Livy on Law

the early history of rome

Everybody knew that was with the Tarquins was sure to come; it was, however, unexpectedly delayed, and the first move in the struggle took a form which no one had anticipated. Treason within the city itself nearly cost Rome her liberty. It began with a group of young aristocrats who had found life under the monarchy very agreeable; accustomed to associate with the younger members of the royal family, they had been able to give a freer rein to their appetites and to live the dissolute and irresponsible life of the court, Under the new dispensation they missed the freedom to do as they pleased, and begun to complain that what might be liberty for others was more like slavery for themselves. A king, they argued, was, after all, a human being, and there was a chance of getting from him what one wanted, rightly or wrongly; under a monarchy there was room for influence and favour; a king could be angry, and forgive; he knew the difference between an enemy and a friend. Law, on the other hand, was impersonal and inexorable. Law had no ears, An excellent thing, no doubt, for paupers , it was worse than useless for the great, as it admitted no relaxation or indulgence towards a man who ventured beyond the bounds of mediocrity. Human nature not being perfect, to suppose that a man could live in pure innocence under the law as, to put it mildly, risky.


1. Livy. The Early History of Rome. Books I-V of The History of Rome from Its Foundation. Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin, 1971. Print. 108.


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