|The Story of the Romans|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Rome, presenting short stories of the great heroes, mythical and historical, from Aeneas and the founding of Rome to the fall of the western empire. Around the famous characters of Rome are graphically grouped the great events with which their names will forever stand connected. Vivid descriptions bring to life the events narrated, making history attractive to the young, and awakening their enthusiasm for further reading and study. Ages 10-14 |
THE JEWELS OF CORNELIA
 THE Romans attended the circus so frequently that they
daily learned to become more cruel and bloodthirsty;
and they were in general very unkind to their slaves.
Most of these were ill clad and ill fed, and were made
to work very hard. They were severely whipped for
every act of disobedience, but they were seldom
rewarded or set free.
The Roman citizens themselves, however, could do almost
anything they pleased. When brought before a judge for
any offense, they were sure of very lenient treatment,
while all the slaves, or any who were not Roman
citizens, were treated with the greatest severity for
the same crimes.
Thus the mere name of Roman citizen was a safeguard,
for none dared illtreat him who bore it.
This protection was given even to criminals who were
sentenced to death; and while other men could be
crucified, a Roman was never made to submit to that
disgrace, but was executed by the sword.
With the increase in wealth and luxury, the contrast
between the rich and poor classes became more marked
than ever. The rich reveled in plenty, while the poor
almost starved. Some of the richest Romans of this
time are said to have paid their cooks five thousand
dollars a year; but none of them thought of the poor,
who then had no hospitals, or homes, or charity bureaus
to go to when in need of help.
As you have already heard, the plebeians had at last
 gained complete equality with the patricians, even in
regard to the holding of office. The struggle between
these two classes was over; and in its stead there had
begun a contest between the rich and the poor. Some of
the plebeians had become wealthy, and they and the old
patricians formed a new class of nobles, who tried to
keep all the offices in their hands, and to make
themselves still richer.
The land had at first been distributed among all the
citizens, but it had now become the property of a few
rich men, who had it cultivated by their own slaves,
and refused to sell the grain and vegetables at
reasonable prices. The result was that many of the
poor plebeians, deprived of land, and unable to secure
work, crowded into the city. There they would have
died of hunger, had not their own magistrates, the
tribunes, sometimes dealt out to them daily rations of
This idle and pauper class was growing always larger,
and as the people had nothing to do, they were unhappy
and ready for mischief. Except for the circus, their
only pleasure was to stand along the streets, and watch
the religious processions or the triumphs; and the
returning generals soon found that the people would not
even take the trouble to cheer them as of old, unless
they scattered handfuls of small coin as they passed
Many years before this, a law had been made forbidding
any Roman citizen to own more than a certain amount of
land. This law, which is known as the
Licinian Law, did not please the rich men, so they paid no
attention to it. But it was now time that it should be
enforced, and that some one should take the part of the
 The poor needed a champion who would fight for their
rights, and they soon found an excellent one in the
brave young Tiberius Gracchus, whom they
elected to the office of tribune. This man was clever
and fearless, and the people knew that he would do his
very best to help them.
Tiberius Gracchus, the champion of the poor, belonged
to one of the most noted families of Rome. His father
was a noble plebeian, and his mother,
Cornelia, was the daughter of Scipio Africanus, the great general
who had defeated the Carthaginians in the Second Punic
Cornelia, we are told, was a noble woman and an
excellent mother. She brought up her two sons herself,
and felt very proud of them. A noble Roman lady once
asked her to show her ornaments, after she had
displayed her own; and Cornelia called her boys, and
"These are my jewels!"
On another occasion, some people were speaking of her
father, and of all he had done, and were congratulating
her upon being the daughter of so great a man.
Cornelia, however, replied that she was prouder still
of being called the mother of the Gracchi; that
is, of Tiberius and Caius Gracchus.
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