Short URL for this page:
https://bit.ly/FRAAHR14


[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home
previous:

[image ALT: link to previous section]
Chapter XIII

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
A History of Rome
by
Tenney Frank

published by
Henry Holt and Company
New York 1923

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,
please let me know!

next:

[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter XV

 p229  Chapter XIV

The "Social" and Civil Wars

The Social War, 90‑89 B.C. The news of Drusus' death spread consternation through Italy. The allies thought their last opportunity of acquiring citizenship by peaceful methods gone. The clubs formed throughout Italy for the moral support of Drusus began to discuss revolutionary means, and not a few collected arms and began to drill in secret. The Senate hearing rumors of this activity sent out officials to various towns to pacify the people. One of these, Servilius, assigned to the district of Picenum, so enraged the people of Asculum by his tactlessness that they murdered him, and with him all the Romans in the city. The news of this event was followed by a general revolt and Rome faced her first great revolution.

Not all of Italy took up arms, however. The Sabines, Aequians, and Campanians were citizens and therefore remained loyal to Rome. The Latin colonies contained numerous citizens because of the old provision whereby magistrates of such colonies were ipso facto enfranchised. Hence the colonies also remained loyal. Most of the Greek cities also, from Naples to Tarentum, had benefited so freely by Rome's commercial treaties that they remained friendly. The tribes that revolted were the eight which used Oscan and Sabellic dialects: the Marsi, Paeligni, Marrucini, Frentani, Samnites, and Lucanians, and the remnants of the Vestini and Picentes that had not been incorporated into the Roman state. It is to be noticed that the Etruscans, who were of a different race, and the Umbrians, who spoke a different Italic dialect, did not join in the first  p230 revolt. Linguistic barriers even then determined the boundaries of national sympathies.

The new state formed by the allies was called Italia, and Corfinium, renamed Italicum, was made its capital. The state adopted the conservative Roman system of having two executive consuls, twelve praetors, and a senate of 500 members, but there resemblance ends. Because of its situation, a city-state, like that of Rome, was not feasible in Italia. A territorial state in which the eight tribes constituted a federation was necessitated by the inherent conditions. And although our information is meager,​1 we must suppose that the government did not rest in a primary assembly, for such an arrangement would have thrown control into the hands of the people who lived at and near the capital. It would seem that the 500 senators were somehow representatives of the several tribes and that they not only made the laws but also chose the magistrates. In other words, Italia seems to have made generous use of the principle of representative government as it had been worked out by Flamininus and Paullus in Thessaly and Macedonia during the preceding century.

Q. Pompaedius Silo, a Marsian, and C. Papius Mutilus, a Samnite, were chosen consuls. Both were skilful generals, having served in the allied forces of Rome's armies. Many of the praetors had also commanded forces under Roman consuls. In the spring of 90 B.C., the Italians who had gathered more than a hundred thousand good men, advanced westward in two main divisions, Pompaedius directly toward Rome in order to cut off Etruria and Umbria, Papius into Campania to cut off southern Italy. A part of the Northern division defeated the Roman consul, P. Rutilius Lupus, who fell in battle. Marius, however, who commanded a separate Roman division prevented the  p231 advancing enemy from reaching the Latian plain. In the South, Papius, opposed by the Roman consul, L. Julius Caesar, reached his first objective, cutting through Campania and taking Nola, and Salernum on the sea. Such Roman disasters brought the Senate to reason, and the consul, Julius Caesar, who realized that both North and South might be forced to join the enemy if completely cut off from Rome, proposed and carried a bill (the lex Julia, 90 B.C.) granting citizenship to the allies that were still loyal to Rome and to those who would at once lay down their arms. This was the turning point of the war, for many cities at once accepted the offer.

In 89, accordingly, success was on the side of Rome. Cn. Pompeius Strabo, the father of Pompey the Great, was assigned to the north-central army, and soon carried the war into the enemy's country, capturing Asculum and invading the land of the Marsi. It was while serving in this army as a boy of eighteen that Cicero first met the young Pompey. It was there that he learned to revere a youth of much higher military rank than his own with a deference that unfortunately clung to him by mere habit long after Pompey ceased to deserve it.

In the South, after the death of Rome's second consul, Sulla was assigned the chief command, and succeeded during the year not only in clearing most of Campania, but in defeating Papius and invading Samnium. And now the Senate in order to end the war quickly — offered, through the lex Plautia-Papiria, citizenship to all allies within Italy who would register before a Roman praetor within sixty days. This measure brought organized opposition to a speedy close, and the consul Pompeius wisely introduced a supplementary law which gave citizenship to the Latin colonies of Cisalpine Gaul, and Latin rights to all the other inhabitants of that region. This was perhaps the occasion  p232 on which Vergil's father, then living in Cremona, became a Roman citizen.

The Sulpician riots. The Italians who registered — many neglected to do so — were now the equals of Romans in the army and in the courts and that was what they had most desired, but, as they soon discovered, their vote did not possess full value for the reason that the new municipalities were distributed in only eight instead of in the thirty-five wards. This wily assignment, we may believe, was invented by the Senate to prevent ambitious politicians from playing up to the new voters, for there were rumors even during the war that certain generals of democratic leanings, like Marius, had been lenient toward the enemy with the intention of winning their friendship for political use. As the sequel shows, this minimizing of the vote not only disgusted the allies and drove some of them to continue in rebellion, but it gave the democratic politicians of Rome a program on which to appeal for armed support in the civil wars that followed.

The war had put the senatorial party, the party of action and "patriotism," in the saddle. For the year 88 Sulla and Pompeius Rufus, two stanch aristocrats, were elected consuls without difficulty. Sulla was especially desired because of his military successes, since Mithradates, who had encouraged Rome's rebels, was now on the point of invading Rome's province of Asia. By apparent good fortune, Sulla, when the lots were drawn, found that he was assigned to the task of meeting Mithradates.

Then an unseemly factional fight broke out at Rome. Sulpicius Rufus, a tribune who had hitherto been loyal to the Senate, an orator of remarkable power, proposed a bill to distribute the new citizens and also the freedmen over all the thirty-five wards, thus giving them the normal citizen-franchise. There is no reason for supposing that he was not wholly sincere in trying to right a wrong, though one must admit that it would have been better had he  p233 waited. In any case, Sulpicius was not a man of sufficient wisdom and self-control to direct so dangerous a program. The city and all of Italy flared up in intense excitement. It is difficult to see how Sulpicius expected to win for his bill the votes of eighteen tribes necessary to a majority. He might reasonably count on twelve, that is the four urban wards which freedmen could readily control, and the eight in which the new citizens already voted. Perhaps some rural tribes like the Quirina, Velina, and Aniensis were reckoned on because of their early Sabine connections. But he made no progress till he entered of it an agreement with Marius, who was still popular enough with veterans to count for something on election day. Marius did not have the gift of growing old gracefully. The numerous slights heaped upon him by senators for more than ten years had made him bitter and vengeful. He felt that since he had repeatedly saved Rome, he should have been given the command in the East. He could not endure to see this position go to the man he most disliked. Accordingly he offered to throw his influence in favor of the new bill if Sulpicius would add a clause appointing him instead of Sulla to the command in the East. The proposal was revolutionary; for though the assembly had more than once tried and deposed generals selected by senatorial lot, and had even forestalled the regular allotment once in favor of Marius, it had never before set aside a regularly chosen and appointed consul without charges and for political reasons, and selected another in his stead. Amidst great confusion in which thousands of freedmen acted as election thugs the leges Sulpiciae passed. We need particularly to notice the emergence of the freedmen class here, for their participation marks an epoch in Roman politics. These ex‑slaves, mostly of Oriental stock, were now very numerous at Rome. They were not of the same temper as the people who had for hundreds of years built up the Roman constitution. They belonged to races which had never been able  p234 to create self-governing republics at home, and they never learned the art of self government in the West. As their number increased at Rome, the state approached the need of autocracy.

Sulla's coup d'état. Sulla answered the illegal act of Sulpicius by an act equally revolutionary. He marched upon Rome, took possession of the government by force, and drove Sulpicius and Marius out. The Senate at his request had the two men with ten others outlawed. Marius escaped to Africa as by a miracle, but Sulpicius met his death at the hands of a slave. That Sulla could thus induce his army to enter and take possession of Rome, which had never before been occupied by Roman arms, was largely due to the fact that Roman armies were now to a great extent made up of volunteers from the urban "breadline" class, and these men were in no small measure of freedmen stock. Historical tradition concerned them very little. As for Sulla, his instinct that it was a consul's duty to suppress revolution by constitutional authority was not incorrect. But they ease with which he could use the disheveled army as an instrument in his own hands, without applying constitutional remedies, tempted him to adopt inexcusable shortcuts. By this act he demonstrated the fact, not realized before, that in the city-state of Rome, where the life of the government resided within the walls one city, any unscrupulous general who commanded an army loyal to himself alone could at will make himself the autocrat of Rome. Strange to say it was an aristocratic leader, supposedly devoted to even-tempered government, who first exposed this dangerous fact. Henceforth demagogues were destined to make use of the discovery, a discovery which eventually pointed the way to Caesar's dictatorship and the Empire.

Sulla did not indeed assume dictatorial powers at this time. He proposed the repeal of the Sulpician laws, and the people obeyed him perforce. He then proposed a law  p235 which forbade tribunes to introduce bills before the assembly unless approved by the Senate, and the Romans were so over-awed that they passed even this death warrant upon popular sovereignty. But when he recommended his candidates for the consulship, the people tiring of dictation rejected them, electing instead L. Cornelius Cinna, an open radical, and Cn. Octavius, an irresolute partisan of the Senate. Sulla saw that his party must fall as soon as he and his army departed for the east, but there was still in him enough respect for old Roman tradition to decide him in favor of the appointed task. Desperate reports were already arriving of the terrible devastation Mithradates was spreading in Asia, and Sulla hurried off by way of Brundisium.

The return of Marius. No sooner had Sulla sailed than Cinna reintroduced Sulpicius' law equalizing the vote of freedmen and Italians with that of the old citizens by distributing their registration over all the wards. Cinna also called upon the freedmen to man the Forum. The Senate, now emboldened by the example of Sulla, armed friendly bands and drove Cinna from the city as a rebel. It may be that he had expected and desired such action for it advertised him to all Italy as the champion of the new citizens. In 87 he with Marius, who had now returned, summoned all Italians to their support. Large bands, especially of Samnites, responded and all the old hatreds of the Social War flared up again. While Cinna besieged Rome, Marius stormed Ostia, the seaport of Rome, cutting off all grain supplies. The city was forced to surrender for lack of food. Marius, grown brutal in a life of warfare, bitter through many years of neglect, and now crazed by a year's life as a hunted outlaw, organized a band of slaves and with these he took his revenge like a raving madman. He had but to point his finger at the nobles he hated, and the assassins struck them down. The great orator, M. Antonius, respected by all Romans, Q. Catulus,  p236 with whom Marius had triumphed over the Cimbri, and the consul, Octavius, were only the most distinguished of the hundreds that fell in that brutal massacre. The senators who survived were compelled to annul Sulla's laws and declare Sulla a public enemy. Cinna and Marius nominated themselves consuls for the next year (86). Marius was thus in his seventy-first year made consul for the seventh time. Fortunately for Rome he fell ill a few days after entering upon his office and ended his tragic career. Cinna, however, continued as consul to govern Rome till he died two years later.

Sulla's war with Mithradates. We must now follow Sulla eastward in his attempt to chastise Mithradates. If the reader will turn to a map of Hellenistic Asia Minor he will find there a confusing conglomeration of states and principalities which had once been the property of the Persian Empire. The peoples were of all races. Greek cities lined the Aegean and Black Seas. The Roman province of Asia held hybrid peoples that were partly Indo-European Phrygians, partly descendants of Semitic, Persian, Turanian and older stocks. Behind the Roman province lay Galatia, an enclave of Celts; further back was Pontus on the Black Sea, the independent state ruled by Mithradates, and south of this Cappadocia, a kingdom "protected" by Rome. The people of these states also seem to have been highly hybridized of Persian, Hittite, Armenian and other stocks. East of all these lay Armenia inhabited in the main by the ancestors of the modern Armenians. Mithradates is said at one time to have ruled over peoples speaking twenty‑one different languages.

This remarkable king, commonly called "the Great," came to the throne of Pontus in 120 B.C. at the age of twelve. Brilliant and audacious, though not always prudent, inordinately ambitious, cruel and generous by turns, he reveals in exaggerated form the qualities common to many of the Oriental autocrats. When once firmly established  p237 on his throne he began his career by extending his kingdom to the confines of Armenia and then invading southern Russia where the Scythian grain-raising peasants were thriving under the influence of the old Greek colonies that bordered the Crimea (the Tauric Chersonesus). This land provided him with mercenaries as well as with grain. Bearing a grudge against Rome, which had first given his father the region of Phrygia and then (at the advice of Gaius Gracchus) taken it back again, he decided to enlarge his state westward. In 93 Rome had to resist his attempt to take Cappadocia, and again in 90 his invasion of Bithynia as well as Cappadocia. But in 88 when Rome had suffered severely in the Social war he seized the opportunity (offered by the aggression of the Bithynian king) to carry out his designs. Re‑taking Bithynia and running through Galatia he dashed upon the Roman province of Asia, where many of the natives hailed him as a liberator from rapacious taxgatherers, and that winter in a general massacre, carefully planned, he had all Romans and Italians to the number of 80,000 slain in one day. It is not to be supposed that many Romans had actually migrated to Asia. In point of fact most of the slain were South-Italian and Campanian Greeks who had long conducted the shipping, trading, and banking between the East and the West and who because of their extensive training in such matters and their knowledge of several languages, had acted as publicans and traders for the Roman taxgathering firms. Most of them were Roman "citizens" only potentially, in virtue of the Julian law of two years before. But the massacre was a fearful stain upon the good name of Rome who had so signally failed to protect her province. And Sulla was then barely out of Italy on his way eastward.

Meanwhile even Athens, frightened it seems by the fall of Delos nearby, declared in favor of Mithradates, and the latter sent his general, Archelaus, to Greece with a large army to establish a Pontic protectorate, if possible  p238 as far as the Adriatic sea. Sulla accordingly had to clear Greece of enemies before he could proceed to Asia. Athens was besieged, but taken only in 86 after several months of hard labor. The people suffered not a little from looting, but Sulla had enough respect for letters to save the city for the sake of its past and to restore its independence. Sulla next met Archelaus at Chaeronea, defeated an army five times the size of his own, and presently overcame a new army sent by Mithradates to the aid of the first. Meanwhile Mithradates was being directly attacked in Asia by the Roman army which the Marians had sent against him when they revoked Sulla's command. Mithradates now offered reasonable terms of peace to Sulla, but the latter, fearing treachery on the king's part, marched to Asia to see that the settlement was made secure. There, in a personal interview, the king surrendered his conquests in Asia, offered an indemnity of 3000 talents, gave up his fleet and agreed to confine himself to his own kingdom henceforth. Sulla now demanded an enormous indemnity of 20,000 talents from the Asiatic cities for their supposed participation in the raids of the king, and called upon the Marian forces to desert their general and swear allegiance to himself, which they quickly did. Finally in 84, leaving a legate with two legions in charge of the province, he set out for Rome to punish the Marian party, sate his own desire for vengeance, and reëstablish senatorial government.

Sulla's return and Civil War. At Rome the consuls, Cinna and Carbo, were preparing forces against the inevitable, for Sulla had taught Rome that in the future party-strife would be settled by the sword. They seemed about to succeed. The new citizens hated Sulla, and believing that their future status depended upon the success of the Marians they enlisted freely. Even when Sulla gave his word that he would not again raise the question of votes, and the Senate, probably advised by Sulla, formally recognized the Marian distribution of voters, the new citizens  p239 suspected Sulla of treachery. Many of the senators and capitalists who had temporized with the democrats also feared Sulla's return and for policy's sake supported the Marian party. They had made peace with the present government, and had been allowed to retain their offices and their property. Sulla, known to be vengeful and headstrong, might not only declare himself the government but might also punish them as apostates. Such were the fears that in 85 and 84 promised to cement the forces of Italy into successful opposition to Sulla. Had the democratic party possessed a single good general it might well have won, and its success would surely have been less disastrous than Sulla's victory.

While Sulla was completing his work in the East, the Senate, in order to prevent a war if possible, wrote him urging a peaceful compromise; but Sulla answered haughtily that he and his army would impose their own terms at their own convenience. Meanwhile Cinna had been slain in a riot, and the democratic party began to fall asunder. The new consuls, men of old families, a Scipio and a Junius, but opponents of Sulla, proved to be men of little force and influence. Sulla, soon after landing in Italy, defeated the forces of the one and won over the army of the other by bribes, threats, and shrewd devices. Several commanders of detachments, among them Pompey, then twenty‑two years of age, went over to Sulla and volunteered their services. The "fox" flattered them generously. Young as he was Pompey received the title of "the Great" which with characteristic lack of any sense of humor he accepted and fondled to the end of a stormy life. Marching northward, Sulla defeated the Marians not far from Rome, and locked up the remnants in Praeneste, but not before his influential friends in the city had been murdered. Then he entered Rome in arms and seized the reins of government.

Italy, however, was not yet pacified. Strong forces of  p240 the new citizens were still in arms, especially in Etruria and Samnium. Sulla marched through Etruria, attacking the stupidly conducted detachments of Marians with no show of mercy. The Samnites thus had time to recover, and in default of a Roman general, gathered — to the number of 80,000 — under the standard of a native leader, Pontius. In a hopeless last raid upon the hated city the band dashed forward. The battle was fought all day and till midnight outside the Colline gate. Sulla won, but with a heavy loss of men: 50,000, it is said, fell on each side, and Sulla ordered his prisoners slain besides. The Samnite people were now an insignificant remnant. Sulla declared himself dictator and began his work by posting rewards for the death of those who had opposed him. On these lists of proscribed it is said that there appeared the names of 4700 persons, of whom very many were of the equestrian rank and not a few senators. Most of them perished at the hands of slaves and freedmen, slain for the sake of the blood money offered for their murder.

In the ten years of intermittent civil wars at least half a million able-bodied Romans and Italian had perished. If we may trust the census figures, that was about one‑third of all who could bear arms.

Revolutionary tendencies. This decade of civil wars began the death struggle that ended democracy in the ancient world. What had happened to the Romans that they had lost their capacity for self-control? For centuries they had progressed from one political crisis to another with calm deliberation, they had composed their differences in a spirit of fair accommodation, they had always turned to reason before resorting to the sword. It would be difficult to find in the history of any state a similar record of bloodless revolutions. With the civil war this spirit of compromise seems to have vanished and the sword was drawn at every provocation. Nations might profit from  p241 the lesson if it were possible to define the causes of this change in Rome. Unfortunately there is no science that can infallibly diagnose the diseases of governments and of social groups. At best we can only point out the concomitant evils that seem to have been operative.

Among the most important of these must be placed the undue expansion of Rome. The part of the state which was selfgoverning was hardly one percent of the whole. This ruling element at the center was growing imperious and lordly, forgetful of the old habits of equitable procedure. It was discovering also that the subject people could be exploited financially both directly and indirectly. Members of the nobility began to make provincial commands lucrative, the commercial classes gained wealth in public financing and in private ventures in the provinces, and the poor expected cheap bread out of the provincial revenues. Rome was turning into a parasitic state, for unfortunately a democracy is of all governments the least capable of keeping an even hand in the administration of subject peoples: every element in a democracy has the power to demand and get its share of the profits of dominion. At Rome it was primarily the existence of a large subject empire that brought economic considerations into politics, teaching the people to vote with a view to the pocket book, and to think of more effective means when the vote did not suffice.

It was also the existence of a vast empire which necessitated the keeping of large armies, and the armies, as we have seen, were obviously tools ready at hand for the use of unscrupulous politicians.

The change in the moral tone at Rome, another important factor, is more difficult to trace and estimate. Greek philosophy had been read assiduously for a century, and that philosophy had after Aristotle's day become rather skeptical and negative. The Romans found in many of the popular books elaborate arguments against the finality of the claims of right and justice. Men like Sulla probably  p242 disclaimed the validity of all rules of duty and frankly followed their own desires and the dictates of expediency.

The steady accumulation of family fortunes had also a deleterious effect. At any rate it is apparent that in many aristocratic families the young, brought up in loyalty, able to satisfy their every whim, had never been taught to check their desires and to learn self-control. In the political arena such men grow up to be selfish, imperious, and impatient of the restraints of laws and constitutional forms.

Not least in importance in the catalogue of altering factors is the gradual change of race at Rome. The old stock of Italy had suffered fearfully in the Punic wars, in the expansionistic campaigns East and West, and in the Social war. Roman citizens had also followed the course of conquest, going into the Gracchan colonies or into provincial ventures of their own accord, when the plantation system had made life precarious at home. As we have noted, their places were taken by hordes of slaves who bred up a new race of freedmen and consequently of citizens. Could these men, mostly of excitable eastern races, become true citizens of a Roman republic? However keen of mind and shrewd of wit they were, their experience as slaves had taught them lessons of individual craftiness rather than of political wisdom. Of Rome's constitution, the mos majorum, they knew little and cared less. Those dominating traditions — that an autocrat should never establish a throne in Rome, that men willingly die for liberty, that Rome never acknowledged defeat — were to them meaningless. Whether they might have been Romanized in time, we cannot tell; we know as yet too little about the persistence of racial traits to speculate profitably, but it is very likely that there was a vital and ineradicable temperamental difference between the versatile, choleric, superstitious, mystical and servile Asiatic and the slow minded, composed, rationalistic and liberty-loving Roman, and that the mos majorum created by centuries of Romans could neither be comprehended  p243 nor respected by the new stock which was taking the place of the old. It is not an accident that the civil war began with a demand that the freedmen be given the full franchise in all the wards. After Sulla's constitution was adopted future freedmen were again for a while confined to the four wards, but the masses that had been unloosed by Sulpicius and Cinna could not later be herded back, and the descendants of these men were henceforth in no way distinguishable from the sons of Roman citizens. In a word, it would seem that the worst disease of the Republic was the disease that devastated the race which had built the Republic and that made place for peoples who were by temperament incapable of republican government.

Sulla's Constitution. Sulla had himself elected dictator by the centuriate assembly in 82, a new office explicitly giving him the power of rewriting the constitution. His work on that constitution reveals a brilliant mind incapacitated for sane statesmanship by reactionary prejudices; but his first proposals show that at least he did not intend to make himself a permanent autocrat. The purpose of his legislation was to establish a consistently conservative Republic, to place the legislative power in the Senate and centuriate assembly where it had been two centuries before, and to reduce the tribunate and the comitia tributa to the insignificant positions these held at the very beginning, nearly four centuries earlier.

The Senate was increased to the number of 600, the right of selection was taken away from the censors, and admission to the body made automatic by election to the quaestorship. The Senate was given the power of passing or rejecting all bills before they were proposed to the centuriate comitia. Jury duty was taken from the equites and given over entirely to members of the Senate.

The magistrates were in the future to be quaestors (2), aediles (4), praetors (8), and consuls (2), and candidates were to be eligible to these offices only in the order named,  p244 according to the old lex annalis which had recently been disregarded. Consuls could not stand for reëlection within ten years. New courts were organized for the trial of special classes of cases. There were now six of these quaestiones perpetuae besides the regular urban and peregrine courts. To these courts the praetors of the year were assigned by lot. Tribunes lost all power of initiative in legislating and vetoing, and were forbidden to hold any office after the tribuneship. Sulla desired to keep men of ambition out of office for fear that they might try to resuscitate the comitia tributa.

The centuriate assembly, organized on the basis of wealth, was brought back to life and made the regular legislative body, but since this body was presided over by consuls it would seldom be called upon to act except on measures approved by the Senate. The comitia tributa was employed only for the election of plebeian magistrates.

This constitution was more consistent than any that Rome ever had before or after, but it was hopelessly out of date. A people that has once accepted the doctrine of popular sovereignty will not submit to oligarchic rule except by compulsion. And in humiliating both the equestrian order and the people it evoked opposition that was bound to force a day of reckoning. The constitution was doomed from the first. A few of its better points, however, were long left intact; the regulation of provincial commands, the several courts, and the composition of the Senate.

Sulla's harsh treatment of Italy was even less wise than his legislation. Though he did not remove the "new citizens" from their place in the 35 tribes, he took the franchise completely away from many cities in Etruria and Samnium which had opposed him. Not only this, but he confiscated the land of many of such cities and gave it to his soldiers. This unprecedented act of cruelty disturbed the whole economic machinery of Italy, for it displaced good producers by impatient adventurers, and created a disaffected horde  p245 of homeless peasants ready to revolt at any call. We shall soon find that Catiline later drew abundant recruits both from the dispossessed and from the ranks of the unsuccessful colonists of Sulla's army.

The province of Asia on the other hand received some compensation for his cruel exactions of 84. He changed the taxing system by fixing the sum due from each community and permitting the communities to pay these sums directly without the costly intervention of extortionate Roman corporations.

In 79 his plan was complete and had been accepted; then to the surprise of Rome he resigned his dictatorship and retired to private life near Naples. Probably some remnant of respect for the Rome of which he had read in history was the cause of this unexpected act of self-denial. However, he did not wholly refrain from expressing his opinion to his obedient servants in positions of power at Rome; he knew well that his old veterans, whose possessions had come from him, would heed any call to support his expressed will, and that the 10,000 slaves of proscribed citizens whom he had liberated understood that their liberty depended upon the respect in which their patron's acts were held. He had enough deeply interested protectors to be able to enjoy the rest of his life in safety. However, his days were numbered. Apoplexy brought on by a fit of passion removed him amid many sighs of relief in 78 when at the age of sixty. On his monument was written the inscription which he himself had composed. It breaths the true spirit of the petty politician: "No friend has ever done me a kindness and no enemy a wrong without being fully repaid."

It is a relief to turn from Sulla to three young men of sounder character, destined to become famous, all of whom shaped their careers largely by the attitude they now in early youth adopted towards Sulla and his acts. These are Pompey and Cicero, but twenty‑two when Sulla  p246 returned from the East, and Julius Caesar, who was about four years younger. Pompey reached a position of eminence first by gathering an army of soldiers who had served under his father and with these entering the service of the victor. The latter, finding him an exceedingly efficient soldier, employed him in the work of clearing Italy, then sent him to subdue the Marian forces who were recruiting in Sicily and in Africa. In both places the youth proved himself skilful and clean-handed though needlessly severe. In 80 Sulla permitted him to triumph, though he had held no office of state, and was but twenty-five years of age. That had never before occurred. It was already evident that Pompey was a man to be reckoned with.

Cicero was a young man of different temper. While Pompey was commanding legions, Cicero was preparing for a public career in the Forum, reading philosophy, and at spare moments writing poetry. The Civil wars and Sulla's proscriptions sickened him with a disgust for bloodshed that forever after was apt to lame his will at times of great crises. While Sulla was still in power in the year 80, he was the first to offer his services in court for the defense of a young man, Roscius, who was threatened with death at the hands of Sulla's unscrupulous favorites. The speech, still extant, was as brilliant as it was daring, and it established his fame. The young orator won his case, but found it necessary to leave Rome until after Sulla had died.

Caesar also, though younger, attracted the attention of Sulla, and his displeasure. This young politician was suspected by the aristocratic party because he was related to Marius and had chosen to emphasize his connections with the democratic party by taking as wife the daughter of Cinna. Sulla, thinking the young man worth saving for his own party, bade him divorce Cornelia, which however Caesar refused to do. It was only by the insistent intervention of powerful friends that his name was kept off the proscription lists. But Sulla continued to watch the  p247 young man who, he said, "had many a Marius in him," and Caesar wisely withdrew to take a position in the army campaigning in Asia. Of these three men who grew up in the days of Sulla's great power, Pompey profited most from the master's favors while repudiating his methods; Cicero, disgusted by the dictator's cruelty and disregard for law and justice, shaped his whole career into a protest against all that Sulla represented; while Caesar, most imperilled by the "old fox," was the one who eventually adopted for himself the example of Sulla and finally imposed autocracy upon Rome.


The Author's Note:

1 Our sources for this important period are fragmentary. The evidence for the conclusion adopted here are discussed in Classical Philology, 1919, p547.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 10 Dec 20