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At length, however, in the ninth1 year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius, the equestrian order was united in a single body; and a decree was passed, establishing to whom belonged the right of wearing the ring, in the consulship of C. Asinius Pollio and C. Antistius Vetus, the year from the foundation of the City, 775. It is a matter for surprise, how almost futile, we may say, was the cause which led to this change. C. Sulpicius Galba,2 desirous in his youth to establish his credit with the Emperor by hunting3 out grounds for prosecuting4 the keepers of victualling-houses, made complaint in the senate that the proprietors of those places were in the habit of protecting themselves from the consequences of their guilt by their plea of wearing the golden ring.5 For this reason, an ordinance was made that no person whatsoever should have this right of wearing the ring, unless, freeborn himself as regarded his father and paternal grandfather, he should be assessed by the censors at four hundred thousand sesterces, and entitled, under the Julian Law,6 to sit in the fourteen tiers of seats at the theatre. In later times, however, people began to apply in whole crowds for this mark of rank; and in consequence of the diversities of opinion which were occasioned thereby, the Emperor Caius7 added a fifth decury to the number. Indeed to such a pitch has conceit now arisen, that whereas, under the late Emperor Augustus, the decuries could not be completed, at the present day they will not suffice to receive all the members of the equestrian order, and we see in every quarter persons even who have been but just liberated from slavery, making a leap all at once to the distinction of the golden ring: a thing that never used to happen in former days, as it was by the ring of iron that the equites and the judices were then to be recognized.

Indeed, so promiscuously was this privilege at last conferred, that Flavius Proculus, one of the equites, informed against four hundred persons on this ground, before the Emperor Claudius, who was then censor:8 and thus we see, an order, which was established as a mark of distinction from other private individuals of free birth, has been shared in common with slaves !

The Gracchi were the first to attach to this order the separate appellation of "judices," their object being at the same moment a seditious popularity and the humiliation of the senate. After the fall of these men, in consequence of the varying results of seditious movements, the name and influence of the equestrian order were lost, and became merged in those of the publicani,9 who, for some time, were the men that constituted the third class in the state. At last, however, Marcus Cicero, during his consulship, and at the period of the Catilinarian troubles, re-established the equestrian name, it being his vaunt that he himself had sprung from that order, and he, by certain acts of popularity peculiar to himself, having conciliated its support. Since that period, it is very clear that the equites have formed the third body in the state, and the name of the equestrian order has been added to the formula—"The Senate and People of Rome." Hence10 it is, too, that at the present day even, the name of this order is written after that of the people, it being the one that was the last instituted.

1 Tacitus says that this took place the year before, in the consulship of C. Sulpicius, and D. Haterius. See the Annales, B. iii. c. 86.

2 Brother of the Emperor Galba.

3 "Aucupatus."

4 Suetonius says that Tiberius instructed the ædiles to prohibit stews and eating-houses: from which we may conclude, Hardouin says, that C. Sulpicius Galba was an ædile.

5 Or, in other words, belonging to the equestrian order. The Roman equites often followed the pursuits of bankers, and farmers of the public revenues.

6 A law passed in the time of Julius Cæsar, B.C. 69, which permitted Roman equites, in case they or their parents had ever had a Census equestris, to sit in the fourteen rows fixed by the Lex Roscia Theatralis.

7 Caligula.

8 Conjointly with L. Vitellius.

9 Or farmers of the public revenues; the "publicans" of Scripture. In reality, they were mostly members of the equestrian order, and the words "equites" and "publicani" are often used as synonymous.

10 "This passage seems to be the addition of some ignorant copyist. It is indeed a remarkable fact, that we have no inscription in which we see the Equites named after the people as well as the Senate."—Laboulaye, Essai sur les lois Criminelles des Romains: Paris, 1845, p. 224.

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