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Book I

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Roman History

C. Velleius Paterculus

published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

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Book II
Chs. 29‑58

Velleius Paterculus, Roman History

 p47  Book II: Chapters 1‑28

1 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The first of the Scipios opened the way for the world power of the Romans; the second opened the way for luxury.​1 For, when Rome was freed of the fear of Carthage, and her rival in empire was out of her way, the path of virtue was abandoned for that of corruption, not gradually, but in headlong  p49 course. The older discipline was discarded to give place to the new. The state passed from vigilance to slumber, from the pursuit of arms to the pursuit of pleasure, from activity to idleness. 2 It was at this time that there were built, on the Capitol, the porticoes of Scipio Nasica, the porticoes of Metellus already mentioned, and, in the Circus, the portico of Gnaeus Octavius, the most splendid of them all; and private luxury soon followed public extravagance.

3 Then followed a war that was disaster and disgraceful to the Romans, the war in Spain with Viriathus,​2 a guerilla chief. The fortunes of this war during its progress shifted constantly and were, more frequently than not, adverse to the Romans. On the death of Viriathus through the perfidy rather than the valour of Servilius Caepio, there broke out in Numantia a war that was more serious still. 4 Numantia city was never able to arm more than ten thousand men of its own; but, whether it was owing to her native valour, or to the inexperience of our soldiers, or to the mere kindness of fortune, she compelled first other generals, and then Pompey, a man of great name (he was the first of his family to hold the consul­ship)​3 to sign disgraceful treaties, and forced Mancinus Hostilius​4 to terms no less base and hateful. 5 Pompey, however, escaped punishment through his influence. As for Mancinus his sense of shame, in that he did not try to evade the consequences, caused him to be delivered to the enemy by the fetial priests,​5 naked, and with his hands bound behind his back. The Numantines, however, refused to receive him, following the example of the Samnites at an earlier day at  p51 Caudium,​6 saying that a national breach of faith should not be atoned for by the blood of one man.

2 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The surrender of Mancinus aroused in the state a quarrel of vast proportions. Tiberius Gracchus, the son of Tiberius Gracchus, an illustrious and eminent citizen, and the grandson, on his mother's side, of Scipio Africanus, had been quaestor in the army of Mancinus and had negotiated the treaty. Indignant, on the one hand, that any of his acts should be disavowed, and fearing the danger of a like trial or a like punishment, he had himself elected tribune of the people. 2 He was a man of otherwise blameless life, of brilliant intellect, of upright intentions, and, in a word, endowed with the highest virtues of which a man is capable when favoured by nature and by training. In the consul­ship of Publius Mucius Scaevola and Lucius Calpurnius​7 (one hundred and sixty-two years ago), he split with the party of the nobles, promised the citizen­ship to all Italy, 3 and at the same time, by proposing agrarian laws which all immediately desired to see in operation, turned the state topsyturvy, and brought it into a position of critical and extreme danger. He abrogated the power of his colleague Octavius, who defended the interests of the state, and appointed a commission of three to assign lands and to found colonies, consisting of himself, his father-in‑law the ex-consul Appius, and his brother Gaius, then a very young man.

3 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] At this crisis Publius Scipio Nasica appeared. He was the grandson of the Scipio​8 who had been adjudged by the senate the best citizen of  p53 the state, the son of the Scipio who, as censor, had built the porticoes on the Capitol, and great-grandson of Gnaeus Scipio, that illustrious man who was the paternal uncle of Publius Scipio Africanus. Although he was a cousin of Tiberius Gracchus, he set his country before all ties of blood, choosing to regard as contrary to his private interests everything that was not for the public weal, a quality which earned for him the distinction of being the first man to be elected pontifex maximus in absentia. He held no public office at this time and was clad in the toga. Wrapping the fold of his toga about his left forearm he stationed himself on the topmost steps of the Capitol and summoned all those who wished for the safety of the state to follow him. 2 Then the optimates, the senate, the larger and better part of the equestrian order, and those of the plebs who were not yet infected by pernicious theories rushed upon Gracchus as he stood with his bands in the area of the Capitol and was haranguing a throng assembled from almost every part of Italy. As Gracchus fled, and was running down the steps which led from the Capitol, he was struck by the fragment of a bench, and ended by an untimely death the life which he might have made a glorious one. 3 This was the beginning in Rome of civil bloodshed, and of the licence of the sword. From this time on right was crushed by might, the most powerful now took precedence in the state, the disputes of the citizens which were once healed by amicable agreements were now settled by arms, and wars were now begun not for good cause but for what profit there was in them. Nor is this to be wondered at; 4 for precedents do not stop where  p55 they begin, but, however narrow the path upon which they enter, they create for themselves a highway whereon they may wander with the utmost latitude; and when once the path of right is abandoned, men are hurried into wrong in headlong haste, nor does anyone think a course is base for himself which has proven profitable to others.

4 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] While these events were taking place in Italy King Attalus had died,​9 bequeathing Asia in his will to the Roman people, as Bithynia was later bequeathed to them by Nicomedes, and Aristonicus, falsely claiming to be a scion of the royal house, had forcibly seized the province. Aristonicus was subdued by Marcus Perpenna and was later led in triumph, but by Manius Aquilius. He paid with his life the penalty for having put to death at the very outset of the war the celebrated jurist Crassus Mucianus, proconsul of Asia, as he was leaving his province.

2 After all the defeats experienced at Numantia, Publius Scipio Africanus Aemilianus, the destroyer of Carthage, was a second time elected consul​10 and then dispatched to Spain, where he confirmed the reputation for good fortune and for valour which he had earned in Africa. Within a year and three months after his arrival in Spain he surrounded Numantia with his siege works, destroyed the city and levelled it to the ground.​11 3 No man of any nationality before his day had immortalized his name by a more illustrious feat of destroying cities; for by the destruction of Carthage and Numantia he liberated us, in the one case from fear, in the other from a reproach upon our name. 4 This same Scipio, when asked by Carbo the tribune what he thought about the killing of Tiberius Gracchus,  p57 replied that he had been justly slain if his purpose had been to seize the government. When the whole assembly cried out at this utterance he said, "How can I, who have so many times heard the battle shout of the enemy without feeling fear, be disturbed by the shouts of men like you, to whom Italy is only a stepmother?" 5 A short time after Scipio's return to Rome, in the consul­ship of Manius Aquilius and Gaius Sempronius​12 — one hundred sixty years ago — this man who had held two consul­ships, had celebrated two triumphs, and had twice destroyed cities which had brought terror to his country, was found in the morning dead in his bed with marks as though of strangulation upon his throat. 6 Great man though he was, no inquest was held concerning the manner of his death, and with covered head​13 was borne to the grave the body of him whose services had enabled Rome to lift her head above the whole world. Whether his death was due to natural causes as most people think, or was the result of a plot, as some historians state, the life he lived was at any rate so crowded with honours that up to this time it was surpassed in brilliance by none, excepting only his grandsire.​14 He died in his fifty-sixth year. 7 If anyone questions this let him call to mind his first consul­ship, to which he was elected in his thirty-eighth year, and he will cease to doubt.

5 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] In Spain, even before the destruction of Numantia, Decimus Brutus had conducted a brilliant campaign in which he penetrated to all the peoples of the country, took a great number of men and  p59 cities and, by extending his operations to regions which hitherto had scarcely been heard of, earned for himself the cognomen of Gallaecus.15

2 A few years before in this same country Quintus Macedonicus had exercised command as general with a discipline of remarkable rigour. For instance, in an assault upon a Spanish town called Contrebia he ordered five legionary cohorts, which had been driven down from a steep escarpment, forthwith to march up it again. 2 Though the soldiers were making their wills on the battlefield, as though they were about to march to certain death, he was not deterred, but afterwards received the men, whom he sent forth to die, back in camp victorious. Such was the effect of shame mingled with fear, and of a hope born of despair. Macedonicus won renown in Spain by the uncompromising bravery of this exploit; Fabius Aemilianus, following the example of Paulus on the other hand, by the severity of his discipline.

6 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] After an interval of ten years the same madness which had possessed Tiberius Gracchus now seized upon his brother Gaius, who resembled him in his general virtues as well as in his mistaken ambition, but far surpassed him in ability and eloquence. 2 Gaius might have been the first man in the state had he held his spirit in repose; but, whether it was with the object of avenging his brother's death or of paving the way for kingly power, he followed the precedent which Tiberius had set and entered upon the career of a tribune.​16 His aims, however, were far more ambitious and drastic. He was for giving the citizen­ship to all Italians, extending it almost to the Alps, 3 distributing the public domain, limiting the holdings of each citizen  p61 to five hundred acres​a as had once been provided by the Licinian law,​17 establishing new customs duties, filling the provinces with new colonies, transferring the judicial powers from the senate to the equites, and began the practice of distributing grain to the people. He left nothing undisturbed, nothing untouched, nothing unmolested, nothing, in short, as it had been. Furthermore he continued the exercise of his office for a second term.

4 The consul, Lucius Opimius, who, as praetor, had destroyed Fregellae, hunted down Gracchus with armed men and put him to death,​18 slaying with him Fulvius Flaccus, a man who, though now entertaining the same distorted ambitions, had held the consul­ship and had won a triumph. Gaius had named Flaccus triumvir in the place of his brother Tiberius and had made him his partner in his plans for assuming kingly power. 5 The conduct of Opimius was execrable in this one respect, that he had proposed a reward to be paid for the head, I will not say of a Gracchus, but of a Roman citizen, and had promised to pay it in gold. 6 Flaccus, together with his elder son, was slain upon the Aventine while summoning to battle his armed supporters. Gracchus, in his flight, when on the point of being apprehended by the emissaries of Opimius, offered his neck to the sword of his slave Euporus. Euporus then slew himself with the same promptness with which he had given assistance to his master. On the same day Pomponius, a Roman knight, gave remarkable proof of his fidelity to Gracchus; for, after holding back his enemies upon the bridge, as Cocles19  p63 had done of yore, he threw himself upon his sword. The body of Gaius, like that of Tiberius before him, was thrown into the Tiber by the victors, with the same strange lack of humanity.

7 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Such were the lives and such the deaths of the sons of Tiberius Gracchus, and the grandsons of Publius Scipio Africanus, and their mother Cornelia, the daughter of Africanus, still lived to witness their end. An ill use they made of their excellent talents. Had they but coveted such honours as citizens might lawfully receive, the state would have conferred upon them through peaceful means all that they sought to obtain by unlawful agitations.

2 To this atrocity was added a crime without precedent. The son of Fulvius Flaccus, a youth of rare beauty who had not yet passed his eighteenth year and was in no way involved in the acts of his father, when sent by his father as an envoy to ask for terms, was put to death by Opimius. An Etruscan soothsayer, who was his friend, seeing him dragged weeping to prison, said to him, "Why not rather do as I do?" At these words he forthwith dashed out his brains against the stone portal of the prison and thus ended his life.

3 Severe investigations, directed against the friends and followers of the Gracchi, followed. But when Opimius, who during the rest of his career had been a man of sterling and upright character, was afterwards condemned by public trial, his conviction aroused no sympathy on the part of the citizens because of the recollection of his cruelty in this instance. 4 Rupilius and Popilius,​20 who, as consuls, had prosecuted the friends of Tiberius Gracchus with  p65 the utmost severity, deservedly met at a later date with the same mark of popular disapproval at their public trials.

I shall insert here a matter hardly relevant to these important events. 5 It was this same Opimius from whose consul­ship the famous Opimian wine received its name. That none of this wine is now in existence can be inferred from the lapse of time, since it is one hundred and fifty years, Marcus Vinicius, from his consul­ship to yours.

6 The conduct of Opimius met with a greater degree of disapproval because it was a case of seeking revenge in a private feud, and this act of revenge was regarded as having been committed rather in satisfaction of a personal animosity than in defence of the rights of the state.

7 In the legislation of Gracchus I should regard as the most pernicious his planting of colonies outside of Italy. This policy the Romans of the older time had carefully avoided; for they saw how much more powerful Carthage had been than Tyre, Massilia than Phocaea, Syracuse than Corinth, Cyzicus and Byzantium than Miletus, — all these colonies, in short, than their mother cities — and had summoned all Roman citizens from the provinces back to Italy that they might be enrolled upon the census lists. 8 The first colony to be founded outside of Italy was Carthage.​21 Shortly afterwards the colony of Narbo Martius was founded, in the consul­ship of Porcius and Marcius.22

8 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] I must next record the severity of the law courts in condemning for extortion in Macedonia Gaius Cato, an ex-consul, the grandson of Marcus Cato, and son of the sister of Africanus, though the  p67 claim against him amounted to but four thousand sesterces.​23 But the judges of that day looked rather at the purpose of the culprit than at the measure of the wrong, applying to actions the criterion of intention and weighing the character of the sin and not the extent of it.

2 About the same time the two brothers Marcus and Gaius Metellus celebrated their triumphs on one and the same day. A coincidence equally celebrated which still remains unique, was the conjunction in the consul­ship​24 of the sons of Fulvius Flaccus, the general who had conquered Capua, but one of these sons, however, had passed by adoption into the family of Acidinus Manlius. As regards the joint censor­ship of the two Metelli, they were cousins, not brothers, a coincidence which had happened to the family of the Scipios alone.25

3 At this time the Cimbri and Teutons crossed the Rhine. These peoples were soon to become famous by reason of the disasters which they inflicted upon us and we upon them. About the same time​26 took place the famous triumph over the Scordisci of Minucius, the builder of the porticoes which are famous even in our day.

9 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] At this same period flourished the illustrious orators Scipio Aemilianus and Laelius, Sergius Galba, the two Gracchi, Gaius Fannius, and Carbo Papirius. In this list we must not pass over the names of Metellus Numidicus and Scaurus, and above all of Lucius Crassus and Marcus Antonius. 2 They were followed in time as well as in talents by Gaius Caesar Strabo and Publius Sulpicius. As for Quintus Mucius, he was more famous for his knowledge of jurisprudence than, strictly speaking, for eloquence.

 p69  3 In the same epoch other men of talent were illustrious: Afranius in the writing of native comedy, in tragedy Pacuvius and Accius, a man who rose into competition even with the genius of the Greeks, and made a great place for his own work among theirs, with this distinction, however, that, while they seemed to have more polish, Accius seemed to possess more real blood. 4 The name of Lucilius was also celebrated; he had served as a knight in the Numantine war under Publius Africanus. At the same time, Jugurtha and Marius, both still young men, and serving under the same Africanus, received in the same camp the military training which they were later destined to employ in opposing camps.​27 5 At this time Sisenna, the author of the Histories, was still a young man. His works on the Civil Wars and the Wars of Sulla were published several years later, when he was a relatively old man. 6 Caelius was earlier than Sisenna, while Rutilius, Claudius Quadrigarius and Valerius Antias were his contemporaries. Let us not forget that at this period lived Pomponius, famed for his subject matter, though untutored in style, and noteworthy for the new kind of composition which he invented.28

10 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Let us now go on to note the severity of the censors Cassius Longinus and Caepio,​29 who summoned before them the augur Lepidus Aemilius for renting a house at six thousand sesterces.​30 This was a hundred and fifty-three years ago. Nowadays, if any one takes a residence at so low a rate he is scarcely recognized as a senator. Thus does nature pass from the normal to the perverted, from that  p71 to the vicious, and from the vicious to the abyss of extravagance.

2 At the same period​31 took place the notable victory of Domitius over the Arverni, and of Fabius over the Allobroges. Fabius, who was the grandson of Paulus, received the cognomen of Allobrogicus in commemoration of his victory. I must also note the strange fortune which distinguished the family of the Domitii, the more remarkable in view of the limited number of the family. Before the present Gnaeus Domitius, a man of notable simplicity of life, there have been seven Domitii, all only sons, but they all attained to the consulate and priesthoods and almost all to the distinction of a triumph.

11 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Then followed the Jugurthan war waged under the general­ship​32 of Quintus Metellus, a man inferior to no one of his time. His second in command was Gaius Marius, whom we have already mentioned, a man of rustic birth, rough and uncouth, and austere in his life, as excellent a general as he was an evil influence in time of peace, a man of unbounded ambition, insatiable, without self-control, and always an element of unrest. 2 Through the agency of the tax-gatherers and others who were engaged in business in Africa he criticized the delays of Metellus, who was now dragging on the war into its third year, charging him with the haughtiness characteristic of the nobility and with the desire to maintain himself in military commands. Having obtained a furlough he went to Rome, where he succeeded in procuring his election as consul and had the chief command of the war placed in his own hands,​33 although the war had already been practically ended by Metellus, who had twice defeated Jugurtha in battle. The  p73 triumph of Metellus was none the less brilliant, and the cognomen of Numidicus earned by his valour was bestowed upon him. 3 As I commented, a short time ago, on the glory of the family of the Domitii, let me now comment upon that of the Caecilii. Within the compass of about twelve years during this period, the Metelli were distinguished by consul­ships, censor­ships, or triumph more than twelve times. Thus it is clear that, as in the case of cities and empires, so the fortunes of families flourish, wane, and pass away.

12 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Gaius Marius, even at this time, had Lucius Sulla associated with him as quaestor, as though the fates were trying to avoid subsequent events.​34 He sent Sulla to King Boccus and through him gained possession of Jugurtha, about one hundred and thirty-four years before the present time. He returned to the city as consul designate for the second time, and on the kalends of January,​35 at the inauguration of his second consul­ship, he led Jugurtha in triumph. 2 Since, as has already​36 been stated, an immense horde of the German races called the Cimbri and the Teutons had defeated and routed the Consuls Caepio and Manlius​37 in Gaul, as before them Carbo​38 and Silanus,​39 had scattered their armies, and had put to death Scaurus Aurelius an ex-consul, and other men of renown, the Roman people was of the opinion that no general was better qualified the repel these mighty enemies than Marius. 3 His consul­ships then followed each other in succession. The third was consumed in preparation for this war. In this year​40 Gnaeus Domitius, the tribune of the people, passed a law that the priests, who had previously been chosen by their colleagues, should  p75 now be elected by the people. 4 In his fourth consul­ship​41 Marius met the Teutons in battle beyond the Alps in the vicinity of Aquae Sextiae. More than a hundred and fifty thousand of the enemy were slain by him on that day and the day after, and the race of the Teutons was exterminated. 5 In his fifth consul­ship​42 the consul himself and the proconsul Quintus Lutatius Catulus fought a most successful battle on this side of the Alps on the plain called the Raudian Plain. More than a hundred thousand of the enemy were taken or slain. By this victory Marius seems to have earned some claim upon his country that it should not regret his birth and to have counterbalanced his bad by his good deeds. 6 A sixth consul­ship​43 was given him in the light of a reward for his services. He must not, however, be deprived of the glory of this consul­ship, for during this term as consul he restrained by arms the mad acts of Servilius Glaucia and Saturninus Apuleius who were shattering the constitution by continuing in office,​44 and were breaking up the elections with armed violence and bloodshed, and caused these dangerous men to be put to death in the Curia Hostilia.

13 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] After an interval of a few years Marcus Livius Drusus entered the tribunate,​45 a man of noble birth, of eloquent tongue and of upright life; but in all his acts, his success was not in keeping with his talents or his good intentions. 2 It was his aim to restore to the senate its ancient prestige, and again to transfer the law courts to that order from the knights. The knights had acquired this prerogative through the legislation of Gracchus,​46 and had treated with severity many noted men who were quite  p77 innocent, and, in particular, had brought to trial on a charge of extortion and had condemned, to the great sorrow of all the citizens, Publius Rutilius, one of the best men not only of his age, but of all time. But in these very measures which Livius undertook on behalf of the senate he had an opponent in the senate itself, which failed to see that the proposals he also urged in interest of the plebs were made as a bait and a sop to the populace, that they might, by receiving lesser concessions, permit the passage of more important measures. 3 In the end it was the misfortune of Drusus to find that the senate gave more approval to the evil measures of his colleagues than to his own plans, however excellent, and that it spurned the dignity which he would confer it only to accept tamely the real slights levelled against it by the others, tolerating the mediocrity of his colleagues while it looked with jealous eyes upon his own distinction.

14 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Since his excellent programme had fared so badly, Drusus turned his attention to granting the citizen­ship to the Italians. While he was engaged in this effort, and was returning from the forum surrounded by the large and unorganized crowd which always attended him, he was stabbed in the area before his house and died in a few hours, the assassin leaving the weapon in his side. 2 As he breathed his last and gazed at the throng of those who stood weeping about him, he uttered the words, most expressive of his own feelings: "O my relatives and friends, will my country ever have another citizen like me?" Thus ended the life of this illustrious man. One index of his character should not be passed over. 3 When he was building  p79 his house on the Palatine on the site where now stands the house which once belonged to Cicero, and later to Censorinus, and which now belongs to Statilius Sisenna, the architect offered to build it in such a way that he would be free from the public gaze, safe from all espionage, and that no one could look down into it. Livius replied, "If you possess the skill you must build my house in such a way that whatever I do shall be seen by all."

15 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The long smouldering fires of an Italian war were now fanned into flame by the death of Drusus. One hundred and twenty years ago,​47 in the consul­ship of Lucius Caesar and Publius Rutilius, all Italy took up arms against the Romans. The rebellion began with the people of Asculum, who had put to death the praetor Servilius and Fonteius, his deputy; it was then taken up by the Marsi, and from them it made its ways into all the districts of Italy. 2 The fortune of the Italians was as cruel as their cause was just; for they were seeking citizen­ship in the state whose power they were defending by their arms; every year and in every war they were furnishing a double number of men, both of cavalry and of infantry, and yet were not admitted to the rights of citizens in the state which, through their efforts, had reached so high a position that it could look down upon men of the same race and blood as foreigners and aliens.

3 This war carried off more than three hundred thousand of the youth of Italy. On the Roman side in this war the most illustrious commanders were Gnaeus Pompeius, father of Pompeius Magnus, Gaius Marius, already mentioned, Lucius  p81 Sulla, who in the previous year had filled the praetor­ship, and Quintus Metellus, son of Metellus Numidicus, who had deservedly received the cognomen of Pius,​48 4 for when his father had been exiled from the state by Lucius Saturninus, the tribune of the people, because he alone refused to observe the laws which the tribune had made, the son had effected his restoration through his own devotion, aided by the authority of the senate and the unanimous sentiment of the whole state. Numidicus earned no greater renown by his triumphs and public honours than he earned by the cause of his exile, his exile, and the manner of his return.

16 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] On the Italian side the most celebrated generals were Silo Popaedius, Herius Asinius, Insteius Cato, Gaius Pontidius, Telesinus Pontius, Marius Ignatius, and Papius Mutilus; 2 nor ought I, through excess of modesty, to deprive my own kin of glory, especially when that which I record is the truth; for much credit is due to the memory of my great-grandfather Minatius Magius of Aeculanum, grandson of Decius Magius, leader of the Campanians, of proven loyalty and distinction. Such fidelity did Minatius display towards the Romans in this war that, with a legion which he himself had enrolled among the Hirpini, he took Herculaneum in conjunction with Titus Didius, was associated with Lucius Sulla in the siege of Pompeii, and occupied Compsa. 3 Several historians have recorded his services, but the most extensive and clearest testimony is that of Quintus Hortensius in his Annals. The Romans abundantly repaid his loyal zeal by a special grant of the citizen­ship to himself,  p83 and by making his sons praetors at a time when the number elected was still confined to six.49

4 So bitter was this Italian war, and such its vicissitudes, that in two successive years two Roman consuls, first Rutilius and subsequently Cato Porcius, were slain by the enemy, the armies of the Roman people were routed in many places, and the Romans were compelled to resort to military dress​50 and to remain long in that garb. The Italians chose Corfinium as their capital, and named it Italica. Then little by little the strength of the Romans was recruited by admitting to the citizen­ship those who had not taken arms or had not been slow to lay them down again, and Pompeius, Sulla, and Marius restored the tottering power of the Roman people.

17 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Except for the remnants of hostility which lingered at Nola the Italian war was now in large measure ended, the Romans, themselves exhausted, consenting to grant the citizen­ship individually to the conquered and humbled states in preference to giving it to them as a body when their own strength was still unimpaired.​51 This was the year in which Quintus Pompeius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla​52 entered upon the consul­ship. Sulla was a man to whom, up to the conclusion of his career of victory, sufficient praise can hardly be given, and for whom, after his victory, no condemnation can be adequate. 2 He was sprung of a noble family, the sixth in descent from the Cornelius Rufinus who had been one of the famous generals in the war with Pyrrhus. As the renown of his family had waned, Sulla acted a long while as though he had no thought of seeking the consul­ship.  p85 3 Then, after his praetor­ship, having earned distinction not only in the Italian war but also, even before that, in Gaul, where he was second in command to Marius, and had routed the most eminent leaders of the enemy, encouraged by his successes, he became a candidate for the consul­ship and was elected by an almost unanimous vote of the citizens. But this honour did not come to him until the forty-ninth year of his age.

18 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] It was about this time​53 that Mithridates, king of Pontus, seized Asia and put to death all Roman citizens in it. He was a man about whom one cannot speak except with concern nor yet pass by in silence; he was ever eager for war, of exceptional bravery, always great in spirit and sometimes in achievement, in strategy a general, in bodily prowess a soldier, in hatred to the Romans a Hannibal. 2 He had sent messages to various cities of Asia in which he had held out great promises of reward, ordering that all Romans should be massacred on the same day and hour throughout the province. 3 In this crisis none equalled the Rhodians either in courageous opposition to Mithridates or in loyalty to the Romans. Their fidelity gained lustre from the perfidy of the people of Mytilene, who handed Manius Aquilius and other Romans over to Mithridates in chains. The Mytilenians subsequently had their liberty restored by Pompey solely in consideration of his friendship for Theophanes. When Mithridates was now regarded as a formidable menace to Italy herself, the province of Asia fell to the lot of Sulla, as proconsul.

4 Sulla departed from the city, but was still lingering in the vicinity of Nola, since that city, as though  p87 regretting its exceptional loyalty so sacredly maintained in the Punic war, still persisted in maintaining armed resistance to Rome and was being besieged by a Roman army. 5 While he was still there Publius Sulpicius, tribune of the people, a man of eloquence and energy, who had earned situation by his wealth, his influence, his friendships, and by the vigour of his native ability and his courage, and had previously won great influence with the people by honourable means, now, as if regretting his virtues, and discovering that an honourable course of conduct brought him only disappointment, 6 made a sudden plunge into evil ways, and attached himself to Marius, who, though he had passed his seventieth year, still coveted every position of power and every province. Along with other pieces of pernicious and baleful legislation intolerable in a free state, he proposed a bill to the assembly of the people abrogating Sulla's command, and entrusting the Mithridatic war to Gaius Marius. He even went so far as to cause, through emissaries of his faction, the assassination of a man who was not only son of Quintus Pompeius the consul but also son-in‑law of Sulla.

19 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Thereupon Sulla assembled his army, returned to the city, took armed possession of it, drove from the city the twelve persons responsible for these revolutionary and vicious measures — among them Marius, his son, and Publius Sulpicius — and caused them by formal decree​54 to be declared exiles. Sulpicius was overtaken by horsemen and slain in the Laurentine marshes, and his head was raised aloft and exhibited on the front of the rostra as a presage of the impending proscription. 2 Marius,  p89 who had held six consul­ships and was now more than seventy years of age, was dragged, naked and covered with mud, his eyes and nostrils alone showing above the water, from a reed-bed near the marsh of Marica, where he had taken refuge when pursued by the cavalry of Sulla. A rope was cast about his neck and he was led to the prison of Minturnae on the order of its duumvir.​55 3 A public slave of German nationality was sent with a sword to put him to death. It happened that this man had been taken a prisoner by Marius when he was commander in the war against the Cimbri; when he recognized Marius, giving utterance with loud outcry to his indignation at the plight of this great man, he threw away his sword and fled from the prison. 4 Then the citizens, taught by a foreign enemy to pity one who had so short a time before been the first man in the state, furnished Marius with money, brought clothing to cover him, and put him on board a ship. Marius, overtaking his son near Aenaria, steered his course for Africa, where he endured a life of poverty in a hut amid the ruins of Carthage. There Marius, as he gazed upon Carthage, and Carthage as she beheld Marius, might well have offered consolation the one to the other.

20 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] In this year the hands of Roman soldiers were first stained with the blood of a consul. Quintus Pompeius, the colleague of Sulla, was slain by the army of Gnaeus Pompeius the proconsul in a mutiny which their general himself had stirred up.

2 Cinna was a man as lacking in restraint as Marius and Sulpicius. Accordingly, although the citizen­ship had been given to Italy with the proviso that the new citizens should be enrolled in but eight  p91 tribes, so that their power and numbers might not weaken the prestige of the older citizens, and that the beneficiaries might not have greater power than the benefactors, Cinna now promised to distribute them throughout all the tribes. With this object he had brought together into the city a great multitude from all parts of Italy. 3 But he was driven from the city by the united strength of his college and the optimates, and set out for Campania. His consul­ship was abrogated by the authority of the senate and Lucius Cornelius Merula, priest of Jupiter, was chosen consul in his place. This illegal act was more appropriate in the case of Cinna than it was a good precedent. 4 Cinna was then received by the army at Nola, after corrupting first the centurions and tribunes and then even the private soldiers with promises of largesse.​56 When they all had sworn allegiance to him, while still retaining the insignia of the consulate he waged war upon his country, relying upon the enormous number of new citizens, from whom he had levied more than three hundred cohorts, thus raising the number of his troops to the equivalent of thirty legions.​57 5 But his party lacked the backing of strong men; to remedy this defect he recalled Gaius Marius and his son from exile, and also those who had been banished with them.

21 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] While Cinna was waging war against his country, the conduct of Gnaeus Pompeius, the father of Pompeius Magnus, was somewhat equivocal. As I have already told, the state had made use of his distinguished services in the Marsian war, particularly in the territory of Picenum; he had taken Asculum, in the vicinity of which, though armies were scattered in other regions also, seventy-five  p93 thousand Roman citizens and more than sixty thousand Italians had met in battle on a single day. 2 Foiled in his hope of a second term in the consul­ship, he maintained a doubtful and neutral attitude as between the two parties, so that he seemed to be acting entirely in his own interest and to be watching his chance, turning with his army now to one side and now to the other, according as each offered a greater promise for power for himself. 3 In the end, however, he fought against Cinna in a great and bloody battle. Words almost fail to express how disastrous to combatants and spectators alike was the issue of this battle, which began and ended beneath the walls and close to the very hearths of Rome. 4 Shortly after this battle, while pestilence was ravaging both armies, as though their strength had not been sapped enough by the war, Gnaeus Pompeius died. The joy felt at his death almost counterbalanced the feeling of loss for the citizens who had perished by sword or pestilence, and the Roman people vented upon his dead body the hatred it had owed him while he lived.

5 Whether there were two families of the Pompeii or three, the first of that name to be consul was Quintus Pompeius, who was colleague of Gnaeus Servilius, about one hundred and sixty-seven years ago.

6 Cinna and Marius both seized the city after conflicts which caused much shedding of blood on both sides, but Cinna was the first to enter it, whereupon he proposed a law authorizing the recall of Marius.

22 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Then Gaius Marius entered the city, and his return was fraught with calamity for the citizens.  p95 No victory would ever have exceeded his in cruelty had Sulla's not followed soon afterwards. Nor did the licence of the sword play havoc among the obscure alone; the highest and most distinguished men in the state were made the victims of many kinds of vengeance. 2 Amongst these Octavius the consul, a man of the mildest temper, was slain by the command of Cinna. Merula, however, who had abdicated his consul­ship just before the arrival of Cinna, opened his veins and, as his blood drenched the altars, he implored the gods to whom, as priest of Jupiter, he had formerly prayed for safety of the state, to visit their wrath upon Cinna and his party. Thus did he yield up the life which had served the state so well. 3 Marcus Antonius, the foremost statesman and orator of Rome, was struck down, at the order of Marius and Cinna, by the swords of soldiers, though he caused even these to hesitate by the power of his eloquence. Then there was Quintus Catulus, renowned for his virtues in general and for the glory, 4 which he had shared with Marius, of having won the Cimbrian war; when he was being hunted down for death, he shut himself in a room that had lately been plastered with lime and sand; then he brought fire that it might cause a powerful vapour to issue from the plaster, and by breathing the poisonous air and then holding his breath he died a death according rather with his enemies' wishes than with their judgement.

5 The whole state was now plunging headlong into ruin; and yet no one had so far appeared who either dared to offer for pillage the goods of a Roman citizen, or could bring himself to demand them. Later, however, even this extreme was reached, and avarice furnished a motive for ruthlessness;  p97 the magnitude of one's crime was determined by the magnitude of his property; he who possessed riches became a malefactor and was in each case the prize​58 set up for his own murder. In short nothing was regarded as dishonourable that brought profit.59

23 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Cinna then entered upon his second consul­ship, and Marius upon his seventh,​60 only to bring dishonour upon his former six. An illness which came upon Marius at the very beginning of his year of office ended the life of this man, who, impatient as he was of tranquillity, was as dangerous to his fellow-citizens in peace as he had been in war to Rome's enemies. 2 In his place was chosen as consul suffectus Valerius Flaccus, the author of a most disgraceful law, by which he had ordained that one-fourth only of a debt should be paid to the creditors, an act for which a well-deserved punishment overtook him within two years. 3 During this time, while Cinna held the reins of power in Italy, a large proportion of the nobles took refuge with Sulla in Achaea, and afterwards in Asia.

In the meantime Sulla fought with the generals of Mithridates at Athens, in Boeotia, and in Macedonia with such success that he recovered Athens, and, after surmounting many difficulties in overcoming the manifold fortifications of Piraeus, slew more than two hundred thousand of the enemy and made prisoners of as many more.​61 4 If anyone regards this period of rebellion, during which Athens suffered siege at the hands of Sulla, as a breach of good faith on the part of the Athenians, he shows a strange ignorance of the facts of history; for so constant was the loyalty of the Athenians towards the Romans  p99 that always and invariably, whenever the Romans referred to any act of unqualified loyalty, they called it an example of "Attic faith." 5 But at this time, overwhelmed as they were by the arms of Mithridates, the Athenians were in a most unhappy plight. Held in subjection by their enemies and besieged by their friends, although in obedience to necessity they kept their bodies within the walls, their hearts were outside their fortifications.​62 6 After the capture of Athens Sulla crossed into Asia, where he found Mithridates submissive to all his demands and in the attitude of a suppliant. He compelled him, after paying a fine in money and giving up half his fleet, to evacuate Asia​63 and all the other provinces which he had seized; he also secured the return of all prisoners, inflicted punishment upon deserters and others who had been in any way culpable, and obliged Mithridates to be satisfied with the boundaries of his inheritance, that is to say, with Pontus.

24 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Before the arrival of Sulla, Gaius Flavius Fimbria, prefect of horse, had put to death Valerius Flaccus, a man of consular rank, had taken command of his army, by which he was saluted as imperator, and had succeeded in defeating Mithridates in battle. Now, on the eve of Sulla's arrival, he took his own life. He was a young man who, however reprehensible his bold designs might be, at any rate executed them with bravery. 2 In the same year Publius Laenas, tribune of the people, threw Sextus Lucilius, tribune of the previous year, from the Tarpeian rock. When his colleagues, whom he also indicted, fled in fear to Sulla, he had a decree of banishment passed against them.

 p101  3 Sulla had now settled affairs across the sea. There came to him ambassadors of the Parthians — he was the first of the Romans to be so honoured — and among them some wise men who, from the marks on his body, foretold that his life and his fame would be worthy of a god. Returning to Italy he landed at Brundisium,​64 having not more than thirty thousand men to face more than two hundred thousand of the enemy. 4 Of all the exploits of Sulla there is nothing that I should consider more noteworthy than that, during the three years in which the party of Marius and Cinna were continuously masters of Italy, he never hid from them his intention to wage war on them, but at the same time he did not interrupt the war which he then had on his hands. He considered that his duty was to crush the enemy before taking vengeance upon citizens, and that after he had repelled the menace of the foreigner and won a victory in this way abroad, he should then prove himself the master in a war at home. 5 Before Luciusº Sulla's arrival Cinna was slain in a mutiny of his army. He was a man who deserved to die by the sentence of his victorious enemies rather than at the hands of his angry soldiers. Of him one can truly say that he formed daring plans, such as no good citizen would have conceived, and that he accomplished what none but a most resolute man could have accomplished, and that he was foolhardy enough in the formulation of his plans, but in their execution a man. Carbo remained sole consul throughout the year without electing a colleague in the place of Cinna.

25 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] One would think that Sulla had come to Italy, not as the champion of war but as the  p103 establisher of peace, so quietly did he lead his army through Calabria and Apulia into Campania, taking unusual care not to inflict damage on crops, fields, men, or cities, and such efforts did he make to end the war on just terms and fair conditions. But peace could not be to the liking of men whose cause was wicked and whose cupidity was unbounded. 2 In the meantime Sulla's army was daily growing, for all the better and saner citizens flocked to his side. By a fortunate issue of events he overcame the consuls Scipio and Norbanus near Capua.​65 Norbanus was defeated in battle, while Scipio, deserted and betrayed by his army, was allowed by Sulla to go unharmed. 4 So different was Sulla the warrior from Sulla the victor that, while his victory was in progress he was mild and more lenient than was reasonable, but after it was won his cruelty was unprecedented. For instance, as we have already said, he disarmed the consul and let him go, and after gaining possession of many leaders including Quintus Sertorius, so soon to become the firebrand of a great war,​66 he dismissed them unharmed. The reason, I suppose, was that we might have a notable example of a double and utterly contradictory personality in one and the same man.

It was while Sulla was ascending Mount Tifata that he had encountered Gaius Norbanus. After his victory over him he paid a vow of gratitude to Diana, to whom that region is sacred, and consecrated to the goddess the waters renowned for their salubrity and water to heal, as well as all the lands in the vicinity. The record of this pleasing act of piety is witnessed to this day by an inscription on the door of the temple, and a bronze tablet within the edifice.

 p105  26 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Carbo now became consul for the third time, in conjunction with Gaius Marius, now aged twenty-six, the son of a father who had been seven times consul. He was a man who showed his father's spirit, though not destined to reach his years, who displayed great fortitude in the many enterprises he undertook, and never belied the name. Defeated by Sulla at Sacriportus he retired with his army to Praeneste, which town, though already strong by nature, he had strengthened by a garrison.

2 In order that nothing should be lacking to the calamities of the state, in Rome, a city in which there had already been rivalry in virtues, there was now a rivalry in crimes, and that man now regarded himself as the best citizen who had formerly been the worst. While the battle was being fought at Sacriportus, within the city the praetor Damasippus murdered in the Curia Hostilia, as supposed partisans of Sulla, Domitius, a man of consular rank; Scaevola Mucius, pontifex maximus and famous author of works on religious and civil law; Gaius Carbo, a former praetor, and brother of the consul, and Antistius, a former aedile. 3 May Calpurnia, the daughter of Bestia and wife of Antistius, never lose the glory of a noble deed; for, when her husband was put to death, as I have just said, she pierced her own breast with the sword. What increment has his glory and fame received through this brave act of a woman! and yet his own name is by no means obscure.

27 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] While Carbo and Marius were still consuls, one hundred and nine years ago, on the Kalends of November, Pontius Telesinus, a Samnite chief, brave in spirit and in action and hating to the core the  p107 very name of Rome, having collected about him forty thousand of the bravest and most steadfast youth who still persisted in retaining arms, fought with Sulla, near the Colline gate, a battle so critical as to bring both Sulla and the city into the gravest peril. 2 Rome had not faced a greater danger when she saw the camp of Hannibal within the third milestone, than on this day when Telesinus went about from rank to rank exclaiming: "The last day is at hand for the Romans," and in a loud voice exhorted his men to overthrow and destroy their city, adding: "These wolves that made such ravages upon Italian liberty will never vanish until we have cut down the forest that harbours them." 3 It was only after the first hour of the night that the Roman army was able to recover its breath, and the enemy retired. The next day Telesinus was found in a half-dying condition, but with the expression of a conqueror upon his face rather than that of a dying man. Sulla ordered his severed head to be fixed upon a spear point and carried around the walls of Praeneste.

4 The young Marius, now at last despairing of his cause, endeavoured to make his way out of Praeneste through the tunnels, wrought with great engineering skill, which led into the fields in different directions; but, on emerging from the exit, he was cut off by men who had been stationed there for that purpose. 5 Some authorities have asserted that he died by his own hand, some that he died in company with the younger brother of Telesinus, who was also besieged and was endeavouring to escape with him, and that each ran upon the other's sword. Whatever the manner of his death, his memory is not obscured even to‑day by the great figure of his father. Sulla's  p109 estimate of the young man is manifest; for it was only after he was slain that he took the name of Felix,​67 a name which he would have been completely justified in assuming had his life ended with his victory.

6 The siege of Marius in Praeneste was directed by Ofella Lucretius, who had been a general on the Marian side but had deserted to Sulla. Sulla commemorated the great good fortune which fell to him on this day by instituting an annual festival of games held in the circus, which are still celebrated as the games of Sulla's victory.

28 1   [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Shortly before Sulla's victory at Sacriportus, several leaders of his party had routed the enemy in successful engagements; the two Servilii at Clusium, Metellus Pius at Faventia, and Marcus Lucullus in the vicinity of Fidentia.

2 The terrors of the civil war seemed nearly at an end when they received fresh impetus from the cruelty of Sulla. Being made dictator​68 (the office had been obsolete for one hundred and twenty years, and had been last employed in the year after Hannibal's departure from Italy; it is therefore clear that the fear which caused the Roman people to feel the need of a dictator was outweighed by the fear of his excessive power) Sulla now wielded with unbridled cruelty the powers which former dictators had employed only to save their country in times of extreme danger. 3 He was the first to set the precedent for proscription — would that he had been the last! The result was that in the very state in  p111 which an actor who had been hissed from the stage has legal redress for wilful abuse, a premium for the murder of a citizen was now publicly announced; that the richest man was he who had slain the greatest number; that the bounty for slaying an enemy was no greater than that for slaying a citizen; and that each man became the prize set up for his own death. 4 Nor was vengeance wreaked upon those alone who had borne arms against him, but on many innocents as well. In addition the goods of the proscribed were sold, and their children were not only deprived of their fathers' property but were also debarred from the right of seeking public office, and to cap the climax of injustice, the sons of senators were compelled to bear the burdens and yet lose the rights pertaining to their rank.

The Editor's Notes:

1 Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus the elder had brought the Second Punic War to a close by defeating the Carthaginians at Zama in 202 B.C. The younger Scipio had destroyed Carthage in 146.

2 The war with Viriathus had already begun in 148 B.C. It ended in 140 by the treacherous murder of Viriathus.

3 Quintus Pompeius was consul in 141 B.C. In the next year he was forced to make the treaty with the enemy which the senate refused to ratify.

4 Caius Hostilius Mancinus was consul in 137 B.C. The treaty with the Numantines was made in 136.

5 These priests were charged with the duty of maintaining the forms of international relation­ship and officiated at the making of treaties.

Thayer's Note: For details and sources, see the article Fetiales in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

6 In the year 321 B.C. the consuls Titus Veturius Calvinus and Spurius Postumius were trapped by the Samnites in the Caudine pass and were forced to agree to terms which were subsequently repudiated by the senate.

7 133 B.C.

8 Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, consul in 191 B.C. Livy states that in 204 B.C., although he was not yet of sufficient age to obtain the quaestor­ship, he was nevertheless (p51)adjudged by the senate to be the best citizen in the state and, as such, was designated to receive the statue of the Great Mother when it was brought to Rome.

9 133 B.C.

10 134 B.C.

11 133 B.C.

12 129 B.C.

13 There was nothing unusual about wrapping up the head of a corpse (cf. Aurelius Victor 58 "obvoluto capite elatus est"). Velleius is apparently striving for the verbal effect somewhat forced it is true, of the contrast between velato capite . . . extulerat caput.

14 Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, the victor of Zama.

15 The cognomen was given for his partial subjugation of the Gallaeci, a people in western Hispania Tarraconensis inhabiting what is now Galicia and part of Portugal.

16 123 B.C.

17 This limitation of the amount of ager publicus which an individual might hold was one of the many rogationes proposed by the tribune C. Licinius Stolo in 375 B.C. and finally carried in 365, after ten years of constant struggle with the patricians.

18 121 B.C.

19 This is the famous Horatius who defended the bridge single-handed against the army of Porsenna.

20 Consuls 132 B.C.

21 The colony at Carthage was founded 122 B.C. under the name Colonia Iunonia.

22 118 B.C. It was on the site of the modern Narbonne, to which it gave its name.

23 Something less than £40, if the text is correct.

Thayer's Note: A reminder that this equivalent dates to 1924; in 2003, the figure would be a bit less than $200 or £130.

24 179 B.C.

25 What Velleius probably had in mind was the aedile­ship in 213 B.C. of Publius and Marcus Scipio, referred to by Polybius x.4. Hence some editors have supposed that aedilibus or in aedilitate have dropped out of the text; but this is hardly necessary. The author is thinking simply of brothers who were colleagues in office.

26 108 B.C.

27 He is referring to the Jugurthine War.

28 The Fabulae Atellanae or Atellan Farce. While not the inventor he may have been the first to give these farces literary form.

29 Censors in 125 B.C.

30 A little more than £50.

Thayer's Note: in 2003, a little more than $2500 or £1600.

31 122 B.C.

32 109‑8 B.C.

33 107 B.C.

34 Praecaventibus fatis is variously interpreted. Krause takes it to mean that the fates were seeking to guard against the future rivalry and discord of these two men; Kritz, wrongly, I think, that the fates were warning Marius in advance that Sulla was destined to be his successful opponent.

35 104 B.C.

36 Bk. ii. ch. 8.

37 105 B.C.

38 113 B.C.

39 109 B.C.

40 104 B.C.

41 102 B.C.

42 101 B.C.

43 100 B.C.

44 Saturninus was elected tribune for the third time; Glaucia was praetor and desired the consul­ship.

45 91 B.C.

46 See ch. vi.

47 91 B.C.

48 Pius here means "dutiful towards his father."

49 The number was increased from four to six in 198 B.C. It was increased to eight by Sulla.

50 The sagum or military cloak symbolized war as the toga symbolized peace.

Thayer's Note: For details, see the article Sagum in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

51 i.e. before the war began. What Velleius had in mind in using maluerunt is a little vague. The original "choice" lay between granting the citizen­ship and war. They chose the latter alternative. After the war was over they granted to their enemies in defeat the citizen­ship (p83)which they might have conferred in the beginning and so avoided the war.

52 88 B.C.

53 88 B.C.

54 88 B.C.

55 Duumvir was the title of the chief official in the Roman colonies. Like the consuls in Rome there were two of them.

56 87 B.C.

57 The normal strength of a legion was from 5000 to 6000 men. Each legion was divided into ten cohorts.

58 That is, his property was divided among those responsible for his death.

59 For this period and its proscriptions see Plutarch, Life of Sulla.

60 86 B.C.

61 87‑86 B.C.

62 i.e. with their Roman besiegers.

63 The province of Asia, i.e. Asia Minor.

64 83 B.C.

65 83 B.C.

66 See Chap. XXX.

67 The "fortunate."

68 82 B.C.

Thayer's Note:

a A very loose translation of the Latin text: 500 jugera was about 310 acres (124 hectares).

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