chapter  13
18 Pages

The Emancipation of the Plebs

The years of recovery and gradual expansion after the Gallic sack also witnessed far reaching social and political changes. Although the Gallic raid was only a temporary setback in the growth of Roman power in central Italy, it must nevertheless have aggravated the difficulties of the poor and widened social divisions. The period is represented as one of political tension and strife, leading to an attempted coup d'etat in 384 and culminating in a period of anarchy in the years around 370. These events are not well documented, however, and the details are uncertain; but the sources are agreed that the main underlying issues were land, debt and the political rights of the plebeians. Although the Roman historians and antiquarians have much to say on these matters, it is clear that they did not understand them very well. In a way this is not surprising, since many of the institutions of the archaic period had become obsolete by the beginning of the third century BC, and its true character had long been forgotten by the time Fabius Pictor began to write.