A History of Rome, Vol 1 - During the late Republic and early Principate
by A H.J. Greenidge
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From this democratic stronghold he promulgated other laws, the tenor of which is unknown, while he showed his sympathy with the lower orders in a practical way which roused the resentment of his fellow-magistrates. [700] A gladiatorial show was to be given in the Forum on a certain day, and most of the magistrates had erected stands, probably in the form of a rude wooden amphitheatre, which they intended to let on hire.[701] Gracchus chose to consider this proceeding as an infringement of the people's rights. It was perhaps not only the admission by payment, but the opinion that the enclosure unduly narrowed the area of observation and cut off all view of the performance from the surrounding crowd,[702] that aroused Gracchus's protest, and he bade the magistrates pull down the erection that the poorer classes might have a free view of the spectacle. His request was disregarded, and Gracchus prepared a surprise for the obstinate organisers. On the very night before the show he sallied out with the workmen that his official duties still placed at his disposal; the tiers of seats were utterly demolished, and when day dawned the people beheld a vacant site on which they might pack themselves as they pleased. To the lower orders it seemed the act of a courageous champion, to the officials the wild proceeding of a headstrong demagogue. It could not have improved Gracchus's chances with the moneyed classes of any grade; he had merged their chances of enjoyment with that of the crowd and violated their sense of the prerogatives of wealth.

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

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

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

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

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

The wisdom and justice of resistance appealed immediately to the mind of Flaccus, whose combative instincts found their natural satisfaction in the prospect of an interchange of blows. The finer and more complex spirit of Gracchus issued in a more uncertain mood. The bane of the thinker and the patriot was upon him. Was a man who had led the State to fight against it, and the rule of reason to be exchanged for the base arbitrament of the sword? None knew the emotions with which he turned from the Forum to gaze long and steadfastly at the statue of his father and to move away with a groan;[721] but the sight of his sorrow roused a sympathy which the call to arms might not have stirred. Many of the bystanders were stung from their attitude of indifference to curse themselves for their base abandonment of the man who had sacrificed so much, to follow him to his house, and to keep a vigil before his doors. The night was passed in gloomy wakefulness, the spirits of the watchers were filled with apprehension of the common sacrifice which the coming day might demand, and the silence was only broken when the voluntary guard was at intervals relieved by those who had already slumbered. Meanwhile the neighbours of Flaccus were being startled by the sounds of boisterous revelry that issued from his halls. The host was displaying an almost boyish exuberance of spirits, while his congenial comrades yelled and clapped as the wine and the jest went round. At daybreak Fulvius was dragged from his heavy slumbers, and he and his companions armed themselves with the spoils of his consulship, the Gallic weapons that hung as trophies upon his walls.[722] They then set out with clamorous threats to take possession of the Aventine. The home that Icilius had won for the Plebs was to be the scene of another struggle for freedom. It was in later times pretended that Fulvius had taken the step, from which even Catilina shrank, of calling the slaves to arms on a promise of freedom.[723] We have no means of disproving the allegation, which seems to have occurred with suspicious frequency in the records left by aristocratic writers of the popular movements which they had assisted to crush. But it is easy to see that the devotion of slaves to their own masters during such struggles, and the finding of their bodies amidst the slain, would be proof enough to a government, anxious to emphasise its merits as a saviour of society, that general appeals had been made to the servile class. Such a deduction might certainly have been drawn from a view of the forces mustered under Opimius; for in these the slaves may have exceeded the citizens in number.[724]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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