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Bill Thayer

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II: Part 2

This webpage reproduces part of
The Epitome of Roman History


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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II: Part 4

Lucius Annaeus Florus

The two books of the Epitome,
extracted from Titus Livius,
of all the wars of seven hundred years

Book II (continued)

 p247  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] VIIII. The Civil War of Marius

III, 21 The only thing still wanting to complete the misfortunes of the Roman people was that they should draw the sword upon each other at home, and that citizens should fight against citizens in the midst of the city and in the forum like gladiators in the arena. 2 It would be possible to bear the calamity with greater equanimity, if plebeian leaders, or leaders who, if noble, were yet bad men, had taken the chief part in such wickedness. On this occasion (alas for the crime of it!) what heroes, what generals they were — Marius and Sulla, the pride and glory of their age — who even gave the support of their high position to the very worst of misdeeds!

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 3 The Marian or Sullan civil war was waged under three different constellations,​1 if I may use the expression. In the first period the conflict was of the nature of a mild and unimportant rising rather than a war, the cruelty being confined to the leaders of the two parties; 4 then it became a more bitter and cruel struggle, in which the victory struck at the very heart of the senate; 5 finally, all the bounds of the rage, not merely of citizen against citizen, but of enemy against enemy, were excelled, the fury of war being supported by all the resources of Italy, and hatred venting its cruelty till none remained to be slain.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 6 The origin and cause of the war was Marius' insatiable desire for office, which led him to seek, by means of the law of Sulpicius, the province allotted to Sulla. The latter, unable to tolerate this injury, immediately wheeled round his legions, and postponing the war against Mithridates, poured his army  p249 in two columns through the Esquiline and Colline Gates. 7 When the consuls Sulpicius and Albinovanus​2 had thrown their troops in his way, and stones and weapons were being hurled on all sides from the walls, Sulla himself also forced a passage by hurling burning brands and occupied the citadel of the Capitol, which had escaped capture by the Carthaginians and Gallic Senones, like a victorious general in a captive city. 8 Then after his adversaries had been declared enemies of the State by a decree of the senate, he took violent measures, under the form prescribed by law, against the tribune who was within reach and other members of the opposing faction. Marius saved himself by flight like that of a runaway slave, or rather fate preserved him to fight another day.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 9 In the consul­ship of Cornelius Cinna and Gnaeus Octavius,​3 the flames, which had been imperfectly extinguished, burst forth afresh, owing, indeed, to a difference of opinion between the consuls themselves, when the question of recalling those whom the senate had declared enemies was referred to the people. 10 The assembly met armed with swords, but when those prevailed who preferred peace and quiet, Cinna fled from his country and joined his confederates. Marius returned from Africa, all the greater for his misfortunes, since his imprisonment and chains, his flight and exile had added a certain awe to his high reputation. 11 So at the name of so famous a general men flocked from far and near; recourse was had to the disgraceful expedient of arming slaves and convicts; and the general had no difficulty in finding an army. 12 In thus seeking to return by violence to the country from which he had been  p251 driven by violence, Marius might seem to have acted justly, but that he disgraced his cause by cruelty. But returning at enmity with gods and men, he directed his first onslaught against Ostia, a city dependent upon Rome, and her foster-child, which he laid waste with impious destruction. 13 Soon afterwards the city was entered by four detachments distributed under the command of Cinna, Marius, Carbo and Sertorius. When all Octavius' troops had been dislodged from the Janiculum, immediately, at a given signal, they wreaked their fury in the slaughter of the leading citizens with even greater cruelty than even in a Carthaginian city. 14 The head of the consul Octavius was displayed on the rostra, that of Antonius, an ex-consul, on Marius' own table. Caesar and Fimbria were butchered at the household shrines of their own homes. The elder and younger Crassus were slain in the sight of one another. Baebius and Numitorius were dragged through the forum on the hooks of the executioners. 15 Catulus saved himself from the insults of his enemies by swallowing fire. 16 Merula, the priest of Jupiter in the Capitol, bespattered the visage of the god himself with the blood from his veins. Ancharius was stabbed in the presence of Marius himself, because, forsooth, when he saluted him, Marius had not stretched out to him the hand which was to decide his fate.​4 17 All these deaths of senators were the result of Marius' seventh consul­ship​5 between the 1st and the 9th of January. What would have happened if he had completed his full year of office?

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] 18 In the consul­ship of Scipio and Norbanus,​6 the third storm of civil rage broke forth in all its fury.  p253 On the one side stood eight legions and 500 cohorts in arms, while on the other side Sulla was hastening back from Asia with his victorious army. And, indeed, since Marius had acted so cruelly towards the supporters of Sulla, what cruelty was needed that Sulla might take vengeance upon Marius? 19º Their forces first met at the River Vulturnus near Capua; the whole army of Norbanus was immediately routed and Scipio's forces were promptly overwhelmed after hopes of peace had been held out to them. 20º Then the consuls, the younger Marius and Carbo,​7 as though despairing of victory and desirous of not perishing unavenged, offered sacrifice beforehand to their own shades with the blood of the senate; the senate-house was besieged and the senators were led out thence for execution as from a prison. 21º What countless deaths took place in the forum, the circus and the innermost recesses of the temples! Mucius Scaevola, the priest of Vesta, clinging to the altar of the goddess, was almost buried in the flames which burnt upon it. 22 Lamponius and Telesinus, the leaders of the Samnites, were laying waste Campania and Etruria with even more brutality than Pyrrhus or Hannibal, and were exacting vengeance on their own account under the pretence of helping their cause. 23 But all the enemy's forces were defeated, those under Marius at Sacriportus, those under Telesinus at the Colline Gate. However, the end of the fighting was not also the end of the killing; for even after peace was made, swords were drawn and punishment was inflicted upon those who had surrendered voluntarily. 24º The slaughter of more than 70,000 men by Sulla at Sacriportus and the Colline Gate was a lesser crime, for it was what one  p255 expects in war. But he ordered 4,000 unarmed citizens who had been surrendered to be slain in the Villa Publica.​8 25 Do not all these 4,000 slain in peace really outnumber those other 70,000? Who can compute the total of those whom anyone, who wished to do so, slew in various parts of the city? At last, when Fufidius advised that some men ought to be allowed to live in order that Sulla might have someone to whom to give orders, that vast proscription-list was put up, and from the flower of the equestrian order and the senate 2,000 men were chosen and condemned to death. It was an edict for which there was no precedent. 26 It would be tedious after this to relate the insulting end of Carbo and Soranus, the deaths of Plaetorii and Venuleii; how Baebius was torn to pieces, not by the sword, but by men's hands, like a wild beast; and how Marius, the brother of the general, after his eyes had been gouged out at the tomb of Catulus, was kept alive for some time after his hands and legs had been broken off, so that he might die limb by limb. 27 One could endure the punishment of individuals, but the most renowned towns of Italy were put up to auction — Spoletium, Interamnium, Praeneste, Florentia.​a 28 As for Sulmo, an allied and friendly city of long standing, Sulla, instead of storming or besieging it according to the rules of warfare, committed an act of base injustice in condemning the city and ordering its destruction, even as those who are condemned to death are ordered to be led to execution.

The Author's Notes:

1 i.e. falls into three periods of stress and storm, the rise of certain constellations, such as Arcturus and the Pleiades, being proverbial for occasioning tempests.

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2 Neither Sulpicius nor Albinovanus were consuls; Sulpicius was tribune in 88 B.C.

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3 87 B.C.

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4 i.e. Marius had told his followers to kill anyone whose salute he did not return.

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5 86 B.C.

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6 83 B.C.

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7 Consuls in 82 B.C.

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8 A building in the Campus Martius used for the entertainment of foreign ambassadors.

Thayer's Note: For details, see the article Villa Publica in Platner & Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.

Thayer's Note:

a Spoleto, Terni, Palestrina, Florence.

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Page updated: 29 Oct 08