. There was no haunting sense of an inviolable wrong inflicted
on the tribunate, for Caius Gracchus had not been tribune when he fell;
there was no memory, half bitter, half grotesque, of indiscriminate
slaughter dealt by a mob of infuriated senators, for this latter and
greater _émeute_ had been suppressed by the regular forces of the State,
led by its highest magistrate. The position of the government was more
secure, the conscience of the people more easy than it had been after
the massacre of Tiberius Gracchus and his followers. This feeling of
security on the part of the government, and of acquiescence on that of
the people, was soon put to the test by the prosecution of the ex-consul
Lucius Opimius. His impeachment before the people by the tribune
Decius[753] raised the vital question whether the novel powers which he
had exercised in crushing Gracchus and his adherents, could be justified
on the ground that they were the necessary, and in fact the only, means
of maintaining public security. It was practically a question whether a
new form of martial law should be admitted to recognition by the highest
organ of the State, the voice of the sovereign people itself; and the
discussion was rendered all the more piquant by the fact that that very
sovereign was reminded that it had lately sanctioned an ordinance which
forbade a capital penalty to be pronounced against a Roman citizen
except by consent of the people, The arguments used on either side were
of the most abstract and far-reaching character.[754] In answer to
Decius's objection that the proceedings of Opimius were an obvious
contravention of statute law, and that the most wanton criminality did
not justify death without trial, the view, never unwelcome to the Roman
mind, that there was a higher justice than law, was advanced by the
champions of the accused. It was maintained that an ultimate right of
self-defence was as necessary to a state as to an individual. The man
who attempted to overturn the foundations of society was a public enemy
beyond the pale of law; the man who resisted his efforts by every means
that lay to hand was merely fulfilling the duty to his country which was
incumbent on a citizen and a magistrate. If this view were accepted, the
complex issue at law resolved itself into a simple question of fact. Had
the leader and the party that had been crushed shown by their actions
that they were overt enemies of the State? The majority which acquitted
Opimius practically decided that Gracchus and his adherents had been
rendered outlaws by their deeds. The sentiment of the moment had been
cleverly stirred by the nature of the issue which was put before them.
Had the voters been Gracchans at heart, they would probably have paid
but little attention to these unusual appeals to the fundamental
principles of political life, and would have shown themselves supporters
of the spirit, as well as of the letter, of the enactment whose author
they had just pronounced an outlaw. For there could be no question that
the Gracchan law, which no one dared assail, was meant to cover just the
very acts of which Opimius had been guilty after the slaughter of the
Gracchans in the streets had ended. The right to kill in an _émeute_
might be a questionable point; but the power of establishing a military
court for the trial of captured offenders was notoriously illegal, and
could under very few circumstances have been justified even on the
ground of necessity. The decision of the people also seemed to give a
kind of recognition to the utterance of the senate which had preceded
Opimius's display of force. It is quite true that no successful defence
of violence could ever be rested on the formula itself. This "ultimate
decree of the senate" was valued as a weighty and emphatic declaration
of the existence of a situation which demanded extreme measures, rather
than as a legal permit which justified the disregard of the ordinary
rights of the citizen. But formulae often have a power far in excess of
their true significance; they impose on the ignorant, and furnish both a
shield and a weapon to their cunning framers. The armoury of the senate,
or of any revolutionary who had the good fortune to overawe the senate,
was materially strengthened by the people's judgment in Opimius's
favour.[755] The favourable situation was immediately used to effect the
recall of Publius Popillius Laenas. His restoration was proposed to the
people by Lucius Bestia a tribune;[756] and the people which had just
sanctioned Opimius's judicial severities, did not betray the
inconsistency of continuing to resent the far more restricted
persecution of Popillius. Yet the step was an advance on their previous
action; for they were now actually rescinding a legal judgment of their
own, and approving of the actions of a court which had been established
by the senate on its own authority without any previous declaration of
the outlawry of its victims--a court whose proceedings were known to
have directed the tenor of that law of Caius Gracchus, the validity of
which was still unquestioned.

But even on the swell of this anti-Gracchan tide the nobility had still
to steer its course with caution and circumspection. Personal prejudices
were stronger than principles with the masses. They might sanction
outrages which already had the blessing of men who represented,
externally at least, the more respectable portion of Roman society; but
they continued to detest individuals whose characters seemed to have
grown blacker rather than cleaner by participation in, or even
justification of, the recent acts of violence. One of our authorities
would have us believe that even the aged Publius Lentulus, once chief of
the senate, was sacrificed by his peers to the fate which had attended
Scipio Nasica. He had climbed the Aventine with Opimius's troops and had
been severely wounded in the ensuing struggle.[757] But neither his age
nor his wounds sufficed to overcome the strange prejudice of the mob.
Obloquy and abuse dogged his footsteps, until at length he was forced,
in the interest of his own peace or security, to beg of the senate one
of those honorary embassies which covered the retirement of a senator
either for private business or for leisure, and to seek a home in
Sicily.[758] His last public utterance was an impassioned prayer that he
might never return to his ungrateful country: and the gods granted him
his request. If this story is true, it proves that public opinion was
stronger even than the voice of the Comitia. Lentulus, if put on his
trial, would probably have been acquitted; but the resentful minority,
which was powerless in the assembly, may have been sufficiently strong
to make life unbearable to its chosen victim by its demeanour at public
gatherings and in the streets. But even the Comitia had limits to its
endurance. During the year which followed Opimius's acquittal there
appeared before them a suppliant for their favour who had about equal
claims to the gratitude and the hatred of both sections of the people.
They were the self-destructive or corroborative claims of the statesman
who is called a convert by his friends and a renegade by his foes. No
living man of the age had stood in a stronger political light than
Carbo. An active assistant of Tiberius Gracchus, and so embittered an
opponent of Scipio Aemilianus as to be deemed the author of his death,
he had severed his connection with the party of reform, probably in
consequence of the view that the extension of the franchise which had
become embedded in their programme was either impracticable or
undesirable. He must have proved a welcome ally to the nobility in their
struggle with Caius Gracchus, and their appreciation of his value seems
proved by the fact that he was elected to the consulship in the very
year of the tribune's fall, when the influence of the senate, and
therefore in all probability their power of controlling the elections,
had been fully re-established. The debt was paid by a vigorous
championship of the cause of Opimius, which was heard during the
consulship of Carbo.[759] The chief magistrate spoke warmly in defence
of his accused predecessor in office, and declared that the action of
Opimius in succouring his country was an act incumbent on the consul as
the recognised guardian of the State.[760] No man had greater reason to
feel secure than Carbo, who had so lately tested the suffrages of the
people as electors and as judges; yet no man was in greater peril. It
seems that, while exposed on the side of his former associates to the
impotent rage which is excited by the success of the convert, who is
believed to have been rewarded for his treachery, he had not won the
confidence, or at least could not arouse the whole-hearted support, of
his new associates and their following in the assembly. Perhaps the
landlords had not forgiven the agrarian commissioner, nor the moderates
the vehement opponent of Scipio; to the senate he had served his
purpose, and they may not have thought him serviceable enough to deserve
the effort which had rescued Opimius. Carbo was, in fact, an inviting
object of attack for any young political adventurer who wished to
inaugurate his career by the overthrow of a distinguished political
victim, and to sound a note of liberalism which should not grate too
harshly in the ears of men of moderate views. The assailant was Lucius
Crassus,[761] destined to be the greatest orator of his day, and a youth
now burning to test his eloquence in the greatest field afforded by the
public life of Rome, but scrupulous enough to take no unfair advantage
of the object of his attack.[762] We do not know the nature of the
charge on which Carbo was arraigned. It probably came under the
expansive conception of treason, and was possibly connected with those
very proceedings in consequence of which Opimius had been accused and
acquitted.[763] That the charge was of a character that had reference to
recent political events, or at least that the prosecutor felt himself
bound to maintain some distinct political principle of a liberal kind,
is proved by the regret which Crassus expressed in his maturer years
that the impetus of youth had led him to take a step which limited his
freedom of action for the future.[764] Some compunction may also have
been stirred by the unexpected consequence of his attack; for Carbo,
perhaps realising the animosity of his judges and the weakness or
coldness of his friends, is said to have put an end to his life by
poison.[765] Voluntary exile always lay open to the Roman who dared not
face the final verdict; and the suicide of Carbo cannot be held to have
been the sole refuge of despair; it is rather a sign of the bitterness
greater than that of death, which may fall on the soul of a man who can
appeal for sympathy to none, who knows that he has been abandoned and
believes that he has been betrayed. The hostility of his countrymen
pursued him beyond the grave; the aristocratic historian could not
forget the seditious tribune, and the contemporary chronicles which
moulded and handed on the conception of Carbo's life, showed the usual
incapacity of such writings to appreciate the possibility of that honest
mental detachment from a suspected cause which often leads, through
growing dissension with past colleagues and increasing co-operation with
new, to a more violent advocacy of a new faith than is often shown by
its habitual possessors.

The records of the political contests which occupied the two years
succeeding the downfall of Caius Gracchus, are sufficient to prove that
political thought was not stifled, that practically any political
views--saving perhaps such as expressed active sympathy with the final
efforts of Caius Gracchus and his friends--might be pronounced, and that
the nobility could only maintain its influence by bending its ear to the
chatter of the streets and employing its best instruments to mould the
opinion of the Forum by a judicious mixture of deference and
exhortation. The senate knew itself to be as weak as ever in material
resources; government could not be maintained for ever by a series of
_coups d'état_, and the only method of securing the interests of the
rulers was to maintain the confidence of the majority and to presume
occasionally on its apathy or blindness. This was the attitude adopted
with reference to the proposals which had lately been before the people.
Drusus's scheme of colonisation was not withdrawn, but its execution was
indefinitely postponed,[766] and the same treatment was meted out to the
similar proposals of Caius Gracchus. Two of his Italian colonies,
Neptunia near Tarentum and Scylacium, seem actually to have survived;
but this may have been due to the fact that the work of settlement had
already commenced on these sites, and that the government did not
venture to rescind any measure which had been already put into
execution. It was indeed possible to stifle the settlement on the site
of Carthage, for here the superstition of the people supported the
objections of the senate, and the question of the abrogation of this
colony had been raised to such magnitude by the circumstances of
Gracchus's fall that to withdraw would have been a sign of weakness. But
even this objectionable settlement in Africa gave proof of the scruples
of the senate in dealing with an accomplished fact. When the Rubrian law
was repealed, it was decided not to take from the _coloni_ the lands
which had already been assigned; no religious pretext could be given for
their disturbance, for the land of Carthage was not under the ban that
doomed the city to desolation; and the colonists remained in possession
of allotments, which were free from tribute, were held as private
property, and furnished one of the earliest examples of a Roman tenure
of land on provincial soil.[767] The assignment was by the nature of the
case changed from that of the colonial to that of the purely agrarian
type; the settlers were members of Rome alone and had no local
citizenship, although it is probable that some modest type of urban
settlement did grow up outside the ruined walls of Carthage to satisfy
the most necessary requirements of the surrounding residents.

The benefits conferred by the Gracchi on the poorer members of the
proletariate were also respected. The corn law may have been left
untouched for the time being[768]--a natural concession, for the senate
could only hope to rule by its influence with the urban mob, and, in the
case of so simple an institution, any modification would have been so
patent an infringement of the rights of the recipients as to have
immediately excited suspicion and anger. With the agrarian law it was
different. Its repeal was indeed impossible; but the land-hunger of the
dispossessed capitalists might to some extent be appeased by a measure
that was not only tolerable, but welcome; and modifications, so gradual
and subtle that their meaning would be unintelligible to the masses,
might subsequently be introduced to remedy observed defects, to calm the
apprehensions of the allies, and perhaps to secure the continuance of
large holdings, if economic causes should lead to their revival. The
agrarian legislation of the ten years that followed the fall of Caius
Gracchus, seems to have been guided by the wishes of the senate; but
much of it does not bear on its surface the signs which we might expect
of capitalistic influence or oligarchic neglect of the poor. Large
portions of it seem rather to reveal the desire of banishing for ever a
harrowing question which was the opportunity of the demagogue; and the
peculiar mixture of prudence, liberality, and selfishness which this
legislation reveals, can only be appreciated by an examination of its
separate stages.

Shortly after the death of Caius Gracchus--perhaps in the very year of
his fall--a law was passed permitting the alienation of the
allotments.[769] This measure must have been as welcome to the lately
established possessors as it was to the large proprietors; it removed
from the former a galling restraint which, like all such legal
prohibitions, formed a sentimental rather than an actual grievance, but
one that was none the less keenly felt on that account; while to the
latter it offered the opportunity of satisfying those expectations,
which the initial struggles of the newly created farmers must in many
cases have aroused. The natural consequence of the enactment was that
the spurious element amongst the peasant-holders, represented by those
whose tastes and capacities utterly unfitted them for agriculture,
parted with their allotments, which went once more to swell the large
domains of their wealthier neighbours.[770] We do not know the extent or
rapidity of this change, or the stage which it had reached when the
government thought fit to introduce a new agrarian law, which may have
been two or three years later than the enactment which permitted
alienation.[771] The new measure contained three important
provisions.[772] Firstly, it forbade the further distribution of public
land, and thus put an end to the agrarian commission which had never
ceased to exist, and had continued to enjoy, if not to exercise, its
full powers since the restoration of its judicial functions by Caius
Gracchus. We cannot say to what extent the commission was still
Encountering claims on its jurisdiction and powers of distribution at
the time of its disappearance; but fourteen years is a long term of
power for such an extraordinary office, whose work was necessarily one
of perpetual unsettlement; and the disappearance of the triumvirs must
have been welcome, not only to the existing Roman occupants of land
which still remained public, but to those of the Italians to whom the
commission had ever been a source of apprehension. The extinction of the
office must have been regarded with indifference by those for whom the
commission had already provided, and by the large mass of the urban
proletariate which did not desire this type of provision. The residuum
of citizens which still craved land may be conceived to have been small,
for eagerness to become an agriculturist would have suggested an earlier
claim; and the passing of the commission was probably viewed with no
regret by any large section of the community. The law then proceeded to
establish the rights of all the occupants of land in Italy that had once
been public and had been dealt with by the commission. To all existing
occupants of the land which had been assigned, perfect security of
tenure was given, and this security may have been extended now, as it
certainly was later, to many of the occupants who still remained on
public land which had not been subjected to distribution. So far as the
land which had been assigned was concerned, this law could have made no
specification as to the size of the allotments, for the law permitting
alienation had made it practically private property and given its
purchaser a perfectly secure title. Hence the accumulations which
followed the permit to alienate were secured to their existing
possessors, and a legal recognition was given to the formation of such
large estates as had come into existence during the last three years.
But the security of tenure was conditioned by the reimposition of the
dues payable to the State, which had been abolished by Drusus. We are
not informed whether these dues were to be henceforth paid only by those
who had received allotments from the land commission, or by all in whose
hands such allotments were at the moment to be found; perhaps the
intention was to impose them on all lands that had been public before
the tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus; although many of the larger
proprietors, who had recently added to their holdings, might have urged
in their defence that they had acquired the land as private property and
that it was burdened by no dues at the time of its acquisition. But,
even if this burden fell mainly on the class of smaller possessors, it
could scarcely be regarded as a grievance, for it had formed part of the
Gracchan scheme, and there was no legitimate reason why the newly
established class of cultivators should be placed in a better position
than the older occupants of the public domain, who still paid dues both
on arable land and for the privilege of pasturing their flocks. The
temporary motive which had led to their abolition had now ceased to
exist, for the agricultural colonies of Drusus, who had promised land
free from all taxes, had not been established, and the chief, almost the
sole, example of a recent assignment on such liberal principles was to
be discovered in distant Africa. But, even if the cultivators grumbled,
their complaints were not dangerous to the government. They would have
found no echo at Rome, where the urban proletariate was content with the
easier provision which had been made for its support; and the new
revenues from the public land were made still more acceptable to the
eyes of the masses by the provision contained in this agrarian law that
they should be employed solely for the benefit of needier citizens. The
precise nature of the promised employment is unhappily unknown, our
authority merely informing us that "they were to be used for purposes of
distribution". We cannot understand by these words free gifts either in
money or corn; for such extreme measures never entered even into the
social ideals of Caius Gracchus, and the senate to its credit never
deigned to purchase popularity through the pauperising institutions by
which the Caesars maintained the security of their rule in Rome. The
words might imply an extension of the system of the sale of cheap corn,
or a cheapening of the rates at which it was supplied; but the Gracchan
system seems hardly to have admitted of extension, so far as the number
of recipients was concerned, and cheaper sales would hardly have been
encouraged by a government, which, anxious as it was to secure
popularity, was responsible for the financial administration of the
State and looked with an anxious eye upon the existing drain on the
resources of the treasury.[773] Perhaps the new revenues were held up to
the people as a guarantee that the sale of cheap corn would be
continued, and public confidence was increased when it was pointed out
that there was a special fund available for the purpose. If we abandon
the view that the promised employment of the revenues in the interest of
the people referred to the distribution of corn, there remains the
possibility that it had reference to the acquisition of fresh land for
assignation. This promise would indeed have rendered practicable the
partial realisation of the shadowy schemes of Drusus, which had never
been officially withdrawn; but it is doubtful whether it would have done
much to strengthen the hold of the government upon the urban voter; for
the whole scheme of this new land law seems to prove that the agrarian
question was viewed with indifference, and no pressure seems to have
been put on the government to carry their earlier promises into effect.

Apart from the welcome prospect implied in the abolition of the agrarian
commission, no positive guarantee against disturbance had yet been given
to the Latins and Italians. This was formally granted, in terms unknown
to us, at the appropriate hands of Marcus Livius Drusus during his
tenure of the consulship.[774] The senate, now that it had satisfied the
larger proprietors and the urban proletariate, and could boast that it
had at least not injured the smaller cultivators, completed its work of
pacification by holding out the hand of fellowship to the allies. It was
tacitly understood that the new friend was not to ask for more, but he
might be induced to look to the senate as his refuge against the
rapacity of the mob and the recklessness of its leaders.

Shortly afterwards the tribune Spurius Thorius[775] carried a law which
again abolished the _vectigal_ on the allotments. If we regard this
measure as an independent effort on the part of the tribune, it may have
been an answer to the protests of the smaller agriculturists still
struggling for existence; if it was dictated by the senate, it may have
been due to the absorption of the allotments by the larger proprietors
and their unwillingness to pay dues for land which they had added to
their private property. But, to whatever party we may assign it, we may
see in it also the desire to reach a final settlement of the agrarian
question by abolishing all the invidious distinctions between the
different tenures of land which had once formed part of the public
domain. It removed the injustice of burdening the small holding with a
rent which was not exacted from estates that had been partly formed by
accretions of such allotments; and by the abolition of all dues[776] it
tended to remove all land which had been assigned, from the doubtful
category to which it had hitherto belonged of possessions which, though
in a sense private, still recognised the overlordship of the State, and
to revive in all its old sharpness the simple distinction between public
and private land. This tendency makes it probable that the law of
Thorius is identical with one of which we possess considerable
fragments; for this partially preserved enactment is certainly as
sweeping a measure as could have been devised by any one eager to see
the agrarian question, so far as it affected Italian soil, finally
removed from the region of political strife.

Internal evidence makes it probable that this law was passed in the year
111 B.C.,[777] and consequently at the close of that period of
comparative quiescence which was immediately followed by the political
storm raised by the conduct of the war in Numidia. It may, therefore, be
regarded as a product of senatorial enlightenment, although its
provisions would be quite as consistent with the views of a tolerably
sober democrat. The main scope of the enactment is to give the character
of absolute private ownership, unburdened by any restrictions such as
the payment of dues to the State, to nearly all the land which had been
public at the time of the passing of the agrarian law of Tiberius
Gracchus. The first provisions refer to lands which had not been dealt
with by the agrarian commissioners. Any occupant of the public domain,
who has been allowed to preserve his allotment intact, because it does
not exceed the limit fixed by the earlier laws, and any one who has
received public land from the State in exchange for a freehold which he
has surrendered for the foundation of a colony, is henceforth to hold
such portions of the public domain as his private property. The same
provision holds for all land that has been assigned, whether by colonial
or agrarian commissioners. The first class of assignments are those
incidental to the one or two colonies of Caius Gracchus, and perhaps of
Drusus, that were actually established in Italy. Even at the time of
settlement such land must have been made the private property of its
holders; and this law, therefore, but confirms the tenure, and implies
the validity of the act of colonisation. Such land is mentioned as
having been "given and assigned in accordance with a resolution of the
people and the plebs," and all eases in which recent colonial laws had
been repealed or dropped--cases which would include Caius Gracchus's
threatened partition of the Campanian territory--are tacitly excluded.
The second class of assignments refer to those made by the
land-commissioners during the whole period of their chequered existence,
and the land whose private character is thus confirmed, must have
covered much the larger part of what had once been the State's domain
in Italy.

A certain portion of this domain still remains, however, the property of
the State and is not converted into private land. The whole of the soil
which had been given in usufruct to colonies and municipal towns, is
retained in its existing condition; the holders, whether Latin colonists
or Roman citizens, are confirmed in their possessions; but, as the land
still remains public, they are doubtless expected to continue to pay
their quit-rent to the State. Similar provision is made for a peculiar
class of land, which had been given by Rome as security for a national
debt. The debt had never been liquidated, probably because the creditors
preferred the land. This they were now to retain on condition of
continued payment of the quit-rent, which marked the fact that the State
was still its nominal owner. A public character is also maintained for
land which had been assigned for the maintenance of roads. Here we find
the only instance of an actual assignation of the Gracchan commissioners
which was not converted, into private property; the obvious reason for
this exception being that these occupants performed a specific and
necessary duty, which would disappear if their tenure was converted into
absolute ownership. Exception against ownership was also made for those
commons on which the occupants of surrounding farms had an exclusive
right of sending their flocks to pasture;[778] for the conversion of
such grazing land into private lots would have injured the collective
interests, and conferred little benefit on the individuals of the
group.[779] The remaining classes of land which still remain the
property of the State, are the roads of Italy, such public land as had
been specially exempted from distribution by the legislation of the
Gracchi, and such as had remained public on other grounds. The only
known instance of the first class is the Campanian territory, which
continued to be let on leases by the State and to bring to the treasury
a sure and considerable revenue; the second class was probably
represented by land which was not arable and had for this reason escaped
distribution. The law provides that it is not to be occupied but to
serve the purposes of grazing-land, and a limit is fixed to the number
of cattle and sheep belonging to a single owner to which it is to afford
free pasturage. For the enjoyment of grazing-rights beyond this limit
dues are to be paid to the contractors who have purchased the right of
collection from the State.

The law then quits the public domains of Italy for those of Africa and
Corinth, partly for the purpose of specifying with exactitude the rights
of the various occupiers and tenants who were settled on the
territories, but chiefly with the object of effecting the sale of some
of the public domain in the province of Africa and the dependency of
Achaea. This intention of alienation is perhaps the chief reason why the
great varieties of tenure of the African soil are marshalled before us
with such detail and precision; for it was necessary, in view of the
contemplated sale, to re-assert the stability of rights that should be
secure by their very nature or had been guaranteed by solemn compact.
But the occasion of a comprehensive settlement of the agrarian question
in Italy was no doubt gladly seized as affording the right opportunity
for surveying, revising, and establishing the claims of those who were
in enjoyment of what was, or had been, the provincial domain of Rome
across the seas. The rights of Roman citizens and subjects are
indifferently considered, and amongst the former those of the settlers
who had journeyed to Africa in accordance with the promises of the
Rubrian law are fully recognised. The degree of permanence accorded to
the manifold kinds of tenure passed in review can not be determined from
our text; but, even when all claims that deserved a permanent
recognition had been subtracted, there still remained a residuum of
land, leased at quinquennial intervals by the censors, which might be
alienated without the infliction of injury on established rights. We do
not know to what extent this sale, the mechanism for which was minutely
provided for in the law, was carried in Africa; its application to the
domain land of Corinth was either withdrawn or, if carried out, was but
slight or temporary; for Corinthian land remained to be threatened by
later agrarian legislation. It is not easy to suggest a motive for this
sale; for it would seem a short-sighted policy to part, on an extensive
scale and therefore presumably at a cheapened rate, with some of the
most productive land in the world, such as was the African domain of the
period, in order to recoup the treasury for the immediate pecuniary
injury which it was suffering in the loss of the revenues from the
public land of Italy. Perhaps the government had grown suspicious of the
operations of the middle-men, and, since they had restricted their
activity by limiting the amount of public land in Italy, deemed a
similar policy advisable in relation to some of their foreign

The length at which we have dwelt on this law is proportionate to its
importance in the political history of the times, and if we possessed
fuller knowledge of its effects, we should doubtless be able to add, in
their social history as well. Its economic results, however, are
exceedingly obscure, and possibly it produced none worthy of serious
consideration; for the artificial stability which it may have seemed to
give to the existing tenure of land could in no way check the play of
economic forces. If these tendencies were still in favour of large
holdings,[780] the process of accumulation must have continued, and, as
we have before remarked, the accumulator was in a securer position when
purchasing land which was admittedly the private property of its owner,

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