Supremacy of the New Nobility

The Hortensian Law deprived the patricians of their last weapon against the plebeians, and thus resolved the last great political question of the era. No such important political changes occurred between 287 BC and 133 BC.[48] The important laws of this era were still enacted by the senate.[49] In effect, the plebeians were satisfied with the possession of power, but did not care to use it. The senate was supreme during this era because the era was dominated by questions of foreign and military policy.[50] This was the most militarily active era of the Roman Republic. In the final decades of this era many plebeians grew poorer. The long military campaigns had forced citizens to leave their farms to fight, while their farms fell into disrepair. The landed aristocracy began buying bankrupted farms at discounted prices. As commodity prices fell, many farmers could no longer operate their farms at a profit.[51] The result was the ultimate bankruptcy of countless farmers. Masses of unemployed plebeians soon began to flood into Rome, and thus into the ranks of the legislative assemblies. Their poverty usually led them to vote for the candidate who offered them the most. A new culture of dependency was emerging, in which citizens would look to any populist leader for relief.[52] In Roman law, Lex Hortensia (284 BC) was the final result of the long class struggle between patricians and plebeians, where the plebeians would periodically secede from the city in protest (secessio plebis) when they felt they were deprived of their rights. After 287 BC, the Comitia Centuriata falls into the background and the tribunes, working with the Senate, make the Lex Hortensia a stage in the development of Senatorial domination in the State. The Lex Hortensia contained similar stipulations of the two earlier laws, the Lex Valeria-Horatia of 449 BC and Lex Publica ut plebei scita omnes quirites tenerent of 339 BC. The statement that set the Lex Hortensia apart was the prelude that ‘olim patricii dicebant plebi scitis se non teneri, quae sine auctoritate eorum facta essent.’ This meant that through their plebeian assembly the p ebeians could make laws that were considered binding for the entire Roman people (both patrician and plebeian), but which excluded the patricians of having any say in the legislative process in the plebeian assembly. Patricians tended to be the wealthy upper crust of ancient Roman society. The plebeians were seen as the average citizens. Although many still attained wealth and status, they did not have the ancestral background associated with the patricians. This resulted in the struggle for power between the two classes. [edit]Quintus Hortensius Quintus Hortensius was a Roman dictator during the 3rd century BC, when the struggle between plebeians and patricians was at an apex. For two centuries, the classes had been locked in a struggle, in which the patricians tried to control and maintain the ever-growing plebeian privilege. Often in response to the actions of the Senate, the plebs would take composite action and seceded from the city. In 287 BC, the plebeians seceded to the Janiculan hill, and in response Quintus Hortensius was appointed dictator. Shortly thereafter he passed a law to attempt to end the struggle between the plebeian and patrician classes; because the law was sponsored by Quintus Hortensius, it became known as the Lex Hortensia, or "the Hortensian law". Though very little is known about him personally, it has been suggested he died while still dictator. [edit]Lex Hortensia A law passed in 287 BC, as suggested by appointed dictator, Quintus Hortensius, which made all resolutions passed by plebeians binding on all citizens. What made this law especially noteworthy was that each resolution was binding, regardless of prior approval of the Senate, which made the measures passed just as binding as those passed by the Roman assemblies. It was passed in direct response to the patricians’ denial to identify some of the plebian decisions as binding upon them. This also allowed for the plebeians to arise to a higher status, where the wealthy now held the same amount of power and voice as the patricians did in the Senate. This also allowed the dominance of the patrician officials to wither.