The great Roman Empire is clearly one among the most important civilizations which the world has ever seen. The legacy of Rome is reflected in the elements of its governance, religion, architecture and military organization. The ” Conflict of Orders ” is one of the most important phases of Roman history. It usually refers to the struggle between the Patricians ( landed aristocracy ) and the Plebeians ( peasants ) of Rome.
The most interesting fact about the Conflict of Orders is the ” Secessio” or the power of the Plebeians to refuse the rendering of military service for the fulfillment of their demands.
The five greatest instances of Secessio which happened in history are as follows-
1. Office of the Tribune
In the Roman republic, the Senate was the most powerful council but was purely oligarchical. Only the patrician males could be members of the Senate. Undeniably, anyone can glimpse the clear dominance of the patricians in the funtioning of the Roman assemblies like the Comitia Curiata and Comitia Centuriata. In this difficult context, the plebeians established their own assembly called the ” Concilium Plebis ” and forced the Roman state to formally accept 2 officers elected by the Concilium Plebis, known as Tribunes. The tribunes were the spokesmen of the plebians.
2. Code of the Twelve Tables ( 450 BC )
The second prominent demand of the plebians was for a written code of law. This demand was made due to the fact that the patricians abused their judicial power by enforcing laws according to their own will. After the plebeians threatened the patricians of conducting another secessio, a set of laws was prepared. These set of laws was prepared for the Roman citizens by the Decemvirs. The Decemvirs were the 10- member commission set up by the Senate which were presided over by Appius Claudius.
3. Office of the Consul ( 367 BC )
The Consuls were the highest officials of the Roman republic with highest authority. They were eligible for becoming members of the Senate and were usually elected by the Comitia Centuriata which was undoubtedly dominated by the patricians . Thus, the plebeians demanded the office of the Consuls in the Conflict of the Orders.
4. Abolition of Debt Bondage ( 326 BC )
The peasants frequently became the victims of enslavement by the big landowners if they were unable to repay their loans. If a Roman entered into a formal agreement or Nexum while contracting a loan in which the debtor’s person was pledged as security, failure to honour the agreement automatically meant debt bondage.
5. Magisterial Power to the Tribunes ( 287 BC)
The most important instance of the secessio in the Conflict of Orders was the demand of the pleibeians for full-fledged magisterial powers to the Tribunes. Through Lex Hortensia ( The reform of Hortensius) , the tribunes could now become magistrates. It also led to the constitution of a new Roman assembly, called the Comitia Tributa.