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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


IV. The Revolution

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 V - The Peoples of the North


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Page 39

Not long afterwards he was by a second decree of the burgesses expelled from the senate (650). But this was not enough; more victims were desired, and above all Caepio's blood. A number of tribunes of the people favourable to the opposition, with Lucius Appuleius Saturninus and Gaius Norbanus at their head, proposed in 651 to appoint an extraordinary judicial commission in reference to the embezzlement and treason perpetrated in Gaul; in spite of the de facto abolition of arrest during investigation and of the punishment of death for political offences, Caepio was arrested and the intention of pronouncing and executing in his case sentence of death was openly expressed.

The government party attempted to get rid of the proposal by tribunician intervention; but the interceding tribunes were violently driven from the assembly, and in the furious tumult the first men of the senate were assailed with stones. The investigation could not be prevented, and the warfare of prosecutions pursued its course in 651 as it had done six years before; Caepio himself, his colleague in the supreme command Gnaeus Mallius Maximus, and numerous other men of note were condemned: a tribune of the people, who was a friend of Caepio, with difficulty succeeded by the sacrifice of his own civic existence in saving at least the life of the chief persons accused.(23)

23. The deposition from office of the proconsul Caepio, with which was combined the confiscation of his property (Liv. Ep. 67), was probably pronounced by the assembly of the people immediately after the battle of Arausio (6th October 649). That some time elapsed between the deposition and his proper downfall, is clearly shown by the proposal made in 650, and aimed at Caepio, that deposition from office should involve the forfeiture of a seat in the senate (Asconius in Cornel, p. 78). The fragments of Licinianus (p. 10; -Cn. Manilius ob eandem causam quam et Caepio L. Saturnini rogatione e civitate est cito [?] eiectus-; which clears up the allusion in Cic. de Or. ii. 28, 125) now inform us that a law proposed by Lucius Appuleius Saturninus brought about this catastrophe.

This is evidently no other than the Appuleian law as to the -minuta maiestas- of the Roman state (Cic. de Or. ii. 25, 107; 49, 201), or, as its tenor was already formerly explained (ii. p. 143 of the first edition [of the German]), the proposal of Saturninus for the appointment of an extraordinary commission to investigate the treasons that had taken place during the Cimbrian troubles. The commission of inquiry as to the gold of Tolosa (Cic. de N. D. iii. 30, 74) arose in quite a similar way out of the Appuleian law, as the special courts of inquiry--further mentioned in that passage--as to a scandalous bribery of judges out of the Mucian law of 613, as to the occurrences with the Vestals out of the Peducaean law of 641, and as to the Jugurthine war out of the Mamilian law of 644.

A comparison of these cases also shows that in such special commissions--different in this respect from the ordinary ones--even punishments affecting life and limb might be and were inflicted. If elsewhere the tribune of the people, Gaius Norbanus, is named as the person who set agoing the proceedings against Caepio and was afterwards brought to trial for doing so (Cic. de Or. ii. 40, 167; 48, 199; 49, 200; Or. Part. 30, 105, et al.), this is not inconsistent with the view given above; for the proposal proceeded as usual from several tribunes of the people (ad Herenn. i. 14, 24; Cic. de Or. ii. 47, 197), and, as Saturninus was already dead when the aristocratic party was in a position to think of retaliation, they fastened on his colleague.

As to the period of this second and final condemnation of Caepio, the usual very inconsiderate hypothesis, which places it in 659, ten years after the battle of Arausio, has been already rejected. It rests simply on the fact that Crassus when consul, consequently in 659, spoke in favour of Caepio (Cic. Brut. 44, 162); which, however, he manifestly did not as his advocate, but on the occasion when Norbanus was brought to account by Publius Sulpicius Rufus for his conduct toward Caepio in 659. Formerly the year 650 was assumed for this second accusation; now that we know that it originated from a proposal of Saturninus, we can only hesitate between 651, when he was tribune of the people for the first time (Plutarch, Mar. 14; Oros, v. 17; App. i. 28; Diodor. p. 608, 631), and 654, when he held that office a second time.

There are not materials for deciding the point with entire certainty, but the great preponderance of probability is in favour of the former year; partly because it was nearer to the disastrous events in Gaul, partly because in the tolerably full accounts of the second tribunate of Saturninus there is no mention of Quintus Caepio the father and the acts of violence directed against him. The circumstance, that the sums paid back to the treasury in consequence of the verdicts as to the embezzlement of the Tolosan booty were claimed by Saturninus in his second tribunate for his schemes of colonization (De Viris Ill. 73, 5, and thereon Orelli, Ind. Legg. p. 137), is not in itself decisive, and may, moreover, have been easily transferred by mistake from the first African to the second general agrarian law of Saturninus.

The fact that afterwards, when Norbanus was impeached, his impeachment proceeded on the very ground of the law which he had taken part in suggesting, was an ironical incident common in the Roman political procedure of this period (Cic. Brut. 89, 305) and should not mislead us into the belief that the Appuleian law was, like the later Cornelian, a general law of high treason.

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