This year there arose, as it were, a new era of liberty to the Roman commons; in this that a stop was put to the practice of confining debtors. This alteration of the law was effected in consequence of the lust and signal cruelty of one usurer.
His name was Lucius Papirius. To him one Caius Publilius having surrendered his person to be confined for a debt due by his father, his youth and beauty, which ought to have excited commiseration, operated on the other's mind as incentives to lust and insult.
He first attempted to seduce the young man by impure discourses, considering the bloom of his youth his own adventitious gain; but finding that his ears were shocked at their infamous tendency, he then endeavoured to terrify him by threats, and reminded him frequently of his situation.
At last, convinced of his resolution to act conformably to his honour- able birth, rather than to his present condition, he ordered him to be stripped and scourged.
When with the marks of the rods imprinted in his flesh the youth rushed out into the public street, loudly complaining of the depravedness and inhumanity of the usurer;
a vast number of people, moved by compassion for his early age, and indignation at his barbarous treatment, reflecting at the same time on their own lot and that of their children, flocked together into the forum, and from thence in a body to the senate-house.
When the consuls were obliged by the sudden tumult to call a meeting of the senate, the people, falling at the feet of each of the senators, as they were going into the senate-house, presented to their view the lace- rated back of the youth.
On that day, in consequence of the outrageous conduct of an individual, the strongest bonds of credit were broken; and the consuls were commanded to propose to the people, that no person should be held in fetters or stocks, except convicted of a crime, and in order to punish- ment; but that, for money due, the goods of the debtor, not his person, should be answerable.
Thus the confined debtors were released; and provision made, for the time to come, that they should not be liable to confinement.