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14. [36]

I am speaking before the priests; I say that that adoption did not take place according to the sacerdotal law. In the first place, because your respective ages are such that the man who has adopted you as your father might, as far as his age went, have been your son; in the second place, because a question is usually put as to the reason for the adoption, in order that the adopter may be a person who is seeking by regular and sacerdotal law that which by the ordinary process of nature he is no longer able to obtain; and that he may adopt a son in such a manner, as to in nowise impair the dignity of the families or the reverence belonging to their sacred ceremonies; and, above all things, that no false pretence, or fraud, or trickery, may creep in; so that this fictitious adoption of a son may appear to imitate as far as possible the real case of children being born to a man. [37] But what greater false pretence can there be than for a beardless young man, a vigorous man and a husband, to come forward, and to say that he wishes to adopt as his own son a senator of the Roman people, and for all men to know and see that this senator is adopted, not in order to become really the son of the plebeian, but merely in order that he may quit the patrician body, and be made a tribune of the people? And all that without any disguise. For in this case the adopted son was immediately emancipated, lest he should really have become the son of him who adopted him. Why then is he adopted at all? Only approve of this sort of adoption, and in a moment the sacred ceremonies of every family, of which you ought to be the guardians, will be abolished, and not one patrician will be left. For why should any one be willing to be incapable of being made a tribune of the people? to have his power of standing for the consulship narrowed? and, while he might arrive at the priesthood, not to arrive at it because there is not a vacancy at the moment for a patrician?1 Whenever anything happens to any one to make it more convenient for him to be a plebeian, he will be adopted in the same manner as Clodius. [38] And so in a short time the Roman people will neither have a king of the sacrifices,2 nor flamines,3 nor Salii,4 nor one half of the rest of the priests, nor any one who has a right to open the comitia centuriata, or curiata; and the auspices of the Roman people must come to an end if no patrician magistrates are created, as there will be no interrex,5 for he must be a patrician, and must be nominated by a patrician. I said before the priests, that that adoption had not been approved by any decree of this college; that it had been executed contrary to every provision of the sacerdotal law; that it ought to be considered as no adoption at all; and if there is an end to that, you see at once that there is an end likewise of the whole of your tribuneship.

1 When the number of pontifices was increased to eight, it was provided that one half of that number should always be plebeians. See Livy, x 6.

2 When the civil and military powers of the king were transferred to the two consuls, these magistrates were not invested with that part of the royal dignity by virtue of which he had been the highest of his nation; but this priestly part of his office was transferred to a priest called rex sacrificulus, or rex sacrorum. He was always elected and inaugurated in the comitia calata, under the presidency of the pontiffs, and was always a patrician, for as he had no influence upon the management of political affairs, the plebeians never coveted this dignity.

3 Flamen was the name for any priest who was devoted to the service of one particular god.

4 The Salii were the priests of Mars Gradivus, and were said to have been instituted by Numa. They were twelve in number, chosen from the patricians only, even down to the very latest times.

5 An interrex was an officer first appointed on the death of Romulus. Under the republic interreges were appointed for holding the comitia for the election of consuls, when the consul, through civil commotions or other causes, had been unable to do so during their year of office. Each interrex held the office for only five days. Plebeians were not admissible to this office; and consequently after plebeians were admitted into the Senate, the patrician senators met without the plebeian members to elect an interrex.

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 6
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