The Foreign Enemies of Rome.While these struggles were going on to relieve the distress of the poor plebeians, the frontiers were continually threatened by foreign enemies. The chief enemies of Rome at this time were the Volscians, the Aequians, and the Etruscans. The Volscians occupied the southern plains of Latium, near the seacoast. The Aequians held the slopes of the Apennines on the northeast. The Etruscans held all their original territory on the right bank of the Tiber, except the hill Janiculum. On every side Rome was beset by foes; and for many years her armies fought in defense of their homes, and almost within sight of the city. By the treaties which Sp. Cassius had formed, the Romans, the Latins, and the Hernicans made common cause in repelling these attacks. There is no continuous history of these frequent wars, but the Roman historians have preserved the memory of them in certain legends, which were sacred to the Romans themselves, and which we should not forget if we would understand the character and spirit of the Roman people.
Coriolanus and the Volscians.The Volscian wars have left us the story of Coriolanus, which tells us that this young patrician opposed the distribution of grain among the plebeians; that he was threatened by the common people and fled to the Volscians, and led an army against his native city; that his mother and his wife went to the Volscian camp and pleaded with him to cease his wars upon Rome; that Rome was thus saved, and a temple was built to commemorate the patriotism of the Roman women.
Cincinnatus and the Aequians.The memory of the Aequian wars is preserved in the story of the Roman patriot Cincinnatus, who was called from his country home to rescue the Roman army, which was surrounded by the Aequians, and threatened with destruction in a narrow defile in Mt. Algidus, near the Alban hills (see map, page 46); and who with great speed and skill defeated the Aequian army, compelling it to “pass under the yoke” as a sign of submission, and then returned the next evening to Rome in triumph. The “yoke” consisted of a spear supported in a horizontal position by two spears fixed upright in the ground.
The Fabii and the Etruscans.With the Etruscan wars is linked the story of the Fabian gens, which was one of the greatest patrician houses of Rome; and which, having volunteered to carry on the war against the Etruscans at its own expense, was, with the exception of one person, utterly destroyed by the enemy. The Fabian gens was therefore honored for having sacrificed itself in the defense of Rome.
These stories should be read, not as an accurate narration of facts, but because they show the kind of virtues that the early Romans most admired.
SELECTIONS FOR READING
How and Leigh, Ch. 6, “First Struggle of the Plebeians” (1).1
Shuckburgh, Ch. 8, “Constitutional History from B.C. 509 to 390” (1).
Mommsen, abridged, pp. 50-58, “Tribunate of the Plebs” (2).
Ihne, Early Rome, Ch. 13, “Tribunes of the People” (5).
Arnold, Hist., Ch. 9, “Spurius Cassius” (2).
Plutarch, “Coriolanus” (11).
Livy, Bk. II., Chs. 27-33, First Secession of the Plebs (4).
THE PUBLIC LAND, ager publicus.Leighton, pp. 60-62 (1); Liddell, p.96 (1); How and Leigh, pp. 56-58 (1); Merivale, Gen. Hist., pp. 70-72 (1); Ihne, Early Rome, Ch. 14 (5); Ihne, Hist., Vol. I., Bk. 2, Ch. 7 (2); Mommsen, Vol. I., pp. 347-350 (2); Harper’s Dict. Antiqq., “Agrariae Leges” (8); Niebuhr, Hist., Vol. II., p. 65 et seq. (2).
1 The figure in parenthesis refers to the number of the topic in the Appendix, where a fuller title of the book will be found.