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Senate, from whose ranks the praetors and proconsuls were generally chosen;

and whose members looked forward to the day when each in his turn should

try his hand in the spoliation of a province, soon neutralized the

antagonism of the knights by contriving a new court from the senatorial

rank before which nobles and monopolists accused of malfeasance in office

should be tried. The opulent robber found it not difficult to "influence"

the decisions of such a tribunal.

The system of making public distributions of corn-though it subserved the

temporary purpose of placating the temper of the multitude-became a premium

on idleness, a discount on industry. Why should the Samnite peasant

continue to toil in the fields when he could go to Rome and be fed? The

effects of the system were felt throughout Italy. The under-classes opened

their mouths and flew to the center. Large and fruitful districts were

virtually abandoned. The call of the laborer was unheard frequently in the

field, and the mechanic's hammer lay idle in the workshop. Meanwhile Rome

roared like a deluge of waters.

There were not wanting a few thoughtful men-Romans of the old Republican

stamp- who perceived the perilous condition of the state, and exerted

themselves to ward off the danger. To this class belonged Marcus Porcius

Cato, the Censor. After distinguished services in the Hannibalic wars, he

rose from one position to another until in B. C. 195 he was elected consul.

He at once set himself like flint against the abuses of the times.

Incorruptible himself, he scorned corruption in others. In the time of his

ascendancy the nobility were chiefly concerned with measures calculated to

prevent the admission to high places of those who were designated as novi

homines or "new men"-those who had no aristocratic lineage. By his

profound knowledge of the law, his fruitfulness in expedients, and his

powers as a speaker-no less than by his irreproachable character-he became

a terror to the oligarchy. Himself a novus homo, he was none the less

ardently attached to the Roman constitution, and was fain to purge the

state of its dross and defilement.

The first public break of Cato with the existing order occurred between

himself and the Scipios. The latter were now-for it was just after the

battle of Zama-in the heyday of their renown. But the fearless Cato,

believing Lucius Scipio to have been guilty of receiving bribes, induced

the tribune to bring charges against him, and he was held to answer the

accusation. His accounts were demanded; but when they were about to be read

Africanus, the brother of the accused officer, snatched them from his hand

and tore them to pieces, declaring that it was an outrage for one who had

brought millions into the Roman treasury to be thus called on to account

fora paltry sum. Nevertheless Lucius was condemned to pay a heavy fine; and

when Africanus attempted to take him by force from the hands of the

officers who were conducting him to prison, the attempt was defeated by the

authorities, and the punishment enforced. Cato did not hesitate to follow

up this prosecution with another directed against Africanus himself; but

the day of the trial happened to fall on the anniversary of the battle of

Zama, and aconviction was impossible. Scipio shortly afterwards removed

from Rome and passed the remainder of his life at his country-seat in

Liternum. Here he died, and was buried with this inscription, composed by

himself, to mark the spot: "You, ungrateful country, do not possess even.

my bones.

In B.C.184 Cato was elected censor. While holding this office he steadily

pursued the policy to which he had adhered during his consulship. No fewer

than forty-four times did his enemies prefer charges of malfeasance and

crime against him, but it was impossible to shake the confidence of the

people in his integrity. He continued to prosecute those who abused the

trusts of office, and retired from public life without the smell of fire on

his garments. In extreme old age he gave up his hostility to foreign

culture, and signalized his eightieth year by learning Greek.

Such was the general condition of Roman society in the last half of the

second century B. C. The state was corrupted by luxury and conquest, and

the old heroic virtues of Republican, agricultural Rome were well-nigh