By A. H. M., Editor Jones
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Extra resources for A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic
31 THE LAW OF DEBT 1 3. The law of debt One of the chief grievances of the plebeians was the ruthless exploitation of the severe law of debt against them by patrician lenders. The fate of insolvent debtors under the Twelve Tables is set out in this extract. 13. Aulus Gellius, XX. 41-52 Tms DEGREE of faith our ancestors sanctioned, not only in public offices, but in contracts between private men, and particularly in the borrowing and interchange of money, for they thought this temporary relief to poverty, which every situation of life sometimes demands, would be ruined if the perfidy of debtors escaped without severe punishment; when therefore a debt was confessed or judgment was given, thirty days were allowed for the purpose of collecting money to pay it, and those days the ten commissioners called justi, as if a certain cessation of the law took place, during which time no legal suit could proceed against them.
The decree was to this effect: that Larcius and Cloelius, who were the consuls at the time, should resign their power, and likewise any other person who held a magistracy or had the oversight of any public business; and that a single person, to be chosen by the senate and approved of by the people, should be invested with the whole authority of the commonwealth and exercise it for a period not longer than six months, having power superior to that of the consuls. The plebeians, being unaware of the real import of this proposal, ratified the resolutions of the senate, although, in fact, a magistracy that was superior to a legal magistracy was a tyranny; and they gave the senators permission to deliberate by themselves and choose the person who was to hold it.
When he entered on his tribuneship, Lucius Icilius proposed to the plebs, and the plebs ordered, that the secession from the decemvirs which had taken place should not prove detrimental to any individual. Immediately afterwards Duilius carried a proposal for electing consuls, with right of appeal. All these things were transacted in an assembly of the plebs in the Flaminian meadows, which they now call the Flaminian circus. ) were elected consuls, and they immediately entered on their office. Their consulship was in favor of the people without any actual injury to the patricians, though not without their displeasure; for whatever provision was made for securing the liberty of the plebs they considered to be a diminution of their own power.
A History of Rome through the Fifth Century: Volume I: The Republic by A. H. M., Editor Jones