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CHAPTER V

Children Proscribed for their Wealth -- Sales of Confiscated Property -- Taxes imposed on Women -- The Daughter of Hortensius makes a Public Speech -- The Triumvirs relax the Impost -- Outrages committed by Soldiers


[30] The calamity extended to orphan children on account of their wealth. One of these, who was going to school, was killed, together with the attendant, who threw his arms around the boy and would not give him up. Atilius, who was just assuming the virile toga, went, as was customary, with a procession of friends to sacrifice in the temples. His name being put on the proscription list unexpectedly, his friends and servants ran away. Left alone, and bereft of his brilliant escort, he went to his mother. She was afraid to receive him. As he did not consider it safe to ask help from anybody else after his mother had failed him, he fled to a mountain. Hunger drove him down to the plain, where he was captured by a robber and committed to a workhouse. The delicate boy, unable to endure the toil, escaped to the high road with his fetters, revealed himself to some passing centurions, and was killed.

[31] While these events were taking place Lepidus enjoyed a triumph for his exploits in Spain, and an edict was displayed in the following terms: "In God's name, let it be proclaimed to all men and women that they celebrate this day with sacrifices and feasting. Whoever shall fail to do so shall be put on the list of the proscribed." Lepidus led the triumphal procession to the Capitol, accompanied by all the citizens, who showed the external appearance of joy, but were sad at heart. The houses of the proscribed were gutted, but there were not many buyers of their lands. Some were ashamed to add to the burdens of the unfortunate. Others thought that such property would bring them bad luck, or that it would not be quite safe for them to be seen with gold and silver in their possession, or that, as they were not free from danger with their present holdings, it would be extra-hazardous to increase them. Only the boldest spirits came forward and purchased at the lowest prices, because they were the only buyers. Thus it came to pass that the triumvirs, who had hoped to realize a sufficient sum for their preparations, were short 20,000,000 of drachmas.

[32] The triumvirs addressed the people on this subject and published an edict requiring 1400 of the richest women to make a valuation of their property, and to furnish for the service of the war such portion as the triumvirs should require from each. It was provided further that if any should conceal their property or make a false valuation they should be fined, and that rewards should be given to informers, whether free persons or slaves. The women resolved to beseech the female relatives of the triumvirs. With the sister of Octavius and the mother of Antony they did not fail, but they were repulsed from the doors of Fulvia, the wife of Antony, whose rudeness they could scarce endure. They then forced their way to the tribunal of the triumvirs in the forum, the people and the guards dividing to let them pass. There, through the mouth of Hortensia, they spoke as follows, according to previous arrangement: "As is befitting women of our rank addressing a petition to you, we had recourse to your female relatives. Having suffered unseemly treatment on the part of Fulvia, we have been compelled by her to visit the forum. You have deprived us of our fathers, our sons, our husbands, and our brothers, whom you accused of having wronged you. If you take away our property also, you reduce us to a condition unbecoming our birth, our manners, our sex. If we have done you wrong, as you say our husbands have, proscribe us as you do them. If we women have not voted you public enemies, have not torn down your houses, destroyed your army, or led another one against you; if we have not hindered you in obtaining offices and honors, -- why do you visit upon us the same punishment as upon the guilty, whose offences we have not shared?

[33] "Why should we pay taxes when we have no part in the honors, the commands, the state-craft, for which you contend against each other with such harmful results? 'Because this is a time of war,' do you say? When have there not been wars, and when have taxes ever been imposed on women, who are exempted by their sex among all mankind? Our mothers once for all rose superior to their sex and made contributions when you were in danger of losing the whole empire and the city itself through the conflict with the Carthaginians. But then they contributed voluntarily, not from their landed property, their fields, their dowries, or their houses, without which life is not possible to free women, but only from their own jewellery, and not according to fixed valuation, not under fear of informers or accusers, not by force and violence, but what they themselves were willing to give. Who now causes you alarm for the empire or the country? Let war with the Gauls or the Parthians come, and we shall not be inferior to our mothers in zeal for the common safety; but for civil wars may we never contribute, nor ever assist you against each other. We did not contribute to Cæsar or to Pompey. Neither Marius nor Cinna imposed taxes upon us. Nor did Sulla, who held despotic power in the state, do so, whereas you say that you are reëstablishing the commonwealth."1

[34] When Hortensia had thus spoken the triumvirs were angry that women should dare to hold a public meeting when the men were silent; that they should demand from magistrates the reasons for their acts, and not furnish money while the men were serving in the army. They ordered the lictors to drive them away from the tribunal, which they proceeded to do until cries were raised by the multitude outside, when the lictors desisted and the triumvirs said they would postpone till the next day the consideration of the matter. On the following day they reduced the number of women, who were to present a valuation of their property, from 1400 to 400, and decreed that all men who possessed more than 100,000 drachmas, both citizens and strangers, freedmen and priests, and men of all nationalities without a single exception, should (under the same dread of penalty and also of informers) lend them at interest a fiftieth part of their property and contribute one year's income to the war expenses.

[35] Such calamities befell the Romans from the orders of the triumvirs. Even worse ones were visited upon them by the soldiers in disregard of orders. Believing that they alone enabled the triumvirs to do what they were doing with impunity, some of them asked for the confiscated houses, or fields, or villas, or entire property of the proscribed. Others demanded that they should be made the adopted sons of rich men. Others, of their own motion, killed men who had not been proscribed, and plundered the houses of those who were not under accusation, so that the triumvirs were obliged to publish an edict that one of the consuls should put a restraint upon those who were exceeding their orders. The consul did not dare to touch the soldiers lest he should excite their rage against himself, but he seized and crucified certain slaves who were masquerading as soldiers and committing outrages in company with them.

1 "Hortensia, the daughter of Q. Hortensius, when the matrons of Rome were burdened with a heavy tax by the triumvirs and no man dared undertake their defence, pleaded the cause of the women before the triumvirs with firmness and success. By the faithful reproduction of her father's eloquence she succeeded in getting the greater part of the pecuniary impost remitted. Quintus Hortensius lived again in his female line. He breathed once more in the words of his daughter. If his male descendants had been willing to follow this vigorous example, the eloquence of Hortensius, so great a heritage, would not have been reduced to a single pleading of a woman." (Valerius Maximus, viii. 3, 3.)

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