Conflict of the Orders

After the plebeian aedileship had been created, the patricians created the curule aedileship.[36] After the consulship had been opened to the plebeians, the plebeians were able to hold both the dictatorship and the censorship. Plebiscites of 342 BC placed limits on political offices; an individual could hold only one office at a time, and ten years must elapse between the end of his official term and his re-election. Further laws attempted to relieve the burden of debt from plebeians by banning interest on loans.[37][38] In 337 BC, the first plebeian praetor was elected.[39] During these years, the tribunes and the senators grew increasingly close. The senate realised the need to use plebeian officials to accomplish desired goals.[40] To win over the tribunes, the senators gave the tribunes a great deal of power and the tribunes began to feel obligated to the senate. As the tribunes and the senators grew closer, plebeian senators were often able to secure the tribunate for members of their own families. In time, the tribunate became a stepping stone to higher office.[41] Around the middle of the 4th century BC, the Concilium Plebis enacted the "Ovinian Law". During the early republic, only consuls could appoint new senators. The Ovinian law, however, gave this power to the censors. It also required the censor to appoint any newly elected magistrate to the senate.[42] By this point, plebeians were already holding a significant number of magisterial offices. Thus, the number of plebeian senators probably increased quickly. However, it remained difficult for a plebeian to enter the senate if he was not from a well-known political family, as a new patricia -like plebeian aristocracy emerged.[43] The old nobility existed through the force of law, because only patricians were allowed to stand for high office. The new nobility existed due to the organization of society. As such, only a revolution could overthrow this new structure.[44] By 287 BC, the economic condition of the average plebeian had become poor. The problem appears to have centered around widespread indebtedness. The plebeians demanded relief, but the senators refused to address their situation. The result was the final plebeian secession. The plebeians seceded to the Janiculum hill. To end the secession, a dictator was appointed. The dictator passed a law (the "Hortensian Law"), which ended the requirement that the patrician senators must agree before any bill could be considered by the Plebeian Council.[45] This was not the first law to require that an act of the Plebeian Council have the full force of law. The Plebeian Council acquired this power during a modification to the original Valerian law in 449 BC.[46] The significance of this law was in the fact that it robbed the patricians of their final weapon over the plebeians. The result was that control over the state fell, not onto the shoulders of voters, but to the new plebeian nobility.[47] The plebeians had finally achieved political equality with the patricians. However, the plight of the average plebeian had not changed. A small number of plebeian families achieved the same standing that the old aristocratic patrician families had always had, but the new plebeian aristocrats became as uninterested in the plight of the average plebeian as the old patrician aristocrats had always been.