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the new. Two additional statutes were prepared, and the whole given to the public

as the Twelve Tables of Laws; and these became the basis of all subsequent

legislation in both the Republic and the Empire. The new code was plainly written

and affixed to the rostra in front of the Curia Hostilia, that all the people

might scrutinize the work of their commissioners. It became customary to

transcribe them and to learn them by heart, so that the citizen of Rome, even

from his school-boy days, might have the laws of his country at his tongue's end.

The code of the Twelve Tables was noted less for revolutionary enactments than

for the succinct statement which it gave of the existing laws. The law of debt

remained as before, except that the rate of interest was limited to ten per cent.

The marriage statute still interdicted the union of patricians and plebeians; and

the discrimination against the proletarii, or those whose property was assessed

at less than eleven thousand asses, was retained as it had been since the days of

Servius. So also the old laws relative to fines, imprisonment, and the punishment

of death were allowed to stand with little modification. The great benefit

conferred on the state by the new code was that it gave a fixed and indisputable

form to that which had previously been the subject of endless disputes, and gave

publicity to the whole, so that every citizen might know the laws of his country.

The popularity won by the decemvirs soon led to haughtiness and usurpation.

Before the end of their second year in the government their conduct was such as

to effect a complete estrangement of the people. They appeared in the Forum

accompanied by lictors, who carried the fasces with axes-an assumption of

authority which not even the consuls would have ventured to make. They neglected

to observe the forms of law, and when the term of their office expired refused to


A revolt was already imminent when two acts of infamy precipitated a crisis.

Learning the condition of affairs in Rome, the Sabines and AEquians took up arms

and began to pillage and devastate the country. They advanced into the heart of

Latium, and gained possession of Mount Algidus. Appius Claudius and his

colleagues of the decemviri now became alarmed, and convened the Senate. War was

declared, and a levy of troops made to fill the army. But the soldiers permitted

themselves to be defeated, and the capture of the city seemed imminent. In the

legion opposing the Sabines was a brave soldier named Lucius Licius Dentatus, who

had held the office of tribune, and who now denounced Appius Claudius and the

decemvirs as unworthy of confidence. For this he was murdered by the connivance

of the authorities.

Soon a second outrage occurred, which roused the indignation of the people to a

still higher pitch. Virginius, a man of plebeian rank, but of the highest

character, was the happy father of a beautiful daughter, Virginia. On her way to

school she was seen by Appius Claudius, who determined to gain possession of her

person. He therefore directed one of his clients to claim her as his slave. The

maiden was seized and brought before Appius, who sat as Judge to try the cause

between the father and the client. The foregone decision was rendered that

Virginia was the slave's daughter, and the decemvir ordered that Virginius should

give her up. The father in despair turned aside into a butcher's stall near the

Forum, and concealing a knife under his cloak, returned to bid his child

farewell. First embracing her tenderly he suddenly raised the knife and smote her

dead on the spot. Waving the bloody blade above him, he broke through the lictors

and escaped to the army.

When the soldiers heard the story their suppressed. wrath broke forth in fury. It

was as if the tragedy of Sextus and Lucretia had been again enacted. The army

mutinied and marched on the city. Having taken the Aventine, it was joined by

other forces, and the whole withdrew to the Sacred Mount. The decemvirs were

driven to resign. The moderate party, headed by Horatius and Valerius, entered

into negotiations with the insurgents, and a reconciliation was soon effected.

Amnesty was agreed to for all except the decemvirs. The tribunes were restored

and the right of appeal again granted to the people.

Appius Claudius and Oppius, his chief