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UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

CHAPTER LIX- CONQUEST OF ITALY.

The disastrous effects of the conflicts described in the preceding chapter fell

most heavily upon the Roman poor. The plebeians were again and again reduced to

the greatest extremity under the pressure of debt and poverty. The slave-barracks

were crowded with prisoners, and the creditors had their share of cruelty and

extortion. The old quarrels between the two orders of Roman citizenship broke out

with as much violence as ever. The disturbances were so great, even before the

recovery of the city from the effects of the Gaulish invasion, that resort was

had to arbitrary authority, and in B. C. 385, Cornelius Cossus was created

dictator to suppress the commotions in the city.

To this period of Roman history belongs the story of the great reforms introduced

by the tribunes, Lucius Sextius and Caius Licnius Stolo. These distinguished

representatives of the people came into office in B.C. 377, and were reelected

for ten consecutive years. It appears-if tradition may be trusted-that a bit of

domestic jealousy, small as such a cause may seem, was the occasion of the

legislation of Sextius and Licinius. A certain Lucius Fabius Ambustus, a man of

senatorial rank, gave his two daughters in marriage, the one to the patrician

Sulpicius and the other to the plebeian tribune Licinius. Both were men of rank

and influence in the state, but the wife of Licinius soon discovered to how great

a disparagement her husband was subjected on account of his birth. At her

sister's house she was laughed at on account of her ignorance of patrician

etiquette. For these wrongs she found relief in tears shed in the presence of her

husband and father. To them she made her plaint, beseeching them to combine in an

effort to remove the social stigma fixed upon herself and family by the accident

of birth and the folly of custom.

Whether the story be true or fictitious, certain it is that the tribunes,

Licinius and Sextius, in B. C. 367, brought forward and secured the passage of

certain statutes well calculated to wring from the patricians an equal share in

the government. These enactments are known by the name of the Licinio-Sextian

Rogations. The first law provided that all payments of interest on the current

debts in Rome should in the settlement be deducted from the principal, and that

the remainder should be paid in three equal annual installments. The second

statute provided that no person should possess more than five hundred jugera-that

is, about three hundred and twenty acres-of the public land; nor should any one

pasture on the same more than a limited number of cattle. Another clause of the

same law assigned to every poor citizen a small farm of seven jugera. The third

enactment abolished the office of military tribune, and provided that hereafter

one of the two consuls must be of the plebeian order.

Of course these radical reforms were opposed with the whole power of the

patricians. They called upon the aged Camillus once more to accept the

dictatorship, and prevent further encroachment upon their time-honored

prerogatives. The struggle, however, was in vain. Camillus was obliged to resign

his office. The assembly of the tribes voted to accept the Licinian Rogations,

and then elected Lucius Sextius as the first plebeian consul of Rome. The curies,

however, refused to induct him into office, and civil war was on the point of

breaking out when the venerable Camillus again interposed and secured the

confirmation of Sextius by the Senate. The end of the contest, which closed a

struggle of more than two hundred years' duration, was marked by the erection and

dedication of the Temple of Concord.

It was a peculiarity of the Roman patricians that they never retreated from one

position to another without attempting to hold by subtlety what they were losing

in the open