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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book X Chapter 6: The Ogulnian Law.[300 BC]
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During their year of office foreign affairs were fairly peaceful; the ill-success the Etruscans had met with in war and the terms of the truce kept the Etruscans quiet; the Samnites, after their many years of defeat and disaster, were so far quite satisfied with their recent treaty with Rome. In the City itself the large number of colonists sent out made the plebs less restless and lightened their financial burdens. |
But to prevent anything like universal tranquillity a conflict between the most prominent plebeians and the patricians was started by two of the tribunes of the plebs, Quintus and Gnaeus Olgunius. These men had sought everywhere for an opportunity of traducing the patricians before the plebs, and after all other attempts had failed they adopted a policy which was calculated to inflame the minds, not of the dregs of the populace, but of the actual leaders of the plebs, men who had been consuls and enjoyed triumphs, and to whose official distinctions nothing was lacking but the priesthood. This was not yet open to both orders.
The Ogulnii accordingly gave notice of a measure providing that as there were at that time four augurs and four pontiffs, and it had been decided that the number of priests should be augmented, the four additional pontiffs and five augurs should all be co-opted from the plebs. How the college of augurs could have been reduced to four, except by the death of two of their number, I am unable to discover. For it was a settled rule amongst the augurs that their number was bound to consist of threes, so that the three ancient tribes of the Ramnenses, Titienses, and Luceres might each have their own augur, or if more were needed, the same number should be added for each. This was the principle on which they proceeded when by adding five to four the number was made up to nine, so that three were assigned to each tribe. But the co-optation of the additional priests from the plebs created almost as much indignation amongst the patricians as when they saw the consulship made open. They pretended that the matter concerned the gods more than it concerned them; as for their own sacred functions they would see for themselves that these were not polluted; they only hoped and prayed that no disaster might befall the republic. Their opposition, however, was not so keen, because they had become habituated to defeat in these political contests, and they saw that their opponents in striving for the highest honours were not, as formerly, aiming at what they had little hopes of winning; everything for which they had striven, though with doubtful hopes of success, they had hitherto gained -- numberless consulships, censorships triumphs.