2. Beginnings of Rome
3. Institutions of Early Rome
4. Etruscan Kings of Rome
5. Reorganization of Kingdom

6. Struggle against Kingship
7. Struggle for Economic Rights
8. Struggle for Equal Laws
9. Struggle for Political Equality
10. Conquest of Latium
11. Conquest of Central Italy
12. Conquest of Southern Italy
13. Supremacy of Rome in Italy
14. First Punic War
15. Second Punic War
16. Conquests in East
17. Reduction of Roman Conquests
18. Rome as a World Power
19. Times of Gracchi
20. Times of Marius and Sulla
21. Times of Pompey and Caesar
22. Times of Antony and Octavius

23. Reign of Augustus
24. Julian Emperors
25. Flavian Emperors
26. Five Good Emperors
27. Decline of Empire
28. Reorganization of Empire
29. Extinction of Western Empire
Outlines of Roman History
by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L.
New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company (1901).



Table of contents




The Contest for the Consulship, I.Wars with Veii and the Gauls, II.The Equalization of the Orders, III.


   Successes of the Plebeians.—Never before had the cause of the plebeians seemed so hopeful as it did at this time. The tyranny of the decemvirs had brought to their aid the better class of patricians. And the passage of the recent laws led them to look forward to still greater victories. They had already gained great successes, but there was still something else for them to obtain, in order to have full equality in the state. We may, perhaps, better understand just what the plebeians had gained, and what was still to be gained, if we look at the following table, which contains a list of the various rights possessed by a full Roman citizen:

   The plebeians already possessed the lowest right, the commercium; they could hold property and carry on trade just like any other Roman citizens. They had just now obtained the conubium, or the right of contracting a legal marriage with a patrician. They had also the suffragium, or the right of voting, in the assemblies of the centuries and of the tribes. As regards the honores, or the right of holding office, they could be elected to the lower offices, that is, could be chosen tribunes of the people and aediles; but could not be elected to the higher offices, that is, could not be chosen consuls and quaestors. What the plebeians now wanted was a share in the higher offices, especially in the consulship.

   The Military Tribunes, with Consular Power (B.C. 444).—Instead of allowing the plebeians a direct share in the consulship, the patricians agreed to the appointment of certain new officers, something like the consuls, who could be elected from either the patricians or the plebeians. These new officers were called “military tribunes with consular power,” and were to be elected in the comitia centuriata, where the plebeians as well as the patricians were allowed to vote. But it was also provided that consuls might still be elected instead of the new military tribunes, if the senate thought such a course was best for the state. We can easily see how this plan would work. The patricians, who had control of the senate, could decide at any time that consuls were needed; or else they might control the election and choose the military tribunes from their own number. As a matter of fact, the senate, for some years after this, decided that consuls should be elected. But later the election of military tribunes became the rule, and the plebeians gradually grew in political influence and power.

   The Censorship and the New Quaestors.—As the patricians saw that the plebeians were growing stronger, they resorted to a new plan to keep as much power as possible in their own hands. To do this, they created another new office, the censorship (B.C. 443), and transferred to the two censors some of the most important powers hitherto exercised by the consuls. The censors were to draw up the census, that is, to make an estimate of every man’s property, to assign each man to a proper class in the centuries, whether he belonged to the equites or the pedites, and to designate who was entitled to sit in the senate. The new censors were to be elected every five years, from the patrician class. But to offset this advantage, the patricians agreed that there should be two new quaestors (B.C. 421), to be elected from the plebeians. So it was that the period following the decemvirate was a period full of adroit schemes and compromises; but the plebeians were steadily gaining new rights and privileges.

   The Fate of Spurius Maelius.—That the patricians were not entirely reconciled to the growing influence of the plebeians, is shown by the story told of Sp. Maelius. While a severe famine was raging in Rome, and many poor citizens sought relief in suicide, Sp. Maelius, a wealthy plebeian, purchased grain at his own expense and distributed it to the suffering poor. His generosity so won the hearts of the people, that the patricians felt alarmed at his popularity, and charged him with the design of making himself king. It was claimed that secret meetings were held at his house, and that the republic was in danger. Hence a dictator was demanded. The aged Cincinnatus, who had rescued the beleaguered army at Mt. Algidus, was selected; and Servilius Ahala was appointed his second in command, or master of horse. Maelius was then summoned to appear before the dictator, to answer the charge of treason. But foreseeing his danger, he implored the protection of the people; whereupon Servilius Ahala drew a dagger and stabbed him to the heart. The fate of Maelius at first terrified the people, but they were Soon excited to vengeance, and Servilius was driven into exile. The name of Sp. Maelius was thus associated with that of Sp. Cassius, the author of the first agrarian law. These men were accused of aiming to be king; and both suffered death as the reward of their generous deeds.


   Recovery of Roman Territory.—The reforms which had been carried on since the fall of the decemvirs gave fresh hope to the plebeians, and inspired the whole Roman people with new life and vigor. The armies in the field also began to be successful, and Rome recovered much of her lost ground in Latium. The triple league formed by Spurius Cassius between the Romans, Latins, and Hernicans, had resulted in checking the Volscians and Aequians. The Romans now felt encouraged to attack the Etruscans in the hope of recovering the territory which they had lost years before, when the Tarquins were expelled. Fidenae, the Etruscan city a few miles north of Rome, was captured, and the way was opened to attack Veii, the strongest city of Etruria.

   Siege and Capture of Veii (B.C. 405-396).—The people of Veii were not disposed to meet the Romans in the open field, but retreated within their walls. It therefore became necessary to lay siege to the city. The great Etruscan walls were too strong to be taken by assault; and the Roman armies stationed themselves around the city for the purpose of starving the people into submission. The Roman soldiers were not permitted to return home and cultivate their farms, as they were wont to do; and so, for the first time, they were given regular pay for their services. For ten years the siege continued, when it was brought to a close by Camillus, who was appointed dictator. Veii was deprived of its inhabitants, and its walls inclosed a vacant city. The capture of Veii was the greatest victory which the Romans had yet achieved, and Camillus was given a splendid triumph, when he returned to Rome. The lands of southern Etruria also fell into the hands of the Romans; and four new rural tribes were added to the Roman domain.

   Destruction of Rome by the Gauls (B.C. 390).—If the capture of Veii was the greatest victory which the Romans had ever achieved, we now approach one of the greatest disasters which they ever suffered. One reason why Rome was able to capture Veii was the fact that the great body of the Etruscans were obliged to face a new enemy on the northern frontier, an enemy whom they feared more than the Romans on the south. This enemy was the Gauls, the barbarous nation which held the valley of the Po, and which now swept south across the Apennines like a hurricane. News of this invasion reached Rome, and it was resolved to aid the Etruscans in repelling the common foe. The Roman army met the Gauls near the little river Allia, about eleven miles north of Rome, and suffered a terrible defeat. The Gauls pressed on to Rome. They entered, plundered, and burned the city. Only the Capitol remained. This was besieged for seven months, and, according to the legend, was at one time saved by M. Manlius, who was aroused by the cackling of the sacred geese just in time to resist a night assault. At last the Gauls, sated with plunder, and induced by a large bribe, retreated unmolested or, as one legend says, were driven from the city by Camillus, the hero of the Veientine war. The destruction of Rome by the Gauls was a great disaster, not only to Rome, but to all the world; because in it the records of the ancient city perished, leaving many things in the early history of ancient Rome dark and obscure.

   The Restoration of Rome.—Such a disastrous event as the Gallic invasion would have disheartened almost any other people; but Rome bent before the storm and soon recovered after the tempest was past. Many of the people desired to abandon the city of ashes, and transfer their homes to the vacant town of Veii. But it was decided that Rome was the place for Romans. The city rose so quickly from its ruins that little care was taken in the work of rebuilding, so that the new streets were often narrow and irregular.

   The Romans seemed to be in haste to resume the work of extending their power, which had been so favorably begun with the conquest of Veii, but which had been interrupted by the defeat on the Allia. Rome raised new armies and quickly defeated her old enemies, the Volscians, Aequians, and Etruscans, who tried to take advantage of her present distress. The hero Camillus added fresh laurels to his fame. The southern part of Etruria was recovered, and its towns garrisoned by military colonies. Many towns of Latium also were brought into subjection, and they afforded homes for the poor people. Rome seemed almost ready to enter upon a career of conquest; but the recurrence of poverty and distress demanded the attention of the government, and showed the need of further reforms.


   Desire for Union.—It became more and more evident that the power of Rome depended upon the union of her people; that harmony, and not discord, was the source of her strength. The two orders had begun to feel that their interests were one and the same. There had been of late little severity in the application of the law of debt; there had been a disposition even to give the plebeians some right in the conquered land; and some progress had been made in opening to them the public offices. But the great loss of property and the devastation resulting from the Gallic invasion were sorely felt by the poorer classes, and led once more to a general state of poverty and distress. The old grievances were revived, and a new set of reformers appeared.

   The Attempt of M. Manlius.—The first attempt to relieve the distress of the poor was that of Marcus Manlius, the defender of the Capitol. It is said that he rescued more than four hundred of his fellow-citizens from imprisonment by lending them money without interest. He sold his estates and devoted the proceeds to the relief of debtors. But from being a philanthropist, Manlius soon became a social agitator, and by his harangues sought to inflame the people against the government. The patricians therefore sought to crush him. He was charged with conspiracy against the state, and was finally condemned to death. Although his motives and methods were not above reproach, his admirers placed him by the side of Sp. Cassius and Sp. Maelius as a friend of the people who was unjustly condemned on the charge of aspiring to be king.

   The Licinian Laws (B.C. 367).—The continuation of distress among the lower classes showed how useless it was to try to abolish poverty by mere acts of charity, or by exciting the populace. A more thorough mode of reform was adopted under the able leadership of the two tribunes, C. Licinius Stolo and L. Sextius.
l These men were able and broad-minded statesmen. It was not mere relief, but reformation, which they sought.

   In the first place, they saw that some relief must be given to the helpless debtor class. But instead of confiscating all debts, they proposed that the interest already paid upon debts should be deducted from the principal; and that for the payment of the rest of the principal three years’ time should be allowed.

   In the next place, they saw that some definite regulation should be made in the distribution of the public land, which by right belonged to the plebeians as well as to the patricians. They therefore provided that the occupation of the public land should be thrown open equally to all classes; that no person should receive and hold more than five hundred iugera (about three hundred acres); and that the number of slaves employed on estates should be limited, thus giving an opportunity for the poor freemen to earn something for themselves.

   Finally, they saw that the plebeians could not receive full justice until they were admitted to the highest offices of the state. They provided that the new “military tribunate” (p. 64) should be done away with, and that consuls should hereafter always be elected, one of whom must be a plebeian.

   It was natural that such an important scheme of legislation as this should meet with much opposition, but after a few years of strife, these proposals became laws. This noble body of law may be called the “third charter of Roman liberty.”

   The Praetor and Curule Aediles.—The patricians were yet loath to lose everything; and so the judicial power was taken away from the consuls and given to a new officer, called the praetor (B.C. 367), who must still be a patrician; also it was provided that there should be two patrician aediles (called curule aediles), to police the city, and to offset the plebeian aediles. Although complete equality was not even yet reached, the struggle was practically ended; and the great Camillus, who had been appointed dictator and had done much to reconcile the people, consecrated a temple to Concord.

   Final Equality of the Orders.—After the passage of the Licinian laws, there were a few offices which still remained in the possession of the patricians. These were the dictatorship, the censorship, the praetorship, and the curule aedileship. But it was not many years before these offices also were open to the plebeians,
2 and the last barrier between the two orders was thus broken down. There was then no longer any civil or political distinction between the patrician and the plebeian. The old Roman aristocracy, which depended upon family relationship, passed away with the Licinian legislation and the laws which soon followed it. The union of patricians and plebeians into one compact body of citizens was a triumph for Rome greater than the conquest of Veii, or any other foreign victory. By it she conquered herself. She destroyed for a time the elements of discord within her own borders, and prepared herself to become the ruler of the world.


Pelham, pp. 52-67, “Struggle between the Orders” (
Ihne, Early Rome, Ch. 21, “Invasion of the Gauls” (5).
How and Leigh, Ch. 12, “The Licinian Laws” (1).
Abbott, Ch. 4, “The Struggle between the Orders” (13).
Mommsen, Vol. I., Bk. II., Ch. 3, “Equalization of the Orders” (2).
Taylor, Chs. 3-5, “Struggle between the Orders” (1).
Plutarch, “Camillus” (11).
Livy, Bk. V., Chs. 20-22, Capture of Veii (4).


   TABLE OF THE REPUBLICAN MAGISTRATES, giving their names, when created, mode of election, and powers.—Gow, pp. 172-184 (8); Shuckburgh, Ch. 16 (1); Ramsay and Lanciani, Ch. 5 (8); Eschenburg, pp. 248-252 (8); Harper’s Dict. Antiqq., “Consules,” “Tribunus,” etc. (8).

1 The abbreviations for the most common Latin proper names are the following: C. for Gaius; Cn. for Gnaeus; L. for Lucius; M. for Marcus; P. for Publius; Q. for Quintus; Sp. for Spurius; T. for Titus.

2 The distinction between the plebeian and the curule aedileship gradually passed away. The dictatorship was opened to the plebeians in B.C. 356; the censorship by the law of Publilius Philo, in B.C. 351; and the praetorship in B.C. 337. The legislative power of the comitia tributa was confirmed by the Hortensian law in B.C. 286.

3 The figure in parenthesis refers to the number of the topic in the
Appendix, where a fuller title of the book will be found.


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