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within sight of the Capitol lived to see her the mistress of Italy. While the disabilities of the Plebeians continued, she was scarcely able to maintain her ground against the Volscians and Hernicans. When those disabilities were removed, she rapidly became more than a match for Carthage and Macedon.
During the great Licinian contest the Plebeian poets were, doubtless, not silent. Even in modern times songs have been by no means without influence on public affairs; and we may therefore infer, that, in a society where printing was unknown, and where books were rare, a pathetic or humorous party-ballad must have produced effects such as we can but faintly conceive. It is certain that satirical poems were common at Rome from a very early period. The rustics who lived at a distance from the seat of government, and took little part in the strife of factions, gave vent to their petty local animosities in coarse Fescennine verse. The lampoons of the city were doubtless of a higher order; and their sting was early felt by the nobility. For in the twelve Tables, long before the time of the Licinian laws, a severe punishment was denounced against the citizen who should compose or recite verses reflecting on another.*
Satire is, indeed, the only sort of composition in which the Latin poets, whose works have come down to us, were not mere imitators of foreign models; and it is therefore the only sort of composition in which they had never been rivalled. It was not, like their tragedy, their comedy, their epic and lyric poetry, a hot-house plant which, in return for assidu-. ous and skilful culture, yielded only scanty and sickly fruits. It was hardy, and full of sap; and in all the various juices which it yielded might be distinguished the flavour of the Ausonian soil. “Satire," said Quintilian, with just pride, 6 is all our own.” It sprang, in truth, naturally from thé constitution of the Roman government and from the spirit of the Roman people; 'and, though it submitted to metrical rules derived from Greece, it retained to the last its essentially Roman character. Lucilius was the earlist satirist
* Cicero justly infers from this law that there had been early Latin poets whose works had been lost before his time. Quamquam id quidem etiam xii tabulæ declarant; condi jam tum solitum esse carmen, quod ne liceret fleri ad alterius injuriam lege sanxerunt."-Tusc. iv. 2.
whose works were held in esteem under the Cæsars. But, many years before Lucilius was born, Nævius had been flung into a dungeon, and guarded there with circumstances of unusual rigour till the Tribunes interfered in his behalf, on account of the bitter lines in which he had attacked the great Cæcilian family.* The genius and spirit of the Roman satirists survived the liberties of their country, and were not extinguished by the cruel despotism of the Julian and Flavian emperors. The great poet who told the story of Domitian's turbot was the legitimate successor of those forgotten minstrels whose songs animated the factions of the infant Republic.
Those minstrels, as Niebuhr has remarked, appear to have generally taken the popular side. We can hardly be mistaken in supposing that, at the great crisis of the civil conflict, they employed themselves in versifying all the most powerful and virulent speeches of the Tribunes, and in heaping abuse on the chiefs of the aristocracy. Every personal defect, every domestic scandal, every tradition dishonourable to a noble house, would be sought out, brought into notice, and exaggerated. The illustrious head of the aristocratical party, Marcus Furius Camillus, might perhaps be, in some measure, protected by his venerable age and by the memory of his great services to the state.
But Appius Claudius Crassus enjoyed no such immunity. He was descended from a long line of ancestors distinguished by their haughty demeanour, and by the inflexibility with which they had withstood all the demands of the Plebeian order. While the political conduct and deportment of the Claudian nobles drew upon them the fiercest public hatred, they were wanting, if any credit is due to the early history of Rome, in a class of qualities which, in a military Commonwealth, is sufficient to cover a multitude of offences. Several of them appear to have been eloquent, versed in civil business, and learned after the fashion of their age; but in war they were not distinguished by skill or valour. Some of them, as if conscious where their weakness lay, had, when filling the highest magistracies, taken internal administration as their department of public business, and left the military command to their colleagues.One of them had been intrusted with an army, and had failed ignominiously.* None of them had been honoured with a triumph. None of them had achieved any martial exploit, such as those by which Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, Titus Quinctius Capitolinus, Aulus Cornelius Cossus, and, above all, the great Camillus, had extorted the reluctant esteem of the multitude. During the Licinian conflict, Appius Claudius Crassus signalized himself by the ability and severity with which he harangued against the two great agitators. He would naturally, therefore, be the favourite mark of the Plebeian satirists; nor would they have been at a loss to find a point on which he was open to attack.
* Plautus, Miles Gloriosus. Aulus Gellius iii. 3. † In the years of the city 260, 304, and 330.
His grandfather, named like himself, Appius Claudius, had left a name as much detested as that of Sextus Tarquinius. He had been Consul more than seventy years before the introduction of the Licinian laws. By availing himself of a singular crisis in public feeling, he had obtained the consent of the Commons to the abolition of the Tribuneship, and had been the chief of that Council of Ten to which the whole direction of the State had been committed. In a few months his administration had become universally odious. It was swept away by an irresistible outbreak of popular fury; and its memory was still held in abhorrence by the whole city. The immediate cause of the downfall of this execrable government was said to have been an attempt'made by Appius Claudius on the chastity of a beautiful young girl of humble birth. The story ran, that the Decemvir, unable to succeed by bribes and solicitations, resorted to an outrageous act of tyranny. A vile dependant of the Claudian house laid claim to the damsel as his slave. The cause was brought before the tribunal of Appius. The wicked magistrate, in defiance of the clearest proofs, gave judgment for the claimant; but the girl's father, a brave soldier, saved her from servitude and dishonour by stabbing her to the heart in the sight of the whole Forum. That blow was-the signal for a general explosion. Camp and city rose at once; the Ten were pulled down; the Tribuneship was re-established; and Appius escaped the hands of the executioner only by a voluntary death.
It can hardly be doubted that a story so admirably
* In the year of the city 282.
adapted to the purposes both of the poet and of the demagogue would be eagerly seized upon by minstrels burning with hatred against the Patrician order, against the Claudian house, and especially against the grandson and namesake of the infamous Decemvir.
In order that the reader may judge fairly of these fragments of the lay of Virginia, he must imagine himself a Plebeian who has just voted for the re-election of Sextius and Licinius. All the power of the Patricians has been exerted to throw out the two great champions of the Com
Every Posthumius, Æmilius, and Cornelius has used his influence to the utmost. Debtors have been let out of the workhouses on condition of voting against the men of the people ; clients have been posted to hiss and interrupt the favourite candidates; Appius Claudius Crassus has spoken with more than his usual eloquence and asperity; all has been in vain; Licinius and Sextius have a fifth time carried all the tribes; work is suspended; the booths are closed; the Plebeians bear on their shoulders the two champions of liberty through the Forum. Just at this moment it is announced that a popular poet, a zealous adherent of the Tribunes, has made a new song which will cut the Claudian family to the heart. The crowd gathers round him, and calls on him to recite it. He takes his stand on the spot where, according to tradition, Virginia, more than seventy years ago, was seized by the pander of Appius, and he begins his story.
FRAGMENTS OF A LAY SUNG IN THE FORUM ON THE DAY WHEREON
LUCIUS SEXTIUS SEXTINUS LATERANUS AND CAIUS LICINIUS CALVUS STOLO WERE ELECTED TRIBUNES OF THE COMMONS THE FIFTH TIME, IN THE YEAR OF THE CITY CCCLXXXII.
Ye good men of the Commons, with loving hearts and true, Who stand by the bold Tribunes that still have stood by you, Come, make a circle round me, and mark my tale with care, A tale of what Rome once hath borne ; of what Rome yet may
This is no Grecian fable, of fountains running wine,
Of all the wicked Ten still the names are held accursed,
fear His lowering brow, his curling mouth which always seemed to
That brow of hate, that mouth of scorn, marks all the kindred
still; For never was there Claudius yet but wished the Commons ill: Nor lacks he fit attendance; fo close behind his heels, With outstretched chin and crouching pace, the client Marcus
steals, His loins girt up to run with speed, be the errand what it may, And the smile flickering on his cheek, for aught his lord may say. Such varlets pimp and jest for hire among the lying Greeks : Such varlets still are paid to hoot when brave Licinius speaks. Where'er ye shed the honey, the buzzing flies will crowd ; Where'er ye fling the carrion, the raven's croak is loud ; Where'er down Tiber garbage floats, the greedy pike ye see; And wheresoe'er such lord is found, such client still will be.
Just then, as through one cloudless chink in a black stormy sky Shines out the dewy morning-star, a fair young girl came by. With her small tablets in her hand, and her satchel on her arm, Home she went bounding from the school, nor dreamed of shame
or harm; And past those dreaded axes she innocently ran, With bright, frank brow that had not learned to blush at gaze of
man; And up the Sacred Street she turned, and, as she danced along, She warbled gayly to herself lines of the good old song, How for a sport the princes came spurring from the camp, And found Lucrece, combing the fleece, under the midnight lamp. The maiden sang as sings the lark, when up he darts his flight, From his nest in the green April corn, to meet the morning light; And Appius heard her sweet young voice, and saw her sweet young
face, And loved her with the accursed love of his accursed race, And all along the Forum, and up the Sacred Street, His vulture eye pursued the trip of those small glancing feet.