A History of Rome, Vol 1 - During the late Republic and early Principate
by A H.J. Greenidge
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The opponents of Gracchus had no illusions as to the numerical strength which he could summon to his aid. If the battle were fought to a finish in the Comitia, there could be no doubt as to his triumphant victory. Open opposition could serve no purpose except to show what a remnant it was that was opposing the people's wishes. But there was a means of at least delaying the danger, of staving off the attack as long as Gracchus remained tribune, perhaps of giving the people an opportunity of recovering completely from their delirium. When the college of tribunes moved as a united body, its force was irresistible; but now, as often before, there was some division in its ranks. It was not likely that ten men, drawn from the order of the nobility, should view with equal favour such a radical proposal as that of Tiberius Gracchus. But the popular feeling was so strong that for a time even the unsympathetic members of the board hesitated to protest, and no colleague of Tiberius is known to have opposed the movement in its initial stages. Even the man who was subsequently won over to the capitalist interest hesitated long before taking the formidable step: It was believed, however, that the hesitancy of Marcus Octavius was due more to his personal regard for Tiberius than to respect for the people's wishes.[353] The tribune who was to scotch the obnoxious measure was an excellent instrument for a dignified opposition. He was grave and discreet, a personal friend and intimate of Tiberius.[354] It is true that he was a large holder on the public domain, and that he would suffer by the operation of the new agrarian law. But it was fitting that the landlord class should be represented by a landlord, and, if there had been the least suspicion of sordid motives, it would have been removed by Octavius's refusal to accept private compensation for himself from the slender means of Tiberius Gracchus.[355] The offer itself reads like an insult, but it was probably made in a moment of passionate and unreflecting fervour. Neither the profferer nor the refuser could have regarded it in the light of a bribe. Even when the veto had been pronounced, the daily contest between the two tribunes in the Forum never became a scene of unseemly recrimination. The war of words revolved round the question of principle. Both disputants were at white heat; yet not a word was said by either which conveyed a reflection on character or motive.[356]

These debates followed the first abortive meeting of the Assembly. As the decisive moment approached, streams of country folk had poured into Rome to register their votes in favour of the measure.[357] The Contio had given way to the Comitia, the people had been ready to divide, and Gracchus had ordered his scribe to read aloud the words of the bill. Octavius had bidden the scribe to be silent;[358] the vast meeting had melted away, and all the labours of the reformer seemed to have been in vain. To accept a temporary defeat under such circumstances was in accordance with the constitutional spirit of the times. The veto was a mode of encouraging reflection; it might yield to a prolonged campaign, but it was regarded as a barrier against a hasty popular impulse which, if unchecked, might prove ruinous to some portion of the community. Gracchus, however, knew perfectly well that it was now being used in the interest of a small minority, and he held the rights which it protected to be non-existent; he believed the question of agrarian reform to be bound up with his own personality, and its postponement to be equivalent to its extinction; he had no intention of allowing his own political life to be a failure, and, instead of discarding his weapons of attack, he made them more formidable than before. Perhaps in obedience to popular outcries, he redrafted his bill in a form which rendered it more drastic and less equitable.[359] It is possible that some of the douceurs given to the possessors by his original proposal were not really in accordance with his own judgment. They were meant to disarm opposition. Now that opposition had not been disarmed, they could be removed without danger. The stricter measure had the same chance of success or failure as the less severe. We do not know the nature of the changes which were now introduced; but it is possible that the pecuniary compensation offered for improvements on the land to be resumed was either abolished or rendered less adequate than before.

But even the form of the law was unimportant in comparison with the question of the method by which the new opposition was to be met. The veto, if persisted in by Octavius, would suspend the agrarian measure during the whole of Tiberius's year of office. It could only be countered by a device which would make government so impossible that the opposition would be forced to come to terms. The means were to be found in the prohibitive power of the tribunes, that right, which flowed from their major potestas, of forbidding under threat of penalties the action of all other magistrates. It was now rarely used except at the bidding of the senate and for certain specified purposes. It had become, in fact, little more than the means of enforcing obedience to a temporary suspension of business life decreed by the government. But recent events suggested a train of associations that brought back to mind the great political struggles of the past, and recalled the mode in which Licinius and Sextius had for five years sustained their anarchical edict for the purpose of the emancipation of the Plebs. The difference between the conditions of life in primitive Rome and in the cosmopolitan capital of to-day did not appeal to Tiberius. The Justitium was as legitimate a method of political warfare as the Intercessio. He issued an edict which forbade all the other magistracies to perform their official functions until the voting on the agrarian law should be carried through; he placed his own seals on the doors of the temple of Saturn to prevent the quaestors from making payments to the treasury or withdrawing money from it; he forbade the praetors to sit in the courts of justice and announced that he would exact a fine from those who disobeyed. The magistrates obeyed the edict, and most of the active life of the State was in suspense.[360] The fact of their obedience showed the overwhelming power which Tiberius now had behind him; for an ill-supported tribune, who adopted such an obsolete method of warfare, would have been unable to enforce his decrees and would merely have appeared ridiculous. The opponents of the law were now genuinely alarmed. Those who would be the chief sufferers put on garments of mourning, and paced the silent Forum with gloom and despair written on their faces, as though they were the innocent victims of a great wrong. But, while they took this overt means of stirring the commiseration of the crowd, it was whispered that the last treacherous device for averting the danger was being tried. The cause would perish with the demagogue, and Tiberius might be secretly removed. Confidence in this view was strengthened when it was known that the tribune carried a dagger concealed about his person.[361]

An attempt was now made to discover whether the pressure had been sufficient and whether the veto would be repeated. Gracchus again summoned the assembly, the reading of the bill was again commenced and again stopped at the instance of Octavius.[362] This second disappointment nearly led to open riot. The vast crowd did not immediately disperse; it felt its great physical strength and the utter weakness of the regular organs of government. There were ominous signs of an appeal to force, when two men of consular rank, Manlius and Fulvius,[363] intervened as peacemakers. They threw themselves at the feet of Tiberius, they clasped his hands, they besought him with tears to pause before he committed himself to an act of violence. Tiberius was not insensible to the appeal. The immediate future was dark enough, and the entreaties of these revered men had saved an awkward situation. He asked them what they held that he should do. They answered that they were not equal to advise on a matter of such vast import; but that there was the senate. Why not submit the whole matter to the judgment of the great council of the State? Tiberius's own attitude to this proposal may have been influenced by the fact that it was addressed to his colleagues as well as to himself,[364] and that they apparently thought it a reasonable means of relieving the present situation. It is difficult to believe that the man who had never taken the senate into his confidence over so vital a matter as the agrarian law, could have had much hope of its sympathy now. But his conviction of the inherent reasonableness of his proposal,[365] of his own power of stating the case convincingly, and his knowledge that the senate usually did yield at a crisis, that its government was only possible because it consistently kept its finger on the pulse of popular opinion, may have directed his acceptance of its advice. Immediate resort was had to the Curia. The business of the house must have been immediately suspended to listen to a statement of the merits of the agrarian measure, and to a description of the political situation which it had created. When the debate began, it was obvious that there was nothing but humiliation in store for the leaders of the popular movement. The capitalist class was represented by an overwhelming majority; carping protests and riddling criticism were heard on every side, and Tiberius probably had never been told so many home truths in his life. It was useless to prolong the discussion, and Tiberius was glad to get into the open air of the Forum again. He had formed his resolution, and now made a proposal which, if carried through, might remove the deadlock by means that might be construed as legitimate. The new device was nothing less than the removal of his colleague Octavius from office. He announced that at the next meeting of the Assembly two questions would be put before the Plebs, the acceptance of the law and the continuance by Octavius of his tenure of the tribunate.[366] The latter question was to be raised on the general issue whether a tribune who acted contrary to the interests of the people was to continue in office. At the appointed time[367] Octavius's constancy was again tested, and he again stood firm. Tiberius broke out into one of his emotional outbursts, seizing his colleague's hands, entreating him to do this great favour to the people, reminding him that their claims were just, were nothing in proportion to their toils and dangers. When this appeal had been rejected, Tiberius summed up the impossibility of the situation in terms which contained a condemnation of the whole growth and structure of the Roman constitution. It was not in human power, he said, to prevent open war between magistrates of equal authority who were at variance on the gravest matters of state;[368] the only way which he saw of securing peace was the deposition of one of them from office. He did not care in the present instance which it was. The people would be the arbiter. Let his own deposition be proposed by Octavius; he would walk quietly away into a private station, if this were the will of the citizens. The man who spoke thus had more completely emancipated himself from Roman formulae than any Roman of the past. To Octavius it must have seemed a mere outburst of Greek demagogism. The offer too was an eminently safe one to make under the circumstances. On no grounds could it be accepted. At this point the proceedings were adjourned to allow Octavius time for deliberation.

On the following day Gracchus announced that the question of deposition would be taken first, and a fresh and equally vain appeal was made to the feelings of the unshaken Octavius.[369] The question was then put, not as a vague and general resolution, but as a determinate motion that Octavius be deprived of the tribunate. The thirty-five tribes voted, and when the votes of seventeen had been handed up and proclaimed,[370] and the voice of but one was Lacking to make Octavius a private citizen, Tiberius as the presiding tribune stopped for a moment the machinery of the election. He again showed himself as a revolutionist unfortunate in the possession of a political and personal conscience. The people were witnessing a more passionate scene than ever, one that may appear as the last effort of reconciliation between the two social forces that were to meet in terrible conflict. Gracchus's arms were round his opponent's neck; broken appeals fell from his lips—the old one that he should not break the heart of the people: the new one that he should not cause his own degradation, and leave a bitter memory in the mind of the author of his fall. Observers saw that Octavius's heart was touched; his eyes were filled with tears, and for some time he kept a troubled silence. But he soon remembered his duty and his pledge. Tiberius might do with him what he would. Gracchus called the gods to witness that he would willingly have saved his colleague from dishonour, and ordered the resumption of the announcement of the votes. The bill became law and Octavius was stripped of his office. It was probably because he declined to recognise the legality of the act that he still lingered on the Rostra. One of the tribunician viatores, a freedman of Gracchus, was commanded to fetch him down. When he reached the ground, a rush was made at him by the mob; but his supporters rallied round him, and Tiberius himself rushed from the Rostra to prevent the act of violence. Soon he was lost in the crowd and hurried unobserved from the tumult.[371] His place in the tribunician college was filled up by the immediate election of one Quintus Mummius.[372]

The members of the assembly that deposed Octavius may have been the spectators and authors of a new precedent in Roman history, one that was often followed in the closing years of the Republic, but one that may have received no direct sanction from the records of the past. The abrogation of the imperium of a proconsul had indeed been known,[373] but the deposition of a city magistrate during his year of office seems to have been a hitherto untried experiment. We cannot on this ground alone pronounce it to have been illegal; for an act never attempted before may have perfect legal validity, as the first occasion on which a legitimate deduction has been made from admitted principles of the constitution. It had always been allowed that under certain circumstances (chiefly the neglect of the proper formalities of election) a magistrate might be invited to abdicate his office; but the fact of this invitation is itself an evidence for the absence of any legal power of suspension. Tradition, however, often supplemented the defects of historical evidence, and one, perhaps the older, tale of the removal of the first consul Collatinus stated that it was effected by a popular measure introduced by his colleague.[374] This story was a fragment of that tradition of popular sovereignty which animated the historical literature of the age of the Gracchi: and one deduction from that theory may well have seemed to be that the sovereign people could change its ministers as it pleased. It was a deduction, however, that was not drawn even in the best period of democratic Athens; it ran wholly counter to the Roman conception of the magistracy as an authority co-ordinate with the people and one that, if not divinely appointed, received at least something of a sacred character from the fact of investiture with office. Even the prosecution of a magistrate for the gravest crime, although technically permissible during his year of office, had as a rule been relegated to the time when he again became a private citizen; the tribunician college, in particular, had generally thrown its protecting shield around its offending members, and had thus sustained its own dignity and that of the people. But, even if it be supposed that the sovereign could, at any moment and without any of the due formalities, proclaim itself a competent court of justice, and even though removal from office might be improperly represented as a punishment, there was the question of the offence to be considered. No crime known to the law had been charged against Octavius. In the exercise of his admitted right, or, as he might have expressed it, of his sacred duty, he had offended against the will of a majority. The analogy of the criminal law was from this point of view hopeless, and was therefore not pressed on this occasion. From another point of view it was not quite so remote. The tumultuous popular assemblages that had, on the bidding of a prosecuting tribune, often condemned commanders for vague offences hardly formulated in any particular law, scarcely differed, except in the fact that no previous magisterial inquiry had been conducted, from the meeting that deposed Octavius. The gulf that lies between proceedings in a parliament and proceedings in a court of law, was far less in Rome than it would have been in those Hellenic communities that possessed a developed system of criminal judicature.

If criminal analogies failed, a purely political ground of defence must be adduced. This could hardly be based on considerations of abstract justice, although, as we shall see, an attempt was made by Tiberius Gracchus to give it even this foundation. Could it be based on convenience? Obviously, as Gracchus saw, his act was the only effective means of removing a deadlock created by a constitution which knew only magistrates and people and had effectively crippled both. So far, it might be defended on grounds of temporary necessity. But an act of this kind could not die. To what consequences might not its repetition lead? Imagine a less serious question, a less representative assembly. Think of the possibility of a few hundred desperate members of the proletariate gathering on the Capitoline hill and deposing a tribune who represented the interests of the vast outlying population of Rome. This is a consequence which, it is true, was not realised in the future. But that was only because the tribunate was more than Gracchus conceived it, and was too strong in tradition and associations of sanctity to be broken even by his attack. The scruples which troubled him most arose from the suspicion that the sacred office itself might have been held to suffer by the deposition of Octavius, and it was to a repudiation of this view that he subsequently devoted the larger part of his systematic defence of his action.

At the same meeting at which Octavius was deposed, the agrarian bill was for the first time read without interruption to the people and immediately became law. Shortly after, the election of the commissioners was proceeded with and resulted in the appointment of Tiberius Gracchus himself, of his father-in-law Appius Claudius and of Gracchus's younger brother Caius.[375] It was perhaps natural that the people should pin their faith on the family of their champion; but it could hardly have increased the confidence of the community as a whole in the wisdom with which this delicate task would be executed, to find that it was entrusted to a family party, one of which was a mere boy; and the mistrust must have been increased when, somewhat later in the course of the year, the thorny questions which immediately encompassed the task of distribution led to the introduction by Tiberius of another law, which gave judicial power to the triumvirs, for the purpose of determining what was public land and what was private.[376] The fortunes of the richer classes seemed now to be entrusted to one man, who combined in his own person the tribunician power and the imperium, whose jurisdiction must have seriously infringed that of the regular courts, and who was assisted in issuing his probably inappellable decrees by a father-in-law and a younger brother. But, although effective protest was impossible, the senate showed its resentment by acts that might appear petty and spiteful, did we not remember that they were the only means open to this body of passing a vote of censure on the recent proceedings. The senate controlled every item of the expenditure; and when the commissioners appealed to it for their expenses, it refused a tent and fixed the limit of supplies at a denarius and a half a day. The instigator of this decree was the ex-consul Scipio Nasica, a heavy loser by the agrarian law, a man of strong and passionate temper who was every day becoming a more infuriated opponent of Tiberius Gracchus.[377]

Meanwhile the latter had celebrated a peaceful triumph which far eclipsed the military pageants of the imperators of the past. The country people, before they returned to their farms, had escorted him to his house; they had hailed him as a greater than Romulus, as the founder, not of a city nor of a nation, but of all the peoples of Italy.[378] It is true that his escort was only the poor, rude mob. Stately nobles and clanking soldiers were not to be seen in the procession. But they were better away. This was the true apotheosis of a real demagogism. And the suspicion of the masses was as readily fired as their enthusiasm. A friend of Tiberius died suddenly and ugly marks were seen upon the body. There was a cry of poison; the bier was caught up on the shoulders of the crowd and borne to the place of burning. A vast throng stood by to see the corpse consumed, and the ineffectiveness of the flames was held a thorough confirmation of the truth of their suspicions.[379] It remained to see how far this protective energy would serve to save their favourite when the day of reckoning came.

Tiberius could hardly have shared in the general elation. To make promises was one thing, to fulfil them another. Everything depended on the effectiveness of the execution of the agrarian scheme; and, although the mechanism for distribution was excellent, some of the material necessary for its successful fulfilment was sadly lacking. There were candidates enough for land, and there was sufficient land for the candidates. But whence were the means for starting these penniless people on their new road to virtue and prosperity to be derived? To give an ardent settler thirty jugera of soil and to withhold from him the means of sowing his first crop or of making his first effort to turn pasture into arable land, was both useless and cruel; and we may imagine that the evicted possessors had not left their relinquished estates in a very enviable condition. The doors of the Aerarium were closed, for its key was in the hands of the senate; and Gracchus had to cast an anxious eye around for means for satisfying the needs of his clients.

The opportunity was presented when the Roman people came into the unexpected inheritance of Attalus the Third, king of Pergamon. The testament was brought to Rome by Eudemus the Pergamene, whose first business was with the senate. But, when Eudemus arrived in the city, he saw a state of things which must have made him doubt whether the senate was any longer the true director of the State. It sat passive and sullen, while an energetic prostates of the Greek type was doing what he liked with the land of Italy. No sane ambassador could have refused to neglect Gracchus, and it is practically certain that Eudemus approached him. This fact we may believe, even if we do not accept the version that the envoy had taken the precaution of bringing in his luggage a purple robe and a diadem, as symbols that might be necessary for a fitting recognition of Tiberius's future position.[380] It is also possible that suspicion of the rule of senators and capitalists may also have prompted the Greek to attempt to discover whether a more tolerable settlement might not be gained for his country through the leader of the popular party.[381] We cannot say whether Gracchus ever contemplated a policy with respect to the province as a whole. His mind was probably full of his immediate needs. He saw in the treasures of Attalus more than an equivalent for the revenues enclosed in the locked Aerarium, and he announced his intention of promulgating a plebiscite that the money left by the king should be assigned to the settlers provided for by his agrarian law.[382] It is possible that he contemplated the application of the future revenues of the kingdom of Pergamon to this or some similar purpose; and it was perhaps partly for this reason, partly in answer to the objection that the treasure could not be appropriated without a senatorial decree, that he announced the novel doctrine that it was no business of the senate to decide the fate of the cities which had belonged to the Attalid monarchy, and that he himself would prepare for the people a measure dealing with this question.[383]

This was the fiercest challenge that he had yet flung to the senate. There might be a difference of opinion as to the right of a magistrate to put a question to the people without the guidance of a senatorial decree; the assignment of land was unquestionably a popular right in so far as it required ratification by the commons; even the deposition of Octavius was a matter for the people and would avenge itself. But there were two senatorial rights—the one usurped, the other created—whose validity had never been questioned. These were the control of finance and the direction of provincial administration. Were the possibility once admitted that these might be dealt with in the Comitia, the magistrates would cease to be ministers of the senate; for it was chiefly through a system of judicious prize-giving that the senate attached to itself the loyalty of the official class. There was perhaps less fear of what Gracchus himself might do than of the spectre which he was raising for the future. For in Roman history the events of the past made those of the future; there were few isolated phenomena in its development.

From this time the attacks of individual senators on Gracchus became more vehement and direct. They proceeded from men of the highest rank. A certain Pompeius, in whom we may probably see an ex-consul and a future censor, was not ashamed of raising the spectre of a coming monarchy by reference to the story of the sceptre and the purple robe, and is said to have vowed to impeach Gracchus as soon as his year of magistracy had expired;[384] the ex-consul Quintus Caecilius Metellus, of Macedonian fame, reproached Tiberius with his rabble escort. He compared the demeanour of the father and the son. In the censorship of the former the citizens used to quench their lights at night, as they saw him pass up the street to his house, that they might impress the censorial mind with the ideas of early hours and orderly conduct; now the son of this man might be seen returning home amidst the blaze of torches, held in the stout arms of a defiant body-guard drawn from the neediest classes.[385] These arrows may have Missed the mark; the one that hit was winged by an aged senator, Titus Annius Luscus, who had held the consulship twenty years before. His wit is said to have been better established than his character. He excelled in that form of ready altercation, of impaling his opponent on the horns of a dilemma by means of some innocent question, which, both in the courts and the senate, was often more effective than the power of continuous oratory. He now challenged Tiberius to a wager (sponsio), such as in the public life of Rome was often employed to settle a disputed point of honour or of fact, to determine the question whether he had dishonoured a colleague, who was holy in virtue of his office and had been made sacrosanct by the laws. The proposal was received by the senators with loud cries of acclamation. A glance at Tiberius would probably have shown that Annius had found the weak spot, not merely in his defensive armour, but in his very soul. The deposition of Octavius was proving a very nemesis; it was a democratic act that was in the highest degree undemocratic, an assertion and yet a gross violation of popular liberty.[386] The superstitious masses were in the habit of washing their hands and purifying their bodies before they entered into the presence of a tribune.[387] Might there not be a thrill of awe and repentance when the idea was brought home to them that this holy temple had been violated: and must not this be followed by a sense of repugnance to the man who had prompted them to the unhallowed deed? Tiberius sprang to his feet, quitted the senate-house and summoned the people. The majesty of the tribunate in his person had been outraged by Annius. He must answer for his words. The aged senator appeared before the crowd; he knew his disadvantage if the ordinary weapons of comitial strife were employed. In power of words and in repute with the masses he stood far behind Tiberius. But his presence of mind did not desert him. Might he ask a few questions before the regular proceedings began? The request was allowed and there was a dead silence. "Now suppose," said Annius, "you, Tiberius, were to wish to cover me with shame and abuse, and suppose I were to call on one of your colleagues for help, and he were to come up here to offer me his assistance, and suppose further that this were to excite your displeasure, would you deprive that colleague of yours of his office?" To answer that question in the affirmative was to admit that the tribunician power was dead; to answer it in the negative was to invite the retort that the auxilium was only one form of the intercessio. The quick-witted southern crowd must have seen the difficulty at once, and Tiberius himself, usually so ready and bold in speech, could not face the dilemma. He remained silent and dismissed the assembly.[388]

But matters could not remain as they were. This new aspect of Octavius's deposition was the talk of the town, and there were many troubled consciences amongst the members of his own following. Something must be done to quiet them; he must raise the question himself. The situation had indeed changed rapidly. Tiberius Gracchus was on his defence. Never did his power of special pleading appear to greater advantage than in the speech which followed. He had the gift which makes the mighty Radical, of diving down and seizing some fundamental truth of political science, and then employing it with merciless logic for the illustration or refutation of the practice of the present. The central idea here was one gathered from the political science of the Greeks. The good of the community is the only test of the rightness of an institution. It is justified if it secures that end, unjustified if it does not: or, to use the language of religion, holy in the one case, devoid of sanctity in the other. And an institution is not a mere abstraction; we must judge it by its use. We must, therefore, say that when it obeys the common interest, it is right: when it ceases to obey it, it is wrong. But the right must be preserved and the wrong plucked out. So Gracchus maintained that the tribune was holy and sacrosanct because he had been sanctified to the people's service and was the people's head. If then he change his character and do the people wrong, cutting down its strength and silencing its voice as expressed through the suffrage, he has deprived himself of his office, for he has ceased to conform to the terms on which he received it. Should we leave a tribune alone who was pulling down the Capitolium or burning the docks? And yet a tribune who did these things would remain a tribune, though a bad one. It is only when a tribune is destroying the power of the people that he is no longer a tribune at all. The laws give the tribune the power to arrest the consul. It is a power given against a man elected by the people; for consul and tribune are equally mandataries of the people. Shall not then the people have the right of depriving the tribune of his authority, when he uses this authority in a way prejudicial to the interests of the giver? What does the history of the past teach us? Can anything have been more powerful or more sacred than the ancient monarchy of Rome? The Imperium of the king was unlimited, the highest priestly offices were his. Yet the city expelled Tarquin for his crimes. The tyranny of a single man was alone sufficient to bring to an end a government which had its roots in the most distant past, which had presided over the very birth of the city. And, if sanctity alone is to be the ground of immunity, what are we to think of the punishment of a vestal virgin? Is there anything in Rome more holy and awe-inspiring than the maidens who tend and guard the eternal flame? Yet their sin is visited by the most horrible of deaths. They hold their sacrosanct character through the gods; they lose it, therefore, when they sin against the gods. Should the same not be true of the tribune? It is on account of the people that he is sacred; he cannot retain this divine character when he wrongs the people; he is a man engaged in destroying the very power which is the source of his strength. If the tribunate can justly be gained by a favourable vote of the majority of the tribes, can it not with greater justice be taken away by an adverse vote of all of them? Again, what should be the limits of our action in dealing with sacred things? Does sanctity mean immobility? By no means. What are more holy and inviolable than things dedicated to the gods? Yet this character does not prevent the people from handling, moving, transferring them as it pleases. In the case of the tribunate, it is the office, not the man, that is inviolable; it may be treated as an object of dedication and transferred to another. The practice of our own State proves that the office is not inviolable in the sense of being inalienable, for its holders have often forsworn it and asked to be divested of it.[389]

The strongest part of this utterance was that which dealt with the sacred character of office; it was a mere emanation from the performance of certain functions; the protection, not the reality, of the thing. Gracchus might have added that even a treaty might under certain circumstances be legitimately broken. The weakest, from a Roman standpoint or indeed from that of any stable political society, was the identification of the permanent and temporary character of an institution, the assumption that a meeting of the people was the people, that a tribune was the tribune. How far the speech was convincing we do not know; it certainly did not relieve Tiberius of his embarrassments, which were now thickening around him.

Tiberius's success had been mainly due to the country voters. It is true that he had a large following in the city; but this was numerically inferior to a mass of urban folk, whose attitude was either indifferent or hostile. They were indifferent in so far as they did not want agrarian assignments, and hostile in so far as they were clients of the noble houses which opposed Tiberius's policy. This urban party was now in the ascendant, for the country voters had scattered to their homes.[390] The situation demanded that he should work steadily for two objects, re-election to the tribunate and the support of the city voters. If, in addition to this support, he could hold out hopes that would attract the great capitalists to his side, his position would be impregnable. Hence in his speeches he began to throw out hints of a new and wide programme of legislation.[391] There was first the military grievance. Recent regulations, by the large decrease which they made in the property qualifications required for service,[392] had increased the liability to the conscription of the manufacturing and trading classes of Rome. Gracchus proposed that the period of service should be shortened—his suggestion probably being, not that the years of liability to service (the seventeenth to the forty-sixth) should be lessened, but that within these years a limited number of campaigns should be agreed on, which should form the maximum amount of active service for every citizen.[393] Two other proposals dealt with the question of criminal jurisdiction. The first allowed an appeal to the people from the decision of judices. The form in which this proposal is stated by our authority, would lead us to suppose that the courts to be rendered appellable were those constituted under standing laws. The chief of these quaestiones or judicia publica was the court which tried cases for extortion, established in the first instance by a Lex Calpurnia, and possibly reconstituted before this epoch by a Junian law.[394] A permanent court for the trial of murder may also have existed at this time.[395] The judges of these standing commissions were drawn from the senatorial order; and Gracchus, therefore, by suggesting an appeal from their judgment to the people, was attacking a senatorial monopoly of the most important jurisdiction, and perhaps reflecting on the conduct of senatorial judices, as displayed especially in relation to the grievances of distressed provincials. But it is probable that he also meant to strike a blow at a more extraordinary prerogative claimed by the senate, and to deny the right of that body to establish special commissions which could decide without appeal on the life and fortunes of Roman citizens.[396] So far his proposals, whether based on a conviction of their general utility or not, were a bid for the support of the average citizen. But when he declared that the qualification for the criminal judges of the time could not be allowed to stand, and that these judges should be taken either from a joint panel of senators and knights, or from the senate increased by the addition of a number of members of the equestrian order equal to its present strength, he was holding out a bait to the wealthy middle class, who were perhaps already beginning to feel senatorial jurisdiction in provincial matters irksome and disadvantageous to their interests. We are told by one authority that Gracchus's eyes even ranged beyond the citizen body and that he contemplated the possibility of the gift of citizenship to the whole of Italy.[397] This was not in itself a measure likely to aid in his salvation by the people; if it was not a disinterested effort of far-sighted genius, it may have been due to the gathering storm which his experience showed him the agrarian commission would soon be forced to meet.[398] Certainly, if all these schemes are rightly attributed to Tiberius Gracchus, it was he more than any man who projected the great programme of reform that the future had in store.

Unfortunately for Gracchus the time was short for nursing a new constituency or spreading a new ideal. The time for the tribunician elections was approaching, an active canvass was being carried on by the candidates, and the aggrieved landowners were throwing the whole weight of their influence into the opposite scale.[399] Wild rumours of his plans were being circulated. The family clique that filled the agrarian commission was to snatch at other offices; Gracchus's brother, a youth still unqualified even for the quaestorship,[400] was to be thrust into the tribunate, and his father-in-law Appius was destined for the consulate.[401] Rome was to be ruled by a dynasty, and the tyranny of the commission was to extend to every department of the State. Gracchus felt that the city-combination against him was too strong, and sent an earnest summons to his supporters in the country. But practical needs were stronger than gratitude; the farmers were busy with their harvest; and it was plain that on this occasion the man of the street was to have the decisive voice. The result showed that even he was not unmoved by Gracchus's services, and by his last appeal that a life risked on behalf of the people should be protected by a renewed investiture with the tribunate.[402]

The day of the election arrived and the votes were taken. When they came to be read out, it was found that the two first tribes had given their voice for Gracchus. Then there was a sudden uproar. The votes were going against the landlords; a legal protest must be made. Men rose in the assembly, and shouted out that immediate re-election to the tribunate was forbidden by the law. They were probably both right and wrong in their protest, as men so often were who ventured to make a definite assertion about the fluid public law of Rome. There was apparently no enactment forbidding the iteration of this office, and appointment to the tribunate must have been governed by custom. But recent custom seems to have been emphatically opposed to immediate re-election, and the appeal was justified on grounds of public practice.[403] It would probably have been disregarded, had the Gracchan supporters been in an overwhelming majority, or Gracchus's colleagues unanimous in their support. But the people were divided, and the president was not enthusiastic enough in the cause to risk his future impeachment. Rubrius, to whom the lot had assigned the conduct of the proceedings on that day, hesitated as to the course which he ought to follow. A bolder spirit Mummius, the man who had been made by the deposition of Octavius, asked that the conduct of the assembly should be handed over to him. Rubrius, glad to escape the difficulty, willingly yielded his place; but now the other members of the college interposed. The forms of the Comitia were being violated; a president could not be chosen without the use of the lot. The resignation of Rubrius must be followed by another appeal to sortition. The point of order raised, as usual, a heated discussion; the tribunes gathered on the Rostra to argue the matter out. Nothing could be gained by keeping the people as the spectators of such a scene, and Gracchus succeeded in getting the proceedings adjourned to the following day.[404]

The situation was becoming more desperate; for each delay was a triumph for the opposition, and could only strengthen the belief in the illegality of Gracchus's claim. He now resorted to the last device of the Roman; he ceased to be a protector and became a suppliant. Although still a magistrate, he assumed the garb of mourning, and with humbled and tearful mien begged the help of individuals in the market place.[405]

He led his son by the hand; his children and their mother were to be wards of the people, for he had despaired of his own life. Many were touched; to some the tribunate of Gracchus seemed like a rift in a dark cloud of oppression which would close around them at his fall, and their hearts sank at the thought of a renewed triumph of the nobility. Others were moved chiefly by the fears and sufferings of Gracchus. Cries of sympathy and defiance were raised in answer to his tears, and a large crowd escorted him to his house at nightfall and bade him be confident of their support on the following day. During his appeals he had hinted at the fear of a nocturnal attack by his foes: and this led many to form an encampment round his house and to remain as its vigilant defenders throughout the night.[406]

Before day-break he was up and engaged in hasty colloquy with his friends. The fear of force was certainly present; and definite plans may have been now made for its repulsion. Some even believed that a signal for battle was agreed on by Gracchus, if matters should come to that extreme.[407] With a true Roman's scruples he took the omens before he left his house. They presaged ill. The keeper of the sacred chickens, which Gracchus's Imperium now permitted him to consult, could get nothing from the birds, even though he shook the cage. Only one of the fowls advanced, and even that would not touch the food. And the unsought omens were as evil as those invited. Snakes were found to have hatched a brood in his helmet, his foot stumbled on the threshold with such violence that blood flowed from his sandal; he had hardly advanced on his way when crows were seen struggling on his left, and the true object of the sign was pointed when a stone, dislodged by one of them from a roof, fell at his own feet. This concourse of ill-luck frightened his boldest comrades; but his old teacher, Blossius of Cumae, vehemently urged the prosecution of the task. Was a son of Gracchus, the grandson of Africanus, chief minister of the Roman people,[408] to be deterred by a crow from listening to the summons of the citizens? If the disgrace of his absence amused his enemies, they would keep their laughter to themselves. They would use that absence seriously, to denounce him to the people as a king who was already aping the luxury of the tyrant. As Blossius spoke, men were seen running from the direction of the Capitol; they came up, they bade him press on, as all was going well. And, in fact, it seemed as if all might turn out brightly. The Capitoline temple, and the level area before it, which was to be the scene of the voting, were filled with his supporters. A hearty cheer greeted him as he appeared, and a phalanx closed round him to prevent the approach of any hostile element. Shortly after the proceedings began, the senate was summoned by the consul to meet in the temple of Fides.[409] A few yards of sloping ground was all that now separated the two hostile camps.[410]

The interval for reflection had strengthened the belief of some of the tribunes that Gracchus's candidature was illegal, and they were ready to support the renewed protests of the rich. The election, however, began; for the faithful Mummius was now presiding, and he proceeded to call on the tribes to vote. But the business of filing into their separate compartments, always complicated, was now impossible. The fringe of the crowd was in a continual uproar; from its extremities the opponents of the measure were wedging their way in. As his supporters squared their shoulders, the whole mass rocked and swayed. There was no hope of eliciting a decision from this scuffling and pushing throng. Every moment brought the assembly nearer to open riot. Suddenly a man was seen at some distance from Tiberius gesticulating with his hand as though he had something to impart. He was recognised as Fulvius Flaccus, a senator, a man perhaps already known as a sympathiser with schemes of reform. Gracchus asked the crowd immediately around him to give way a little, and Fulvius fought his way up to the tribune. His news was that in the sitting of the senate the rich proprietors had asked the consul to use force, that he had declined, and that now they were preparing on their own motion to slay Tiberius. For this purpose they had collected a large band of armed slaves and retainers.[411] Tiberius immediately imparted the news to his friends. Preparations for defence were hastily made: an improvised body-guard was formed; togas were girt up, and the staves of the lictors were broken into fragments to serve as clubs. The Gracchans more distant from the centre of the scene were meanwhile marvelling at the strange preparations of which they caught but glimpses, and could be seen asking eager questions as to their meaning. To reach these distant supporters by his voice was impossible; Tiberius could but touch his forehead with his hand to indicate that his life was in danger. Immediately a shout went up from the opposite side "Tiberius is asking for the diadem," and eager messengers sped with the news to the senate.[412] There was probably a knowledge that physical support for their cause would be found in that quarter, and the exodus of these excited capitalists was apparently assisted by an onslaught from the mob. A regular tumult was brewing, and the tribunes, instead of striving to preserve order, or staying to interpose their sacred persons between the enraged combatants, fled incontinently from the spot. Their fear was natural, for by remaining they might seem to be identifying themselves with a cause that was either lost or lawless. With the tribunes vanished the last trace of legality. The priests closed the temple to keep its precincts from the mob. The more timorous of the crowd fled in wild disorder, spreading wilder rumours. Tiberius was deposing the remaining tribunes from office; he was appointing himself to a further tribunate without the formalities of election.[413]

Meanwhile the senate was deliberating in the temple of Fides. In the old days their deliberations might have resulted in the appointment of a dictator, and one of the historians who has handed down the record of these facts marvels that this was not the case now.[414] But the dictatorship had been weakened by submission to the appeal, and long before it became extinct had lost its significance as a means of repressing sedition within the city. The Roman constitution had now no mechanism for declaring a state of siege or martial law. From one point of view the extinction of the dictatorship was to be regretted. The nomination of this magistrate would have involved at least a day's delay;[415] some further time would have been necessary before he had collected round him a sufficient force in a city which had neither police nor soldiers. Had it been decided to appoint a dictator, the outrages of the next hour could never have occurred. As things were, it seemed as though the senate had to choose between impotence and murder. There was indeed another way. Such was the respect for members of the senatorial order, that a deputation of that body, headed by the consul, would probably have led to the dispersal of the mob. But passions were inflamed and it was no time for peaceful counsels. The advocate of summary measures was the impetuous Nasica. He urged the consul to save the city and to put down the tyrant. He demanded that the sense of the house should be taken as to whether extreme measures were now necessary. Even at this time a tradition may have existed that a magic formula by which the senate advised the magistrates "to see to it that the State took no harm," [416] could justify any act of violence in an emergency. The sense of the house was with Nasica, but a resolution could not be framed unless the consul put the question. The answer of Scaevola was that of a lawyer. He would commence no act of violence, he would put to death no citizen uncondemned. If, however, the people, through the persuasion or compulsion of Tiberius, should come to any illegal decision, he would see that such a resolution was not observed. Nasica sprang to his feet. "The consul is betraying the city; those who wish the salvation of the laws, follow me." [417] With this he drew the hem of his toga over his head,[418] and rushed from the door in the direction of the Capitoline temple. He was followed by a crowd of senators, all wrapping the folds of their togas round their left arms. Outside the door they were joined by their retainers armed with clubs and staves.[419]

Meanwhile the proceedings in the Area Capitolii had been becoming somewhat less turbulent. The turmoil had quieted down with the exclusion of the more violent members of the opposition. Gracchus had called a Contio, for the purpose, it was said, of encouraging his supporters and asserting his own constancy and defiance of senatorial authority. The gathering had become a mere partisan mass meeting, such as had often been seen in the course of the current year, and the herald was crying "Silence," [420] when suddenly the men on the outskirts of the throng fell back to right and left. A long line of senators had been seen hastening up the hill. A deputation from the fathers had come. That must have been the first impression: and the crowd fell back before its masters. But in a moment it was seen that the masters had come to chastise, not to plead. With set faces and blazing eyes Nasica and his following threw themselves on the yielding mass. The unarmed senators snatched at the first weapons that lay to hand, the fragments of the shattered furniture of the meeting, severed planks and legs of benches, while their retinue pressed on with clubs and sticks. The whole column made straight for Tiberius and his improvised body-guard. Resistance was hopeless, and the tribune and his friends turned to flee. But the idea of restoring order occupied but a small place in the minds of the maddened senators, The accumulated bitterness of a year found its outlet in one moment of glorious vengeance. The fathers were behaving like a Greek street mob of the lowest type which had turned against an oppressive oligarchy. They were clubbing the Gracchans to death. Tiberius was in flight when some one seized his toga. He slipped it off and fled, clad only in his tunic, when he stumbled over a prostrate body and fell. As he rose, a rain of blows descended on his head.[421] The man who was seen to strike the first blow is said to have been Publius Saturius, one of his own colleagues. The glory of his death was vehemently disputed; one Rufus, since he could not claim the first blow, is said to have boasted of being the author of the second. Tiberius is said to have fallen by the very doors of the Capitoline temple, not far from the statues of the Kings.[422] The number of his adherents that perished was over three hundred, and it was noted that not one of these was slain by the sword.[423] Their bodies were thrown into the Tiber—not by the mob but by the magistrates; the hand of an aedile committed that of Tiberius to the stream.[424]

The murder of a young man, who was still under thirty at the time of his death,[425] and the slaughter of a few hundreds of his adherents, may not seem to be an act of very great significance in the history of a mighty empire. Yet ancient historians regarded the event as epoch-marking, as the turning point in the history of Rome, as the beginning of the period of the civil wars.[426] To justify this conclusion it is not enough to point to the fact that this was the first blood shed in civic discord since the age of the Kings;[427] for it might also have been the last. Though the vendetta is a natural outgrowth of Italian soil, yet masses of men are seldom, like individuals, animated solely by the spirit of revenge. The blood of the innocent is a good battle-cry in politics, but it is little more; it is far from being the mere pretext, but it is equally far from being the true cause, of future revolution. Familiarity with the use of force in civic strife is also a fatal cause of its perpetuation; but familiarity implies its renewed employment: it can hardly be the result of the first experiment in murder. The repetition of this ghastly phenomenon in Roman politics can only be accounted for by the belief that the Gracchan emeute was of its very nature an event that could not be isolated: that Gracchus was a pioneer in a hostile country, and that his opponents preserved all their inherent weakness after the first abortive manifestation of their pretended strength. A bad government may be securely entrenched. The senate, whether good or bad, had no defences at all. Its weakness had in the old days been its pride. It ruled by influencing opinion. Now that it had ceased to influence, it ruled by initiating a riot in the streets. It had no military support except such as was given it by friendly magistrates, and this was a dangerous weapon which it hesitated to use. To ignore militarism was to be at the mercy of the demagogue of the street, to admit it was found subsequently to be equivalent to being at the mercy of the demagogue of the camp. In either case authority must be maintained at the cost of civil war. But the material helplessness of the senate was only one factor in the problem. More fatal flaws were its lack of insight to discover that there were new problems to be faced, and lack of courage in facing them. This moral helplessness was due partly to the selfishness of individuals, but partly also to the fixity of political tradition. In spite of the brilliancy and culture of some of its members, the senate in its corporate capacity showed the possession of a narrow heart and an inexpansive intelligence. Its sympathies were limited to a class; it learnt its new lessons slowly and did not see their bearing on the studies of the future. Imperialism abroad and social contentment at home might be preserved by the old methods which had worked so well in the past. But to the mind of the masses the past did not exist, and to the mind of the reformer it had buried its dead. The career of Tiberius Gracchus was the first sign of a great awakening; and if we regard it as illogical, and indeed impossible, to pause here and estimate the character of his reforms, it is because the more finished work of his brother was the completion of his efforts and followed them as inexorably as the daylight follows the dawn.


The attitude of the senate after the fall of Gracchus was not that of a combatant who had emerged secure from the throes of a great crisis. A less experienced victor would have dwelt on the magnitude of the movement and been guilty of an attempt at its sudden reversal. But the government pretended that there had been no revolution, merely an emeute. The wicked authors of the sedition must be punished; but the Gracchan legislation might remain untouched. More than one motive probably contributed to shape this view. In the first place, the traditional policy of Rome regarded reaction as equivalent to revolution. A rash move should be stopped in its inception; but, had it gone a little way and yielded fruit in the shape of some permanent organisation, it would be well to accept and, if possible, to weaken this product; it would be the height of rashness to attempt its destruction. The recognition of the fait accompli had built up the Roman Empire, and the dreaded consequences had not come. Why should not the same be true of a new twist in domestic policy? Secondly, the opposition of the senate to Gracchus's reforms was based far more decidedly on political than on economic grounds. The frenzy which seized the fathers during the closing act of the tribune's life, was excited by his comprehensive onslaught on their monopoly of provincial, fiscal and judicial administration. His attempt to annex their lands had aroused the resentment of individuals, but not the hatred of a corporation. The individual was always lost in the senate, and the wrongs of the landowner could be ignored for the moment and their remedy left to time, if political prudence dictated a middle course. Again, reflection may have suggested the thought whether these wrongs were after all so great or so irremediable. The pastoral wealth of Italy was much; but it was little compared with the possibilities of enterprise in the provinces. Might not the bait of an agrarian law, whose chances of success were doubtful and whose operation might in time be impeded by craftily devised legislation, lull the people into an acceptance of that senatorial control of the foreign world, which had been so scandalously threatened by Gracchus? There was a danger in the very raising of this question; there was further danger in its renewal. A party cry seldom becomes extinct; but its successful revival demands the sense of some tangible grievance. To remove the grievance was to silence the demagogue; what the people wanted was comfort and not power. And lastly, the senate was not wholly composed of selfish or aggrieved land-holders. Amongst the sternest upholders of its traditions there were probably many who were immensely relieved that the troublesome land question had received some approach to a solution. There are always men hide-bound by convention and unwilling to move hand or foot in aid of a remedial measure, who are yet profoundly grateful to the agitator whom they revile, and profoundly thankful that the antics which they deem grotesque, have saved themselves from responsibility and their country from a danger.

It was with such mixed feelings that the senate viewed the Gracchan debacle. It was impossible, however, to accept the situation in its entirety; for to recognise the whole of Gracchus's career as legitimate was to set a dangerous precedent for the future. The large army of the respectable, the bulwark of senatorial power, had not been sufficiently alarmed. It was necessary to emphasise the fact that there had been an outrageous sedition on the part of the lower classes. With this object the senate commanded that the new consuls Popillius and Rupilius should sit as a criminal commission for the purpose of investigating the circumstances of the outbreak.[428] The commission was empowered to impose any sentence, and it is practically certain that it judged without appeal. The consuls, as usual, exercised their own discretion in the choice of assessors. The extreme party was represented by Nasica. Laelius, who also occupied a place on the judgment-seat, might have been regarded as a moderate;[429] although, as popular sedition and not the agrarian question was on its trial, there is no reason to suppose that a member of the Scipionic circle would be less severe than any of his colleagues in his animadversions on the wretched underlings of the Gracchan movement whom it was his duty to convict of crime. It was in fact the street cohort of Tiberius, men whose voices, torches and sticks had so long insulted the feelings of respectable citizens, that seems to have been now visited with the penalties for high treason; for no illustrious name is found amongst the victims of the commission. On some the ban of interdiction was pronounced, on others the death penalty was summarily inflicted. Amongst the slain was Diophanes the rhetor; and one Caius Villius, by some mysterious effort of interpretation which baffles our analysis, was doomed to the parricide's death of the serpent and the sack.[430] Blossius of Cumae was also arraigned, and his answer to the commission was subsequently regarded as expressing the deepest villainy and the most exalted devotion. His only defence was his attachment to Gracchus, which made the tribune's word his law. "But what," said Laelius "if he had willed that you should fire the Capitol?" "That would never have been the will of Gracchus," was the reply, "but had he willed it, I should have obeyed".[431] Blossius escaped the immediate danger, but his fears soon led him to leave Rome, and now an exile from his adopted as well as from his parent state, he could find no hope but in the fortunes of Aristonicus, who was bravely battling with the Romans in Asia. On the collapse of that prince's power he put himself to death.[432]

The government may have succeeded in its immediate object of proving itself an effective policeman. The sense of order may have been satisfied, and the spirit of turbulence, if it existed, may have been for the moment cowed. But the memory of the central act of the ghastly tragedy on the Capitoline hill could not be so easily obliterated, and the chief actor was everywhere received with lowered brows and ill-omened cries.[433] It was superstition as well as hatred that sharpened the popular feeling against Nasica. A man was walking the streets of Rome whose hands were stained by a tribune's blood. He polluted the city wherein he dwelt and the presence of all who met him. The convenient theory that a mere street riot had been suppressed might have been accepted but for the awkward fact that the sanctity of the tribunate had been trodden under foot by its would-be vindicators. A prosecution of Nasica was threatened; and in such a case might not the arguments that vindicated Octavius be the doom of the accused? Popular hatred finds a convenient focus in a single man; it is easier to loathe an individual than a group. But for this very reason the removal of the individual may appease the resentment that the group deserves. Nasica was an embarrassment to the senate and he might prove a convenient scapegoat. It was desirable that he should be at once rewarded and removed; and the opportunity for an honourable banishment was easily found. The impending war with Aristonicus necessitated the sending of a commission to Asia, and Nasica was included amongst the five members of this embassy.[434] There was honour in the possession of such a post and wealth to be gained by its tenure; but the aristocracy had eventually to pay a still higher price for keeping Nasica beyond the borders of Italy. When the chief pontificate was vacated by the fall of Crassus in 130 B.C., the refugee was invested with the office so ardently sought by the nobles of Rome.[435] He was forced to be contented with this shadow of a splendid prize, for he was destined never to exercise the high functions of his office in the city. He seems never to have left Asia and, after a restless change of residence, he died near the city of Pergamon.[436]

The permanence of the land commission was the most important result of the senate's determination to detach the political from the economic consequences of the Gracchan movement.[437] But they tolerated rather than accepted it. Had they wished to make it their own, every nerve would have been strained to secure the three places at the annual elections for men who represented the true spirit of the nobility. But there was every reason for allowing the people's representatives to continue the people's work. The commission was an experiment, and the government did not wish to participate in possible failure; a seasonable opportunity might arise for suspending or neutralising its activities, and the senate did not wish to reverse its own work; whether success or failure attended its operations, the task of the commissioners was sure to arouse fears and excite odium, especially amongst the Italian allies; and the nobility were less inclined to excite such sentiments than to turn them to account. So the people were allowed year after year to perpetuate the Gracchan clique and to replace its members by avowed sympathisers with programmes of reform. Tiberius's place was filled by Crassus, whose daughter Licinia was wedded to Caius Gracchus.[438] Two places were soon vacated by the fall of Crassus in Asia and the death of Appius Claudius. They were filled by Marcus Fulvius Flaccus and Gaius Papirius Carbo.[439] The Former had already proved his sympathy with Gracchus, the latter had Just brought to an end an agitating tribunate, which had produced a successful ballot law and an abortive attempt to render the tribune re-eligible. The personnel of the commission was, therefore, a guarantee of its good faith. Its energy was on a level with its earnestness. The task of annexing and distributing the domain land was strenuously undertaken, and other officials, on whom fell the purely routine function of enforcing the new limit of occupation, seem to have been equally faithful to their work. Even the consul Popillius, one of the presidents of the commission that tried the Gracchan rioters, has left a record of his activity in the words that he was "the first to expel shepherds from their domains and install farmers in their stead".[440] The boundary stones of the commissioners still survive to mark the care with which they defined the limits of occupied land and of the new allotments; and the great increase in the census roll between the years 131 and 125 B.C. finds its best explanation in the steady increase of small landholders effected by the agrarian law. In the former year the register had shown rather less than 319,000 citizens; in the latter the number had risen to somewhat more than 394,000.[441] If this increase of nearly 76,000 referred to the whole citizen body, it would be difficult to connect it with the work of the commission, except on the hypothesis that numerous vagrants, who did not as a rule appear at the census, now presented themselves for assessment; but, when it is remembered that the published census list of Rome merely contained the returns of her effective military strength, and that this consisted merely of the assidui, it is clear that a measure which elevated large portions of the capite censi to the position of yeoman farmers must have had the effect of increasing the numbers on the register; and this sudden leap in the census roll may thus be attributed to the successful working of the new agrarian scheme.[442] A result such as this could not have been wholly transitory; in tracing the agrarian legislation of the post-Gracchan period we shall indeed find the trial of experiments which prove that no final solution of the land question had been reached; we shall see the renewal of the process of land absorption which again led to the formation of gigantic estates; but these tendencies may merely mark the inevitable weeding-out of the weaker of the Gracchan colonists; they do not prove that the sturdier folk failed to justify the scheme, to work their new holdings at a profit, and to hand them down to their posterity. It is true that the landless proletariate of the city continued steadily to increase; but the causes which lead to the plethora of an imperial capital are too numerous to permit us to explain this increase by the single hypothesis of a renewed depopulation of the country districts.

The distribution of allotments, however, represented but the simpler element of the scheme. The really arduous task was to determine in any given case what land could with justice be distributed. The judicial powers of the triumvirs were taxed to the utmost to determine what land was public, and what was private. The possessors would at times make no accurate profession of their tenure; such as were made probably in many cases aroused distrust. Information was invited from third parties, and straightway the land courts were the scene of harrowing litigation.[443] It could at times be vaguely ascertained that, while a portion of some great domain was held on occupation from the State, some other portion had been acquired by purchase; but what particular part of the estate was held on either tenure was undiscoverable, for titles had been lost, or, when preserved, did not furnish conclusive evidence of the justice of the original transfer. Even the ascertainment of the fact that a tract of land had once belonged to the State was no conclusive proof that the State could still claim rights of ownership; for some of it had in early times been assigned in allotments, and no historical record survived to prove where the assignment had ended and the permission of occupation had begun. The holders of private estates had for purposes of convenience worked the public land immediately adjoining their own grounds, the original landmarks had been swept away, and, although they had paid their dues for the possession of so many acres, it was impossible to say with precision which those acres were. The present condition of the land was no index; for some of the possessors had raised their portion of the public domain to as high a pitch of cultivation as their original patrimonies: and, as the commissioners were naturally anxious to secure arable land in good condition for the new settlers, the original occupiers sometimes found themselves in the enjoyment of marsh or swamp or barren soil,[444] which remained the sole relics of their splendid possessions. The judgments of the court were dissolving ancestral ties, destroying homesteads, and causing the transference of household gods to distant dwellings. Such are the inevitable results of an attempt to pry into ancient titles, and to investigate claims the basis of which lies even a few decades from the period of the inquisition.

But, while these consequences were unfortunate, they were not likely to produce political complications so long as the grievances were confined to members of the citizen body. The vested interests which had been ignored in the passing of the measure might be brushed aside in its execution. Had the territory of Italy belonged to Rome, there would have been much grumbling but no resistance; for effective resistance required a shadow of legal right. But beyond the citizen body lay groups of states which were interested in varying degrees in the execution of the agrarian measure: and their grievances, whether legitimate or not, raised embarrassing questions of public law. The municipalities composed of Roman citizens or of half-burgesses had, as we saw, been alarmed at the introduction of the measure, perhaps through a misunderstanding of its import and from a suspicion that the land which had been given them in usufruct was to be resumed. Possibly the proceedings of the commission may have done something to justify this fear, for the limits of this land possessed by corporate bodies had probably become very ill-defined in the course of years. But, although a corporate was stronger than an individual interest and rested on some public guarantee, the complaints of these townships, composed as they were of burgesses, were merely part of the civic question, and must have been negligible in comparison with the protests of the federate cities of Italy and the Latins. We cannot determine what grounds the Italian Socii had either for fear or protest. It is not certain that land had been assigned to them in usufruct,[445] and such portions of their conquered territories as had been restored to them by the Roman State were their own property. But, whether the territories which they conceived to be threatened were owned or possessed by these communities, such ownership or possession was guaranteed to them by a sworn treaty, and it is inconceivable that the Gracchan legislation, the strongest and the weakest point of which was its strict legality, should have openly violated federative rights. When, however, we consider the way in which the public land of Rome ran in and out of the territories of these allied communities, it is not wonderful that doubts should exist as to the line of demarcation between state territories and the Roman domain. Vexed questions of boundaries might everywhere be raised, and the government of an Italian community would probably find as much difficulty as a private possessor in furnishing documentary evidence of title. The fears of the Latin communities are far more comprehensible, and it was probably in these centres that the Italian revolt against the proceedings of the commission chiefly originated. The interests of the Latins in this matter were almost precisely similar to those of the Romans: and this identity of view arose from a similarity of status. The Latin colonies had had their territories assigned by Roman commissioners: and it is probable, although it cannot be proved, that doubts arose as to the legitimate extent of these assignments in relation to the neighbouring public land. Many of these territories may have grown mysteriously at the expense of Rome in districts far removed from the capital: and in Gaul especially encroachments on the Roman domain by municipalities or individuals of the Latin colonies most recently established may have been suspected. But the Latin community had another interest in the question, which bore a still closer resemblance to that shown by the Roman burgesses. As the individual Latin might be a recipient of the favour of the commissioners, so he might be the victim of their legal claims. The fact that he shared the right of commerce with Rome and could acquire and sue for land by Roman forms, makes it practically certain that he could be a possessor of the Roman domain. So eager had been the government in early times to see waste land reclaimed and defended, that it could hardly have failed to welcome the enterprising Latin who crossed his borders, threw his energies into the cultivation of the public land, and paid the required dues. Many of the wealthier members of Latin communities may thus have been liable to the fate of the ejected possessors of Rome; but even those amongst them whose possessions did not exceed the prescribed limit of five hundred jugera, may have believed that their claims would receive, or had received, too little attention from the Roman commission, while the difficulties resulting from the fusion of public and private land in the same estates may have been as great in these communities as they were in the territory of Rome. Such grievances presented no feature of singularity; they were common to Italy, and one might have thought that a Latin protest would have been weaker than a Roman. But there was one vital point of difference between the two. The Roman could appeal only as an individual; the Latin appealed as a member of a federate state. He did not pause to consider that his grievance was due to his being half a Roman and enjoying Roman rights. The truth that a suzerain cannot treat her subjects as badly as she treats her citizens may be morally, but is not legally, a paradox. The subjects have a collective voice, the citizens have ceased to have one when their own government has turned against them. The position of these Latins, illogical as it may have been, was strengthened by the extreme length to which Rome had carried her principle of non-interference in ail dealings with federate allies. The Roman Comitia did not legislate for such states, no Roman magistrate had jurisdiction in their internal concerns. By a false analogy it could easily be argued that no Roman commission should be allowed to disturb their peaceful agricultural relations and to produce a social revolution within their borders. The allies now sought a champion for their cause, since the constitution supplied no mechanism for the direct expression of Italian grievances. The complaints of individual cities had in the past been borne to the senate and voiced by the Roman patrons of these towns. Now that a champion for the confederacy was needed, a common patron had to be created. He was immediately found in Scipio Aemilianus.[446]

The choice was inevitable and was dictated by three potent considerations. There was the dignity of the man, recently raised to its greatest height by the capture of Numantia; there was his known detachment from the recent Gracchan policy and his forcibly expressed dislike of the means by which it had been carried through; there was the further conviction based on his recent utterances that he had little liking for the Roman proletariate. The news of Gracchus's fall had been brought to Scipio in the camp before Numantia; his epitaph on the murdered tribune was that which the stern Hellenic goddess of justice and truth breathes over the slain Aegisthus:—

So perish all who do the like again.[447]

To Scipio Gracchus's undertaking must have seemed an act of impudent folly, its conduct must have appeared something worse than madness. In all probability it was not the agrarian movement which roused his righteous horror, but the gross violation of the constitution which seemed to him to be involved in the inception and consequences of the plan. Of all political temperaments that of the Moderate is the least forgiving, just because it is the most timorous. He sees the gulf that yawns at his own feet, he lacks the courage to take the leap, and sets up his own halting attitude, of which he is secretly ashamed, as the correct demeanour for all sensible and patriotic men. The Conservative can appreciate the efforts of the Radical, for each is ennobled by the pursuit of the impossible; but the man of half measures and indeterminate aims, while contemning both, will find the reaction from violent change a more potent sentiment even than his disgust at corrupt immobility. Probably Scipio had never entertained such a respect for the Roman constitution as during those busy days in camp, when the incidents of the blockade were varied by messages describing the wild proceedings of his brother-in-law at Rome. Yet Scipio must have known that an unreformed government could give him nothing corresponding to his half-shaped ideals of a happy peasantry, a disciplined and effective soldiery, an uncorrupt administration that would deal honestly and gently with the provincials. His own position was in itself a strong condemnation of the powers at Rome. They were relying for military efficiency on a single man. Why should not they rely for political efficiency on another? But the latter question did not appeal to Scipio. To tread the beaten path was not the way to make an army; but it was good enough for politics.

Scipio did not scorn the honours of a triumph, and the victory of Numantia was followed by the usual pageant in the streets.[448] He was unquestionably the foremost man of Rome, and senate and commons hung on his lips to catch some definite expression of his attitude to recent events, or to those which were stirring men's minds in the present. They had not long to wait, for a test was soon presented. When in 131 Carbo introduced his bill permitting re-election to the tribunate, all the resources of Scipio's dignified oratory were at the disposal of the senate, and the coalition of his admirers with the voters whom the senate could dispose of, was fatal to the chances of the bill.[449] Such an attitude need not have weakened his popularity; for excellent reasons could be given, in the interest of popular government itself, against permitting any magistracy to become continuous, But his political enemies were on the watch, and in one of the debates on the measure care was taken that a question should be put, the answer to which must either identify or compromise him with the new radicalism. Carbo asked him what he thought about the death of Tiberius Gracchus. Scipio's answer was cautious but precise; "If Gracchus had formed the intention of seizing on the administration of the State, he had been justly slain." It was merely a restatement of the old constitutional theory that one who aimed at monarchy was by that very fact an outlaw. But the answer, hypothetical as was its expression, implied a suspicion of Gracchus's aims. It did not please the crowd; there was a roar of dissent. Then Scipio lost his temper. The contempt of the soldier for the civilian, of the Roman for the foreigner, of the man of pure for the man of mixed blood—a contempt inflamed to passion by the thought that men such as he were often at the mercy of these wretches—broke through all reserve. "I have never been frightened by the clamour of the enemy in arms," he shouted, "shall I be alarmed by your cries, ye step-sons of Italy?" This reflection on the lineage of his audience naturally aroused another protest. It was met by the sharp rejoinder, "I brought you in chains to Rome; you are freed now, but none the more terrible for that!" [450] It was a humiliating spectacle. The most respected man in Rome was using the vulgar abuse of the streets to the sovereign people; and the man who used this language was so blinded by prejudice as not to see that the blood which he reviled gave the promise of a new race, that the mob which faced him was not a crowd of Italian peasants, willing victims of the martinet, that the Asiatic and the Greek, with their sordid clothes and doubtful occupations, possessed more intelligence than the Roman members of the Scipionic circle and might one day be the rulers of Rome. The new race was one of infinite possibilities. It needed guidance, not abuse. Carbo and his friends must have been delighted with the issue of their experiment. Scipio had paid the first instalment to that treasury of hatred, which was soon to prove his ruin and to make his following a thing of the past.

Such was the position of Scipio when he was approached by the Italians. His interest in their fortunes was twofold. First he viewed them with a soldier's eye.[451] They were tending more and more to form the flower of the Roman armies abroad: and, although in obedience to civic sentiment he had employed a heavier scourge on the backs of the auxiliaries than on those of the Roman troops before Numantia,[452] the chastisement, which he would have doubtless liked to inflict on all, was but an expression of his interest in their welfare. Next he admired the type for its own sake. The sturdy peasant class was largely represented here, and he probably had more faith in its permanence amongst the federate cities than amongst the needy burgesses whom the commissioners were attempting to restore to agriculture. He could not have seen the momentous consequences which would follow from a championship of the Italian allies against the interests of the urban proletariate; that such a dualism of interests would lead to increased demands on the part of the one, to a sullen resistance on the part of the other; that in this mere attempt to check the supposed iniquities of a too zealous commission lay the germ of the franchise movement and the Social War. His protection was a matter of justice and of interest. The allies had deserved well and should not be robbed; they were the true protectors of Rome and their loyalty must not be shaken. Scipio, therefore, took their protest to the senate. He respected the susceptibilities of the people so far as to utter no explicit word of adverse criticism on the Gracchan measure; but he dwelt on the difficulties which attended its execution, and he suggested that the commissioners were burdened with an invidious task in having to decide the disputed questions connected with the land which they annexed. By the nature of the case their judgments might easily appear to the litigants as tinged with prejudice. It would be better, he suggested, if the functions of jurisdiction were separated from those of distribution and the former duties given to some other authority.[453] The senate accepted the suggestion, and its reasonableness must have appealed even to the people, for the measure embodying it must have passed the Comitia, which alone could abrogate the Gracchan law.[454] Possibly some recent judgments of the commissioners had produced a sense of uneasiness amongst large numbers of the citizen body, and there may have been a feeling that it would be to the advantage of all parties if the cause of scandal were removed. Perhaps none but the inner circle of statesmen could have predicted the consequences of the change. The decision of the agrarian disputes was now entrusted to the consuls, who were the usual vehicles of administrative jurisdiction. The history of the past had proved over and over again the utter futility of entrusting the administration of an extraordinary and burdensome department to the regular magistrates. They were too busy to attend to it, even if they had the will. But in this case even the will was lacking. Of the two consuls Manius Aquillius was destined for the war in Asia, and his colleague Caius Sempronius Tuditanus had no sooner put his hand to the new work than he saw that the difficulties of adjudication had been by no means the creation of the commissioners. He answered eagerly to the call of a convenient Illyrian war and quitted the judgment seat for the less harassing anxieties of the camp.[455] The functions of the commissioners were paralysed; they seem now to have reached a limit where every particle of land for distribution was the subject of dispute, and, as there was no authority in existence to settle the contested claims, the work of assignation was brought to a sudden close. The masses of eager claimants, that still remained unsatisfied, felt that they had been betrayed; the feeling spread amongst the urban populace, and the name of Scipio was a word that now awoke suspicion and even execration.[456] It was not merely the sense of betrayal that aroused this hostile sentiment; the people charged him with ingratitude. Masses of men, like individuals, love a protege more than a benefactor. They have a pride in looking at the colossal figure which they have helped to create. And had not they in a sense made Scipio? Their love had been quickened by the sense of danger; they had braved the anger of the nobles to put power into his hands; they had twice raised him to the consulship in violation of the constitution. And now what was their reward? He had deliberately chosen to espouse the cause of the allies and oppose the interests of the Roman electorate. Scipio's enemies had good material to work upon. The casual grumblings of the streets were improved on, and formulated in the openly expressed belief that his real intention was the repeal of the Sempronian law, and in the more far-fetched suspicion that he meant to bring a military force to bear on the Roman mob, with its attendant horrors of street massacre or hardly less bloody persecution.[457]

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