The 'Hortensian Law'

Since the passing of the Licinian Law in 367 BC, the old contest between the orders had dwindled into nothing more than a patrician faction either to evade the law or to recover some fraction of exclusive privilege by indirect methods. In effect the old charmed circle had become extended so as to include a number of plebeian families of influence, wealth or distinction, to whom office was in practice restricted hardly less rigidly that it had been by law to the purely patrician families of old. Technically, however, the disappearance of plebeian disabilities was now finally confirmed by the Hortensian Law (287 BC), which recognized the assembly of the plebeians voting by tribes as a constitutional legislative body.

Meanwhile beyond the effective reach of Rome, the Greek cities, since the death of Alexander 'the Molossian' had been suffering continuously from the pressure of Lucanians and Bruttians. In 302 BC Sparta made another effort at Tarentum. Tarentum, by selfish disregard for the interests of her allies, strengthened her own position relatively, but lost the confidence of other Greeks. The Samnite wars of Rome brought the Greek cities into closer contact with Rome, to whose protection many of them were inclining to turn, following the example of their fellow Greeks in Campania.

While to Tarentum, which had entered upon a maritime treaty with Rome as early as 302 BC, the new Roman colonies of Venusia and Luceria in eastern Samnium seemed an intrusion into her own sphere of influence and commerce. The embroilment of Rome in the affairs of southern Italy could not long be postponed.

From 285 to 282 BC she was engaged in a short and sharp was with the Gallic Boii and Senones in the north, which destroyed the latter and pacified the former for forty years to come. But even before that was finished, Rome was drawn in to the southern complications.

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