THE people of Rome were divided into two great classes, the
patricians or nobles, the plebeians or common people.
After the death of Tarquin the Proud, the patricians
began to oppress the plebeians even more than they had
done in the time of the kings.
Sometimes the poor were forced to borrow from the rich,
and the rich, although they lent their money, demanded
such heavy interest that the plebeians were often
unable to pay their debts.
Then the patricians swept down upon the miserable
debtors, drove their wives and children from their
home, and carried them away to work as bondsmen.
When at any time war threatened Rome, the plebeians
were called on to fight, and while they were at war
their fields lay untilled, unless they hired labourers
to work in them. In either case the plebeians
suffered. Did they hire labourers, they must borrow
money from the patricians to pay them. Did they leave
their fields untilled, they must borrow money to buy
food and seed.
Driven at length to desperation, the plebeians rose
against their oppressors, and at the very time that a
hostile army was marching against Rome, they left the
city, and encamped on a hill near the river Anio, about
three miles away. Here they determined to build a city
But the patricians could not hope to hold Rome against
the approaching foe without the help of the plebeians.
So the Senate sent a messenger to the "seceders," offering terms
 of peace and protection from the patricians, if they
would return to Rome to fight against the common enemy.
The plebeians agreed to go back to the city, and for a
time, at least, the patrician magistrates ceased to
treat them unjustly.
To make them more secure, the plebeians were now, in
493 B.C., allowed to elect two
magistrates of their own, who were to be called
As the patricians were able to appeal to the Consuls,
so the plebeians could now appeal to their tribunes
against unjust treatment.
The tribunes were elected for one year, and during that
year they were obliged to live in Rome, while their
doors were to stand open day and night, that the
plebeians might claim their protection at any hour.
This new law was made a sacred law, and the hill on
which the seceders had encamped was named the Sacred