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can be nobody so petty or so apathetic in his outlook that he has no desire
to discover by what means and under what system of government the Romans
succeeded in...bringing under their rule almost the whole of the inhabited
world. Polybius Histories 1.1.5
449 BCE || The Laws
of the Twelve Tables
laws of the Twelve Tables are one of the earliest extant law codes. Covering
both civil and criminal matters, it is commonly believed that these laws served
to codify existing custom. The actual codes do not survive, nor do we have
them in their entirety. The extant codes have been compiled from fragments
and references to them by authors such as Cicero. Roman historians tell us
that the plebeians demanded written laws in order to protect them from the
caprices of patrician magistrates, and again, as in 494, protested by seceding
from Rome. Some modern scholars dispute this occurrence as an actual historical
event. The tables provide not only a valuable insight into Roman law, but
into Roman culture as well.
are some excerpts:
kill ... a dreadfully deformed child.
a father thrice surrender a son for sale, the son shall be free from the father.
child born ten months after the father's death will not be admitted into a
shall remain in guardianship even when they have attained their majority ...
except Vestal Virgins.
spendthrift is forbidden to exercise administration over his own goods.
shall mend roadways. If they do not keep them laid with stone, a person shall
drive his beasts where he wishes.
is permitted to gather fruit falling down on another man's farm.
any person has sung or composed against another person a song such as was
causing slander or insult to another, he shall be clubbed to death.
a person has maimed another's limb, let there be retaliation in kind unless
he makes agreement for settlement with him.
shall not take place between plebeians and patricians..."
BCE || The Lex Canuleia
law, a product of the continuing struggle between Patricians and Plebeians
referred to as The Conflict of the Orders, allowed Patricians and Plebeians
BCE || The Roman Fidenaen war
seminal event, Rome's success in its first major wars, first against the town
of Fidenae, followed by its defeat of the Etruscan city of Veii in 406-396
BCE, are seen by some historians as laying the foundation for the militaristic
underpinnings of Roman society. Success in these wars allowed for its expansion
of territory, and now, as a proven formidable opponent, Rome was seen as a
potential danger by some, and a desired ally by others.
BCE || The Ogulnian law
after the tribunes Gnaeus and Quintus Ogulnius, this law, illustrative of
a continuing class struggle which manifested various legislative, political,
and social reforms, ended the near patrician monopoly over constructing laws
and legal procedure. The Ogulnian law increased the number of pontiffs from
four to eight, and the number of augurs from four to nine. Most importantly,
it required that the new positions were to be filled by plebeians.
BCE || The third secession of the plebeians
the primary sources for this event are either lost or lacking, the actual
events and their consequences are largely conjecture. What we do know is that
for the first time, a plebeian, Quintus Hortensius, was made dictator. The
rank of dictator in this instance is constitutional and was subject to legal
restrictions, and is not to be confused with the later dictatorships of Sulla,
Julius Caesar, or the contemporary use of the term.
BCE-146 BCE || The Punic Wars
the three Punic Wars served to enhance and secure Roman dominance in the larger Mediterranean region. Carthage, a major city-state in North Africa, was eventually
destroyed by Rome, thus ending the Third Punic War. The ground of Carthage
is said to have been laid with salt in order to prevent the redevelopment
fl. ca. 225 BCE |§ §|Fabius Pictor
Polybius: The Constitution of the Roman Republic
eventual and on-going codification of the Roman constitution was mostly the
product of conflict between organized segments of Roman society. Later, the
brothers Tiberius and Caius Gracchus would again serve as example of this.
Today they are by some seen as heroic martyrs who fought the noble battle
of the common people. To the aristocrats, they were exploiters of civil unrest
in a quest to foil the Republic.
185 b. BCE || Cornelia
is unlikely that one will find a woman held in higher esteem by the Roman
people than Cornelia Gracchus. Cornelia was the daughter of Publius Cornelius
Scipio Africanus Major, the conqueror of Hannibal in the Second Punic War,
and wife of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus the elder who, Plutarch tells us
"had been once censor, twice consul, and twice had triumphed, yet was
more renowned and esteemed for his virtue than his honours." Nevertheless,
Cornelia remains famous in her own right.
the death of Scipio who overthrew Hannibal, (Tiberius Sempronius) was thought worthy
to match with his daughter Cornelia, though there had been no friendship or
familiarity between Scipio and him, but rather the contrary."
Portrait of a Young Woman | Fresco | House in Pompeii | c. 50 CE |
bore 12 children, however only three lived to adulthood, the famous brothers
Tiberius and Caius, who died championing the rights of the common people,
and daughter Sempronia, wife of Scipio Aemilianus (Scipio the Younger) the
destroyer of Carthage.
the death of her husband Tiberius in 154 BCE:
taking upon herself all the care of the household and the education of her
children, approved herself so discreet a matron, so affectionate a mother,
and so constant and noble-spirited a widow, that Tiberius seemed to all men
to have done nothing unreasonable in choosing to die for such a woman; who,
when King Ptolemy himself proffered her his crown, and would have married
her, refused it, and chose rather to live a widow."
Ptolemys were the rulers of Egypt, the most famous, and the last, being Cleopatra.
Interestingly, we do not know for certain which Ptolemy this was. Some say
Ptolemy VI Philometor, others Ptolemy VIII Euergetes. The problem is these
two were joint rulers from 170 to 164 BCE, and Plutarch simply says "Ptolemy".
Caius, and Sempronia "she brought up with such care, that though they
were without dispute in natural endowments and dispositions the first among
the Romans of their time, yet they seemed to owe their virtues even more to
their education than to their birth."
is credited with inspiring her children towards civic duty, and ensuring that
they obtained the education necessary to accomplish great deeds. As the attitudes
towards the agrarian democratic reforms proposed by her sons ranged from outrage
to admiration, so too does opinion towards Cornelia, as to whether she motivated
her sons action, or sought to temper their brashness.
have also charged Cornelia, the mother of Tiberius, with contributing towards
it, because she frequently upbraided her sons, that the Romans as yet rather
called her the daughter of Scipio, than the mother of the Gracchi."
lived in a period of political turmoil, of which her family was often the
center. Clearly Cornelia exercised political influence. Her son Caius "proposed
two laws. The first was, that whoever was turned out of any public office
by the people, should be thereby rendered incapable of bearing any office
afterwards; the second, that if any magistrate condemn a Roman to be banished
without a legal trial, the people be authorized to take cognizance thereof.
of these laws was manifestly leveled at Marcus Octavius, who, at the instigation
of Tiberius, had been deprived of his tribuneship. The other touched Popilius,
who, in his praetorship, had banished all Tiberius's friends; whereupon Popilius,
being unwilling to stand the hazard of a trial, fled out of Italy. As for
the former law, it was withdrawn by Caius himself, who said he yielded in
the case of Octavius, at the request of his mother Cornelia."
Roman citizenry "had a great veneration for Cornelia, not more for the
sake of her father than for that of her children; and they afterwards erected
a statue of brass in honour of her, with this inscription, Cornelia, the mother
of the Gracchi."
ends his Life of Caius Gracchus with an eloquent description of Cornelia:
is reported that as Cornelia, their mother, bore the loss of her two sons
with a noble and undaunted spirit, so, in reference to the holy places in
which they were slain, she said, their dead bodies were well worthy of such
sepulchres. She removed afterwards, and dwelt near the place called Misenum,
not at all altering her former way of living. She had many friends, and hospitably
received many strangers at her house; many Greeks and learned men were continually
about her; nor was there any foreign prince but received gifts from her and
presented her again. Those who were conversant with her, were much interested,
when she pleased to entertain them with her recollections of her father Scipio
Africanus, and of his habits and way of living. But it was most admirable
to hear her make mention of her sons, without any tears or sign of grief,
and give the full account of all their deeds and misfortunes, as if she had
been relating the history of some ancient heroes. This made some imagine,
that age, or the greatness of her afflictions, had made her senseless and
devoid of natural feelings. But they who so thought were themselves more truly
insensible not to see how much a noble nature and education avail to conquer
any affliction; and though fortune may often be more successful, and may defeat
the efforts of virtue to avert misfortunes, it cannot, when we incur them,
prevent our hearing them reasonably."