UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
of the Tarquins. The Romans always attributed the reappearance of the plague to
the anger of the gods, and on such occasions, instead of attending to the
condition of the city-its rubbish, its drains, its water-supplies-they, like the
other foolish people of ancient and modern times, sought to placate the offended
deities by building altars and shrines and performing religious solemnities. It
was customary on such occasions to take from their places all the statues of the
gods, bear them through the streets of the city, and place them on couches in the
Capitol, before tables loaded with sacrificial offerings.
The nation of the Gauls did not fail, at intervals, to make incursions into
Italy, and more than once the territory of Rome was invaded. The Romans stood in
greater awe of these huge and fierce barbarians than of their civilized
neighbors. Nevertheless, the courage of the people proved sufficient for every
emergency, and the city never again suffered such peril as in the case of the
first great invasion. In these forays of the barbarians many opportunities were
offered for the display of that particular type of heroism which the Romans so
much admired. In one instance the popular hero Titus Maklius, having encountered
a gigantic Gaul on one of the bridges of the Anio, slew him, and tore off his
twisted chain of gold. From this exploit he and his family received and proudly
wore the name of Torquatus. In another case, when Marcus Valerius was engaged in
a deadly combat, a crow suddenly alighted on his helmet, and so flapped and tore
with wing and beak and claw the face of his antagonist as to give Valerius an
easy victory. Hence he and his family were surnamed Corvus.
During the continuance of these incursions the Gaulish tribes held certain of the
defiles in the Alban hills, and were supported in their campaigns by those
ancient enemies of Rome, the Hernici and the Aurunci. More than once it was found
necessary for the consular armies to go forth against these marauders, and punish
them for their depredations.
To this period of Roman history belongs the story of the revolt of the two
Etruscan towns of Caere and Tarquinii. The suppression of this insurrection was
by no means an easy task. In one instance the consular army was defeated by the
insurgents; but they were finally reduced to submission, and were glad to
purchase safety by subscribing to a truce of a hundred years duration. But in
spite of this hard struggle of Rome to maintain herself in the contest with
domestic foes and actual assailants, she continued to wax in strength, and soon
found herself able to turn her thought to foreign conquests. The first of these
great conflicts, in which the power of Rome began to be felt beyond her own
borders, was the war with Samnium. Before beginning, however, the narrative of
this first important struggle of the Romans for the dominion of Italy, it will be
appropriate to add a few paragraphs respecting the character of the Roman
constitution of the period and the political status of the people.
A formal equality had now been reestablished between the two classes of society.
After the adoption of the Canuleian Law intermarriages became common between
plebeians and patricians. Many of the former rank had now grown wealthy. The
public offices, open alike to both orders, had gradually raised the plebeians in
the social scale. The patricians were relatively less numerous than of old, and
the decayed families lost their prestige and influence in the state. It thus
happened that the ancient lines of demarcation were to a considerable extent
effaced. But while this leveling tendency was at work in the commonwealth a new
nobility arose, based not on birth, but on wealth and office. The poor were the
common people-the democracy; the rich men and office-holders were the nobility-
Meanwhile the long-continued struggle of the classes had changed to a
considerable extent the relations of the law-making assemblies of the Republic.
The ancient comitia centuriata, though still retaining its right to authorize a
declaration of war and a few other important prerogatives, had been stripped of
most of its legislative functions by the comitia tributa, or assembly of the
tribes. To the latter body belonged the election of all the new magistrates
except the censor and praetor, and the lawmaking power was gradually usurped and