The Conflict of the Orders and other information from struggles past.

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Post by AlbertCurtis on Sun Apr 17, 2011 9:30 pm

"The Conflict of the Orders, also referred to as the Struggle of the Orders, was a political struggle between the Plebeians (commoners) and Patricians (aristocrats) of the ancient Roman Republic, in which the Plebeians sought political equality with the Patricians. It was the major issue during the History of the Constitution of the Roman Republic, and played a major role in the development of the Constitution of the Roman Republic. It began in 494 BC, when, while Rome was at war with two neighboring tribes, the Plebeians all left the city (the first Plebeian Secession). The result of this first secession was the creation of the office of Plebeian Tribune, and with it the first acquisition of real power by the Plebeians.

At first only Patricians were allowed to stand for election to political office, but over time these laws were revoked, and eventually all offices were opened to the Plebeians. Since most individuals who were elected to political office were given membership in the Roman Senate, this development helped to transform the senate from a body of Patricians into a body of Plebeian and Patrician aristocrats. This development occurred at the same time that the Plebeian legislative assembly, the Plebeian Council, was acquiring additional power. At first, its acts ("plebiscites") applied only to Plebeians, although after 449 BC, these acts began to apply to both Plebeians and Patricians.

The Conflict of the Orders was finally coming to an end, since the Plebeians had achieved political equality with the Patricians.[15] A small number of Plebeian families had achieved the same standing that the old aristocratic Patrician families had always had, but these new Plebeian aristocrats were as uninterested in the plight of the average Plebeian as the old Patrician aristocrats had always been.[15] During this time period, the Plebeian plight had been mitigated due to the constant state of war that Rome was in.[16] These wars provided employment, income, and glory for the average Plebeian, and the sense of patriotism that resulted from these wars also eliminated any real threat of Plebeian unrest. The lex Publilia, which had required the election of at least one Plebeian Censor every five years, contained another provision. Before this time, any bill passed by an assembly (either by the Plebeian Council, the Tribal Assembly, or the Century Assembly) could only become a law after the Patrician senators gave their approval. This approval came in the form of an auctoritas patrum ("authority of the fathers" or "authority of the Patrician senators"). The lex Publilia modified this process, requiring the auctoritas patrum to be passed before a law could be voted on by one of the assemblies, rather than after the law had already been voted on.[17] It is not known why, but this modification seems to have made the auctoritas patrum irrelevant.[18]

By 287 BC, the economic condition of the average Plebeian had become poor. The problem appears to have centered around widespread indebtedness,[19] and the Plebeians quickly demanded relief. The senators, most of whom belonged to the creditor class, refused to abide by the demands of the Plebeians, and the result was the final Plebeian secession. The Plebeians seceded to the Janiculum hill, and to end the secession, a Dictator named Quintus Hortensius was appointed. Hortensius, a Plebeian, passed a law called the "Hortensian Law" (lex Hortensia), which ended the requirement that an auctoritas patrum be passed before any bill could be considered by either the Plebeian Council or the Tribal Assembly.[19] The requirement was not changed for the Century Assembly. The Hortensian Law also reaffirmed the principle that an act of the Plebeian Council have the full force of law over both Plebeians and Patricians, which it had originally acquired as early as 449 BC.[18] The importance of the Hortensian Law was in that it removed from the Patrician senators their final check over the Plebeian Council.[20] It should therefore not be viewed as the final triumph of democracy over aristocracy,[20] since, through the Tribunes, the senate could still control the Plebeian Council. Thus, the ultimate significance of this law was in the fact that it robbed the Patricians of their final weapon over the Plebeians. The result was that the ultimate control over the state fell, not onto the shoulders of democracy, but onto the shoulders of the new Patricio-Plebeian aristocracy."
"494 BC

In 494 BC, in response to the harsh rule of Appius Claudius Sabinus Inregillensis, the plebeians seceded and fled to Mons Sacer (the Sacred Mountain) and threatened to found a new town. (The mountain was not the Aventine Hill where they gathered in 449 BC [see below], thus giving its name to the Aventine Secession in the 20th century AD). In response, the patricians freed some of the plebs from their debts and conceded some of their power by creating the office of the Tribune of the Plebs. This tribune was the first government position held by the plebs. The powers of the tribunes changed over time. At their zenith, the plebeian tribunes exercised the power of veto (Latin: "I forbid"), by which they could forbid or invalidate any decision or action of a magistrate, including a consul or praetor, or indeed of the whole Senate, that he deemed harmful to the plebs. The nadir of the tribunician power in the republican period may have occurred with the constitutional legislation of the dictator Sulla.

This settlement led to the foundation of the Temple of Concord.
[edit] 449 BC

In 449 BC, the plebs seceded again to force the patricians to adopt the Twelve Tables. Unlike the earlier secret laws which only the priests had access to, these new laws amounted to a written and published legal code. And unlike the earlier non-published laws, the Twelve Tables presented a basic set of laws and rights to the Roman public, as opposed hidden and secret laws which gave no specific rights to the ordinary plebeian Roman. The patricians vehemently opposed it but were nevertheless forced to found a commission headed by a decemvir who in turn announced the Twelve Tables in the Roman Forum. With the announcement of the new laws, the plebs were to a degree freed from injustice and subjectivity during trials. However, they were still obliged to pay slavery debt."

"The Concilium Plebis — known in English as the Plebeian Council or People's Assembly — was the principal popular assembly of the ancient Roman Republic. It functioned as a legislative assembly, through which the plebeians (commoners) could pass laws, elect magistrates, and try judicial cases. The Plebeian Council was originally organized on the basis of the Curia. Thus, it was originally a "Plebeian Curiate Assembly". Around the year 471 BC,[1] it was reorganized on the basis of the Tribes. Thus, it became a "Plebeian Tribal Assembly". The Plebeian Council usually met in the well of the Comitia. Often patrician senators would observe from the steps of the Curia Hostilia, and would sometimes heckle during meetings. The representatives of the Plebians in government are called Tribunes. These Tribunes had the power to veto the laws of the Senate."

"Since the Tribunes were considered to be the embodiment of the Plebeians, they were sacrosanct.[6] Their sacrosanctity was enforced by a pledge, taken by the Plebeians, to kill any person who harmed or interfered with a Tribune during his term of office. All of the powers of the Tribune derived from their sacrosanctity. One obvious consequence of this sacrosanctity was the fact that it was considered a capital offense to harm a Tribune, to disregard his veto, or to interfere with a Tribune.[6] The sacrosanctity of a Tribune (and thus all of his legal powers) were only in effect so long as that Tribune was within the city of Rome. If the Tribune was abroad, the Plebeians in Rome could not enforce their oath to kill any individual who harmed or interfered with the Tribune. Since Tribunes were technically not magistrates, they had no magisterial powers ("major powers" or maior potestas), and thus could not rely on such powers to veto. Instead, they relied on the sacrosanctity of their person to obstruct. If a magistrate, an assembly or the senate did not comply with the orders of a Tribune, the Tribune could 'interpose the sacrosanctity of his person' (intercessio) to physically stop that particular action. Any resistance against the Tribune was tantamount to a violation of his sacrosanctity, and thus was considered a capital offense. Their lack of magisterial powers made them independent of all other magistrates, which also meant that no magistrate could veto a Tribune.[7]

Tribunes could use their sacrosanctity to order the use of capital punishment against any person who interfered with their duties.[6] Tribunes could also use their sacrosanctity as protection when physically manhandling an individual, such as when arresting someone.[8] On a couple of rare occasions (such as during the tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus), a Tribune might use a form of blanket obstruction, which could involve a broad veto over all governmental functions.[9] While a Tribune could veto any act of the senate, the assemblies, or the magistrates, he could only veto the act, and not the actual measure. Therefore, he had to physically be present when the act was occurring. As soon as that Tribune was no longer present, the act could be completed as if there had never been a veto.[10]

Tribunes, the only true representatives of the people, had the authority to enforce the right of habeas corpus , which was a theoretical guarantee of due process, and a precursor to the common law concept of "provoco ad populum". If a magistrate was threatening to take action against a citizen, that citizen could yell "ego te provoco!", which would appeal the magistrate's decision to a Tribune.[11] A Tribune had to assess the situation, and give the magistrate his approval before the magistrate could carry out the action. Sometimes the Tribune brought the case before the College of Tribunes or the Plebeian Council for a trial. Any action taken in spite of a valid provocatio was on its face illegal.[12] In this capacity, the Tribune was the principal, and often the only, guarantor of the civil liberties of Roman citizens against arbitrary state power. The degree of liberty afforded to Roman citizens by the Tribune through the power of Provocatio was unmatched in the ancient world.

Tribunes were required to be plebeians, and until 421 BC this was the only office open to them. In the late Republic the patrician politician Clodius arranged for his adoption by a plebeian branch of his family, and successfully ran for the tribunate. When Lucius Cornelius Sulla was dictator he severely curtailed the tribunes of the plebeians by invalidating their power of veto and making it illegal for them to bring laws before the Concilium Plebis without the Senate's consent. Afterwards, the tribune was restored to its former power during the consulship of Crassus and Pompey.

Throughout the Republic and its fall, powerful individuals used the tribunes for their personal glory and gain. Clodius and Milo were both tribunes who used violence in the courts and government in order to achieve the needs and requests of Pompey and Caesar. When the Senate refused to grant Caesar's veterans lands and a further governorship of Gaul, he turned to the tribunes with his demands and got them"

Much of what I hold dear comes in its origin from this source. We are the plebes and proles still fighting the patiricans all these centuries later if you think about it really, some of the things they demanded are still needed now, chiefly debt relief and housing security. And at any rate KNOWING about history is never a useless thing.


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The Conflict of the Orders and other information from struggles past. Empty Just a bit more for those interested in these things.

Post by AlbertCurtis on Mon Apr 18, 2011 12:11 am

Some more sources and angles to examine the matter from:

"The second problem was the conflict of the orders. The king had been replaced by aristocrats, but the majority of the Romans had gained nothing from the republic. On a larger scale, Italy seems to have suffered from what is called the 'fifth-century crisis'. Its precise nature is unclear, but the archaeological record of the age is meager, the quality of products is low, and it seems that there were less imports from Greece. (It must be noted, however, that it is difficult to 14C-date objects to the fifth century.) There were social tensions between the rich and poor. A king might have intervened in favor of the poor, but the new aristocratic rulers certainly did not. The result was a debt crisis.

In c.490 (or, to use the Varronian chronology, which is too often confused with our era, 494), the poorest Romans, called the plebeians, decided to act. They demanded an improvement of their conditions. Several debtors had been sold as slaves, and this was felt to be a great injustice. Therefore, the plebeians created the office of the tribunus plebis, who was to defend the rights of the poor. In a lex sacrata (sacred law), they swore that they would defend the tribune's person at all costs, which made him sacrosanct (i.e., he could not be attacked by the magistrates). This enabled him to veto (forbid) measures by consuls, sentences by praetors and financial decisions by quaestors. After a brief struggle, the aristocrats recognized the tribunes, although they demanded that they would not intervene with military matters. The tribunes were therefore some sort of anti-magistrates elected by the people's assembly (consilium plebis)."


Aedile: Roman magistrate, responsible for the Games and the maintenance of the temples.

The original tasks of the two plebeian aediles are unclear. The name suggests that they had something to do with an aedes ('shrine'), but the Greek translation agoranomos implies that the aedile was a market superintendent. The discrepancy may be superficial, however, as the Roman tradition states that the first aediles were the assistants of the plebeian tribunes. Now the Plebs had their archives at the shrine of Ceres on the Forum Boarium, 'cattle market'. So it is possible that the first aediles were market superintendents, and as representatives of the merchants did not belong to the aristocracy, whence they had to side with the Plebs in the conflict of the orders. They were probably responsible for the organization of the Plebeian Games (Ludi plebeii).

However this may be, the aediles were recognized by the Senate as official magistrates after the reforms of the 360's, which found their expression in the Lex Furia de aedilibus. In this law, a second couple of aediles was introduced, the curulian aediles ('curulian' means 'patrician' or 'aristocratic'). Their task was to organize the Ludi Romani or Roman Games.

The plebeian and curulian aediles were elected by the Comitia tributa, an assembly of the people that was divided into voting districts. In this assembly, the rich people were less influential than in the Comitia centuriata.

In the third and second centuries, the tasks of the aediles became more important. They had to take care of the temples, they organized games and were responsible for the maintenance of the public buildings in Rome. Moreover, they took charge of Rome's water and food supplies; in their quality of market superintendents, they served sometimes as judges in mercantile affairs. Because they controlled the games, they exercised some influence on the freedom of speech: e.g., an actor or a jester could not always freely say what he had in mind.

After the Lex Vibia annalis (180), a minimum age of 37 years was required. In the first century, it became obligatory to have served as a quaestor first. Julius Caesar added two extra aediles, whose sole responsibility was the food supply. Someone who had served as aedile, was electable for the praetorship.

During the empire, the aedileship lost much of its importance. Many tasks were given to other magistrates (e.g., the praetorian prefect and the mayor of Rome). The food supply became the responsibility of a prefect.

An aedile had no bodyguard (lictor) but was allowed to wear a purple-bordered toga."


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