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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


II. From the Abolition of the Monarchy in Rome to the Union of Italy

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

CHAPTER VI - Struggle of the Italians against Rome


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Page 12

Impartial history can attach little importance to the question whether in so doing the casuistry of Roman advocates and priests kept the letter of the law, or whether the decree of the Roman senate violated it; under a human and political point of view no blame in this matter rests upon the Romans. It was a question of comparative indifference whether, according to the formal state law of the Romans, the general in command was or was not entitled to conclude peace without reserving its ratification by the burgesses.

According to the spirit and practice of the constitution it was quite an established principle that in Rome every state-agreement, not purely military, pertained to the province of the civil authorities, and a general who concluded peace without the instructions of the senate and the burgesses exceeded his powers. It was a greater error on the part of the Samnite general to give the Roman generals the choice between saving their army and exceeding their powers, than it was on the part of the latter that they had not the magnanimity absolutely to repel such a suggestion; and it was right and necessary that the Roman senate should reject such an agreement.

A great nation does not surrender what it possesses except under the pressure of extreme necessity: all treaties making concessions are acknowledgments of such a necessity, not moral obligations. If every people justly reckons it a point of honour to tear to pieces by force of arms treaties that are disgraceful, how could honour enjoin a patient adherence to a convention like the Caudine to which an unfortunate general was morally compelled, while the sting of the recent disgrace was keenly felt and the vigour of the nation subsisted unimpaired?

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