Page 0783

783

ROME.-CONQUEST OF ITALY.

exercised by it. As was natural under such circumstances, the influence of the

four city tribes generally preponderated in the decision of questions before this

assembly; for the extension of Roman territory had thrown the outside tribes to

such a distance from the capital as to make their influence but little felt in

the ordinary business of legislation. In the mean time the rank of the concilium

tributum plebis had been reduced to the level of the comitia centuriata; for in

the concilium only plebeians were allowed to vote, and with the fading out of

class-lines, the influence of the exclusive bodies became less and less.

As to the political condition of the citizens, several important changes had been

effected. One of the principal of these was the enrollment of the tradesmen,

artisans, clients, and even freedmen, within the corporation of Rome with the

various city tribes to which they were assigned. As yet the country tribes were

composed exclusively of freeholders. After the conquest of Veii, the number of

slaves was so greatly increased that manumission became more common, and the

number and importance of the freedman-class were greatly increased. Rome

meanwhile had become the metropolis of Latium, and tradesmen, artisans, and

adventurers flocked thither in crowds, swelling the enumeration of the tribes. At

the first they were enrolled as citizens, but were excluded from classification

and from military service. They were given the rights, but not the privileges, of

Roman citizenship.

It was Appius Claudius who, as censor of Rome, first enumerated this increment of

society with the tribes of the city. Being thus admitted to the concilium and the

two comitias, the freedman and artisan-class brought into those bodies a large

element of democracy, which was regarded by the nobility as especially dangerous

to the state. In B.C. 304 a law was passed, under the influence of the censors,

Fabius and Decius, whereby the admission of tradesmen to citizenship was limited

to the tribes of the city.

One of the most noticeable changes in the Roman constitution was the curtailment

of the consular office. In the early Republic, the consuls had exercised an

authority almost unlimited. The history of the two centuries preceding the

Samnite wars exhibits a constant weakening of the prerogatives of the consulship.

Function after function of the chief magistracy of the state was either annulled

or transferred to other offices. The administration of justice was given to

others; the election of senators and knights was taken away; the taking of the

census with the consequent classification of the citizens was handed over to the

censors; the praetor took up the judicial duties of the consuls; and the

management of the finances was assigned to the quaestors. Besides all these

reductions of prerogative, the influence of the consulship was still further

weakened by the frequent appointment of a dictator. It became a precedent with

the Roman people, in times of emergency, to rely, not upon the ordinary chief

magistrates of the Republic, but upon the unusual powers and activities displayed

by the dictatorship.

As to the Senate, it was still the great governing power of the state. It

consisted of three hundred members, who held their office