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rally gained a supremacy over the other cities of Latium, whom she protected from the common enemy; and, though conquered at one time by the Etruscans, who were a highly civilized trading
a people, she succeeded in preventing them from becoming the supreme power in Italy. The Greeks, who were the rivals of the Etruscans in those seas, inflicted severe naval defeats upon them about 474 B.C., and not many years after this the Gauls attacked them in the north, and being then weakened they were no longer able to resist Rome, who subjugated the southern part of their territory and left them powerless. Meanwhile Rome united the Latin cities under her supremacy, and was engaged with them in war against the Samnites, the brave race who lived in the mountain-land in the centre of the peninsula. These were finally subdued after three wars desperately contested, in 290 B.C., and there remained only the south of the peninsula. This was full of Greek colonies, many of which, as Tarentum, Thurii, Crotona, had long been great and wealthy cities. The city of Tarentum called in the help of Pyrrhus king of Epirus, an able leader of a warlike people. He gained victories over the Romans, but they would not accept peace, and his army was wasted in fruitless enterprises, until at last he was defeated by the Romans at Beneventum,
and finally left Italy 275 B.C., after which the whole of the south fell an easy prey to Rome, and she was mistress at last of a united Italy, 265 B.C.
To Sicily the step was easy, but it was one which brought Rome into collision with Carthage. This city, situated on the north coast of Africa at the point nearest to Sicily, had been founded by the Phoenicians or Canaanites of Tyre and Sidon. The Phoenicians were above all a trading people. They had alliances with the Etruscans in early times, and the two nations disputed with the Greeks the naval supremacy in the western seas.
The trade of the Phoenicians extended as far as the North Sea and the West Coast of Africa. They had settlements or trading-stations also in Spain (Gades, perhaps the Tarshish of the Bible), in Sardinia, in Malta, and in Sicily. In the latter island, the largest and richest of the Mediterranean, their contests with the Greek colonies were continual, and it was bere that they first met Rome, and waged against her a war of twenty-three years, which goes by the name of the First Punic (i.e. Phoenician) War, 264–241 B.c. The Romans were superior on land, for their enemies generally employed mercenary troops hired from the peoples under their rule, and even the Carthaginian navy was matched at last by the Romans, and peace was made on condition that Sicily was given up to Rome. This was the first Roman “province."
The years which ensued were spent by the Carthaginians in preparation for a new war. Hamilcar surnamed Barca resolved to organize an army which should be a match for the Romans on land, and for that purpose he went to Spain, where his army was trained in continual fighting with hardy tribes, and increased by the addition to it of those whom it had conquered. Meanwhile the Romans had gained possession of Sardinia and Corsica, and had established their supremacy on the Adriatic by suppressing the pirates, and reducing to dependence some part of the opposite coast.
We have now reached the crisis when these two powers are to decide with one another the question which is to rule in the western basin of the Mediterranean, and it is at this point that our narrative begins.
THE GOVERNMENT OF ROME. It is important to have clear ideas about the actual government of Rome at the time of this war. It was called a "republic,” which implies perhaps
, that it had some kind of self-government, but that does not tell us much. We want to know first who carried on what is called the executive governmentthat is to say, secured order and the administration of justice, and managed the foreign policy of the State-and, secondly, who passed the laws. For in every well-ordered State these two powers, the executive and the legislative, are in the hands of different persons: those who carry out the laws have not by themselves the power of altering them or making new ones. So it was therefore at Rome: the power of passing laws was in the hands of the people, inhabitants of Rome and tho country immediately round it, who voted according to various arrangements, by centuries or by tribes, which need not here be described further than to say that in the centuries high birth and property had a greater voting power than in the tribes. The bame individuals voted in each case, but according to a different arrangement. By the people in centuries the chief magistrates were elected—the censors, consuls, and prætors; and by the same people voting in tribes special officers were elected to protect the rights of the commons, who had the power of absolutely forbidding any action of any magistrate: these officers were called tribunes of the common people (tribuni plebis). They had the power of proposing resolutions to the assembly of the tribes, which when they were passed were called plebiscita, and were perhaps valid as laws at the time of which we are speaking without tho consent of the Senate given either before or after, though that was considered necessary in all matters which concerned not the special rights of the people but the general government of the State. A resolution passed by the people voting by centuries was called lex ; and such resolutions required the previous assent of the Senate, given by what was called a senatus consultum. On the whole, the people had in their hands the election of magistrates and the passing of laws, and finally the formal decision of the question of war or peace. Practically however this last was in the hands of the Senate, who conducted the foreign policy generally; and the Senate had for the most part in its hands the proposal of laws to the people, though as we have seen the tribunes might propose measures to the tribes without its previous consent: whether its sanction afterwards was necessary is not quite certain.
As to the executive government, we shall perhaps be inclined to think that it was in the hands of the magistrates elected by the people, but we shall find that this is not altogether the case. At first no doubt the two consuls had supreme power and were bound only to consult the Senate; but for several reasons the power of the consuls was less at this time than it had been. One of these reasons was