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Quote of the day: Nor did Claudius, when he spoke with pre
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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VI Chapter 39: The Licinian Laws. Cont.[368 BC]
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Between Camillus' resignation of office and Manlius' entrance on his dictatorship, the tribunes held a Council of the plebs as though an interregnum had occurred. Here it was evident which of the proposed measures were preferred by the plebs and which their tribunes were most eager about. The measures dealing with usury and the allotment of State land were being adopted, that providing that one consul should always be a plebeian was rejected; both the former would probably have been carried into law if the tribunes had not said that they were putting them en bloc.

Publius Manlius, on his nomination as dictator, strengthened the cause of the plebs by appointing a plebeian, Gaius Licinius, who had been a consular tribune as his Master of the Horse. I gather that the patricians were much annoyed; the dictator generally defended his action on the ground of relationship; he pointed out also that the authority of a Master of the Horse was no greater than that of a consular tribune.

When notice was given for the election of tribunes of the plebs, Licinius, and Sextius declared their unwillingness to be re-elected, but they put it in a way which made the plebeians all the more eager to secure the end which they secretly had in view.

For nine years, they said, they had been standing in battle array, as it were, against the patricians, at the greatest risk to themselves and with no advantage to the people. The measures they had brought forward and the whole power of the tribunes had, like themselves, become enfeebled by age. Their proposed legislation had been frustrated first by the veto of their colleagues, then by the withdrawal of their fighting men to the district of Velitrae, and last of all the dictator had launched his thunders at them. At the present time there was no obstacle either from their colleagues or from war or from the dictator, for he had given them an earnest of the future election of plebeian consuls by appointing a plebeian as Master of the Horse. It was the plebs who stood in the way of their tribunes and their own interests. If they chose they could have a City and a Forum free from creditors, and fields rescued from their unlawful occupiers. When were they ever going to show sufficient gratitude for these boons, if while accepting these beneficial measures they cut off from those who proposed them all hope of attaining the highest honours? It was not consistent with the self-respect of the Roman people for them to demand to be relieved of the burden of usury and placed on the land which is now wrongfully held by the magnates, and then to leave the tribunes, through whom they won these reforms, without honourable distinction in their old age or any hope of attaining it. They must first make up their minds as to what they really wanted and then declare their will by their votes at the election. If they wanted the proposed measures carried as a whole, there was some reason for their re-electing the same tribunes, because they would carry their own measures through; if, however, they only wished that to be passed which each man happened to want for himself, there was no need for them to incur odium by prolonging their term of office; they would not have the tribuneship themselves, nor would the people obtain the proposed reforms.

Inter priorem dictaturam abdicatam nouamque a Manlio initam ab tribunis uelut per interregnum concilio plebis habito apparuit quae ex promulgatis plebi, quae latoribus gratiora essent. nam de fenore atque agro rogationes iubebant, de plebeio consule antiquabant; et perfecta utraque res esset, ni tribuni se in omnia simul consulere plebem dixissent. P. Manlius deinde dictator rem in causam plebis inclinauit C. Licinio, qui tribunus militum fuerat, magistro equitum de plebe dicto. id aegre patres passos accipio: dictatorem propinqua cognatione Licini se apud patres excusare solitum, simul negantem magistri equitum maius quam tribuni consularis imperium esse. Licinius Sextiusque, cum tribunorum plebi creandorum indicta comitia essent, ita se gerere ut negando iam sibi uelle continuari honorem acerrime accenderent ad id quod dissimulando petebant plebem: nonum se annum iam uelut in acie aduersus optimates maximo priuatim periculo, nullo publice emolumento stare. consenuisse iam secum et rogationes promulgatas et uim omnem tribuniciae potestatis. primo intercessione collegarum in leges suas pugnatum esse, deinde ablegatione iuuentutis ad Veliternum bellum; postremo dictatorium fulmen in se intentatum. iam nec collegas nec bellum nec dictatorem obstare, quippe qui etiam omen plebeio consuli magistro equitum ex plebe dicendo dederit: se ipsam plebem et commoda morari sua. liberam urbem ac forum a creditoribus, liberos agros ab iniustis possessoribus extemplo, si uelit, habere posse. quae munera quando tandem satis grato animo aestimaturos, si inter accipiendas de suis commodis rogationes spem honoris latoribus earum incidant? non esse modestiae populi Romani id postulare ut ipse fenore leuetur et in agrum iniuria possessum a potentibus inducatur, per quos ea consecutus sit senes tribunicios non sine honore tantum sed etiam sine spe honoris relinquat. proinde ipsi primum statuerent apud animos quid uellent; deinde comitiis tribuniciis declararent uoluntatem. si coniuncte ferre ab se promulgatas rogationes uellent, esse quod eosdem reficerent tribunos plebis; perlaturos enim quae promulgauerint: sin quod cuique priuatim opus sit id modo accipi uelint, opus esse nihil inuidiosa continuatione honoris; nec se tribunatum nec illos ea quae promulgata sint habituros.