1. Inter bellorum magnorum aut vixdum finitorum aut imminentium curas intercessit res parva dictu sed quae studiis in magnum certamen excesserit. 2M. Fundanius et L. Valerius tribuni plebi ad plebem tulerunt de Oppia lege abroganda. 3tulerat eam C. Oppius tribunus plebi Q. Fabio Ti. Sempronio consulibus in medio ardore Punici belli, ne qua mulier plus semunciam auri haberet, neu vestimento versicolori uteretur, neu iuncto vehiculo in urbe oppidove aut propius inde mille passus nisi sacrorum publicorum causa veheretur. 4M. et P. Iunii Bruti tribuni plebi legem Oppiam tuebantur, nec eam se abrogari passuros aiebant; ad suadendum dissuadendumque multi nobiles prodibant; Capitolium turba hominum faventium adversantiumque legi complebatur.
1. Amid concerns over serious wars that were either barely terminated or else looming on the horizon there occurred an event that was insignificant for the record but which led to acrimonious debate with the passions it aroused. The plebeian tribunes Marcus Fundanius and Lucius Valerius1 brought before the popular assembly a proposal to annul the Oppian law.2 The law had been enacted by the plebeian tribune Gaius Oppius in the consulship of Quintus Fabius and Tiberius Sempronius,3 when the flames of the Punic War were burning fiercely; and its provisions were that no woman was to own more than a half-ounce of gold, wear colored clothes,4 or ride a horse and carriage in the city or a town, or within a mile of a town, except to attend public religious rites.5 The plebeian tribunes Marcus and Publius Iunius Brutus defended the Oppian law and said they would not permit its repeal; many eminent men came forward to speak for or against its annulment; and the Capitol was filled with hordes of the law’s supporters and opponents.
- 1Probably L. Valerius Tappo (350), praetor in 192. It is he who rises to defend their bill in chapters 5 to 7. Fundanius is otherwise unknown.
- 2The first eight and a half chapters of Book 24 concern what Livy himself calls an “insignificant event,” the debate over and repeal of the Lex Oppia, a sumptuary law on women’s expenses, carried by the plebeian tribune Gaius Oppius in 215. Apart from the law and his tribuneship, nothing more is known of Oppius. The speech of Cato (chaps. 2–4) is generally agreed to be Livy’s invention.
- 3Q. Fabius Maximus (116), the famous Cunctator (“Delayer”) and Ti. Sempronius Gracchus (51), great-uncle of the Gracchi brothers.
- 4This probably means purple clothes, the only color mentioned by Cato and Lucius Valerius in the debate.
- 5Levene (83) notes that although religious rites figure here as an exception to the sumptuary restrictions, “religious material is almost entirely absent” in the following debate on the law.