Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson
Attacks of the Democracy - Corn-Laws - Attempts to Restore the Tribunician Power
There was no lack, indeed, of men who had in view the re-establishment of the Gracchan constitution, or of projects to attain piecemeal in the way of constitutional reform what Lepidus and Sertorius had attempted by the path of revolution. The government had already under the pressure of the agitation of Lepidus immediately after the death of Sulla consented to a limited revival of the largesses of grain (676); and it did, moreover, what it could to satisfy the proletariate of the capital in regard to this vital question. When, notwithstanding those distributions, the high price of grain occasioned chiefly by piracy produced so oppressive a dearth in Rome as to lead to a violent tumult in the streets in 679, extraordinary purchases of Sicilian grain on account of the government relieved for the time the most severe distress; and a corn-law brought in by the consuls of 681 regulated for the future the purchases of Sicilian grain and furnished the government, although at the expense of the provincials, with better means of obviating similar evils. But the less material points of difference also--the restoration of the tribunician power in its old compass, and the setting aside of the senatorial tribunals-- ceased not to form subjects of popular agitation; and in their case the government offered more decided resistance.
The dispute regarding the tribunician magistracy was opened as early as 678, immediately after the defeat of Lepidus, by the tribune of the people Lucius Sicinius, perhaps a descendant of the man of the same name who had first filled this office more than four hundred years before; but it failed before the resistance offered to it by the active consul Gaius Curio. In 680 Lucius Quinctius resumed the agitation, but was induced by the authority of the consul Lucius Lucullus to desist from his purpose. The matter was taken up in the following year with greater zeal by Gaius Licinius Macer, who-- in a way characteristic of the period--carried his literary studies into public life, and, just as he had read in the Annals, counselled the burgesses to refuse the conscription.
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