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AGRA´RIAE LEGES The laws so called were laws dealing with the distribution of Roman public land (ager publicus), and in general may be said to have been laws providing for giving to the poorer citizens allotments out of the land which belonged to the state, and regulating the tenure on which these allotments and the remaining bulk should be held. Modern discussion of the subject is founded on the brilliant exposition by [p. 1.50]Niebuhr, whose views have been in their principal features universally adopted. The main difficulty in coming to a positive opinion on the precise details of the matter is that our earliest authority (except the fragments of the Lex Thoria) is Cicero ; the earliest historians are still later, Livy and Dionysius, and the most definite accounts are from the second century of the Christian era, viz. from the Roman land-surveyors and the historian Appian. We hear of assignments of land as early as Romulus (Varr. R. R. 1.10.2, fol.; cf. Cic. Rep. 2.14, 26). The first agrarian law, according to Livy, was that proposed by Sp. Cassius, B.C. 486; but the aspect of the matter which was present to the minds of Cicero and his age was that given by the laws of the Gracchi, and the violent action of Sulla; the legal arrangements present to the Roman land surveyors were those of the early empire, after numerous assignments, with or without colonies, had been made to their veterans by Julius and Augustus Caesar and their successors. The surveys made under the Gracchi seem to have been the oldest of which clear traces remained in the official records which the land surveyors had before them. One can feel no confidence in the historical accuracy, either of the language used or of the legal conceptions involved, when Romans, with different arrangements before their eyes, were writing of the proposals of Cassius or Licinius, four or more centuries removed from Cicero, and more than six centuries from Appian or the Gromatici. But the general character of the policy, its grounds and its hindrances, is clear enough.

The agrarian laws dealt with the state lands. These lands were the result of conquest in war. It was not till towards the end of the republic that we hear of the state's acquiring territory by the last will of a foreign prince. War in the ancient world made the bodies and belongings of the vanquished the absolute property of the victors. No doubt either policy or pity generally interfered to prevent the full exercise of the power. In Italy especially the persons were not usually made slaves; but, though the conquered community was allowed to exist, it was deprived of part, often of a third part, of its lands. These confiscated lands had sometimes been utterly wasted in war, sometimes were still unhurt and in a state of cultivation, sometimes consisted of moorland and wood. Each kind requires separate treatment.

1. The cultivated lands were dealt with in one, or it may be in all, of four ways.

a. Part sold by the quaestors (agri quaestorii.).

Part was sold by the quaestors, and hence called agri quaestorii. According to the Gromatici (pp. 115, 136, 152, ed. Lachmann), the land for this purpose was measured and divided by balks (limites) into square plots (laterculi), measuring 10 actus each side, and containing fifty jugera, i. e. 31 acres, each. As containing 100 square actus, it was sometimes called centuria. The earliest instance recorded of a sale was in the case of Pometia, where, although the city was surrendered when about to be stormed, some of the chiefs were slain, some of the husbandmen were sold as slaves, the town was destroyed, and the land sold (Liv. 2.17). Such sales are referred to in Liv. 4.48; Dionys. A. R. 8.73; and the general principle is mentioned by Appian, App. BC 1.7; Plut. Tib. Gr. 8. In the second Punic war relief was given to the treasury by a sale of part of the Campanian territory (Liv. 28.46 ; 32.7), in one case by the quaestors (i.e. quaestores urbani), in another by the censors. Possibly in early days the quaestor attached to the army sold the land either in block or rough parcels to Roman speculators. The sale under the spear (sub hasta) gave full rights of ownership (Gai. 4.16). Conquest had extinguished all previous title or claims to the land, and the state would of course give legal effect to its own acts of transfer. The Gromatici appear to speak of conditions being imposed (p. 115); of this nothing is known, and the Gromatici had in view probably much later arrangements.

b. Land given assigned in full ownership to Roman citizens.

Part was given and assigned in full ownership to Roman citizens. This land was duly surveyed, measured, divided by balks into centuries, each containing 200 jugera (125 acres), and assigned by lot to Roman citizens. Such land was called agri dati adsignati (Grom. pp. 117, 118; 154-156, &c.). The oldest assignments were two jugera to each man; this formed an hereditament (heredium), i.e. he had not the mere use or life interest of the plot, but it passed to his heirs after him. The lots of 100 men thus formed one century (cent-uir-ia). Later on seven jugera were regarded as the normal size of a lot (Plin. Nat. 18.18), but in fact there was great variety, the amount naturally depending upon the extent of land open to distribution and the number of citizens to share in it. The survey and distribution were effected by a special commission of three, five, or ten men (Cic. Agr. 2.7), called IIIviri A. D. A., i.e. agris dandis adsignandis. Sometimes the distribution was accompanied by the establishment of a colony at the place; at other times the allottees were incorporated into some existing colony or borough ; sometimes they remained at Rome and had their allotments as well. The two former are principally regarded by the Gromatici (e. g. p. 2); the last--called by Niebuhr (R. H. 2.622, Eng. Tr.), from a passage in Festus, ager viritanus--has been described by Mommsen (C. I. L. i. p. 88; but see Röm. Stadtrecht, ii. p. 618, ed. 2) as having two characteristics: the assignment was made to all Roman citizens, or at least to as many as the land admitted; and the measurement of it was by saltus of four centuries each; whereas the colonial distributions were to a number of persons specified in the law, and the land was divided by centuries. Viritim dividere or adsignare, says Mommsen, might be applied to the colonial land, but was properly applicable only to a non-colonial distribution. This distinction, however, appears to rest on quite insufficient grounds; it is inconsistent with Livy's language in 4.47, 48, and 5.24, where viritim dividere is used, without further explanation, of colonies. (See however Mommsen, ll. cc.) Neither Festus nor Varro appear to have had the distinction in view; and the passage in Sic. Flacc., p. 154, quoted in support of it, when compared with p. 160, is seen to apply to colonies and to have been misunderstood by Mommsen. Siculus Flaccus is merely showing that division and assignment are different things, and may be found together (which is the usual case) or separately. But land, whether for a colony or for a non-colonial distribution, was generally divided into [p. 1.51]centuries, sometimes into oblong blocks (strigae or scamna, Grom. p. 2). Of the number or mode of selecting the persons to share in a non-colonial assignment, nothing is known. When the territory was at a distance of more than a few miles from Rome, the applicants would hardly be more numerous, as a rule, for an assignment which would attach the holder to an existing colony, than for one which would make him member of a new colony. And these assignments were evidently intended as ground for residents, not as a mere money gift in the form of land. They were however, as a fact, frequently bought up by some wealthy neighbour. There is nothing to show that Varro in explaining saltus is not referring to colonial land. The use and application of such a saltus is unknown, as also is that of a saltus of 25 centuries mentioned by Siculus Flacus (Grom. p. 158).

c. Part of the lands confiscated were given back (redditi) to their former proprietors.

Part of the lands confiscated were given back (redditi) to their former proprietors. In some cases, where a man owned pieces separated from one another, an exchange was made, so that his possessions might be continuous. These were noted in the official register as redditi commutati pro suis (Grom. 117, 55, &c.). No rent was imposed on these plots any more than on those newly assigned to Roman citizens (p. 116).

Land not disposed of.

Part was neither sold, nor assigned, nor restored to the former owners. This happened where the number to share in the distribution was not large enough for the quantity of land taken from the enemy. The whole land, so far at least as it was cultivated, was or might be duly surveyed, and divided into centuries, and allotted as far as was required. The remainder was let for a rent (vectigal). In some cases the letting or selling (for both terms were often used: see Gai. 3.145; Dig. 19, 2, 2) was for a short period, apparently from year to year (per annos, Grom. p. 116), or for a lustrum (some editors adding quinos: cf. pp. 117, 163; Dionys. A. R. 8.73); in other cases for 100 years or more (in annos centenos pluresve, so Huschke and Mommsen, Stadtrecht, ii. p. 52, ed. 2). For these long periods the lessees were state-contractors (mancipes), who then sublet to the nearest occupiers. There are however two difficulties in the passage of Hyginus, from which this account is taken. Mancipes qui emerunt lege dicta jus vectigalis ipsi per centurias locaverunt aut vendiderunt proximis quibusque possessoribus (p. 116). What is jus vectigalis? and what is per centurias? Jus vectigalis was understood by Niebuhr (ii. p. 140) and others as the right of collecting the ground rent, but with this the following part of the sentence seems scarcely to accord. (Voigt, Jus Nat. 4.587; Degenkolb, Platzrecht, p. 238.) Hyginus had before his eyes the same facts probably that Siculus Flaccus had. From Grom. pp. 162, 163, we see what these facts were. The two classes of vacant lands which formed agri vectigales were oddments and unallotted centuries. Whether these were retained by the Roman state, or granted to the colony, or restored to the borough or other commonwealth from which the district for allotment was taken, they were treated in much the same way. They were sold or let. If they were let, the rent was called vectigal. Whether it was in money or kind, whether a lump sum for the particular piece of land or so much per acre, whether a fixed amount or a certain proportion of the produce (cf. p. 235), is not stated, and may have varied considerably in different places, times, and circumstances. Nor is anything said of the persons who actually did the cultivation. They might be slaves or freemen, but they are not recognised as having any right in the soil any more than the plough-cattle, or the plough and other farming gear; but each, according to its nature, would, if the farming was to succeed, have to be maintained in active usefulness--i. e. fed, if animals; repaired, if things. To the proprietor who did not farm the land himself the vectigal was the evidence of ownership, and the realised permanent result. The interposition of a manceps between the owner and the actual cultivation of the land did not really alter this. For the manceps was not a mere collector of rents fixed by others than himself, he was the lessee; he could work the land himself if he chose, or engage with others to cultivate it: if he did the latter, he received a rent from them such as he chose or could get; and he in his turn, according to his agreement with the owner, paid a rent to him (cf. Dig. 19, 2, 53). Such share of the produce as was more than was requisite, physically and commercially, for the actuaL cultivator, represented the worth of the land to the manceps; and the same, less what was similarly requisite for the remuneration of the manceps, represented the worth of the land in these circumstances to the owner. Given no tenant-right in the actual cultivator--no right either to hold the land, or to pay only a fixed amount or share--the jus vectigalis is the same thing as the reditus (p. 162), and to buy this jus vectigalis is to be lessee of the land. The view of Niebuhr is here too narrow, because it assumes a right in the cultivator which minimises the position and the possible and legal profits of the manceps. But there is a natural propriety in the use of this term where a writer speaks of buying. The manceps did not buy the land from the state, as was the case with the agri quaestorii; he only bought, as the ancients regarded it, the produce. This last was really his own: he had the whole, not merely a percentage or poundage out of it. He paid the state for the privilege, but the payment by him has no legal connexion with, no defined proportion to, the payment to him. He does not (or at least did not originally) have an estate in the land: he buys the fruits, and the land is put into his possession merely as the easiest way for the owner to fulfil his bargain with him.

In this view the fact often mentioned in the Gromatici, that the persons who eventually worked the oddments or unallotted centuries were the nearest occupiers, is natural enough. A mere collector of taxes would be one for the whole of a district, not each adjoining occupier; but the latter is just the man for the practical cultivation of the plot in the neighbourhood of his own farm.

The second difficulty is per centurias. It might mean “by centuries,” i. e. in plots of a century each. But this does not apply well to the oddments. It rather means “throughout the centuries,” “in each century;” that is to say, whether the land to be dealt with was an oddment [p. 1.52]or a whole century, in either case it would have neighbours: in the first case possibly it would be let to an occupier in the same century ; in the second case, and possibly in the first also, it would be let to some working occupier in the next century, or at any rate to some one near enough to work the land. For the meaning above given to per centurias compare saepe enim et viarum publicarum per centurias modes exceptus est (Hyg. p. 121); scio quibusdam regionibus, cum adsignarentur agri, adscriptum aliquid per centurias et flumini (ib. p. 125), and per omnes centurias (Grom. p. 157), per singulos agros (p. 146).

Hyginus mentions a long term for a lease, viz. 100 years (or more, according to Mommsen's reading), as well as a short one--five years or one. This long term probably led to what we find in Gaius and the Digest, where agri vectigales are defined as those lands which are let in perpetuum, the conditions being that so long as the rent (vectigal) was paid the lessees were not to be disturbed. Such leases were only found in the case of lands belonging to municipal or religious corporations (Gai. 3.145; Dig. 6, 3). Longer terms than five years were forbidden by the law of the colony at Ossuna (cap. 82; Bruns, p. 116). The nearest analogy in English law is that of the church and college leases, which were continually renewed on the payment of a fine for the renewal, besides the annual rent. A claim was urged by these lessees to a perpetual tenure on the same terms, but was overruled, and the tenure is now dying out. In the days of the Republic the exigencies of the treasury led to a peculiar but similar tenure. In B.C. 200 those persons to whom the third instalment of a loan made ten years before (Liv. 26.36) was due, had their demands satisfied by a grant of lands to the value of their claim within fifty miles of Rome, that tenure being determinable only on the lessees preferring to receive their money instead, and the seignorial rights of the state being served by a rent of one as per juger being imposed. These lands were called trientabula (Liv. 31.13). Mention is also made of them in the fragments of the Lex Thoria, line 31, but nowhere else.

2. Uncultivated lands.

Besides the cultivated lands still in condition to be sold or let, there were the mountain pastures and woods. The mountain pastures and woods were often granted (concessa) to the old proprietors, or to the municipality, or to the new Roman colony, or reserved to the state. And other tracts of land were often useful as pastures where there were not sufficient farmers to require them as arable land (Grom. pp. 21, 133, 201, &c.). Sometimes a small rent was required, and then they came under the head of agri vectigales (pp. 203, 205). Sometimes strips of wood on the mountain were annexed by the original assignment to the different estates (fundi) of private persons (pp. 48). Pastures in like manner were sometimes appropriated to individuals, but held pro indiviso; sometimes made common to the whole of the community (Grom. p. 48). Appian (App. BC 1.7) says that taxes were laid for the use of the common pastures, both for larger and smaller animals, i. e. horned cattle and sheep. The last was collected by the publicans. All animals turned on to these pastures were declared to the tax-farmer, and registered in their books (Varr: R. R.,, 1.16; Festus, v. scripturarius, p. 333), and the word scriptura was frequently used both of the registration and of the tax itself (e. g. Cic. Ver. 2.70, 169; Lex Thor. 19, &c.). Pliny mentions that even in his day the term for revenue in the censor's books was pascua (cf. Cic. Agr. 1.1, § 3), because for a time this was the only vectigal (H. N. 18.11). The farmers of this tax were called (p. 37) publicani scripturarii. The pecuarii in Liv. 10.23.13, are by some taken to be farmers of this tax (Marquardt, Staatsverw. 2.292), by Huschke to be large occupiers (Varr. p. 8). Ovid (Ov. Fast. 5.283) speaks of a time when persons used to send their herds on the public pastures without being fined for it. No doubt the practice of imposing a tax for the use of the pasture, and collecting it through tax-farmers, was not adopted or regularly enforced till the administration of the republican finances had grown out of its infancy.

In the early times indeed the Romans must, like other nations, have lived more on the produce of their sheep and cattle than on the produce of tilled land. And this is supported, as Mommsen has shown, by the smallness of the allotments first spoken of--two jugera. A slave required, according to Cato ( § 51), fifty-one pecks (modios) of corn in the year; a jugerum required five pecks for seed, and produced twenty-five pecks. Hence the heredium would, if all given to corn, produce forty pecks a year, after deducting the seed. It is clear therefore that it could not support a man and his family on wheat. And spelt is still less profitable as food (Gesch R. i. pp. 184-187, notes). The common pasture was therefore a necessity. So in England, a tenant in former times (says Joshua Williams, Real Prop. p. 496, ed. 13) “required a house to live in, arable land for his maintenance, pasture for his cattle, acorns for his pigs, and wood for fuel and repairs.” Hence “common appendant is the common law right which every free tenant of arable land in a manor had to depasture upon the lord's wastes all cattle subservient to the tillage and manurance of such land; namely, horses, beasts, and sheep” (ib. p. 509).

3. Testimony of Appian.

Appian, in the passage above referred to, says that “the larger part of the lands taken from the conquered had been wasted by war, and uncultivated (ἀργὸν ἐκ τον̂ πολέμου). As the Romans had no time to distribute it, they gave notice that any one who liked might temporarily work it, paying a tax of a yearly tenth of the seed crops, and a fifth of the plantations (i. e. fruits, for instance olives and grapes).” There is no other authority for this definite historical statement of a notice and a tax. (Plut. Tib. Gr. 8 is of doubtful reference.) The Gromatici speak frequently of agri occupatorii, i.e. lands belonging to squatters, and explain that it was conquered land occupied by individuals. Singuli deinde terram, nec tantum occupaverunt quod colere potuissent sed quantum in spem colendi reservavere (Sic. Flac. p. 137; cf. Hygin. 115; Festus, p. 241, s. v. possessiones.) Livy (4.36), speaking of the year 422 B.C., says that some candidates for the tribuneship of the soldiers held out hopes of putting a rent (vectigal) on the holders of the public land, and [p. 1.53]applying it to the pay of the soldiers. The first regular pay was made in 406 B.C. (Liv. 4.59); nothing is there said of the imposition of a ground rent on the occupiers of the public land, but the pay is defrayed from a tax upon every one (tributum.

The word most frequently used to denote this occupation is possidere; the occupiers are possessores, the lands are possessiones. These are the natural expressions for the fact which was patent, and do not by themselves denote or imply anything respecting the title by which the occupiers held. The possession, however, was something different from the actual physical possession. In the case of land this will always be the case. The one or two square feet on which a man stands is not what is meant when a person is said to be in possession of a piece of land. Control as owner, real or apparent, is the meaning of possession generally, and particularly in the case of land. Whether this control is recognised, and to what extent, by the law, is another question. That the occupation was recognised by the law in the case of the public lands is clear from the fact that interference with it by the state was the subject not of judicial proceedings but of legislative enactment. It was indeed a standing principle of Roman law that what is taken from the enemy in war becomes at once the property of the captor (capientium fit, D. 41, 1, 5.7; Gai. 2.69, 4.16); and the captor in the case of land would be the Roman people, acting in the first instance through the commander of the victorious army. An allied though not identical principle was that land or anything else which was found without an owner became the property of him who seized it (capientium fit, occupanti conceditur, D. 41, 1, 1; 3; 7.3). Here comes in the language of the Gromatici above quoted, and of Livy, who makes Licinius speak of the election of a plebeian consul as necessary to effect a modum agros occupandi (6.37 init.). But an occupation of lands known to belong to the state could give no right to possess as against the state. Possession was protected by the law without regard to title, but on the negative condition that it had been obtained neither by force, nor by stealth, nor by request (nec vi, nec clam, nec precario) from the opposing litigant. And the state therefore lost none of its rights by the occupation by private persons of the territory it had conquered. Whether forcible or secret, or by permission, the occupation gave no rights to the possessor which were good against the state. (D. 41, 3, 9; 24.)

In the above it has been assumed that the principles respecting possession, which in later times were embodied in the praetor's edict, existed in effect long before. Niebuhr has suggested that the occupation of the public lands gave rise to the establishment of legal protection in the form of equitable injunctions (interdicta praetoris) for possessors, and that by analogy these rules were applied to land not belonging to the public, but otherwise occupied in a similar manner. And Savigny has supported this view (Recht des Besitzes, § 12 A, p. 197, ed. 7. See however Puchta, Cursus, § 227; Schwegler, R. G. ch. 25.6; Böcking, Pand. 1.123, n. 30). Be that as it may, the conditions of protection of possession (in the case of parts of the public land assigned as private property) are expressed in the usual words in the oldest document we have, viz. the Lex Thoria, 5.18; and applied to cases of illicit occupation of public lands in Cicero's third speech against Rullus (3.11).

Cicero's language is the more important because he is the earliest extant writer on the subject ; and, as a statesman who had actually to deal with proposals by Rullus and by Flavius (Att. 1.18.6; 19.4), for agrarian laws is, if we make allowance for the language of a party-orator, as competent a writer as we could desire. Sulla's outrageous confiscations of private property, and his grants of large tracts of land to his favourites and to his soldiers, were scarcely twenty years old, and were intended to be confirmed by the law of Rullus; and Cicero in the discussion of Flavius's law proposed the same (Sullanorum hominum possessiones confirmabam.) In the following year (B.C. 59) Julius Caesar carried an agrarian law, and it is of Julius Caesar that he is speaking in the second book (24, 84) of the de Officiis, written shortly after Caesar's death.

Cicero says (Agr. 2.26), antea cum erat a tribuno plebis mentio legis agrariae facta, continuo qui agros publicos aut possessiones invidiosas tenebant pertimescebant, the latter part of which is illustrated by Agr. 3.3, 12. Sunt multi agri lege Cornelia publicati nec cuiquam assignati neque venditi qui a paucis hominibus impudentissime possidentur. The use of possidere and its derivatives is not precise throughout these speeches (cf. Savigny, Recht des Besitzes, § 8, p. 104d. 7). The words are applied to owners just as we speak of a person's possessions, or what he possesses, without any intention of distinguishing between ownership and possession (e. g. 2.29.81; 30.82; 31.85; 3.4.15); but land could not, properly speaking, be public (i. e. owned by the state) and private as well. Hence possess is naturally applicable to public land, and possession of the public land had sometimes an unjust origin in Cicero's time, as we may well believe it had in earlier times. But Cicero lays great stress on length of possession, even of public property. Land in the provinces being conquered territory was, by Roman law, incapable of absolute ownership by private persons. They could, to use the phrase of English law, only hold an estate in these lands. In provinciali solo dominium populi Romani est vel Caesaris, nos autem possessionem tantum vel usumfructum habere videmur (Gai. 2.7; cf. Frontin. Grom. p. 35). Thus Cicero says of some Sicilian land: Qui agrum Recentoricum possident, vetustate possessionis se non jure, misericordia senatus non agri condicione defendunt, nam illum agrum publicum esse fatentur, se moveri possessionibus, amicissimis sedibus ac dis penatibus negant oportere (Agr. 2.21, 57). In the de Officiis (2.22, 78), with Caesar's measures in his mind, he classes together the expulsion of possessors, which was the object of agrarian laws, and the wiping out debts incurred by loan of money, which was another democratic measure. Cicero speaks of both proposals in the same language as measures weakening the foundations of the state. These foundations are common feeling and equity (concordia et aequitas). Common feeling is [p. 1.54]weakened when moneys are taken from some and given to others. Equity is utterly destroyed if individuals are not allowed to keep their property (si habere suum cuique non licet). Quam autem habet aequitatem ut agrum multis annis aut etiam saeculis ante possessum, qui nullum habuit, habeat, qui autem habuit amittat? He instances the action of Aratus, who, when he overthrew a despotism which had lasted at Sicyon for fifty years, brought with him a large number (sexcentos) of exiles who had been the richest men in the state. He then had to deal with the opposing claims of these to their former property (bona), and of the men who had enjoyed them for so long a period. In that time fair claims had grown up. Jam longo spatio multa hereditatibus, multa emptionibus, multa dotibus tenebantur sine injuria. It was iniquissimum that the old proprietors should be in want, it was non nimis aequum that fifty years' possession should be disturbed (ib. 23.81). Appian puts similar arguments into the mouths of the rich. They pleaded the improvements they had effected on the land, their plantations (vines and olives?), and buildings; some of the land they had bought from their neighbours; it held their fathers' tombs; it had been distributed like ancestral property; they had invested in it the dowries of their wives, and given it in dowry with their daughters. Mortgagees complained that they held it as security for loans (Bell. Civ. 1.10). In the speeches made, according to Dionysius, by Appius and Sempronius Atratinus on the occasion of Sp. Cassius's proposals, there is an acknowledgment that parts of the public land had been occupied by private persons unjustly, by force or stealth, and the proposal was made and approved by the senate that the public land should be ascertained, marked out, and partly allotted to the plebeians, partly let for five years (8.73-76). And Livy (4.51) describes an agrarian law (B.C. 413) as one which possesso per injuriam agro publico patres pellebat, and the people as feeling that if a distribution were not made of the land recently taken and then vacant, it would soon be the prey of the few. The language used in reference to the Licinian laws is not certainly applicable, as--though it is usually regarded as an agrarian law dealing with the public lands (see Madvig, Verfassung, ii. p. 372)--Huschke, followed by Clason (bk. iv. cap. 2), and apparently Marquardt (Staatsverw. 1.102, ed. 2), holds that it was a general measure limiting the extent of land to be held by any one on whatever title, and related not only to the occupation of the public land but to private land also. The penalty was a fine; subject to the fine the land could be held. Whatever may have been the real truth of the matter, the Licinian laws were treated of by Appian and Plutarch in connexion with the agrarian laws of the Gracchi.

On the whole it does not seem probable that any definite arrangement was made in early times for the occupation of public land which was not assigned or sold or leased; and the legal claim of the state to deal with it was as incontestable in theory as it was difficult to enforce without the destruction of those reasonable expectations, arising from long use, which are the foundation of the statesman's view of property. It is disputed whether the patricians alone (to the exclusion of the plebeians) had, before the Licinian laws, the right to hold the public land (see Schwegler, ch. 25.9; Madvig, Verf. pp. 90, 91): as a fact it was probably the case. They were originally, and continued for long to be, the holders of the government, and they were, as a rule, the richest. Now the occupation of tracts of land wasted in war was not a poor Roman's business; it was at a distance; it required capital; and it was insecure, partly from the enemy on the border, and partly from the state's not having assigned it as private property. Neither the peasant nor the small capitalist would find the occupation of such land at a distance from Rome attractive; moreover, he was liable to be called off to serve in war. The rich man could risk something, could employ slave-labour, could judge of the political prospects, and have a potential voice in the actions of the state. Such possessions had a natural tendency to accumulate in the hands of the few. The holders added field to field (continuare agros, cf. Cic. Agr. 3.4, § 14; Liv. 34.4.9), partly by purchase from their poorer neighbours, partly by violence, partly by taking in any vacant land adjoining (Sal. Jug. 41; Sen. Ep. 90.39; Front. Grom. pp. 48, 53). Thus were formed the large estates (latifundia, lati fundi, Grom. pp. 157, 161) which, worked by slaves, drove out, or gave no opening for, free peasants, and, portending the ruin of Italy (verum confitentibus latifundia perdidere Italiam, Plin. Nat. 18.35), roused the Gracchi to their famous legislation.

See further under the headings LEX LICINIA, SEMPRONIA, THORIA. The political struggles in reference to these and other enactments are treated in general histories.

An echo of the old controversies was roused by Vespasian, who made fresh assignments to veterans, and in doing so probably had his attention directed to the quantity of oddments (subseciva) and unallotted lands which had never been formally dealt with, and, in consequence, had been usurped by the local community or by the adjoining occupiers. He proceeded to sell them for the benefit of the imperial chest. But deputations came to the emperor, and piteously represented the general alarm which this disturbance of long-standing occupations had occasioned--quassabatur universus Italiae possessor. Vespasian stayed his hand, but Titus resumed the action. Domitian issued an edict granting the oddments throughout Italy to the occupiers (Grom. pp. 53, 133, 163). Suetonius uses a metaphor when he says “subseciva veteribus possessoribus ut usucapta concessit” (Dom. 9).


hide References (20 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (20):
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 1.1.7
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.2.169
    • Cicero, On the Agrarian Law, 1.1
    • Cicero, On the Agrarian Law, 2.7
    • Cicero, On the Agrarian Law, 3.4
    • Sallust, Bellum Iugurthinum, 41
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.18
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 18.35
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 4.9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 4, 59
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 4, 51
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 10, 23.13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 4, 36
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 31, 13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 4, 48
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 36
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 28, 46
    • Cicero, De Republica, 2.14
    • Ovid, Fasti, 5
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