Young Folks' History of Rome eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 220 pages of information about Young Folks' History of Rome.

One of these debtors, a man who was famous for bravery as a centurion, broke out of his prison and ran into the Forum, all in rags and with chains still hanging to his hands and feet, showing them to his fellow-citizens, and asking if this was just usage of a man who had done no crime.  They were very angry, and the more because one of the consuls, Appius Claudius, was known to be very harsh, proud and cruel, as indeed were all his family.  The Volscians, a tribe often at war with them, broke into their land at the same time, and the Romans were called to arms, but the plebeians refused to march until their wrongs were redressed.  On this the other consul, Servilius, promised that a law should be made against keeping citizens in prison for debt or making slaves of their children; and thereupon the army assembled, marched against the enemy, and defeated them, giving up all the spoil to his troops.  But the senate, when the danger was over, would not keep its promises, and even appointed a Dictator to put the plebeians down.  Thereupon they assembled outside the walls in a strong force, and were going to attack the patricians, when the wise old Menenius Agrippa was sent out to try to pacify them.  He told them a fable, namely, that once upon a time all the limbs of a man’s body became disgusted with the service they had to render to the belly.  The feet and legs carried it about, the hands worked for it and carried food to it, the mouth ate for it, and so on.  They thought it hard thus all to toil for it, and agreed to do nothing for it—­neither to carry it about, clothe it, nor feed it.  But soon all found themselves growing weak and starved, and were obliged to own that all would perish together unless they went on waiting on this seemingly useless belly.  So Agrippa told them that all ranks and states depended on one another, and unless all worked together all must be confusion and go to decay.  The fable seems to have convinced both rich and poor; the debtors were set free and the debts forgiven.  And though the laws about debts do not seem to have been changed, another law was made which gave the plebeians tribunes in peace as well as war.  These tribunes were always to be plebeians, chosen by their own fellows.  No one was allowed to hurt them during their year of office, on pain of being declared accursed and losing his property; and they had the power of stopping any decision of the senate by saying solemnly, Veto, I forbid.  They were called tribunes of the people, while the officers in war were called military tribunes; and as it was on the Mons Sacer, or Sacred Mount, that this was settled, these laws were called the Leges Sacrariae.  An altar to the Thundering Jupiter was built to consecrate them:  and, in gratitude for his management, Menenius Agrippa was highly honored all his life, and at his death had a public funeral.

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Young Folks' History of Rome from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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