CHAPTER XV. SULLA'S REACTIONARY MEASURES.
It is difficult to say about part of the legislation of this period whether it was directly due to Sulla or not, just as some of the changes in the army may or may not have been due to Marius, but were certainly made about his time. The method of gathering together all the changes made within certain dates, attributing them to one man, and basing an estimate of his character on them, has a simplicity about it which enables the writer to be graphic and spares the reader trouble, but is an unsatisfactory way of presenting history. Enough, however, is known of Sulla's own measures to make their general tendency perfectly plain. [Main object of Sulla's laws.] His main object was to restore the authority of the Senate, and to do more than restore it, to give it such power as might, if it was true to itself, secure it from mob-rule on the one hand and tyranny on the other. Though he foresaw that his efforts would be futile, he was none the less energetic in making them, and may reasonably have hoped that they would at all events last his time, and enable him to enjoy himself in Campania, undisturbed by another revolution. Our acquaintance with his laws is only second-hand, for none of them survive in their original form. They are known as Leges Corneliae, a term which, though applicable to some other laws, is usually applied to those of his making.
The Senate had originally been an advising council. Then it had acquired superior authority, and issued commands to the magistrates. It was placed by Sulla in a still higher position. [He reconstitutes the Senate;] To fill up its exhausted ranks he admitted to it 300 of the equestrian order; and, though it is not certain what its numbers were to be, it is probable that they were fixed at about 500. Then he provided for keeping the list full for the future. [fills it up from the quaestors;] Hitherto a man had become a senator either at the censor's summons (of which he was practically certain if he had been tribune or quaestor), or, if he had been consul, praetor or aedile. [increases the number of the quaestors;] Sulla made the quaestorship instead of the aedileship the regular stepping-stone, and increased the number of the quaestors to twenty. [degrades the censorship.] He also, in all probability, though it is not certain, took away from the censors their right of conferring or taking away senatorial rank. 'Once a senator, always a senator,' was therefore now the rule; and as the quaestors, who were the main source of supply, were nominated by the Comitia Tributa, the Senate became a more representative as well as a more permanent body than before, and independent of the magistrates.
[Legislative initiative given to the Senate.] Secondly, we have seen that Sulla had given to the Senate by law the power which it had previously exercised only by custom, of deliberating on a measure before it was submitted to the vote of the Comitia. This was one security against any measure being carried against its interests. Before this the practice had been either for the Senate through the tribunes to submit a measure to the vote, or for the tribunes to submit a measure of their own after obtaining the Senate's authority to do so. Saturninus, as we have seen, had overridden this custom, and the only way in which the Senate could maintain its old privileges would have been either by proclaiming a justitium, as it did on that occasion, or by picking out some technical informality in the passing of the plebiscitum, had not Sulla thus made its previous authorisation absolutely indispensable. [Curtailment of the tribunes' prerogative.] The tribunes, being deprived of the power of proposing a measure at will to the Comitia Tributa, would also lose the power of prosecuting anyone before it, and probably lost the right of convening meetings in order to address the people. Sulla, too, provided that those who had been tribunes should be ineligible to other offices, and, though the right of veto seems to have been left to them, it is not clear that it was left without restrictions, while the abuse of it was made a heavily punishable offence. It is likely also that he made senators the only persons eligible to the tribunate. Positively, therefore, by making the Senate's previous consent to a law necessary, and negatively by these limitations of the prerogative of the tribunes, legislative power was placed wholly in the Senate's hands.