Legislation Abounded

“Hence arose demagogues like the Gracchi and Lucius Appuleius Saturnis – and the senate’s partisans such as Marcus Livius Drusus with their equally comprehensive offers.  By these, Italian hopes were raised, only to be dashed by the tribunes’ vetoes.  Even during the Social and Civil Wars, contradictory legislation continued.  Then the dictator Sulla repealed or altered earlier laws, and passed more himself.  A pause followed; but not for long, since disorder quickly returned owing to the legislation of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus (II), and the tribunes soon regained their power of unlimited popular agitation.  Thenceforward measures were concerned with personal instead of national issues.  Corruption reached its climax, and legislation abounded.”  Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome III. 27, trans. Michael Grant (London: Penguin, 1956, reprint 1996),  pp. 132-133. [Emphasis added]

In this paragraph Cornelius Tacitus (b. c. AD 56) summarized part of the late history of the Roman Republic from 133 BC to 77 BC.  At this time, Roman dominance of the Mediterranean world was already changing the Roman State from a Republic to an empire. Various factions emerged in a struggle for power that lasted for decades.  Every leader of a faction seemed to want only to enrich his allies and punish his enemies.  Sulla did this ruthlessly through mass executions and exiles.  As Tacitus points out, they passed new laws constantly, but these laws only served their corrupt enforcers.

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