The emergence of Rome   
509-439 B.C.

509-508 B.C.

509 B.C. : the expulsion of kings

Lucius Junius Brutus
The lictors report to Brutus the bodies of his sons
Jacques-Louis David, Le Louvre

The regal government being abolished, two Consuls were chosen to govern the republic. Lucius Junius Brutus, and Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus were the first who were chosen to this office. These Consuls displayed great firmness in the support of the new republic, by the execution of the sons of Brutus and the nephew of Collatinus for entering into a conspiracy with Tarquin against the Romans.

After the overthrow of the kingly power, a republican form of government was established. The senate reserved the greatest share of the authority. The centuries of the people chose from among the senators annually, two magistrates called Consuls, who exercised power equal to that of the former kings.

Brutus, the deliverer of his country, and Collatinus the husband of Lucretia, were the first Consuls in Rome.

But this new republic narrowly escaped destruction in its very commencement. A party was formed in Rome in favor of Tarquin. Some young men of the principal families in the state, undertook to re-establish monarchy.

This party secretly increased; and the sons of Brutus, and the Aquilii, the nephews of Collatinus, were among the number. Tarquin, who was informed of these intrigues, sent ambassadors from Etruria to Rome, under a pretence of reclaiming the crown, but with a design only to give spirit to the faction.

The whole conspiracy, however, was discovered by a slave who had accidentally hidden himself in the room where the conspirators assembled. Few situations could have been more affecting than that of Brutus, a father placed as a judge upon the life and death of his own children.

The young men, pleading nothing for themselves, awaited their sentence in agony. The other judges felt the pangs of nature; Collatinus wept, and Valerius could not repress his sentiments of pity.

Brutus alone seemed to have lost the softness of humanity, and with a voice that marked his resolution, demanded of his sons if they could make any defence. This demand he made three times; but receiving no answer, he turned to the executioner : "Now," cried he, "it is your part to perform the rest."

The executioners having stripped them, and scourged them with rods, presently beheaded them. Brutus beheld the cruel spectacle with an unaltered countenance, while the multitude gazed on with pity, terror, and admiration.

509-506 B.C.

Lars Porsenna

Mucius Scaevola in front of Porsenna
Charles Le Brun, Musée des Ursulines

Tarquin having failed in his conspiracy, prevailed upon the Veians and one of the kings of Etruria, to aid him in recovering his throne, 508 years B. C.

Tarquin was resolved to make an attempt for his throne by foreign assistance. He prevailed upon the Veians to aid him, and advanced with an army towards Rome.

The consuls made ready to oppose him. Valerius commanding the foot, and Brutus the cavalry, went out to meet him on the Roman borders. Aruns, the son of Tarquin, who commanded the cavalry for his father, seeing Brutus at a distance, resolved to decide the fate of the day before the armies engaged, and made towards him with fury.

Brutus came out from the ranks to meet him; they met with rage, and both fell dead upon the field together. A bloody battle ensued, with equal slaughter on both sides : but the Romans remaining in possession of the field, claimed the victory, and Valerius returned in triumph to Rome.

Tarquin, by no means intimidated by his misfortunes, prevailed upon Porsenna, one of the kings of Etruria, to espouse his cause. This prince who was noted for his courage, went to Rome, with a numerous army, and laid siege to the city.

The siege was carried on with vigor; a furious attack was made upon the place; the two consuls opposed him in vain, and were carried off wounded from the field; while the Romans were pursued to the bridge, over which, both victors and vanquished were to enter the city.

All now appeared to be lost, when Horatius Cocles, a sentinel, opposed the torrent of the enemy, and assisted only by two more, sustained the whole fury of the assault, till the bridge was broken down behind him. When he found the communication thus cut off, plunging with his arms into the Tiber, he swam back victorious to his fellow soldiers.

Still Porsenna was determined upon taking the city; and though five hundred of his men were slain by a sally of the Romans, he persevered, and turning the siege into a blockade, resolved to reduce the city by famine. The distress of the besieged soon grew to the extreme, when another act of bravery, wrought the deliverance of the Romans.

Mutius (Mucius Scaevola), a youth of undaunted courage, was resolved to rid his country of her formidable enemy, and, disguised in the habit of an Etrurian peasant, entered the camp of the besiegers, resolving to die or kill the king. With this resolution he made up to the place where Porsenna was paying his troops, with a secretary by his side; but mistaking the latter for the king, he stabbed him to the heart, and was immediately seized.

Porsenna demanded who he was, and the cause of so heinous an act. Mutius related his design, and thrusting his hand into a fire, "You see," cried he, "how little I regard the severest punishment you can inflict upon me. A Roman knows not only how to act, but how to suffer. I am not the only person you have to fear; three hundred Roman youths like me have conspired your destruction; therefore prepare for their attempts."

Porsenna amazed at such intrepidity, had too noble a mind not to acknowledge merit, he ordered him to be safely conducted back to Rome, and offered the besieged conditions of peace. These were readily accepted, being neither hard nor disgraceful, except that twenty hostages were demanded; ten young men and as many virgins of the best families in Rome.

But some of the gentler sex were resolved to be sharers in the desperate valor of the times; Clelia, one of the hostages, escaped from her guards, and pointing the way to the rest of her female companions, swam over the Tiber on horseback, amidst showers of darts from the enemy, and presented herself to the consul.

This magistrate fearing the consequences of detaining her, sent her back; upon which Porsenna, not to be outdone in generosity, set her at liberty and permitted her to choose such of the hostages of the other sex, as she judged fit to attend her. She with all the modesty of a Roman virgin, chose such as were under fourteen, alleging that their tender age was least capable of sustaining the rigors of slavery.

498 B.C.

The dictatorship

In consequence of the disagreement between the Plebeians and the Senators, it was agreed to appoint a magistrate with absolute power, and Lartius was accordingly chosen first Dictator, 498 (or 496?) B.C.

Tarquin by means of his son in-law, Manilius, stirred up the Latins to espouse his interests, and took the most convenient opportunity of practising his design when the Plebeians were at variance with the Senators, concerning the payment of their debts. The Plebeians refused to go to war unless their debts were remitted upon their return; so that the consuls, finding their authority insufficient, offered the people to erect a temporary magistrate, who should have absolute power, not only over all ranks of people, but even over the laws themselves.

The Plebeians readily consented, willing to give up their own power for the sake of abridging that of their superiors. In consequence of this Lartius was chosen first dictator of Rome.

Lartius entered upon his office surrounded with his lictors and all the marks of ancient royalty. He ordered his soldiers to be levied in the manner of the kings of Rome. The people looked with terror upon this spectacle of absolute power, and all went readily to join their standards. Lartius marched against the enemy, was victorious, and returned to Rome. Before six months, the term of his office, expired, he laid down the dictatorship, with the reputation of having used his power with justice and lenity.

493 B.C.

The Tribunes of the people

the revolt of the Mons Sacer
the revolt of the Mons Sacer
B. Barloccini

After Lartius had resigned the dictatorship, the people succeeded in procuring certain officers called Tribunes, to be annually chosen from among themselves to take care of their interests.

The people were determined to free themselves from the domination of their masters or leave the city. They planned a new establishment without the walls, and under the conduct of Sicurius, a Plebeian, they withdrew to a mountain called Mons Sacer, on the banks of the river Anio, three miles from Rome.

This proceeding filled the city with consternation; the senate partook of the general fear, and it was resolved to send a deputation and entreat them to return. This not succeeding, it was determined to propose a treaty with them and make such favorable offers as should induce them to return. Ten commissioners were accordingly appointed. The popularity of these ambassadors procured them a respectful reception among the soldiers.

Lartius and Valerius, who were at the head of the deputation employed all their oratory on the one hand, while Sicurius and Lucius Junius, who were the speakers of the soldiery, set forth their distresses with masculine eloquence. The conference had continued for a long time, when Menenius Agrippa who had been a Plebeian, and knew what kind of eloquence was most likely to please the people, addressed them with that celebrated fable which is so finely told us by Livy.

"In times of old, when every part of the body could think for itself, and each had a separate will of its own, they all determined to revolt against the belly; they knew no reason, they said, why they should toil from morning till night in its service, while the belly in the meantime lay at its ease in the midst of them all; accordingly they resolved to befriend it no more".

"The feet vowed they would carry it no longer; the hands vowed they would feed it no longer; and the teeth affirmed they would not chew a morsel of meat though it were placed between them. Thus resolved, they all for some time showed their spirit, and kept their word; but soon found, that instead of mortifying the belly, they only injured themselves; they languished for a while and perceived when too late that it was owing to the belly that they had strength to work, or courage to mutiny."

This fable had instantaneous effect upon the people. They unanimously cried out that Agrippa should lead them back to Rome; and were making preparations to follow him, when Lucius Junius withheld them; alleging that though they were grateful enough to acknowledge the kind offers of the senate, yet they had no safeguard for the future, against their resentment; that it was necessary for the security of the people, to have certain officers chosen annually from among themselves, who should have power to give redress to such of them as should be injured, and plead the cause of the people.

The people highly applauded this proposal, which the commissioners had not power to comply with; they sent to Rome to learn the will of the senate, who, worried with divisions, were resolved to have peace, and consented to the creation of their new officers, called Tribunes of the people, Appius alone protesting against the measure.

The Tribunes of the people were at first five in number, and afterwards increased to ten. They were annually elected by the people, and generally from their body. They at first had their seats placed before the door of the senate house, and being called in, were to examine every decree, annulling it by the word Veto, I forbid it; or confirming it by signing the letter T, the first letter of their name, which gave the law validity.

This new office being thus instituted, Sicinius Bellutus, Lucius Junius, Caius Lucinius, Albinus, and Icilius Ruga, were the first Tribunes chosen by the suffrages of the people. The senate made an edict confirming the abolition of debts; and now all things being adjusted, the people, after having sacrificed to the gods of the mountain, returned to Rome.

493-488 B.C.


Coriolanus begged by his relatives
Nicolas Poussin, musée Nicolas-Poussin

Coriolanus, being banished from Rome, united with the Volscians, in a war against the Romans, 490. B.C.

During the late separation, all tillage had been entirely neglected, and a famine was the consequence. The senate did all in their power to remedy the public misery; but the people, pinched with want, ascribed the whole of their distress to the avarice of the patricians, who having purchased all the corn, as was alleged, intended to indemnify themselves for the abolition of debts, by selling it to great profit.

A large fleet laden with corn from Sicily, raised their spirits once more.

But Coriolanus incurred their resentment, by insisting that it should not be distributed till the grievances of the senate were removed. For this the Tribunes summoned him to a trial before the people.

When the appointed day was come, Coriolanus presented himself before the people, with a degree of intrepidity, that merited a better fortune. His person, his eloquence, the cries of those he had saved from the enemy, inclined the auditors to relent. But being unable to answer what was alleged against him, and confounded with a new charge of having embezzled the plunder of Antium, the Tribunes immediately took the votes, and Coriolanus was condemned to perpetual exile.

This sentence against their bravest defender, struck the whole body of the senate with consternation, and regret. Coriolanus alone, in the midst of the tumult, seemed an unconcerned spectator. He returned home, followed by the lamentation of hundreds of the most respectable Romans, to take leave of his wife, his children, and his mother Veturia. Recommending his little children to the care of heaven, he left the city alone, to take refuge with Tullus Attius, a man of great power among the Volscians, who took him under his protection and espoused his cause.

The first thing proposed, was to induce the Volscians to break the league with Rome, and Tullus sent many of his people thither to see some games; but in the meantime, gave the senate information that the strangers had intentions of burning the city. This had the desired effect; the senate issued an order, that all strangers should depart from Rome before sunset.

This order Tullus represented to his countrymen as an infraction of the treaty, and procured an embassy to Rome, complaining of the breach, and redemanding all the territories that belonged to the Volscians, declaring war in case of a refusal; but this message was treated by the senate with contempt.

War being thus declared on both sides, Coriolanus and Tullus were made generals of the Volscians, and invaded the Roman territories, ravaging all such lands as belonged to the Plebeians but letting those of the senators remain untouched. In the meantime the levies went on slowly at Rome. The two consuls who were re-elected by the people, seemed but little skilled in war, and feared to encounter a general whom they knew to be their superior in the field.

Coriolanus met with success in every expedition; and he was now so famous for his victories, that the Volscians left their towns defenceless, to follow him into the field. The very soldiers of his colleague's army came over to him, and would acknowledge no other general. Thus finding himself unopposed in the field, and at the head of a numerous army, he resolved to besiege Rome. It was then that the senate and the people sent deputies to him, with proposals of restoration, in case he would draw off his army. Coriolanus refused their offers.

Another embassy was now sent conjuring him not to exact from his native city, anything unworthy a Roman to grant. Coriolanus naturally inflexible and severe, persisted in his demands, and granted them but three days to finish their deliberations. The Romans sent another deputation, composed of the pontiffs, the priests, and the augurs. These clothed in their habits of ceremony, and with a grave and mournful deportment, issued from the city, and entered the camp of the conqueror; but they found him severe and inflexible as before.

When the people saw them return they gave themselves up for lost. Their temples were filled with old men, women, and children, who prostrate at their altars, put up their ardent prayers for the preservation of their country. Nothing was to be heard, but anguish and lamentation; and nothing to be seen but scenes of affright and distress. At length it was suggested to them, that what could not be effected by the intercession of the senate, or the adjuration of the priests, might be brought about by the tears of his wife, or the commands of his mother.

Veturia, the mother of Coriolanus made some hesitation to undertake such a work, knowing the inflexible temper of her son, and fearing only to make him show his disobedience by rejecting the commands of a parent; however, she undertook the embassy, accompanied by many of the principal matrons of Rome, with Volumnia his wife, and his two children.

Coriolanus, who at a distance discovered these matrons, was resolved to give them a denial, and called his officers around him to witness his resolution; but when told that his mother and his wife were among the number, he instantly came down from his tribunal to meet and embrace them. At first the women's tears and embraces took away the power of speech, and he could not refrain from sharing in their distress.

Coriolanus seemed agitated by contending passions : while his mother seconded her words by the most persuasive eloquence, her tears : his wife and children hung round him entreating for protection and pity; while her companions, added their lamentations, and deplored their own and their country's distress.

Coriolanus was silent, feeling the strong conflict between honor and inclination; at length, he flew to take up his mother who had fallen at his feet, crying out, "0, my mother, thou hast saved Rome, but lost thy son." He accordingly gave orders to draw off the army, pretending to his soldiers that the city was too strong to be taken. Upon their return Coriolanus was slain in an insurrection of the people, and honorably buried, with their late and ineffectual repentance.

460-430 B.C.


Cincinnatus abandons its plow
to dictate the laws of Rome

Juan Antonio Ribera

A dispute arising between the Tribunes and the Consuls, on the subject of the Agrarian law, it was agreed to appoint a Dictator, and Cincinnatus was chosen to that office, 458 years B.C. which, having restored peace, he soon resigned.

There were great rejoicings at Rome upon the retreat of the Volscian army; but their joy was soon clouded by the intrigues of Spurius Cassius, who, wanting to make himself despotic by means of the people, was found guilty of a number of crimes, all tending towards the alteration of the government, and was thrown headlong from the Tarpeian rock, by those whose power he had endeavored to extend.

The year following, the two consuls of the former year, Manlius and Fabius, were cited by the Tribunes to appear before the people. The Agrarian law, which had been proposed, for dividing equally the lands of the commonwealth, among the people, was the object perpetually in view, and they were accused of having made unjustifiable delays in putting it off. The Agrarian law was a grant which the senate could not think of making to the people. The consuls made many delays and excuses.

Cincinnatus determined to side with neither, but by a strict attention to the common interest, to gain the esteem of all. He prevailed with the Tribunes to put off their law for a time, and conducted himself in such a manner as to inspire the multitude with awe whenever they were disinclined to enlist. Having restored that tranquillity to the people which he so much loved himself, he returned to his farm.

The AEqui and Volscians renewed the war and made inroads upon the Roman territories. Minutius, one of the consuls, was sent to oppose them, but being timid and irresolute, his army was driven into a defile between two mountains, from which there was no egress.

The Roman army was so hemmed in on every side, that nothing remained but submission to the enemy, famine, or immediate death. Some knights, who found means of escaping privately through the enemy's camp, were the first that brought the account of this disaster to Rome. Nothing could exceed the consternation of all ranks of people. The senate at first thought of sending the other consul; but not having sufficient experience of his abilities, they unanimously turned their eyes upon Cincinnatus, and resolved to make him Dictator.

Cincinnatus, the only person on whom Rome could now place her whole dependence, retired to his little farm, was found by the messengers of the senate, laboring in his little field. He appeared little elevated with the ceremony they observed towards him, and the gorgeous habits they presented; upon hearing the will of the senate, he testified only a concern that his aid should be wanted, preferring the charms of a country retirement to the fatiguing splendors of office. He said to his wife as they were conducting him away, "I fear, my Attilla, that for this year our little field must remain unsown." Thus taking a tender leave of his family, he departed for Rome, where the parties were strongly inflamed against each other. Being once more possessed of absolute power, and called upon to nominate the master of his horse, he chose a poor man named Tarquitius, who, like himself despised riches, when they led to dishonor. Thus the saving of a great nation devolved upon a husbandman taken from the plough, and an obscure sentinel found among the dregs of the army.

Upon entering the city, the Dictator put on a serene look, and entreated all those who were able to bear arms to repair before sunset to the Campus Martius, (the place where the levies were made,) with necessary arms, and provisions for five days. He put himself at their head, marching all night, with great expedition, and arrived before day within sight of the enemy. Upon his approach he ordered his soldiers to raise a loud shout to apprise the consul's army of the relief that was at hand.

The AEqui were amazed when they saw themselves between two hostile armies, but still more when they perceived Cincinnatus making the strongest entrenchments to prevent their escape, and enclosing them as they had enclosed the consul. A furious combat ensued; but the AEqui being attacked on both sides, and unable to resist or fly, begged a cessation of arms.

They offered the Dictator his own terms; he gave them their lives; but obliged them, in token of servitude, to pass under the yoke, which was made by setting upright two spears, and another across them in form of a gallows, beneath which the vanquished were to march. Their captains and generals were made prisoners of war, and reserved to adorn his triumph.

Thus having rescued a Roman army from destruction, defeated a powerful enemy, and taken and fortified their city, refusing any part of the spoils, he resigned his dictatorship after having enjoyed it but fourteen days. The senate would have enriched him, but he declined their offers, choosing to retire once more to his farm and cottage, content with temperance and fame.

But this repose from foreign invasion, did not lessen the tumults of the city. The clamors on account of the Agrarian law continued, and still more fiercely, when Sicinius Dentatus a Plebeian, advanced in years, but of an admirable person and military deportment came forward to enumerate his hardships and his merits. This old soldier made no scruple of extolling the various achievements of his youth.

He had served his country in the wars forty years, and had been an officer thirty; first a centurion, and then a tribune; he had fought one hundred and twenty battles; in which by the force of his single arm, he had saved a multitude of lives; he had gained fourteen civic1, three mural and eight golden crowns, besides eighty three chains, sixty bracelets, eighteen gilt spears, and twenty three horse trappings, whereof nine were for killing the enemy in single combat. He had received forty five wounds before and none behind.

These were his honors; yet he had never received any share of the lands won from the enemy, but continued a life of poverty, while others possessed those very territories, which his valor had gained. A case of so much hardship had a strong effect upon the multitude; they unanimously demanded that the law should pass, and that such merit should not go unrewarded.

It was in vain that some of the senators rose up to speak against it; their voices were drowned by the cries of the people. When reason could no longer be heard, passion succeeded; and the young patricians running into the throng, broke the balloting urns, and put off the Agrarian law.

1. A civic crown was given to an individual for saving the life of a fellow citizen in battle. It was so called from the word civis, citizen. A mural crown was given to him who first scaled the enemy's wall. The word is derived from murus, a wall. A golden crown was given for an act of distinguished bravery.

451-449 B.C.

The Laws of the Twelve Tables

The Laws of the Twelve Tables were collected, and it was agreed that ten of the principal Senators should be chosen annually with the power of consuls and kings, called the Decemviri1, 451 years B.C.

The commonwealth of Rome had now for nearly sixty years been fluctuating between the contending orders that composed it. The citizens complained of the arbitrary decisions of their magistrates, and wished to be guided by laws which being known, might prevent wrongs as well as punish them.

It was agreed that ambassadors should be sent to the Greek cities in Italy, and to Athens, to bring home such laws, as had been found most equitable and useful. For this purpose three senators, Posthumius, Sulpicius, and Manlius, were fixed upon.

While they were upon this embassy a dreadful plague depopulated the city. In about a year the plague ceased, and the ambassadors returned, bringing a body of laws collected from the most civilized states of Greece and Italy, which were divided into ten tables, and two more being added, made that celebrated code, called the laws of the Twelve Tables.

The tribunes required that a body of men should be chosen to digest their new laws into a proper form. It was agreed that ten of the principal senators should be elected, whose power, continuing for a year, should be equal to that of kings and consuls, and without any appeal.

Thus the whole constitution of the state at once took a new form, and a hazardous experiment was to be tried, of governing one nation by laws of another.

1. This word is compounded of two Latin words, viz. - decem ten; and viri men.

449 B.C.

The war against the Volsci and AEqui


The arbitrary power assumed by the Decemviri, caused a tumult among the people; this occasioned an attack from the Volsci and AEqui, which was successful against the Romans.

The Decemviri being now invested with absolute power agreed to take the reins of government by turns, and that each should administer justice for a day.

These magistrates for the first year wrought with great industry, and their work being finished, it was expected they would be content to give up their offices; but havings known the charms of power, they were unwilling to resign it; they pretended that some laws were wanting to complete their design, and entreated the senate for a continuance of their offices, to which that body assented.

But they soon threw off the mask, and regardless of the senate or the people, resolved to continue themselves in the decemvirate. This was followed by new acts of oppression.

In this state of slavery, proscription, and mutual distrust, these tyrants ruled without control, being guarded not with their lictors alone, but by a numerous crowd of dependants, clients, and even patricians, whom their vices had gathered round them. The AEqui and Volscians, the constant enemies of Rome, resolved to profit by the intestine divisions of the people, and advanced within about ten miles of the city.

The Decemviri being in possession of all the military and civil power, divided their army into three parts; one commanded by Appius remained in the city to keep it in awe; the other two were commanded by his colleagues, and marched one against the AEqui, and the other against the Sabines. The Roman soldiers shamefully abandoned their camp upon the approach of the enemy.

Never was the news of a victory more joyfully received at Rome than the tidings of this defeat. The generals were blamed for the treachery of their men; some demanded that they should be deposed, others cried out for a dictator to lead the troops to conquest; but among the rest, old Sicinius Dentatus, the tribune, spoke his sentiments with his usual openness; and treating the generals with contempt, showed all the faults of their discipline in the camp and their conduct in the field.

449 B.C.

Sicinius Dentatus or Lucius Siccius Dentatus

Sicinius Dentatus the tribune, was treacherously slain for having spoken his sentiments against the Generals, whose armies were defeated by the AEqui and Samnites.

Appius was not remiss in observing the disposition of the people. Dentatus in particular was marked out for vengeance, and under pretence of doing him particular honor, he was appointed legate, and put at the head of the supplies which were sent from Rome to reinforce the army. The office of legate was held sacred among the Romans, as in it were united the authority of a general, with the reverence due to the priesthood.

Dentatus, not suspecting his design, went to the camp with alacrity, where he was received with all the external marks of respect. But the generals soon found means of indulging their desire of revenge. He was appointed at the head of an hundred men to go and examine a more commodious place for encampment, as he had assured the commanders, that their present situation was wrong.

The soldiers who were sent as his attendants, were assassins, who had heen ministers of the vengeance of the decemviri, and engaged to murder him. With these designs, they led him from the way into a retired mountain, and set upon him from behind.

Dentatus too late perceived this treachery, and was resolved to sell his life dearly. He put his back to a rock, and defended himself against those who pressed most closely. Though grown old, he retained his former valor, and killed fifteen of the assailants, and wounded thirty with his own hand. Finally, his assailants ascending the rock against which he stood, poured down stones upon him from above. The old soldier fell, after having shown by his death, that he owed it to his courage, and not to fortune, that he had come off so many times victorious. The decemviri pretended to join in the general sorrow for the loss of so brave a man, and decreed him a funeral with military honors.

449 B.C.

Appius Claudius

Uccisione di Virginia
Uccisione di Virginia
Camillo Miola

The conduct of Appius Claudius to Virginia caused his own ruin and that of his colleagues in the decemvirate, with the abolition of that office 449 years B. C.

Appius, who remained in charge of the city, while his colleagues went to the wars, sat every day as a Judge in the forum. Virginia passed each morning through the forum in her way to school. Appius saw her once, and was charmed; he saw her again, and resolved to make her his prey. She was engaged to marry Icilius, formerly a tribune of the people, and would not therefore listen to the proposals of Appius.

He, therefore, to get possession of the lovely virgin, procured a base dependant to claim her as his slave. The claim was made before Appius himself, who pronounced an infamous decree, by which she was declared to be the property of this profligate minion. Virginius, her father, who was falsely sworn to have stolen her from the dependant of Appius, was at a distance in the army, but hastened to Rome on receiving this intelligence.

Finding that he could not preserve her from the licentious decemvir, he begged to give her his parting embrace. His request was granted. Virginius clasped his child in his arms, whilst she wet his cheeks with her tears, and tenderly kissing her, plunged a dagger into her bosom, saying, "Oh ! my child, by this means only can I give thee freedom." Then holding up the bloody knife, he cried to Appius, "By this innocent blood I devote thy head to the infernal gods." Appius called out to have him arrested, but the people made way for him, and he hastened with the fatal instrument in his hand to the camp. His tears and despair won every heart. He pathetically intreated them not to banish him from their society as the murderer of his child; they all swore to avenge his wrong, and raising their standards, marched immediately to Rome. The decemviri were deposed, Appius and one of his colleagues put to death, and the rest banished.

444-367 B.C.

The military Tribunes

The war with the AEqui and the Volscians was continued, and the military Tribunes created, 445 years B. C.

These intestine tumults produced weakness within the state, and confidence in the enemy. The wars with the AEqui and the Volscians still continued; they at last advanced so far as to make their incursions to the very walls of Rome.

About this time the inhabitants of two neighboring cities, Ardea and Aricia, had a contest about some lands that had been claimed by both. Being unable to agree, they referred it to the senate, and people of Rome.

The senate had some of the principles of primitive justice remaining, and refused to determine the dispute. But the people undertook the decision : and one Scaptius, an old man, declaring that these very lands of right belonged to Rome, they voted themselves to be the legal possessors, and sent home the former litigants, thoroughly convinced of their own folly, and of the Roman injustice.

The tribunes now grew more turbulent; they proposed two laws, one to permit Plebeians to intermarry with Patricians, and the other to admit them to the consulship. The senators received these proposals with indignation, and resolved to undergo the utmost extremities, rather than submit to them. Finding their resistance to increase the commotions of the people, they consented to the law concerning marriages, hoping this would satisfy them; but they were appeased only for a short time, returning to their old custom of refusing to enlist upon the approach of an enemy.

Genetus proposed, that six governors should annually be chosen, with consular authority; three from the senate, and three from the people. This was eagerly embraced by the people; yet so fickle were the multitude, that though many of the Plebeians stood, the choice fell wholly upon the Patricians, who offered themselves as candidates.

These new magistrates were called Military Tribunes; they were, at first, three in number, and afterwards increased to four, and at length to Six. The first that were chosen, continued in office only three months; the augurs having found something amiss in the ceremonies of their election.

444 av. J.C.

The Censors

The Censors, two magistrates of great authority, were first created at Rome, 444 years B.C. The two first Censors were Papirius and Sempronius, both patricians; and from this order they continued to be elected for nearly an hundred years.

The military tribunes being deposed, the consuls once more came into office. In order to lighten the weight of business which they were obliged to sustain, a new office was erected, namely, that of Censors, who were chosen every fifth year. Their business was to make an estimate of the number and estates of the people, and to distribute them into their proper classes; to inspect the manners of their fellow citizens; to degrade senators and knights for misconduct; and turn down plebeians to inferior tribes in case of misdemeanor.

This new establishment served to restore peace for some time; and a triumph gained over the Volscians, by Gaganius the consul, added to the general satisfaction.

439 B.C.

Second dictatorship of Cincinnatus

Uccisione di Virginia
Beccafumi's Ahala, Master of the Horse
presents the Dead Maelius to Cincinnatus

Spurius Maelius, a Roman knight, was slain for a conspiracy against the liberties of Rome. Cincinnatus was the second time chosen dictator.

This state of tranquillity endured not long, for a famine pressing hard upon the poor, the usual complaints against the rich were renewed; and these proving ineffectual, produced new seditions. The consuls were accused of neglect in not having laid in proper quantities of corn; they disregarded the murmurs of the population, content with exerting all their care in attempts to supply the public necessities.

But, though they did all that could be expected from active magistrates, in providing and distributing provisions to the poor, yet Spurius Maelius, a rich knight, who had purchased all the corn of Tuscany, by far outshone them in liberality. This demagogue inflamed with a secret desire of becoming powerful by the contentions in the state, distributed corn in greater quantities among the poorer sort, each day, till his house became an asylum for all such as wished to exchange a life of labor for one of lazy dependence.

When he had thus gained a sufficient number of partizans, he procured large quantities of arms to be brought into his house by night, and formed a conspiracy to obtain the command, while some of the tribunes, whom he had corrupted, were to act under him in destroying the liberties of his country. Minucius soon discovered the plot; and informing the senate, they immediately formed the resolution of creating a dictator to quell the conspiracy without appealing to the people.

Cincinnatus, now 80 years of age, was once more chosen to rescue his country from the impending danger. He began by summoning Maelius to appear before him, but he refused to obey. He next sent Ahala, his master of the horse, against him. Ahala met him in the forum, and finding persuasion of no avail, killed him on the spot. The Dictator applauded the act, and ordered the goods of the conspirator to be sold, and his house to be demolished. His stores were distributed among the people.

The Tribunes of the people were much enraged at the death of Maelius; and to punish the senate, at the next election, instead of consuls, insisted upon restoring their military tribunes. The senate were obliged to comply. The next year, the government returned to its ancient channels, and consuls were chosen.

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