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Ancient texts

Liv (6.34-42)

Licinius and Sextius

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    Manlius Torquatus

376 bc


Laws in favour of the plebeians
After years of war a sort of quiet period begun. That is: outside the city. In the city Licinius and Sextius would propose 3 laws in favour of the plebeians, who in the years of war and repression had lost their fighting spirit against the patricians. These laws would change that. But not without a struggle of 11 years.

Jealousy
Livius tells here a not really trustworthy story about a patrician father wish two daughters of whom one is married to a plebeian, Gaius Licinius. Though she had been raised in a patrician house, she seemed to have forgotten all the patrician customs. Possibly she was simply jealous, but her father promised her that she soon would see in her house the same honours as in her sister's house.

3 laws
Together with his son in law and another plebeian, Lucius Sextius, he wrote 3 new laws:

  1. The amount paid in interest over any debt should be deducted from the principal debt
    and the balance repaid in three equal yearly installments.
  2. The prohibition any one from holding more than five hundred jugera of land.
  3. There should be no more consular tribunes elected, but consuls and one consul should be
    elected from each order.
  Old fisherman
Old fisherman
Abguss Museum München

Elections blocked
It is obvious these laws wouldn't be accepted without a struggle. Licinius and Sextius had themselves elected plebeian tribune and proposed these laws. The patricians reacted in the usual way: They bribed or convinced some other plebeian tribune to veto these laws. Then something strangers happened. After many weeks of summoning the assembly and not being able to propose these laws, Sextius announced to block every election with his veto. This caused no magistrates to be chosen.

A gap in history?
According to Livius this lasted for five years. In similar situations the senate had reacted by immediately appointing a dictator, who would block every opposition. It has been suggested Livius found a gap in the annals and solved the problem by adding some years of anarchy. There is no reason to believe the senate would have waited more than seven years before appointing M. Furius Camillus.

Resigned
Camillus though resigned after a very short period. Livius mentions some possible causes, but chooses for religious causes and not for the threat of a fine of 500,000 ases. Immediately P. Manlius was appointed. Manlius did a remarkable thing: He chose C. Licinius Calvus as his master of the horse. A plebeian! Livius claims he had been Military tribune before, but there is no C. Licinius Calvus in the list.

Plebeian master of the horse
The appointment of the plebeian master of the horse was a boost in the right direction, from the plebeian tribunes point of view that is. Now they were able to propose their laws. Appius Claudius, grandson of the decemvir (tenman), protested of course in ea lengthy speech, but the plebeian tribunes proposed their laws anyway. They proposed their laws as a package deal, all or nothing, in order to prevent the law concerning the plebeian consul to be rejected by the people. The process was slowed down by another war against the Gauls, but short after the return, the senate and the dictator were forced to accept the new laws.

First plebeian consul
In 366 bc Sextius was elected as the first plebeian consul, but the patricians refused to approve his appointment. A compromise was found and a new office was created: Praetor. Of course this office was only open for patricians. Also the number of aediles was doubled to four and two so called curule aediles were to be patricians in addition to the two aediles who always had been plebeians.


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    Manlius Torquatus

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