|Do not fly Iberia
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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VI Chapter 35: No Consuls or Consular Tribunes.[375-0 BC]
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A favourable opportunity for making innovations presented itself in the terrible pressure of debt, a burden from which the plebs did not hope for any alleviation until they had raised men of their own order to the highest authority in the State. This, they thought, was the aim which they must devote their utmost efforts to reach, and they believed that they had already, by dint of effort, secured a foothold from which, if they pushed forward, they could secure the highest positions, and so become the equals of the patricians in dignity as they now were in courage.
For the time being, Gaius Licinius and Lucius Sextius decided to become tribunes of the plebs; once in this office they could clear for themselves the way to all the other distinctions. All the measures which they brought forward after they were elected were directed against the power and influence of the patricians and calculated to promote the interests of the plebs. One dealt with the debts, and provided that the amount paid in interest should be deducted from the principal and the balance repaid in three equal yearly instalments. The second restricted the occupation of land and prohibited any one from holding more than five hundred jugera. The third provided that there should be no more consular tribunes elected, and that one consul should be elected from each order. They were all questions of immense importance, which could not be settled without a tremendous struggle.
The prospect of a fight over those things which excite the keenest desires of men -- land, money, honours -- produced consternation among the patricians. After excited discussions in the senate and in private houses, they found no better remedy than the one they had adopted in previous contests, namely, the tribunitian veto. So they won over some of the tribunes to interpose their veto against these proposals. When they saw the tribes summoned by Licinius and Sextius to give their votes, these men, surrounded by a body-guard of patricians, refused to allow either the reading of the bills or any other procedure which the plebs usually adopted when they came to vote. For many weeks the Assembly was regularly summoned without any business being done, and the bills were looked upon as dead. "Very good," said Sextius, " since it is your pleasure that the veto shall possess so much power, we will use this same weapon for the protection of the plebs. Come then, patricians, give notice of an Assembly for the election of consular tribunes, I will take care that the word which our colleagues are now uttering in concert to your great delight, the word "I FORBID," shall not give you much pleasure."
These were not idle threats. No elections were held beyond those of the tribunes and plebeian aediles. Licinius and Sextius, when re-elected, would not allow any curule magistrates to be appointed, and as the plebs constantly re-elected them, and as they constantly stopped the election of consular tribunes, this dearth of magistrates lasted in the City for five years.
|Occasio uidebatur rerum nouandarum propter ingentem uim aeris alieni, cuius leuamen mali plebes nisi suis in summo imperio locatis nullum speraret: accingendum ad eam cogitationem esse; conando agendoque iam eo gradum fecisse plebeios unde, si porro adnitantur, peruenire ad summa et patribus aequari tam honore quam uirtute possent. in praesentia tribunos plebis fieri placuit, quo in magistratu sibimet ipsi uiam ad ceteros honores aperirent; creatique tribuni C. Licinius et L. Sextius promulgauere leges omnes aduersus opes patriciorum et pro commodis plebis: unam de aere alieno, ut deducto eo de capite quod usuris pernumeratum esset id quod superesset triennio aequis portionibus persolueretur; alteram de modo agrorum, ne quis plus quingenta iugera agri possideret; tertiam, ne tribunorum militum comitia fierent consulumque utique alter ex plebe crearetur; cuncta ingentia et quae sine certamine maximo obtineri non possent. omnium igitur simul rerum, quarum immodica cupido inter mortales est, agri, pecuniae, honorum discrimine proposito conterriti patres, cum trepidassent publicis priuatisque consiliis, nullo remedio alio praeter expertam multis iam ante certaminibus intercessionem inuento collegas aduersus tribunicias rogationes comparauerunt. qui ubi tribus ad suffragium ineundum citari a Licinio Sextioque uiderunt, stipati patrum praesidiis nec recitari rogationes nec sollemne quicquam aliud ad sciscendum plebi fieri passi sunt. iamque frustra saepe concilio aduocato, cum pro antiquatis rogationes essent, 'bene habet' inquit Sextius; 'quando quidem tantum intercessionem pollere placet, isto ipso telo tutabimur plebem. agitedum comitia indicite, patres, tribunis militum creandis; faxo ne iuuet uox ista ueto, qua nunc concinentes collegas nostros tam laeti auditis.' haud inritae cecidere minae: comitia praeter aedilium tribunorumque plebi nulla sunt habita. Licinius Sextiusque tribuni plebis refecti nullos curules magistratus creari passi sunt; eaque solitudo magistratuum et plebe reficiente duos tribunos et iis comitia tribunorum militum tollentibus per quinquennium urbem tenuit.