The Roman Republic - Vol. 1

By W. E. Heitland | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
.

THE LICINIAN LAWS
123. 123 . THE wealthy Plebeians wanted to attain the Consulship, that is, to share the imperium with the Patricians. The attempt of Canuleius and his colleagues had been foiled by the introduction of the consular Tribunes. The experience of many elections had shewn the indifference of the poorer Plebeians to the claims of the richer. Seldom indeed had a Plebeian been elected a consular Tribune. Hence it had become clear to the leading Plebeians that, if they meant to hold the chief magistracy, they must secure a reserved place, secured from Patrician encroachments. It was not worth while to struggle for eligibility, if they were in practice never likely to be elected. Having once made up their minds what to aim at, they proceeded to gather their forces. No help could be looked for from the Patricians: tough and sly, the old families had staved off the pressure for a time by giving the wealthy Plebeians a share in the beneficial occupation (possessio) of the state land, and by allowing inter- marriage to take place. A means must be found of securing the effective support of the mass of the poor Plebeians. Now what these needed was economic relief: their outlook did not include political honours.
124. 124. It is remarkable that the agitations for allotment of land were in this period mostly abortive. The land bills were a great feature of the years 416-410, but either the proposers withdrew them or their fellow Tribunes blocked them. No doubt this failure is a sign of the slackness brought about on the Plebeian side by divergent interests. It was not due to the cessation of land-hunger, as the Senate well knew. To appease this we find allotments of land provided; in 393 the conquered district round Veii, in 383 the Pomptine land taken from the Volscians, was parcelled out thus. The same may have been the case in 418 with the land of Labici, which Livy treats as a Citizen Colony. Of the so-called Latin Colonies we find five founded in this period: Ardea ( 442) in the Rutulian country, Satricum ( 385) and Setia ( 382) among the Volsci, Sutrium ( 383) and Nepete ( 383) in Etruria. Romans who joined these Colonies became 'Latins,' citizens of a new Latin community, and so satisfied their

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