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expiration of his consulship, Cassius was charged before the Senate with aspiring

to kingly power, and after a trial was condemned to death.

With the fall of the people's friend, the patricians became more haughty and

severe than ever. In B. C. 485, the Fabian Gens obtained the consulship by

usurpation, and, contrary to the Valerian Law, held it for ten years. During this

interval the plebeians suffered the heaviest oppressions. In order to compel

service in the army, the officers of the government adopted the plan of enlisting

recruits beyond the limits of the pomerium, where the authority of the tribunes

could not avail to save the poor man who was arrested. Another method adopted by

the authorities was to suborn one of the tribunes, and induce him in any

particular case to veto the acts of his colleagues.

Meanwhile the Fabii continued to be nominated for the consulship year after year.

This course produced its natural effect, and a certain Caeso Fabius, himself a

patrician, brought forward a proposition to enforce the Agrarian Law. This was

done for the purpose of winning over the plebeians to his support. The government

became alarmed at the prospect of a usurpation, and the whole Fabian Gens, now

numbering three hundred and six citizens and more than four thousand clients, was

compelled to retire from the city. They marched to the river Cremera, and

established a fortified camp near the town of Veii. Here they sustained

themselves for two years, but in B.C. 477 were enticed into an ambush, and slain

to a man. Only one boy belonging to the Gens remained at Rome to preserve the

name of the great family which had recently controlled the state.

A crisis was now reached in the long struggle between the two political classes

of Roman citizens. After the banishment of the Fabii, the contest over the

execution of the Agrarian Law became hotter than ever. In B. C. 473, the tribune

Genucius brought forward an accusation against the consuls, charging them with

neglecting to make the promised distribution of lands. The day of trial was set,

but on the night before the opening of the cause the tribune was murdered in his

own house. His colleagues were terrified into silence, and the trial of the

consuls came to naught.

The murder of their favorite representative enraged the plebeians more than ever,

and they demanded that henceforth the tribunal elections should be conducted

exclusively by themselves without patrician or senatorial interference. The

tribune Volero Publilius was the leader in this movement, while the patricians

were headed by Appius Claudius. The latter entered the plebeian assembly, and for

a while delayed the adoption of the measure proposed by Volero; but the popular

leader rallied his adherents, secured his reelection as tribune, and succeeded in

forcing the measure through the assembly. The law required that henceforth the

tribunes of the people should be chosen by a comitia composed exclusively of

plebeians. It was a great victory for popular rights. From the first step which

was taken by the adoption of the Icilian Law there had been a constant progress

in the direction of emancipating the Roman commons from the thralldom in which

they had been held by the patrician order.

For ten years after the passage of the Publilian Law there was a time of

comparative quiet; but the plebeians, now partially freed from servitude, began

to make still further demands for the enlargement of their rights in the state.

Their aim was to secure an unequivocal recognition in the constitution of their

position as an independent element of political society. The great obstacle in

the way of a further development of popular liberty was the consular prerogative.

This, though many times assailed, still stood in stubborn opposition to any

advance on the side of the people. The new demands now found expression in a

measure proposed in B. C. 462, by the tribune Caius Terentilius Assa, to the

effect that a commission of five members should be appointed to draw up a code of

laws limiting the judicial powers of the consuls.

Until the present the knowledge and practice of the law had been restricted to

the patrician order. The Senate and nobles had purposely prevented the reduction

of the laws to writing to the end that even the tribunes should remain dependent

upon others for an