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TRENT

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V27, Page 265 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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TRENT, the chief river in the midlands of England, the third in length in the country, exceeded only by the Thames and Severn. It rises in the north of Staffordshire, and discharges through the Humber into the North Sea, having a course of about 170 m., and a drainage area of 4052 sq. m. The source is on Biddu.lph Moor, which rises to a height of 1loo ft. The course of the river is at first southerly, and it skirts the manufacturing district of the Potteries, passing Stoke-upon-Trent. Immediately below this town the valley widens, and the fall of the river, from a point 15 M. from the source to the mouth, is only 338 ft. Passing Stone, the course becomes south-easterly, and the united waters of the Sow and the Penk are received on the right. Near Rugeley the direction becomes easterly, and near Alrewas the Trent receives the Tame on the right, and turns to the north-east. Much of the valley above this point is well wooded and picturesque, though the flanking hills are gently sloping, and of no great elevation. The river now passes (leges sacralae), which had been incorporated with the constitution on the abolition of the decemvirate. The right to summon the senate and to lay business before it was acquired soon after 367, but was seldom exercised, as the tribunes had abundant means of securing what they wanted by pressure applied to the ordinary presidents—the consuls or the praetor. When an interregnum came about and there were no " magistrates of the Roman people," the plebeian tribunes became the proper presidents of the senate and conductors of ordinary state business. At the end of the republic there were interregna of several months' duration, when the tribunes held a position of more than usual importance. A' tenure of the tribunate did not, until a comparatively late period (probably about the time of the Second Punic War), confer a claim to a permanent seat in the senate. The candidates for the office were mainly young men of good family who were at the beginning of their political career, but the office was often filled by older men of ambition who were struggling upwards with few advantages. The plebeian aediles very soon after 367 became dissociated from the tribunes and associated with the curule aediles, so that in the political hierarchy they really ranked higher than those who were originally their superior officers. The real kernel of the tribune's power consisted in his intercessio, or right of invalidating ordinances, whether framed by the senate or proposed by a magistrate to the comitia, or issued by a magistrate in pursuance of his office. From 367 B.C. down to the time of the Gracchi the power of veto in public matters was, on the whole, used in the interests of the aristocratic governing families to check opposition arising in their own ranks. A recalcitrant consul was most readily brought to obedience by an exercise of tribunician power. But, although modern readers of the ancient historians are apt to carry away the idea that the tribunate was an intensely political office, it is safe to say that the occasions on which tribunes found it possible to play a prominent part in politics were extremely few, even in the late republic. On the other hand, the tribunes found a field for constant activity in watching the administration of justice and in rendering assistance to those who had received harsh treatment from the magistrates. The tribunes were, in fact, primarily legal functionaries, and constituted in a way the only court of appeal in republican Rome. It was to this end that they were forbidden to pass a whole night away from the city, except during the Latin festival on the Alban Mount, and that they were expected to keep their doors open to suppliants by night as well as by day. They held court by day in the Forum close by the Porcian basilica, and frequently made elaborate legal inquiries into cases where their help was sought. Naturally this ordinary humdrum work of the tribunes has left little mark on the pages of the historians, but we hear of it not infrequently in Cicero's speeches and in other writings which deal with legal matters. According to the general principle of the constitution, magistrates could forbid the acts of magistrates equal to or inferior to themselves. For this purpose the tribunes were deemed superior to all other officers. If a tribune exercised his veto no other tribune could annul it, for the veto could not be itself vetoed, but it was possible for another tribune to protect a definite individual from the consequences of disobedience. The number of the tribunes (ten) made it always possible that one might balk the action of another, except at times when popular feeling was strongly roused. In any case it was of little use for a tribune to move in any important matter unless he had secured the co-operation or at least the neutrality of all his colleagues. The veto was not, however, absolute in all directions. In some it was limited by statute; thus the law passed by Gaius Gracchus about the consular provinces did not permit a tribune to veto the annual decree of the senate concerning them. When there was a dictator at the head of the state, the veto was of. no avail against him. One of the important political functions of the tribunes was to conduct prosecutions of state offenders, particularly ex-magistrates. These prosecutions began with a sentence pronounced by the tribune upon the culprit, whereupon, exercising the right given him by the NII. Tables, the culprit appealed. If the tribune sought to inflict punishment on the culprit's person, the appeal was to the assembly of the centuries; if he wished for a large fine, the appeal was to the assembly of the tribes. As the tribune had no right to summon the centuries, he had to obtain the necessary meetings through the urban praetor. In the other event he himself called together the tribute assembly and proposed a bill for fining the culprit. But the forms of trial gone through were very similar in both cases. It is commonly stated that a great change passed over the tribunate at the time of the Gracchi, and that from their day to the end of the republic it was used as an instrument for setting on foot political agitation and for inducing revolutionary changes. This view is an inversion of the facts. The tribunate did not create the agitation and the revolutions, but these found vent through the tribunate, which gave to the democratic leaders the hope that acknowledged evils might be cured by constitutional means, and in the desperate struggle to realize it the best democratic tribunes strained the theoretic powers of their office to their ruin. For the bad tribunes did not hesitate to use for bad ends the powers which had been strained in the attempt to secure what was good. But herein the t rihunate only fared like all other parts of the republican constitution in its last period. The consuls and the senate were at least as guiltyas the tribunes. After a severe restriction of its powers by Sulla and a restoration by Pompey, which gave a twenty years' respite, the essential force of the tribunate was merged into the imperial constitution, of which indeed it became the principal constituent on the civil side. The ten tribunes remained, with very restricted functions. The emperors did not become tribunes, but took up into their privileges the essence of the office, the " tribunician authority." This distinction between the principle of the office and the actual tenure of the office was a creation of the late republic. Pompey, for example, when he went to the East, was not made proconsul of all the Eastern provinces, but he exercised in them a "proconsular authority" which was equal to that of the actual proconsuls—an authority which was the germ of the imperial authority on its military side. Similarly the emperor, as civil governor, without being tribune, exercised powers of like quality with the powers of the tribune, though of superior force. By virtue of his tribunician authority he acquired a veto on legislation, he became the supreme court of appeal for the empire, and to his person was attached the ancient sacrosanctity. Augustus showed the highest statesmanship in founding his power upon a metamorphosed tribunate rather than upon a metamorphosed dictatorship, upon traditions which were democratic rather than upon traditions which were patrician and optimate. The tribunes continued to exist till a late period, with gradually vanishing dignity and rights; but it is not necessary here to trace their decay in detail. The name " tribune " was once again illuminated by a passing glory when assumed by Cola di Rienzi. The movement which he headed was in many respects extremely like the early movements of the plebeians against the patricians, and his scheme for uniting Italy in one free republic was strangely parallel with the greatest dream of the Gracchi. The history of the tribunate is interwoven with that of Rome, and must, to a large extent, be sought for in the same sources. The principles attaching to the office are profoundly analysed by Mommsen in his Staatsrecht, and are clearly set forth by E. Herzog in his Geschichte u. System der rdmischen Staatsverfassung (Leipzig, 1884). (J. S. R.)
End of Article: TRENT
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TRENT (Lat. Tridentum; Ital. Trento; Ger. relent)

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