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Case #325

Ancient Romans Sometimes Refused to Fight


Early examples of nonviolent action are usually broad in nature with a few specific examples. However, historians recorded some early non-war scenarios and examples go back at least to ancient Rome. In 494 B.C. the plebeians of Rome, rather than murder the consuls in an attempt to correct grievances, withdrew from the city to a hill, later called "the Sacred Mount." They remained there for several days, refusing to make their usual contribution to the life of the city. The rulers and the plebeians reached an agreement with a pledge for significant improvements in the plebians' life and status. Theodor Mommsen offers an account of a similar Roman action in 258 B.C. The army had returned from battle to find proposals for reform blocked in the Senate. Instead of using military action, the army marched to the fertile district of Crustumeria, occupied "the Sacred Mount," and threatened to establish a new plebeian city. The Senate gave way.


Much of the long history of nonviolent action has been lost for lack of interest in recording and recounting these struggles. Much of the very early use of planned non-violence as a tactic did not seem to necessarily influence later struggles. However, it would be interesting to review these very early examples of nonviolence to understand the commonalities that they have with more modern actions.

When: 494 and 258 B.C.
Location: Rome, Italy
Action: Political
Setting: Urban
Extent of Action: Local
Issues: Peace/Conflict Resolution
Outcome successful
Source: The Politics of Nonviolent Action, by Gene Sharp, 1984, page 75


Prepared By: sl 11/01
Rating: 1
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