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THE LIVIAN LAWS
107 Drusus (with more wiliness than honesty) brought forward together his laws for depriving the Equites of the control of the courts, for planting the colonies in Italy and Sicily, and for increasing the corn-dole. To do so directly contravened the Lex Caecilia Didia passed in B.C. 98, which forbade the introduction of clauses dealing with several distinct subjects under a single preamble. Nevertheless the proposals were carried, in face of a bitter opposition, headed by the consul Marcius Philippus. The meeting at which they passed was much disturbed, and the adversaries were so vehement that at last Drusus had Philippus dragged off the rostrum by his apparitors, an outburst of temper which unhappily recalled the doings of Saturninus. His bill passed, but its legality was very doubtful in face of his opponent's contention that subjects so different could not legally be linked together in one enactment [B.C. 91).
Victorious thus far, Drusus then began an agitation to prepare the people for the second part of his programme, the great law which was, in his idea, to regenerate the Roman people, by introducing into the citizen-body the great mass of Italian allies. Aware of the difficulties of the task, he got into communication with the chief men in each state throughout the peninsula. They visited his house, and formed an association for the purpose of pushing their claims. It is said that in every country town there was a branch started, whose members swore to live and die with Drusus, to spend life and fortune in behalf of him and of all other brethren who had taken the oath, and to enlist in the bond every possible helper. To institute such a society was to go perilously near the edge of conspiracy and high treason, and its framer can hardly have supposed that he had made the oath harmless and constitutional by adding a clause in which the members bound themselves, “when they had received the franchise, to regard Rome as their fatherland and Drusus as their patron.” The association was soon well rooted in every corner of the land, and provided the Italians with the bond of organisation and the common executive whose want had hitherto been their weakness.
Drusus had not been wrong in thinking that the proposal to enfranchise the allies would shake the allegiance of many of his followers, and gain him bitter enemies. Both in the Senate and in the urban multitude there were many who began to fall away from him when he insisted on the necessity of this great measure. After a time he lost the control of the Senate, and a majority in it voted that his first set of laws had been invalid, owing to the informal way in which they had been passed en bloc under a single preamble.
But the resolution of the haughty tribune was not in the least shaken. He announced his intention of persisting with his schemes in spite of all opposition : he made no attempt to dispute the legality of the Senate's decision as to his laws, but determined to bring forward the question of the Italians. How far he would have carried the matter we cannot tell, for one evening as he was returning to his own house, after making a harangue in the Forum, he was murdered. A multitude was pressing around him, when he was seen to stumble and fall : he had been stabbed in the groin with a cobbler's knife, which was found sticking in the wound. Within a few hours he was dead, and all his plans perished with him. His enemies of the Equestrian Order succeeded in getting a bill passed by the Comitia to the effect that the association which he had formed had been treasonable, and that both his friends in the Senate and his chief agents among the allies should be prosecuted for conspiracy.
The news that Drusus had been murdered, and that a Special Commission had been appointed to try his
otta, ană then such as Crasso, Drusus had
GENERAL REVOLT OF THE ITALIANS 109 supporters, was the signal for the outbreak of rebellion all over Italy. The chief men of all the allied cities had learnt to know each other in the reformer's house, and had ascertained that they all had the same grievances and the same desires. The desperate meaning to the Italians of the present crisis was that they had now ascertained that neither party in the Roman state would ever help them. They had long supposed that they might count on the aid of the Democrats, for both the Gracchi and Saturninus had promised them relief. The Optimates, as they had supposed, were their enemies: but now the best of the Optimates had taken up their cause : Drusus had been supported by men such as Crassus the orator, Aurelius Cotta, and the aged M. Aemilius Scaurus, the princeps senatus. It was the main body of the Democratic party, and its allies, the Equites, who had foiled the plans of Drusus. The urban multitude in its narrow jealousy had deserted him, lest it might lose some portion of its shows and its corn-doles. The tribune Varius, who had proposed the bill against the friends of Drusus, was a well-known Democrat, and his chief supporters were Equites.
Realising that the Democracy was really as hostile to them as the most bigoted conservative in the Optimate party, the Italians saw that they could only hope to gain their rights by unsheathing the sword. Within three months of the death of Drusus, the whole peninsula from Picenum southward was in arms: few states save the Latin colonies continued faithful to the Roman cause.
With the details of the fierce but confused campaign which raged all over Italy during the years B.C. 90–89 it is not necessary to deal. The odds were against Rome : the sturdy yeomen of the Apennine valleys were individually better men than the town-bred legions whom the consuls, Lucius Cæsar and Rutilius Lupus, led against them. It must be confessed, however, that the Romans fought far better than might have been expected : even the urban multitude displayed a savage determination worthy of their ancestors, and offered to give up even their cherished corn-dole in the day of necessity. But the citizens were opposed by superior numbers ; their officers were for the most part incapable; the campaign presented a thousand difficulties because of the necessity of endeavouring to relieve the many outlying garrisons-Latin colonies for the most part—in remote corners of Italy.
If Rome was not crushed in the first year of the war, it was because she still retained many advantages. She had the undisputed command of the sea, and by means of it could send succours round the peninsula, even when the central lines of communication were held by the enemy. The provinces, fortunately for her, did not choose this moment to revolt ; from them she drew not only numerous auxiliary troops, but also the ample supply of money and food by which alone the war could be maintained : the revolted Italians were terribly handicapped by their poverty. Rome had also a considerable number of officers-headed by Marius himself—who were accustomed to commanding and moving large bodies of men : none of the Italian generals had ever headed any force larger than a cohort, and they had to learn the art of handling armies numbered by tens of thousands without any previous experience. But the most important factor of all in the struggle was that Rome represented unity of action and organisation, as opposed to a heterogeneous mass of tribes of very different races, divided by local interests and old grudges. The Italians did not succeed in setting up a vigorous federal government: the constitution which they devised for themselves was a slavish and stupid imitation of that of Rome, which failed to give
THE ITALIANS OBTAIN THE FRANCHISE II them either a vigorous executive or a capable administrative council.
Yet, in spite of all these advantages, the experiences of the first year of war so tried the strength of Rome and broke down her haughty spirit, that she practically consented to grant the allies the franchise which they had demanded. The Lex Julia, passed in the winter of B.C. 90, gave the citizenship to all the Italian communities who had remained faithful, including the whole of the populous Latin colonies. Having once surrendered the principle for which they had entered on the war, the Romans did not hesitate to go farther. Only two or three months after the Lex Julia had been enacted, there followed the still more important Lex Plautia Papiria, which granted the franchise to every individual Italian who should lay down his arms and appear before a magistrate to crave enrolment as a Roman citizen. This law saved the existence of Rome, at the sacrifice of her old claim to dominate Italy as a mistress. The rebels flocked in by tens of thousands to give in their names and to take up the long-coveted status of citizen. The power of the insurrection was so much thinned that the second campaign of the war, that of B.C. 89, went almost entirely in favour of the Romans. District after district was subdued, and at the end of the year only the obstinate Samnites and the less important tribes of Lucania remained in arms. It was clear that the fate of the war had been decided, and that the crushing of the last desperate rebels could only be a matter of time. The Romans once more breathed freely, and, contented to have saved the existence of the city and the empire, contemplated with comparative equanimity the crowd of new citizens with whom for the future they had to share the dominion of the world.
At this moment, the most inappropriate one that could