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Chapter XII

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
A History of Rome
by
Tenney Frank

published by
Henry Holt and Company
New York 1923

The text is in the public domain.

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Chapter XIV

 p211  Chapter XIII

The Senate, the Knights, and Marius

For many years after the death of Gracchus, all classes seemed to be stunned by what had occurred. It was a shocking discovery that Rome, hitherto capable of applying cool reason before the clash of passion had now acted like any Oriental mob. Factional enmity ran high, but fear of extreme measures that would lead to a new outbreak of bloody riots kept both parties ready to compromise. The land-laws were modified as we have seen, the Senate did not try to annul the rest that had been done, and the tribunes for the present let the Senate reassert its supremacy in administration. The Senate knew, however, that its claims to leadership had been challenged with precedents that would not be forgotten. So long as the Republic remained there was hardly a measure of importance which was not discussed from the point of view of the question raised by Gracchus: was the people sovereign, or had the aristocratic Senate won a dominating position in the government?

Narbonese Gaul. During the years of peace that followed 121 Rome gradually built up a province in southern Gaul to serve as a gateway to Spain by land. In this affair both parties were on the whole fairly well agreed. As early as 153 Rome had aided Marseilles — in return for many past favors — to subdue the troublesome barbarians who lived in the mountains on her rear and had been a fellow-signatory of a treaty that established Massiliot sovereignty there and restricted wine-raising in favor of Massiliot commerce. In 125 Rome had again gone to the aid of Marseilles, this time against raids of the Allobroges and Arverni, and the work of pacification authorized by the Senate  p212 had continued during the career of Gaius, and doubtless with his approval. Marseilles and Rome acted together with the understanding that Rome should have a strip of the conquered territory north of Marseilles for a road to Spain. Marseilles did not care for a land empire, and desired only peace for trade. A Roman province would shut her in, but would thereby also keep her protected, and the Roman road would be a clear advantage to her traders. The Senate was interested in securing a safe military route to the Spanish province, while Gracchus had large enough views to appreciate its argument, as well as, perhaps, to see that Roman commerce, in which he had more faith than the Senate, might soon find some benefit from the building of the road. In 121 Domitius and in 120 Fabius defeated the Allobroges and Arverni. They took very little of the territory won, but they set free the Gallic tribes in the rear of the Arverni and accepted a treaty of friendship with the Aedui. The war won respect among the Gallic tribes for Rome and her friend Marseilles. The Narbonese province was laid out along the coast, the Domitian road built and paved as far as the Rhone, Tolosa was made a frontier post, and in 118 the Roman colony of Narbo was settled. This colony was founded on the Gracchan idea that Rome should take her part in the commerce of the Mediterranean, and it was settled by a commission under Licinius Crassus, a knight who represented the new business interests in the popular faction. Its foundation, therefore, is a sure index of a growing influence of business interests in the state, and of a readier acquiescence in their program by the Senate than was shown by that body in regard to Carthage.

The Jugurthine War. Troubles with Jugurtha in Numidia, however, stirred up party strife to a dangerous pitch again. Masinissa's son had died in 118, and foolishly left his kingdom to three heirs, two sons, Adherbal and Hiempsal, and an illegitimate nephew, Jugurtha. Jugurtha was an energetic barbarian, ambitious, popular, a very skilful  p213 leader of men, but none too scrupulous. He had led a troop of Numidian horse at Numantia, and Scipio Aemilianus and the many influential young Romans there had learned to like him for his dashing courage. He now thought that he might rely on the friendship of such men and win himself the kingdom of Numidia. The history of this war is very dramatically told by Sallust, a friend of Julius Caesar, but since Sallust chose the topic because it gave him an opportunity to criticize senatorial government and justify popular administration of provinces — a topic of keen interest in his day — we feel that we must tone down the chiaroscuro of his picture. The war stirred up an intense discussion, bitter tirades of senators and tribunes, which of course were published. Such speeches, which Sallust freely used, were as reliable for historical purposes as are bitterly partisan speeches and editorials to‑day. Many things were uttered in the heat of passion, based on circulating rumors, that a more practical and impartial historian would have hesitated to repeat. The facts seem to be as follows: Jugurtha and Hiempsal first fell to quarreling. Hiempsal was killed, probably at Jugurtha's orders. Adherbal thought so, and took up the quarrel. When beaten he fled to Rome. The Senate had no interest in the kingdom, but feeling that peace ought to be established in its protectorate it sent a commission to arbitrate. This commission divided the kingdom between Jugurtha and Adherbal. Again war broke out, Jugurtha drove his cousin to Cirta (Constantine) and besieged him there (113). Again Rome sent a commission to work for peace; but the commission was put off by promises. Sallust says it was bribed. This was certainly charged by the tribunes at Rome. Whether the charge is true is quite a different question. Naturally the Senate did not wish to intervene with arms in that autonomous kingdom; furthermore, it was now worried by a threatened invasion of the Cimbri in the north and did not wish to send forces to Africa; finally, the Senate knew that Jugurtha was a  p214 strong ruler of the kind that a barbarous people like the Numidians needed. The discussion must have sounded like some recent disputes about the proposed recognition of vigorous presidents in Mexico who have seized the power by force of arms. In 112 Cirta fell, Adherbal was killed, the city sacked, and many Roman traders from the province of Africa were killed in the mêlée. Now the Senate had to act with vigor, especially as Roman tribunes began to discuss the affair as an object lesson in senatorial administration. An army was sent in 111 under Calpurnius Bestia. But his army was small, since the Senate had to keep the Cimbri in mind. Calpurnius in fact seems to have had orders to do only what was necessary to save the reputation of Rome, and make peace as soon as possible. This he did. But the tribunes claimed that the Senate was disgracing Rome in making any peace with Jugurtha. Memmius, one of them, took the matter up in the assembly, and charged that the leaders of the Senate must have been bribed. He proposed and passed a bill that Jugurtha be called to Rome under safe-conduct to testify in an examination into charges of bribery. Jugurtha came and the assembly set about its amusing trial of the Senate over the head of a barbarian prince. When he was ordered to speak, another tribune interposed his veto. Thus balked, the enemies of Jugurtha prompted Massiva, a cousin of Jugurtha, then at Rome, to claim the throne of Numidia. Jugurtha did not hesitate to have the new pretender assassinated. Now, of course, the Senate had to act. It ordered Jugurtha out of Italy, and declared war on him. In 110 the consul Albinus was sent over, and having little military skill he was defeated by Jugurtha's excellently trained cavalry. The assembly was again in an uproar and, acting under the Mamilian plebiscite, instituted a special court to try the guilty. The last two consuls who had commanded in Africa, Calpurnius and Albinus, were "found guilty" on the charge of accepting bribes and outlawed. Caecilius Metellus, a better  p215 general, took command in 109. He brought two men of military skill with him, Marius, a vigorous democrat, and Rutilius Rufus. With an army trained by these men he advanced cautiously and gained several minor successes, but Jugurtha, taking advantage of his mobile cavalry and the desert, dragged out the contest in guerilla warfare. The populace of Rome asserted that neither efficiency nor honesty was to be found in any of the nobles, and when Marius arrived from Africa just before the election and presented himself as a candidate, promising that he would finish the war in one year, he was elected despite the opposition of the Senate. Indeed, the assembly made bold to hark back to a Gracchan precedent, took the administration of the war in their own hands, and disregarding the right of the Senate to draw the lots simply appointed Marius to the office.

Marius as consul. This strange man had as yet done nothing remarkable to attract attention. The son of a land-owner and knight of Arpinum, he had quit agriculture and engaged in active business with the public contractors. When a young man in the army he had proved to be a good cavalry officer at Numantia. He was not afraid of work and study, and he liked to see things done thoroughly. In fact his success lay largely in his ability to work hard and accomplish his work well in the two or three excellent opportunities that chance offered. It lay hardly at all in brilliant mental endowment or in the comprehension of statesmanship. As tribune in 119 he had showed his friendship for the populace in some ballot reforms, but obeyed his business sense rather than a temptation to demagoguery when he opposed an extension of cornº-doles. An indifferent praetor in 115, he became propraetor of Further Spain in 114, where he gained some more military experience in suppressing brigandage. A very fine sense of propriety he did not have or he would not have canvassed for the consulship by attacking Metellus upon whose generosity he had  p216 depended. His moral backbone was never quite dependable when position was at stake.

The volunteer system. In 107 he took over the command which the people had voted him, and was expected to make the usual levy of troops to strengthen the army. What he did was not a little surprising. He did not care for the usual forced levy, but called for volunteers, and enrolled all who seemed physically fit. Hitherto every young citizen of property at Rome had had to take his turn, and though the practice of excluding the unpropertied had not firmly been adhered to, it had been assumed that all citizens should share the burden of army service and that those who had property were logically the defenders of the state. Marius' reason for calling for volunteers may have been that drafting brought many unwilling men into the line, and that with the spread of latifundia and slave-farming, it was more and more difficult to recruit an army of the old type. In fact, with an army already in Africa and many troops needed in the north, he might have to waste time by waiting for the machinery of the draft to get in order.

His change was momentous, however, in a city-state like Rome, where the central government might readily be crushed by an army of volunteers who presumably had little interest in property or in the state's welfare. Henceforth soldiers would obviously fight for what was promised by the general, not for their homes and their state, and being largely disaffected proletariat their loyalty would be attached to the giver of the promises rather than to the state. Marius was the first Roman consul who rewarded soldiers with land. Apparently his plea for volunteers had embodied some promise of more than the soldier's stipend. Rome may not have read the meaning of this change, and Marius probably did not see the entire implication, but this "reform" of the army it was that made militarism possible at Rome.

The end of the Jugurthine war. Marius quickly brought  p217 this new army of volunteers into good condition, and being skilled in military tactics soon out‑maneuvered Jugurtha, who fled to his friend King Bocchus of Mauretania. Marius sent his young quaestor Sulla to Bocchus to demand the surrender of Jugurtha. This the clever young nobleman by threats and promises succeeded in accomplishing, and Marius was able to return in triumph to show that his campaign promises had been kept. Sulla, who thought his own part in the final success had been underestimated, suppressed his grudge for a later day. Numidia was disposed of by the Senate in the old conservative fashion. Bocchus received a part as reward for his surrender of Jugurtha. The main part was given to a cousin of Jugurtha to rule and a portion near the Roman province of Africa was annexed to the province.

The Cimbri and Teutones. Marius was reëlected consul, contrary to law, and sent to the North by the assembly to retrieve the very disgraceful losses that senatorial commanders had sustained at the hands of invading barbarians. We must go back a few years to pick up the threads of the story. It was in 113 that the Romans first heard of the Cimbri, one more of those terrible hordes that came from the prolific north in search of a southern home. They were apparently a Teutonic tribe from the Baltic region. Coming down by way of Noricum (modern Austria), they attempted to enter the Po valley from the east. Here the Roman army went to meet them, and, though defeated, it had given such good account of itself that the Cimbri turned back. Two years later the Cimbri entered Gaul, trying without success to compel the Celtic tribes to make a place for them. Later in 109 they sent a request to Rome for lands in the province or in Italy and were of course refused, whereupon they attacked the small force of the Roman consul on the Rhone and defeated him. Again they felt it wise to turn back. In 107 they returned strengthened by the Teutones and the Tigurini. Tolosa was taken, and Cassius  p218 Longinus, marching to its rescue, which caught in an ambush and badly defeated. The Narbonese province was overrun. The next consul, Servilius, thoroughly hated by the populace for his attempt at restoring the court panels to the senators, cleared the province and retook Tolosa, but when in 105 he was asked to work with the succeeding consul, the popular leader Manlius, political quarrels disrupted the good army of 80,000 men, which fell a prey to the enemy in a disgraceful battle at Orange (Arausio).

Marius had now returned from Numidia and was hurried to the front. The enemy had again turned back, this time to try their fortune in Spain. Marius was, therefore, given time to build up a good army. He now undertook some new changes of the army, inviting mercenary auxiliaries of horse, bowmen and slingers from the client princes, and especially from Liguria, Crete and the Balearic islands. Such contingents henceforth constituted a regular part of a Roman army. With this aid in light-armed forces he could solidify the Roman and Italian legion, which, consisting largely of volunteers, seemed perhaps less dependable than before. The maniple was indeed retained, but five maniples were massed together in a solid cohort of 600 and ten of these now constituted a legion. Marius thought it wise not to follow the enemy into Spain, but to await their return. The time was spent in drilling and in cutting a new channel for commerce at the mouth of the Rhone, a work not only of service in supplying his army from home and in keeping his men fit but also in the vigorous trade of Rome and Marseilles now growing up in this province. Marius saw these things with the eyes of an experienced man of business.

The enemy did not return till late in 103, when Marius had been reëlected to his fourth consulship. Even the Senate was now willing to break the law in order to escape responsibility in a case of such great danger. On their return the hordes divided, the Cimbri preferring to go back  p219 through Switzerland to try the northeast entrance to Italy. The Teutones and Ambrones attempted the direct road past Marius. He struck them at Aquae Sextiae, above Marseilles, and destroyed them completely. In a battle of such a nature there was no thought of surrender. The barbarians had their women and children with them and they did not ask for terms that would probably betray these to slavery. Marius, who was now consul for the fifth term, returned to the Po to help Catulus, who had failed to prevent the invasion of the Cimbri. In 101 the two generals met there at Vercellae, not far from Turin, and defeated this mass as decisively as the Teutones had been; 120,000 were slain, and 60,000 were taken prisoners and sold as slaves, chiefly as farm slaves on Italian latifundia. We are not surprised to hear that these slaves were the backbone of Spartacus' slave-army twenty-five years later. Henceforth Rome did not again for 500 years have to stop "folkwandering" masses in Italy. Julius Caesar transferred the frontier of the empire to the Rhine when he met Ariovistus in 58.

Capitalists in politics. Before the wars in Africa and the North were at an end the Romans found that the new political group created by the Gracchan legislation was growing very influential. In the olden day "new" men of wealth and influence had sooner or later made their way into the Senate. Now that Gracchus had given equestrian capitalists certain distinctive offices, privileges and insignia, they were apt to form a group apart and gradually to develop an esprit de corps for their group, which promised to create permanent third party. And furthermore the profits of the Asiatic tax gathering and of the banking and merchandising enterprises connected therewith promised to increase the group rapidly. The bitter factional struggles of Rome that led up to the "Social" or "Marsian" war were due largely to the antagonism between the Senate and the knights, both of which tried constantly to win the favor  p220 of the people, who of course controlled the electoral and law‑making assemblies.

One of the first results of capitalistic power was a demand for the suppression of piracy on the high seas for the sake of safeguarding commerce. The commercial status of Rhodes and Pergamum had till recently policed the eastern seas effectively. But now Pergamum belonged to Rome, and Rhodes, though she still possessed a fleet, saw no need of spending her treasures in policing the seas that had come to be so largely Roman. Furthermore, Rome had made the mistake of giving independence to the southern parts of the Pergamene kingdom, the inhabitants of which were wholly unused to autonomy. In consequence many of the people of Cilicia and Pamphilia took to brigandage and sea‑roving; and since the Roman Senate cared too little for commerce to appropriate money for navies, the nuisance soon grew to vast proportions. The pirates profited especially in capturing passengers whom they sold as slaves, and presently in raiding coast towns of the east for human booty. They even organized kidnapping expeditions which raided the inner principalities of Asia Minor. Finally, in 103, a year when the knights were especially powerful in the government of Rome, the Senate was induced to take action. Antonius, a praetor, was sent out with a fleet — a large part of which was requisitioned from the Greek naval allies — to clear the seas. This he soon succeeded in doing, and, to make the work permanent, he took formal possession of the Cilician coast, where most of the offenders lived, and organized it into a new province. Unfortunately Rome could not then afford to send out a standing army to clear and police the mountainous region in the province, so that Pompey had to do the work over many years later.

The slave war in Sicily. Indirectly this attempt at doing one's duty led to serious trouble in the province of Sicily. It happened that many of the persons captured and sold as  p221 slaves by the pirates had been bought by the Greek plantation owners of Sicily to make up for losses sustained in a recent slave-uprising. The Roman governor was ordered by the Senate in 104 to investigate the claims to freedom which were being made by many slaves, and to liberate those that could establish their claims. When the slave population presently heard that more than 800 had been set free, there was intense excitement. All demanded a hearing. The proconsul, seeing the danger he had invited, postponed the inquiry, but it was now too late. The slaves everywhere broke away from their masters and gathered into bands to fight for freedom. Many thousands collected in central Sicily and elected Tryphon king, another group in eastern Sicily chose Athenion. Tryphon's army attacked and defeated the proconsul's hastily gathered legion, and with a force which soon grew to 40,000 marched back and forth releasing slaves, plundering and burning. Lucullus, the governor of 103, defeated the horde, but failed to storm the rebel stronghold at Triocala. For this he was later tried at Rome on the preposterous charge of having accepted bribes, and banished. Servilius, the governor of 102, succeeded no better, probably because Rome did not then dare withdraw troops from the North for his support. In 101 finally the new governor Aquilius defeated the slaves, but it required two more years to restore peace completely. Sicily was then a sad spectacle. Unfortunately, the experience of the Greek landlords with large slave-worked plantations in Sicily was not taken to heart by the Roman farmers in Italy. It was only a generation later that a similar uprising had to be faced in Italy with similar results.

Knights versus Senate. — The emergence of the equestrian capitalists as a powerful political group had an even more marked effect on home politics. Indeed it changed completely the nature of the factional struggle. Gracchus had used the knights in strengthening the popular party in his battle with the Senate. Now the knights frequently assumed  p222 the offensive against the Senate, and the populace, which held the votes, were enticed now by the one side now by the other to participate in a struggle which was fought over their heads. The contest centered chiefly about the jury panels at first. The knights had soon discovered that when their agents, employed in the taxgathering in Asia, were being kept in check by the Roman governor, that great official might be rendered harmless by threats of prosecution before a jury of knights. And the enmity between senators and knights was such that representatives of both sides at times were guilty of instituting court proceedings on very flimsy charges. We know too well from experience how in modern city elections candidates are apt to be charged with surprising misdemeanors just before election day. The senators wished particularly to wrench this weapon from the hands of the knights. Accordingly, in 106, Servilius Caepio proposed a bill to the assembly admitting senators to the jury panels. In order to secure the popular vote, he and his friends claimed that the measure was in reality democratic, that the true friends of the people were after all the Senate, and that the knights had grown to be a power in the state that threatened to override the constitution and set up a venal political dictatorship. This argument succeeded and the law was passed. Unfortunately for his cause, Servilius Caepio soon after committed a bad blunder, thereby causing a revulsion of popular feeling against his law. As we have seen, he stubbornly refused while proconsul in Gaul to aid his superior, the popular consul Manlius, when the latter was attacked by the Cimbri, in consequence of which the Roman forces were disgracefully defeated. In the next year, 104, the knights seized the opportunity when all of Rome was excited with grief and rage, and had Servilius removed from his command and from the Senate; then, employing the services of the demagogue Glaucia, they had Servilius' law annulled and restored the jury panels to themselves again.

 p223  The revolution of Glaucia and Saturninus. This struggle brought Glaucia and an equally unscrupulous tribune, Saturninus, into prominence, and the two conceived the idea of using the coalition of knights and people in an effort to control the government as Gaius Gracchus had done. They held the knights by their antipathy for the Senate, they proposed to strengthen their hold upon the populace by lavish corn laws, and to ingratiate themselves with Marius — now in the north — and his veterans by giving the bonuses which Marius had suggested that he intended to secure for his volunteers after the war. Accordingly, in 103, they offered a plebiscite reducing the price of state-grain from the moderate Gracchan figure of twenty-five cents the bushel to the merely nominal price of about four cents, and a second plebiscite setting aside certain African lands for distribution — presumably to the soldiers who had served under Marius in Numidia. Senators — who had some scruples about the state of the treasury — opposed the laws vigorously. They issued a decree that the Senate considered the bills contrary to the interests of the state, and they found tribunes to issue a veto. But Saturninus, reviving the Gracchan theory that the assembly represented the sovereign will of Rome, put the measures to a vote and had them passed. Rome was again a pure democracy for at least two years.

In 101 Marius returned to Rome a great popular hero after the final defeat of the Cimbri and Teutones. He was elected consul for the sixth time despite all constitutional prohibitions against reëlection to that high office. There was no excuse in military exigencies for this reëlection, and his friends asserted that he tried to avoid it. The reason why he did not absolutely refuse lay perhaps in his desire to see that his soldiers should have their promised reward — a consequence of his method of levying volunteers. He was, however, no leader of men in political contests, nor was he a man of statesmanlike vision. Unaccustomed to dealing with men except by military means, cumbersome of speech,  p224 slow of thought, untrained in political maneuvering, he was soon outwitted by the politicians who had remained at home learning the game of the Forum while he was defending Rome's frontiers. Glaucia and Saturninus, offering to carry out his program, employed their visible influence with the popular hero for their own ends.

In the legislation of the year 100 Saturninus played the leading rôle because he was tribune and could summon the popular assembly, but it is likely that Glaucia, the praetor, was the moving spirit. Several measures were illegally combined, it seems, in an omnibus bill (lex satura). One was a lex de majestate, which affirmed the complete sovereignty of the populace, its purpose being to destroy the claim of the Senate that that body had a right to declare plebiscites void on technical grounds, as it had done in 103. Other bills appropriated lands in Gaul for distribution to veterans and also authorized the founding of colonies. Finally there was a clause — which seems to have been used now for the first time — condemning any and every senator or magistrate who refused to take an oath that he would support the law. This clause struck at the very basis of liberal government, and even Marius refused at first to take the oath, advising the Senate also to refuse. But the democratic coalition was too well organized to break. When the appointed day came Marius yielded and all others with him except Metellus, who won undying fame by choosing exile. The senators accused Marius of having merely pretended to refuse in order to entice his enemy Metellus into an attitude that would cause his exile. It is, however, more likely that Marius had miscalculated his own influence with his party, and that when he found his obstruction of no avail he weakly yielded in order to save the little power that was left him.

The crisis in the contest came finally at election time. Saturninus ran for the tribuneship again and was elected. Glaucia stood for the consulship. The equites now being  p225 frightened by the revolutionary tactics of the men were inclined to vote for Memmius, a more moderate democrat. At the voting the partisans of the two candidates fell to rioting, and Memmius was found dead in the Forum. This was too much. The Senate gathered hastily and passed the dread senatus consultum ultimum, which declared martial law and gave the consuls dictatorial powers. Marius hesitated, for he knew that he was practically being called upon to issue orders to execute his former associates. His soldier's instinct, however, convinced him that the time had come for executive intervention if the government was to be respected. Hundreds of citizens were summoned — since Rome had no regular police — to accept arms from the public armory and to surround the lawless elements supporting the two demagogues in the Forum. Saturninus and Glaucia were driven to the Capitol and then induced by Marius to take refuge in the senate house, where the consul hoped to keep them till order could be restored. But his commands were no longer obeyed. The armed deputies stormed the senate-house, a procedure in which even senators and knights were said to have participated, and Glaucia, Saturninus, and several followers were slain outright. The Senate gave its sanction to the act by rewarding a slave with citizenship on proof that he had given the death blow to Saturninus. Marius ended his term of office as best he could, and then set out for the East to take a long vacation, disliked by the populace for having deserted his party, despised by the Senate for his vacillation and political incapacity.

For ten years there was peace at home and abroad while the Senate proceeded to strengthen its position in the government. The conservative consuls of 98 secured the approval of a law forbidding the proposal of "omnibus bills" — the favorite device of demagogues forming "blocs" — and also reaffirmed the old rule that all bills must be posted three market days before being voted upon. This was the  p226 lex Caecilia-Didia, which later tribunes often disregarded. The consuls of 95, L. Licinius Crassus and Q. Mucius Scaevola, undertook to check the usurpation of citizenship on the part of Italians. Their law, the famous lex Licinia-Mucia, instituted a special court to discover aliens who had illegally entered their names on the citizen-rolls, and to send them to their respective communities. It is very likely that this was meant in part to weaken the unruly element in the assemblies. The effects of the law were far‑reaching, for the banished culprits returned home to lead the agitation for universal Italian suffrage. That same year leading senators made use of the recently passed democratic lex de majestate to punish Norbanus, who had been instrumental in having the jury panels returned to the knights in 104. The knights two years later retorted by trumping up false charges of misgovernment against Rutilius Rufus, who, as legatus of Scaevola, in Asia, had done his utmost to secure justice for the provincials against the oppression of the taxgatherers. The jury of capitalists in this instance cast a straight party vote and banished one of the noblest Romans of the day. Thus it was that the knights and senators proceeded by their own petty quarrels to disrupt the union which the disasters of the year 100 had so fortunately created for them.

The legislation of Drusus. In 91 M. Livius Drusus, a tribune, and son of the Drusus who broke the power of Gaius Gracchus, finally attempted, by making use of the unpopularity of the capitalistic courts, to restore the jury panels to the senators. He knew, of course, that the contest over his bill would be vehement. He therefore undertook to win the voting populace by sops in the form of corn laws and colonial distributions, and to weaken the capitalists' opposition by providing that 300 knights should be admitted outright into the Senate. This last measure, he claimed, would still give the knights half of the seats on the juries. The compromise, however, pleased few.  p227 The Senate thought it possible to carry the judicial law without making concessions: the knights were shrewd enough to see that the chosen 300 would soon unite their fortunes with the nobles and that after a few years the equestrian order would practically stand unrepresented in the courts. Consequently an effective group in the Senate and a large group of the knights — represented as it happened by the consul Philippus — raised such opposition to the bill that it could not be put to a vote for many months. They were able to impress the populace by reiterating the charge (which proved true) that Drusus had secretly promised the Italians his hearty support in their contest for citizenship. In fact Philippus read a copy of an alleged oath taken, he said, by many secret clubs of Italians who bound themselves to support all measures of Drusus even by revolutionary means.

Drusus, now near the end of his year of office, offered more inducements for popular votes. Among the rest he promised to inflate and cheapen money by issuing an abundance of fiat currency in the form of silver-washed coins with which to meet the expenses of the corn laws. It is very likely that Rome's currency was too rigid and that it needed some expansion, but aside from the fact that in foreign trade all coins were weighed and, therefore, useless unless honest, Rome had no convenient way of redeeming fiat money since there was no citizen tax. It was an ill‑considered experiment, and was tried only once again during the Republic.

By the aid of such popular measures Drusus at last secured a favorable vote from the assembly, but he had by then included in his bill so much that was distasteful to the Senate as well as to the capitalists that the Senate found it safe to declare his law illegal on technical grounds and it did not go into effect.

Drusus, nothing daunted, introduced his bill for the enfranchisement of all Italians, as he had promised that he  p228 would do. It is very doubtful whether this excellent measure could have passed had it been brought to a vote. The people of Rome had discovered their power and were hardly willing to share it with a mass of people that might outvote them in such measures as corn laws. The Roman knights had no desire to share their control of the courts and their privileges in tax‑gathering corporations with Italian capitalists. The senatorial families formed a close and small body that could under the present system usually secure the high offices of state for their own members. They were not inclined to invite the nobility of the Italian municipalities to participate in these offices. And yet the argument for enfranchisement was so reasonable that many senators supported Drusus in this instance. They knew that while the Italian allies were now providing more than half of Rome's armies they secured none of the high offices of state, had no share in determining Rome's policies and obtained very little of the public land that accrued to the state from conquests. They knew also that Roman generals and officials frequently abused and bullied allied soldiers and civilians who of course had no right of appeal to the popular assembly, and that in court proceedings between Romans and allies, the cases were tried by Roman judges. Finally, since the days when Fregellae had been suppressed for her revolt, the feeling of discontent had grown intense throughout Italy, and some senators were prudent enough to see that a civil war might result unless justice were done. However, before the bill could be introduced, Drusus was slain by an unknown assassin, and no one ventured to continue his work.


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Page updated: 10 Dec 20