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Quote of the day: Caecina revelled more freely in plunder
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History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy
Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VIII Chapter 28: Debts and debtors.[326 BC]
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This year was marked by the dawn, as it were, of a new era of liberty for the plebs; creditors were no longer allowed to attach the persons of their debtors. This change in the law was brought about by a signal instance of lust and cruelty upon the part of a money-lender. Lucius Papirius was the man in question. He had pledged his person to him for a debt which his father had contracted. The youth and beauty of the debtor which ought to have called forth feelings of compassion only acted as incentives to lust and insult. Finding that his infamous proposals only filled the youth with horror and loathing, the man reminded him that he was absolutely in his power and sought to terrify him by threats. As these failed to crush the boy's noble instincts, he ordered him to be stripped and beaten. Mangled and bleeding the boy rushed into the street and loudly complained of the usurer's lust and brutality. A vast crowd gathered, and on learning what had happened became furious at the outrage offered to one of such tender years, reminding them as it did of the conditions under which they and their children were living. They ran into the Forum and from there in a compact body to the Senate-house. In face of this sudden outbreak the consuls felt it necessary to convene a meeting of the senate at once, and as the members entered the House the crowd exhibited the lacerated back of the youth and flung themselves at the feet of the senators as they passed in one by one. The strongest bond and support of credit was there and then overthrown through the mad excesses of one individual. The consuls were instructed by the senate to lay before the people a proposal "that no man be kept in irons or in the stocks, except such as have been guilty of some crime, and then only till they have worked out their sentence; and, further, that the goods and not the person of the debtor shall be the security for the debt." So the nexi were released, and it was forbidden for any to become nexi in the future. Eo anno plebi Romanae uelut aliud initium libertatis factum est quod necti desierunt; mutatum autem ius ob unius feneratoris simul libidinem, simul crudelitatem insignem. L. Papirius is fuit, cui cum se C. Publilius ob aes alienum paternum nexum dedisset, quae aetas formaque misericordiam elicere poterant, ad libidinem et contumeliam animum accenderunt. [ut] florem aetatis eius fructum aduenticium crediti ratus, primo perlicere adulescentem sermone incesto est conatus; dein, postquam aspernabantur flagitium aures, minis territare atque identidem admonere fortunae; postremo, cum ingenuitatis magis quam praesentis condicionis memorem uideret, nudari iubet uerberaque adferri. quibus laceratus iuuenis cum se in publicum proripuisset, libidinem crudelitatemque conquerens feneratoris, ingens uis hominum cum aetatis miseratione atque indignitate iniuriae accensa, tum suae condicionis liberumque suorum respectu, in forum atque inde agmine facto ad curiam concurrit; et cum consules tumultu repentino coacti senatum uocarent, introeuntibus in curiam patribus laceratum iuuenis tergum procumbentes ad singulorum pedes ostentabant. uictum eo die ob impotentem iniuriam unius ingens uinculum fidei iussique consules ferre ad populum ne quis, nisi qui noxam meruisset, donec poenam lueret in compedibus aut in neruo teneretur; pecuniae creditae bona debitoris, non corpus obnoxium esset. ita nexi soluti, cautumque in posterum ne necterentur.