Episode 29 – The First Plebeian Consul

— When Lucius Sextus Lateranus walked up those stairs, he was conscious that all Rome was staring at him.

Finally, Plebeians have a Consul of their own. And just about in the right moment, because the Samnites are knocking on Rome’s doors. We also see the passing of Marcus Furius Camillus.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 29 — The First Plebeian Consul.

We are in the year 368 BC.

A young man of high stature, named Lucius Sextus Lateranus, dismounted from his horse in front of the Senate building. Three big parchments of paper were rolled under his shoulder.

Lucius Sextus Lateranus was a Tribune of the Plebes.

In other words, he was automatically an enemy of 100% of Rome’s Patricians, and nothing that was in his possession was welcome in the Senate.

Much less, three parchments, containing laws that would change Rome.

When Lucius Sextus Lateranus walked up those stairs, he was conscious that all Rome was staring at him.

Three of his projects were about to become laws, and this time, not even Camillus himself would get in the way.

The first law ruled all that all moneys paid in the form of interest, became the capital of a debt, and thus the payment of debts would no longer be like a treadmill, or a mule tied to a post, endlessly turning and grinding grain.

The second law forbade any person, Patrician or Plebeian, to possess more than 300 acres of unused land, within the confines of Rome.

It also forbade having more than 100 cows, or goats, using public lands surrounding Rome.

The third law — the most important one, said that one of the Consuls elected every year in Rome, was to be of Plebeian origin.

Patricians knew they were going to lose, and they sent for Marcus Furius Camillus to save them, once more.

So, while the deliberations of all that began, secret messengers went at full speed toward Camillus’ residence.

[…]

If you look at any chronological map of the history of Rome from the 4th Century BC, the first two things you will notice is — ONE — the year 390 — the year of the looting, and — TWO — a gap that goes from 375 to 370 BC.

Yep. A gap of five years.

There were no Consuls, or Tribunes in Rome during those years, according to Livy.

It’s like Rome skipped those years. A total vacuum.

And to explain this — as always, there are two versions.

On one hand, Livy used those years to reconcile his own dates, that is, the stuff that he has been writing in his first five books, with the reality of what was happening, because now the chronicles were true, and impossible to hide, deny, or invent. So, he found that his tale was some five years — off record.

So, a gap.

The other version is that, here there was a space where certain Plebeian Tribunes blocked votes in the Roman Senate, to the point where they gave a veto to each and every one of the decisions taken by Senators.

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Episode 18 – The Twelve Tables

— No Plebeian citizen was allowed to marry a Patrician in Rome.

Finally, laws that can be seen, touched, and learnt by heart. And that’s exactly what illiterate people, as well as lawyers do all over Rome. They recite their brand-new laws, compiled in Twelve Tables by heart.

Partial Transcript

Hello, this is Abel, speaking from Beijing, China. Welcome to my podcast.

The Tale of Rome, Episode 18 – The Twelve Tables.

Last week we saw the installation of a new office in the Republic of Rome: the Plebeian Tribune.

I also mentioned of a Roman general, who — in my personal opinion, was a cowardly general, by the name of Gaius Marcius Coriolanus, and we will see what that man did in the year 491 BC.

But first we will see the general panorama of Rome, now that Rome defeated the Latins, and now that supposedly Rome wasn’t going to have problems, no more.

Well, if you think like that, you’re wrong. Rome’s troubles are about to begin!

As a very general picture, Rome was now surrounded by three enemies.

The Etruscans to the north, with the city of Veii as its main protagonist.

The terrible Volsci to the south, and the Aequi to the east, right where the hills begin.

[…]

In fact, everyone was learning those laws by heart.

Lawyers and magistrates, defendants and accusers, debtors and tax collectors, children and the elderly, all were busy memorizing pieces of Roman law.

The tables contained several laws, some very logical, and some somewhat strange to our day and age.

As an example, not appearing in front of a judge, or lying to a judge during a trial, deserved a death penalty.

Another law said that throwing a gun into a crowd, carried the conviction that the person who threw the gun had to pay a sheep to every injured person.

I’m going to list more laws in the next episode, but as for the historical account of these tables, here’s what Livy tells us:

Tables I, II, and III contained civil procedural law.

Tables IV, V were entitled to family and inheritance.

Tables VI, VII were entitled to obligations, in other words, legal businesses of the time, and real estate rights.

Tables VIII, IX dealt with the criminal law of the time.

Table X contained the Sacred Law, a series of rules referring to the order of the inner life of the city.

and finally, tables XI and XII, also called the Unfair Tables, dealt with several criminal and civil problems.

[…]