The Last Days of the RepublicWITH the exception of Britain, all the permanent conquests of Rome were made by the arms of the republic, which, though "sometimes vanquished in battle," were "always victorious in war." But as Roman power increased, Roman virtue declined; and of all forms of government, the stability of the republican depends most upon the integrity of the individual. The immortal Lincoln''s definition of a republic is the best that can ever be given: "A government of the people, by the people, and for the people." A republic is a government of the people" -- the people compose the government. The people are governed by "the people" -- by themselves. They are governed by the people, "for the people" -- they are governed by themselves, for themselves. Such a government is but self-government; each citizen governs himself, by himself, -- by his own powers of self-restraint, -- and he does this for himself, for his own good, for his own best interests. In proportion as this conception is not fulfilled, in proportion as the people lose the power of governing themselves, in the same proportion the true idea of a republic will fail of realization.
It is said of the early Romans that "they possessed the faculty of self-government beyond any people of whom we have historical knowledge," with the sole exception of the Anglo-Saxons. And by virtue of this, in the very nature of the case they became the most powerful nation of all ancient times.
But their extensive conquests filled Rome with gold. With wealth came luxury; as said Juvenal, --
"Luxury came on more cruel than our arms,
And avenged the vanquished world with her charms."
In the train of luxury came vice; self-restraint was broken down; the power of self-government was lost; and the Roman republic failed, as every other republic will fail, when that fails by virtue of which alone a republic is possible. The Romans ceased to govern themselves, and they had to be governed. They lost the faculty of self-government, and with that vanished the republic, and its place was supplied by an imperial tyranny supported by a military despotism.
In the second Punic War, Rome''s victories had reduced the mighty Carthage, B. C. 201, to the condition of a mere mercantile town; and within a few years afterward she had spread her conquests round the whole coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, and had made herself "the supreme tribunal in the last resort between kings and nations." "The southeast of Spain, the coast of France from the Pyrenees to Nice, the north of Italy, Illyria and Greece, Sardinia, Sicily, and the Greek islands, the southern and western shores of Asia Minor, were Roman provinces, governed directly under Roman magistrates. On the African side, Mauritania (Morocco) was still free. Numidia (the modern Algeria) retained its native dynasty, but was a Roman dependency. The Carthaginian dominions, Tunis and Tripoli, had been annexed to the empire. The interior of Asia Minor up to the Euphrates, with Syria and Egypt, was under sovereigns called allies, but, like the native princes in India, subject to a Roman protectorate. Over this enormous territory, rich with the accumulated treasures of centuries, and inhabited by thriving, industrious races, the energetic Roman men of business had spread and settled themselves, gathering into their hands the trade, the financial administration, the entire commercial control, of the Mediterranean basin. They had been trained in thrift and economy, in abhorrence of debt, in strictest habits of close and careful management. Their frugal education, their early lessons in the value of money, good and excellent as those lessons were, led them as a matter of course, to turn to account their extraordinary opportunities. Governors with their staffs, permanent officials, contractors for the revenue, negotiators, bill-brokers, bankers, merchants, were scattered everywhere in thousands. Money poured in upon them in rolling streams of gold.: -- Froade.1
The actual administrative powers of the government were held by the body of the senators, who held office for life. The Senate had control of the public treasury, and into its hands went not only the regular public revenue from all sources, but also the immense spoil of plundered cities and conquered provinces. With the Senate lay also the appointment, and from its own ranks, too, of all the governors of provinces; and a governorship was the goal of wealth. A governor could go out from Rome poor, perhaps a bankrupt, hold his province for one, two, or three years, and return with millions. The inevitable result was that the senatorial families and leading commoners built up themselves into an aristocracy of wealth ever increasing. Owing to the opportunities for the accumulation of wealth in the provinces more rapidly than at home, many of the most enterprising citizens sold their farms and left Italy. The farms were bought up by the Roman capitalists, and the small holdings were merged into vast estates. Besides this, the public lands were leased on easy terms by the Senate to persons of political influence, who by the lapse of time, had come to regard the land as their own by right of occupation. The Licinian law passed in 367 B. C., provided that no one should occupy more than three hundred and thirty-three acres of the public lands; and that every occupant should employ a certain proportion of free laborers. But at the end of two hundred years these favored holders had gone far beyond the law in both of these points: they extended their holdings beyond the limits prescribed by the law; and they employed no free laborers at all, but worked their holdings by slave labor wholly. Nor was this confined to the occupiers of the public lands; all wealthy land owners worked their land by slaves.
In the Roman conquests, where prisoners were taken in battle, or upon the capture or the unconditional surrender of a city, they were all sold as slaves. They were not slaves such as were in the Southern States of the United States in slavery times. They were Spaniards, Gauls, Greeks, Asiatics, and Carthaginians. Of course they were made up of all classes, yet many of them were intelligent, trained, and skillful; and often among them would be found those who were well educated. These were bought up by the wealthy Romans by the thousands. The skilled mechanics and artisans among them were employed in their owners'' workshops established in Rome; the others were spread over the vast landed estates, covering them with vineyards, orchards, olive gardens, and the products of general agriculture; and all increasing their owners'' immense incomes. "Wealth poured in more and more, and luxury grew more unbounded. Palaces sprang up in the city, castles in the country, villas at pleasant places by the sea, and parks and fish-ponds, and game preserves, and gardens, and vast retinues of servants," everywhere. The effect of all this absorbing of the land, whether public or private, into great estates worked by slaves, was to crowd the free laborers off the lands and into the large towns and into Rome above all. There they found every trade and occupation filled with slaves, whose labor only increased the wealth of the millionaire, and with which it was impossible successfully to compete. The only alternative was to fall into the train of the political agitator, become the stepping-stone to his ambition, sell their votes to the highest bidder, and perhaps have a share in the promised more equable division of the good things which were monopolized by the rich.
For, to get money by any means lawful or unlawful, had become the universal passion. "Money was the one thought from the highest senator to the poorest wretch who sold his vote in the Comitia. For money judges gave unjust decrees, and juries gave corrupt verdicts." -- Froude.2 It has been well said that, "With all his wealth, there were but two things which the Roman noble could buy -- political power and luxury." -- Froude.3 And the poor Roman had but one thing that he could sell -- his vote. Consequently with the rich, able only to buy political power, and with the poor, able only to sell his vote, the elections once pure, became matters of annual bargain and sale between the candidates and the voters. "To obtain a province was the first ambition of a Roman noble. The road to it lay through the praetorship and the consulship; these offices, therefore, became the prizes of the State; and being in the gift of the people, they were sought after by means which demoralized alike the givers and the receivers. The elections were managed by clubs and coteries; and, except on occasions of national danger or political excitement, those who spent most freely were most certain of success. Under these conditions the chief powers in the commonwealth necessarily centered in the rich. There was no longer an aristocracy of birth, still less of virtue. . . . But the door of promotion was open to all who had the golden key. The great commoners bought their way into the magistracies. From the magistracies they passed into the Senate." -- Froude.4 And from the Senate they passed to the governorship of a province.
To obtain the first office in the line of promotion to the governorship, men would exhaust every resource, and plunge into what would otherwise have been hopeless indebtedness. Yet having obtained the governorship, when they returned, they were fully able to pay all their debts, and still be millionaires. "The highest offices of State were open in theory to the meanest citizen; they were confined, in fact, to those who had the longest purses, or the most ready use of the tongue on popular platforms. Distinctions of birth had been exchanged for distinctions of wealth. The struggle between plebeians and patricians for equality of privilege was over, and a new division had been formed between the party of property and a party who desired a change in the structure of society." -- Froude.5
Such was the condition of things, B. C. 146, when the ruin of Carthage left Rome with no fear of a rival to her supremacy. Senatorial power was the sure road to wealth. The way to this was through the praetorship and the consulship. These offices were the gift of the populace through election by popular vote. The votes of the great body of the populace were for sale; and as only those who could control sufficient wealth were able to buy enough votes to elect, the sure result was, of course, that all the real powers of the government were held by the aristocracy of wealth. Then as these used their power to increase their own wealth and that of their favorites, and only used their wealth to perpetuate their power, another sure result was the growth of jealousy on the part of the populace, and a demand constantly growing louder and more urgent, that there should be a more equable division of the good things of life which were monopolized by the favored few. "All orders in a society may be wise and virtuous, but all cannot be rich. Wealth which is used only for idle luxury is always envied, and envy soon curdles into hate. It is easy to persuade the masses that the good things of this world are unjustly divided, especially when it happens to be the exact truth." -- Froude.6
And as these two classes were constantly growing farther apart, -- the rich growing richer and the poor, poorer, -- there ceased to be any middle class to maintain order in government and society by holding the balance of power. There remained only the two classes, the rich and the poor, and of these the rich despised the poor and the poor envied the rich. And there were always plenty of men to stir up the discontent of the masses, and present schemes for the reorganization of society and government. Some of these were well meaning men, men who really had in view the good of their fellow-men, but the far greater number were mere demagogues, -- ambitious schemers who used the discontent of the populace only to lift themselves into the places of wealth and power which they envied others, and which, when they had secured, they used as selfishly and as oppressively as did any of those against whom they clamored. But whether they were well meaning men or demagogues, in order to hold the populace against the persuasions and bribes of the wealthy, they were compelled to make promises and concessions, which were only in the nature of larger bribes and which in the end were as destructive of free government as the worst acts of the Senate itself.
In the long contest between the people and the Senate, which ended in the establishment of an imperial form of government, the first decisive step was taken by Tiberius Gracchus, who was elected tribune of the people in the year 133 B. C. On his way home from Spain shortly before, as he passed through Tuscany, he saw in full operation the ''large estate system carried on by the wealthy senators or their favorites, -- the public lands unlawfully leased in great tracts, "the fields cultivated by the slave gangs, the free citizens of the republic thrust away into the towns, aliens and outcasts in their own country, without a foot of soil which they could call their own." He at once determined that the public lands should be restored to the people; and as soon as he was elected tribune, he set to work to put his views into law. As the government was of the people, if the people were only united they could carry any measure they pleased, in spite of the Senate. As the senators and their wealthy favorites were the offenders, it was evident that if any such law should be secured, it would have to be wholly by the people''s overriding the Senate; and to the people Tiberius Gracchus directly appealed. He declared that the public land belonged to the people, demanded that the monopolists should be removed, and that the public lands should be re-distributed among the citizens of Rome. The monopolists argued that they had leased the land from the Senate, and had made their investments on the faith that the law was no longer of force. Besides this they declared that as they were then occupying the lands, and as the lands had been so occupied for ages before, with the sanction of the government, to call in question their titles now, was to strike at the very foundations of society. Tiberius and his party replied only by pointing to the statute which stood unrepealed, and showing that however long the present system had been worked, it was illegal and void from the beginning.
Yet Tiberius did not presume to be arbitrary. He proposed to pay the holders for their improvements; but as for the public land itself, it belonged to the people, and to the people it should go. The majority of the citizens stood by Tiberius. But another of the tribunes, Octavius Caecina by name, himself having large interests in the land question, went over to the side of the Senate; and, in the exercise of his constitutional right, forbade the taking of the vote. From the beginning, the functions of the tribunes were that they should be the defenders of the people and the guardians of the rights of the people, against the encroachment of the Consulate and the Senate. And now when one of their own constitutional defenders deserted them and went over to the enemy, even though in doing it he exercised only his constitutional prerogative, this the people would not bear. It was to support an unlawful system that it was done; the people were all-powerful, and they determined to carry their measure, constitution or no constitution.7 Tiberius called upon them to declare Caecina deposed from the Tribunate; they at once complied. Then they took the vote which Caecina had forbidden, and the land law of Tiberius Gracchus was secured.
Three commissioners were appointed to carry into effect the provisions of the law. But from whatever cause, the choosing of the commissioners was unfortunate -- they were Tiberius himself, his younger brother, and his father in law. Being thus apparently a family affair, the aristocrats made the most of it, and bided their time; for the tribunes were elected for only a year, and they hoped so to shape the elections when the year should expire, as to regain their power. But when the year expired, Tiberius unconstitutionally presented himself for re-election, and the prospect was that he would secure it. When the election day came, the aristocrats, with their servants and hired voters, went armed to the polls; and as soon as they saw that Tiberius would surely be chosen, they raised a prior. The people being unarmed, were driven off. Tiberius Gracchus and three hundred of his friends were killed and pitched into the Tiber. Yet though they had killed Tiberius, they did not dare to attempt at once the repeal of the law which he had secured, nor openly to interfere with the work of the commissioners in executing the law. Within two years the commissioners had settled forty thousand families upon public lands which the monopolists had been obliged to surrender.
The commissioners soon became unpopular. Those who were compelled to resign their lands were exasperated, of course. On the other hand, those to whom the land was given were not in all cases satisfied. It was certain that some would be given better pieces pieces of land than others, and that of itself created jealousy and discontent. But the greatest trouble was, that in the great majority of cases it was not land that they wanted, in fact. It was money that they wanted first of all; and although the land was virtually given to them and well improved at that, they could not get money out of it without work. It had to be personal work, too, because to hire slaves was against the very law by virtue of which they had received the land; and to hire freemen was impossible, (1) because no freeman would work for a slave''s wages -- that in his estimate would be to count himself no better than a slave -- and, (2) the new landed proprietor could not afford to pay the wages demanded by free labor, because he had to meet the competition of the wealthy land owners who worked their own land with slave labor. The only alternative was for the new land-holders to work their land themselves, and do the best they could at it. But as the money did not come as fast as they wished, and as what did come was only by hard work and economical living, many of them heartily wished themselves back amid the stir and bustle of the busy towns, working for daily wages, though the wages might be small. The discontented cries soon grow loud enough to give the Senate its desired excuse to suspend the commissioners and then quietly to repeal the law, and resume its old supremacy.
Just nine years after the death of Tiberius Gracchus his brother Caius was elected a tribune, and took up the work in behalf of which Tiberius had lost his life. The Senate had been jealous of him for some time, and attacked him with petty prosecutions and false accusations; and when he was elected tribune, the Senate knew that this meant no good to it. Caius revived the land law that had been secured by his brother ten years before, but he did not stop there; he attacked the Senate itself. All important State cases, whether civil or criminal, were tried before a court composed of senators -- about sixty or seventy. This privilege also the senators had turned to their own profit by selling their verdicts. It was no secret that the average senatorial juryman was approachable with money; if not in the form of a direct bribe, there were many other ways in which a wealthy senator could make his influence felt. Governors could plunder their provinces, rob temples, sell their authority, and carry away everything they could lay hands on; yet, although in the eyes of the law these were the gravest offenses, when they returned to Rome, they could admit their fellow-senators to a share in their stealings, and rest perfectly secure. If the plundered provincials came up to Rome with charges against a governor, the charges had to be passed upon by a board of senators who had either been governors themselves or else were only waiting for the first chance to become governors, and a case had to be one of special hardship and notorious at that, before any notice would be taken of it in any effective way. The general course was only to show that the law was a mockery where the rich and influential were concerned. At this system of corruption, Caius Gracchus aimed a successful blow. He carried a law disqualifying forever any senator from sitting on a jury of any kind, and transferring these judicial functions to the equites, or knights, an order of men below the dignity of mouators, but yet who had to be possessed of a certain amount of wealth to be eligible to the order. By this measure, Caius bound to himself the whole body of the knights.
But these attacks upon the Senate successful though they were, and these favors to the knights, were of no direct benefit to the people; therefore to maintain his position with them, Caius was obliged to do something that would be so directly in their favor that there could be no mistaking it. It was not enough that he should restore the land law that had been secured by his brother. That law, even while it was being worked at its best, was satisfactory to but few of its beneficiaries. The law was restored, it is true, but the prospect of leaving Rome and going perhaps to some distant part of Italy to engage in hard work, was not much of a temptation to men who had spent any length of time in Rome, involved in its political strifes, and whose principal desire was to obtain money and the means of subsistence with as little work as possible. It required something more than the restoration of the land law to satisfy these, and Caius granted it.
With the "enthusiastic clapping" of every pair of poor hands in Rome, he secured the passage of a law decreeing that there should be established in Rome, public granaries to be filled and maintained at the cost of the State, and that from these the wheat should be sold to the poor citizens at a merely nominal price. This law applied only to Rome, because in Rome the elections were held. "The effect was to gather into the city a mob of needy, unemployed voters, living on the charity of the State, to crowd the circus and to clamor at the elections, available no doubt immediately to strengthen the hands of the popular tribune, but certain in the long run to sell themselves to those who could bid highest for their voices." -- Froude.8 We have already seen that the only stock in trade of the poor citizen was his vote and the effect of this law was greatly to increase the value of that commodity; because as now he was virtually supported by the State, he became more nearly independent, and could easily devote more time to political agitation, and could demand larger returns for his influence and his vote. But Caius carried his law, and so bound to himself, and greatly multiplied, too, the mass of voters in Rome; and having secured the support of both the knights and the populace, he carried all before him, and was even re-elected to the Tribunate, and could have been elected the third time; but he proposed a scheme that estranged the mob, and his power departed.
He proposed that in different parts of the empire, Roman colonies should be established with all the privileges of Roman citizenship, and one of these places was Carthage. That city, while it existed, had always been the greatest earthly menace to Rome, and when it had been reduced to ashes and the Roman plowshare drawn over it, it was cursed forever. And now the mere suggestion to restore it was magnified by Caius''s enemies to a height that made the proposition appear but little short of treason. This of itself, however, might not have defeated him; but if this colonization scheme was carried out, many of the populace would have to leave Rome and go to some distant part of the empire: and worse than all else, they would have to work. No longer could they be fed at the public expense and spend their lives in the capital, in the whirl of political excitement and the amusements of the Roman circus. Even to contemplate such a prospect was intolerable; still more, and as though Caius deliberately designed to add insult to injury, he proposed to bestow the franchise upon all the freemen of Italy. This would be only to cut down in an unknown ratio the value of the votes of those who now possessed the franchise. Such a calamity as that never could be borne. The course of the Senate might have been one of misrule, but this of Caius Gracchus was fast developing into unbearable despotism. The election day came, riots were raised, and Caius Gracchus and three thousand of his friends were killed, as had been his brother and his friends ten years before.
The mob having now no leader, the Senate resumed its sway as before, and went on in the same old way, except that the laws actually passed by Caius had to stand. It was not long, however, before the Senate was put to a test which effectually exposed its utter incompetency to rule the Roman State. West of the Carthaginian province of Rome, lay the kingdom of Numidia, over which the Roman power extended its protectorate. Miscipsa was king. He had two sons, Hiempsal and Adheabal, and an illegitimate nephew, Jugurtha. Miscipsa died B. C. 118, and left his kingdom jointly to the three young men. Jugurtha at once murdered Hiempsal, and attacked Adherbal. Adherbal appealed to Rome, but Jugurtha had already made himself safe with the Senate. The Senate sent out commissioner, Jugurtha bribed them, and they went home again. Jugurtha pushed the war, Adherbal was taken, and was killed after having been tortured almost to death. After the capture of Adherbal and his forces, some Roman citizens had also been taken, and after their surrender, they too were killed. This raised such a cry at Rome that the Senate was compelled at least to promise an investigation; but as no results were to be seen, one of the tribunes openly told the people that there were men in the Senate who were bribed. At this the popular indignation began to show itself so strongly that the Senate dared no longer to brave it, and declared war on Jugurtha. An army was sent to Africa in command of a consel. Jugurtha bribed the consul, and secured a peace on the payment of a small fine. Memmius, the same tribune who before had the courage openly to charge the Senate with taking bribes, again openly exposed in the Forum this last piece of rascality. The Senate saw the storm gathering, and once more bestirred itself to the extent of calling Jugurtha to Rome. This was only to increase the opportunities of both Jugurtha and themselves. Jugurtha came laden with gold, and in addition to the Senate which he already owned, he bribed every one of the tribunes, except Memmius, who was proof against all his blandishments. Jugurtha had been called to Rome under a safe-conduct, and he was at last ordered back home, but the cause was not yet settled. The Senate sent over another army. But Rome had as yet no standing army, and therehad now been peace so long that the old military discipline of the citizens had completely run down. The men who were enlisted were wholly ignorant of military duty, and the officers, appointed mostly from among the rich young nobles, were more illy prepared for war than were the men. The army went to Africa, and in about two months the half of it was destroyed, and the other half captured, by Jugurtha. About the same time, two armies were destroyed by the Gauls up on the Rhone. ("While the great men at Rome were building palaces, inventing new dishes, and hiring cooks at unheard-of salaries, the barbarians were at the gates of Italy." -- Froude.9
This combination of disgraces and dangers gave such force to the popular complaints against the Senate, that it was at last aroused to a determination really to do something, and the best man that could be found -- Caecilius Metellus -- was appointed to lead a new expedition against Jugurtha. Metellus having it in mind to put an end to the Jugurtha. War, chose as his second in command the ablest general that he could find, Caius Marius. Arrived in Numidia, the Roman army was successful in several battles, and Jugurtha asked for peace; but as Metellus demanded unconditional surrender, and could not be bribed, Jugurtha drew his forces into the desert, and caused the war to drag along. As the time for the election of a consel for the next drew on, Marius''s name was mentioned as the candidate of the people. It was the law that the candidate must be present at the election, and Marius obtained the consent of Metellus to go to Rome. Election day came, B. C. 107, and although the aristocracy did all they could to defeat him, Marius was elected -- the first instance in a hundred years in which a consul had been chosen from the people. Metellus was recalled, and Marius was given sole command in the war with Jugurtha. He first set on foot a thorough reorganization of the military power of Rome. Up to this time, the Roman armies had been but a militia -- citizens called from their various occupations for service upon emergency, and returning to their occupations as soon as the occasion was past which made their services necessary. Marius enlisted men to become professional soldiers. These he thoroughly drilled, and reduced to the strictest discipline. Thus originated the standing army of Rome, which out of the corruptions of the times at last arose to a military despotism. With such an army of well trained and well disciplined troops, Marius, before the next year was ended, had brought the Jugurthine War to a triumphant close, and Jugurtha himself was brought in chains to Rome.
Marius had barely ended the trouble in Numidia, before all his skill and all the valor of his well trained legions, were urgently demanded to turn back the tide of barbarians, -- Cimbri and Teutons, -- which in two mighty streams of hundreds of thousands each, was pouring into Italy. While Marius was in Africa, the largest army that Rome had ever sent against an enemy, was by these savages swept out of existence, B. C. 107. But although the generalship of Marius was now urgently needed -- B. C. 104 -- his consulship had expired, and there was no precedent for electing the same person consul a second time. In times of imminent danger it was in the province of the Senate to suspend the constitution, declare the State in danger, and appoint a dictator. But as Marius was the favorite of the populace, it was known by all that should the Senate exercise its prerogative, it would never appoint him as the dictator; and it was also known by all that Marius was the only man who could save the State. Therefore, the people took the power into their own hands again, and virtually suspended the constitution by electing Marius consul the second time, B. C. 104.
The barbarians, however, did not come at once into Italy. By some cause their erratic course was turned aside, and they swept through southern Gaul, across the Pyrenees into Spain, over northern Spain to the Atlantic, up the coast into Gaul again, across Gaul to the Seine and even to the Rhine; and then gathering fresh force from their brethren from the wilds of Germany, the torrent rolled once more toward Italy. In this wild raid two years were consumed. In Rome the people still held sway, and Marius was elected consul a third time, and even a fourth time. He put the two years to good use in perfecting the efficiency of his legions, and drawing them up to the borders of Italy. He met the Teutons even beyond the Alps, and annihilated the whole host, July 20, B. C. 102. The Cimbri by another route passed the Alps and forced back as far as the Po, the legions under Catulus. Marius, in his absence, was elected consul the fifth time, and continued in command. He came to the rescue of Catulus. The Cimbri were utterly destroyed (B. C. 101, summer), and Italy was saved. Marius was the idol of the people; they prided themselves upon saving the country by him, and they elected him consel the sixth time, B. C. 100.
But Rome was no sooner free once more from the danger of a foreign foe, than by civil strife and political violence she began to prey again upon her own vitals. Besides Marius, the two favorites of the people just at this time were Saturninus, a tribune, and Glaucia, a praetor. With these Marius allied himself. They were all powerful, and passed, (1) another land law dividing up portions of the public domain among the veterans of Marius; (2) a law establishing colonies in Sicily, Achaia, and Macedonia; (3) a law reducing as low as two cents a peck, the price of wheat from the public granaries; and, (4) to cap it all, they passed a vote that all the senators should take an oath to execute these laws under penalty of fine and expulsion from the Senate. All this was done in the midst of riot, tumult, and bloodshed. Metellus alone, of all the senators, refused to take the oath to execute these laws. Saturninus had him dragged out of the Senate house and expelled from the city. Yet there was not entire harmony in the popular party. There were rival candidates and consequent jealousies. Saturninus and Glaucia were in the full tide of success, and would brook no rivals.
Memmius stood for the consulship at the same time that Glaucia was a candidate for that office. As it appeared that Memmius would be elected, he was murdered. At this, both Saturninus and Glaucia were declared public enemies. They took refuge in the capitol, and barricaded it. The aristocrats laid siege to them; Marius interceded, and they surrendered to him. They were confined in an apartment of the Senate house to be held for trial. The aristocrats tore off the roof, and pelted them to death with stones and tiles.
It will be remembered that in the tribunate of Caius Gracchus -- B. C. 123 -- the corruption of justice by the senators had made it necessary to deprive them of the right to sit on juries, and that this privilege was bestowed upon the knights. Yet within about thirty years the same evil bad grown to such a height among the knights as to call loudly for a reform. Accordingly, in B. C. 91 Marcus Divius Drusus, a tribune, brought forward a proposal to reform the law courts, and thereby incurred the deadly enmity of the whole Equestrian order. With this he proposed both new land laws and new corn laws, which increased the hatred of the senatorial order toward the populace. These laws were passed, but the Senate declared them null and void. Drusus had also entered into negotiations with the Italians to secure for them Roman citizenship. He was denounced in the Senate house as a traitor, and on his way home was assassinated.
The Italians seeing their last hope was gone, rose in rebellion, and set about to form a new State of their own to be called Italia. They had long borne an equal share in the burdens of the State; they had helped to subdue Jugurtha, and had borne an important part in the defeat of the barbarian host. They were now determined that if they were to bear an equal share in the burdens of the State, they would have a voice, too, in the affairs of the State; and if they could not have it in the Roman State, they would have it in one of their own. Rome was determined not to allow this if she could avoid it. But in the war which followed, the first campaigns were disastrous to the Roman arms, and although some successes were afterwards gained, they were not decisive; she soon found her treasury empty, and found disaffection springing up in districts that had not revolted. Drusus had been murdered in 91; the war for the franchise immediately followed, and Rome''s dangers and distresses became so threatening that in the latter part of the year 90, a law was passed granting th the franchise to all the Italian communities which should within sixty days hand in their names to the praetor in Rome; and a third law was passed shortly afterward empowering the Roman magistrates in the field to bestow the franchise upon all who would receive it. In this way the forces of the insurgents were so weakened that the war was soon closed.
The close of war in the field was only the signal for the renewal of strife in the political arena of the city. All the old quarrels were renewed with increased bitterness, and the lately enfranchised Italians were a new element in the strife. Their voting power was incorporated with that of tribes already existing, which was only to rob them of a large share of the value of their votes. This made them discontented from the very beginning. Added to all the bitterness of factions, and the rivalries of all classes who had any political power at all, there was now wide-spread distress and ruin that affected all classes. And besides all this, Mithradates, king of Pontus, taking advantage of the social war in Italy, had set out to reduce all the East in subjection to himself. The Roman governors had made such a tyrannical use of their power that all the provinces of the East were ready to revolt at the first fair opportunity that offered. The fleets of Mithradates, coming out over the Black Sea, poured through the Hellespond and the Dardanelles into the Grecian Archipelago. All the islands, and the provinces of Ionia, Caria, and Lydia, taking advantage of this, rose at once in determined revolt, and put to death many thousands of the Roman residents. Not only the governors, but the merchants, the bankers, and the farmers of the taxes, with their families, were promiscuously murdered.
Mithradates himself, with a powerful army, followed close upon the success of his fleet, crossed the Bosphorus, and penetrated into Greece, which received him as a deliverer. All this compelled Rome to declare war upon Mithradates; but this was only to deepen her own local contests; because there was bitter rivalry and contention as to who should command the armies to be sent against Mithradates. Marius was still a great favorite, but there was now a strong rival to his popularity in the person of Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Sulla had been one of Marius''s best assistants in putting an end to the Jugurthine War, and also in defeating the Teutons and the Cimbri. He made himself the favorite of the soldiers by allowing them to indulge "in plundering and in all kinds of license." Before the social war he had already made one journey into the East with an army, had defeated one of the generals of Mithradates, had restored, for a time, order in the Eastern provinces, and had received an embassy from the Parthians, which was sent to solicit an alliance with Rome, B. C. 92. He returned to Rome in 91, and both he and Marius were given command in the war with the Italians. Sulla''s success was more marked than that of Marius, and there were not those lacking who would stir up jealousy between the two commanders by claiming that Marius''s success against Jugurtha and the barbarians was more owing to the abilities of Sulla than to his own. Sulla was one of the aristocracy, -- "a patrician of the purest blood," -- but he had made an immense bid for the favor of the populace by exhibiting in the arena a hundred African lions.
Everybody in Rome, and, for that matter, in all Italy, knew that the contest for the command of the troops in the Mithradatic War, lay between Marius and Sulla; and every one knew that the contest stood, Sulla and the Senatorial party against Marius and the people. The contest deepened, and it was more and more evident that, in the existing state of things, it could not be decided without a crisis. A tribune -- Sulpicius Rufus -- proposed for adoption a series of laws: (1) that Marius should be given command in the Mithradatic War; (2) that more power should be given to the newly-made citizens and more value to their votes, by increasing the number of tribes, and distributing the new citizens through all the tribes; (3) that any senator who was in debt more than 2000 denarii (about $300), should lose his seat; (4) and that those who had been banished on suspicion of having encouraged the Italian revolt should be recalled.
These proposals only made the confusion of parties worse confounded. The proposal to give Marius the command pleased the great majority of the people; that in favor of the new citizens, secured the influence of all these, but the proposal to increase the power of their votes was bitterly opposed by the old voters, because it would lessen the value of their own votes. The proposal to unseat such of the senators as should come within the provisions of the law, was only to raise the whole Senate to war by attempting to curtail its power; and again, the proposal in favor of Marius only aroused both the Senate and Sulla to the most determined opposition. But through it all it soon became evident that Rufus would carry his whole scheme. The consuls, -- Sulla was one of them, -- to prevent the legislation, proclaimed the day a public holiday. Rufus armed his party and drove the consuls from the Forum, compelled them to withdraw the proclamation of a holiday, and carried his laws. But Sulla put himself at the head of his soldiers and marched them into the city, and "for the first time a Roman consul entered the city of Rome at the head of the legions of the republic." There was resistance, but it was utterly vain. Marius escaped to Africa, Rufus was taken and killed, and twelve others of the popular leaders put to death without a trial. Sulla, at the head of his troops and supported by the Senate, settled affairs to suit himself, and with his legions departed for the East in the beginning of the year 87 B. C.
Sulla was no sooner well out of Italy than one of the consuls -- Cinna -- put himself at the head of the people, and proposed to carry out the laws of Rufus. The new citizens had assembled in crowds to exercise their right of voting. The other consul, standing for Sulla and the Senate, brought out an armed force, and commanded the assembled voters to disperse; and because they refused, they were hewn down where they stood, and "the Forum was heaped high with the bodies of the slain." "Such a scene of slaughter had never been witnessed in Rome since the first stone of the city was laid." -- Froude.10 Cinna and the tribunes fled, but it was to gather together the soldiers as Sulla had done before them. Marius, too, returned with a thousand cavalry from Numidia, and he had no sooner stepped ashore in Italy than he was joined by five thousand of his veterans, and with his six thousand men he united with Cinna at the gates of Rome. The Senate had made preparations for a vigorous defense, and, in order to prevent the threatened attack, issued proclamations, making every concession, and granting every privilege that had been demanded. But all was to no purpose. They could not be trusted. Marius and Cinna pressed forward, and after a brief resistance, the city was surrendered, and the two generals entered with their troops. A fearful massacre followed. Fifty senators and a thousand knights were slain, besides great numbers of their partisans, and for many days the city was given up to a reign of terror. These were the last days of the year 87 B. C. Marius died January 13, 86. Cinna, supported by his troops, became virtually dictator, and ruled Rome for three years.
Sulla was everywhere successful against Mithradates, and in the year 84 a peace was concluded, in which Mithradates was reduced to the position of a vassal of Rome.
In 83 Sulla determined to return to Italy, which under Cinna''s rule had been almost entirely turned against him. The Italians dreaded to have Sulla return, and Cinna started to go into Greece with his forces to meet Sulla there, but his troops mutinied and killed him, and Sulla was in a short time landed in Italy with 40,000 veteran troops, who had not yet known defeat. Sulla was joined by Pompey with a legion which he had raised. The defeat of Cinna had dissolved the unity of the parties in Italy, yet it took Sulla about a year to bring all the country into subjection. As soon as he had made his position secure, he entered upon a course of continuous and systematic murder of all who had in any way given support to Cinna or Marius. He had the Senate to appoint him dictator, which made him master of everything and everybody in Italy.
"He at once outlawed every magistrate, every public servant of any kind, civil or municipal, who had held office under the rule of Cinna. Lists were drawn for him of the persons of wealth and consequence all over Italy who belonged to the liberal party. He selected agents whom he could trust, or supposed he could trust, to enter the names for each district. He selected, for instance, Oppiancicus of Larino, who inscribed individuals whom he had already murdered, and their relations whose prosecution he feared. It mattered little to Sylla11 who were included, if none escaped who were really dangerous to him; and an order was issued for the slaughter of the entire number, the confiscation of their property, and the division of it between the informers and Sylla''s friends and soldiers. Private interest was thus called in to assist political animosity; and to stimulate the zeal for assassination, a reward of 500l was offered for the head of any person whose name was in the schedule. . . . Four thousand seven hundred persons fell in the proscription of Sylla, all men of education and fortune. The real crime of many of them was the possession of an estate or a wife which a relative or a neighbor coveted. The crime alleged against all was the opinion that the people of Rome and Italy had rights which deserved consideration as well as the senators and nobles. The liberal party were extinguished in their own blood. Their estates were partitioned into a hundred and twenty thousand allotments, which were distributed among Sylla''s friends, or soldiers, or freedmen. The land reform of the Gracchi was mockingly adopted to create a permanent aristocratic garrison. There were no trials, there were no pardons. Common report or private information was at once indictment and evidence, and accusation was in itself condemnation." -- Froude.12
Reform was popular, and Sulla must needs be a reformer; but his was a reformation which aimed to make the Senate both supreme and absolute. He had already, while consul in 88, crippled the power of both the tribunes and the people, by passing a law that no proposal should be made to the assembly without the sanction of the Senate; and now the value of the office of tribune was lowered by the provision that any one who should become a tribune should never afterward be chosen to any other office. In another form, also, he lessened the power of the people; he enacted a law that no man should be elected consul who was not forty-three years old, and who had not already been a praetor or a quaestor, and that no one should be made consul a second time within ten years. He also took entirely away from the knights the right of sitting as the court of justice, and restored to the Senate this privilege. As in the matter of the election of tribunes and consuls he had so far deprived the people of the exercise of their power, he now went farther, and enacted a law that the assembly of the people should not even be called together without the Senate''s sanction. But the heaviest stroke of all that he made against the populace was to abolish entirely the grants of grain, and to shut up the public granaries.
Thus the power of the Senate was made absolute, and to render it secure, ten thousand slaves were enfranchised and formed into a senatorial guard. But in the existing order of things, it was impossible that such power could be respected, or that it could long be exercised. The only means by which Sulla was enabled to create such a power at all, was the army which was so entirely devoted to himself.
From this time forth, in the very nature of things, it became more and more certain that the army would be the real source of power; that whosoever should have the support of the strongest body of troops would possess the power; and that just as soon as that power should be turned against the Senate instead of for it, all this system which had been so carefully built up would be scarcely more tangible than the stuff that dreams are made of. Sulla himself had set the example in 88, it had been readily followed by Cinna in 87, it was repeated here by Sulla in 81, and he himself saw in Pompey a readiness to follow it this same year.
Pompey had been sent to Sicily and Africa to reduce things to order there, and he was eminently successful. When he had completed his task, he was ordered by the Senate to disband his troops. He refused, and Sulla had to smooth the matter over by granting him a triumph, and allowing him to assume the title of "the Great," although he was only about twenty-five years of age. By this act of Pompey''s Sulla saw that it would be the best thing to do, to bind Pompey securely to himself. Pompey was already married to Antistia, a lady whose father had been murdered for standing up for Sulla, and whose mother had been driven mad, and to destroy herself, by her husband''s terrible fate. But Sulla had a stepdaughter, Emilia, whom he proposed that Pompey should marry. Emilia was already married, and was pregnant at the time, yet at Sulla''s invitation Pompey divorced Antistia, and married Emilia. There was just then another youth in Rome whom it was to Sulla''s interest to gain also, and he proposed to secure his allegiance in much the same way that he had gained Pompey''s. That youth was Julius Caesar.
Caesar was the nephew of the great Marius, and had married Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna, by whom he had a daughter named Julia. He was at this time about twenty years of age. Sulla proposed to him that he should divorce Cornelia, and marry some woman whom Sulla should choose. Caesar flatly refused. Sulla tried to compel him to it: he deprived him of his office of the priesthood,he took his wife''s dowry from him, and confiscated his estate. But Caesar would not yield an inch. Next Sulla hired assassins to kill him, and he escaped only by bribing the assassins. Caesar''s friends interceded, and finally obtained his pardon; but he, not willing to trust himself within Sulla''s reach, left Italy, and joined the army in Asia. In 79 Sulla resigned his dictatorship, and died the following year.
The power which Sulla had given to the Senate was only used to build up itself. As no election could be had without the appointment of the Senate, the elections soon fell under the control of senatorial rings and committees, and no candidate could hope to succeed who had not the favor of the Senate; and the surest means of securing the favor of the senatorial party was the possession of wealth, and a willingness to spend it to secure an office.
The distribution of the land by Sulla had worked no better than had that by the Gracchi, nor in fact hardly as well; because since that there had been forty years of degeneracy and political violence, and a part of the time almost anarchy. Extravagance in living had increased at a rapid rate among all classes: among the really wealthy, in an ostentatious display, or the exhaustion of pleasure; among those of moderate fortunes in an effort to ape the ways of the wealthy; and even among the poor, owing to the virtually free distribution of wheat. For so long as they could get the main part of their living for nothing, they were not likely to cultivate habits of economy. It was easy enough to distribute land to those who had neither land nor money. The difficulty was to keep it so distributed. Those to whom Sulla had distributed land, especially his soldiers, lived far beyond their means; their lands were soon mortgaged, and at last forfeited, falling once more into the hands of the wealthy land owners, to be worked by slaves, while the free citizens were again crowded into the cities. Besides the vast numbers of slaves who were put to use on farms and in shops all over Italy, there were many who were kept and trained to fight one another in the amphitheater, solely for the amusement of the populace. Nothing made a person so popular as to set forth a few pairs of gladiators in the circus to murder one another. At Capua, about seventy-five miles south of Rome, was the most famous training-school for gladiators. In the year 73 B. C., two hundred of these gladiators, led by Spartacus, broke away from their "stables" in Capua, and were soon joined by escaped slaves from all the surrounding country, in such numbers that in a little while Spartacus found himself at the head of 70,000 men ready for any sort of desperate action. For two years they spread terror from one end of Italy to the other, till Pompey and Crassus led forth an army, and annihilated the whole host, B. C. 71. Spartacus was killed, sword in hand, and 6,000 captives were crucified all along the highway from Capua to Rome.
Pompey and Crassus were made consuls for the year 70, Sulla''s legislation was undone, and everything set back as it was before, except that the prerogative of sitting as a court of law was not restored entirely to the knights. This privilege the senators had again prostituted to their old purposes, and as the knights could not be fully trusted either, the court was now to be composed of two-thirds knights and one-third senators. The power of the tribunes was fully restored, also the right of the populace to assemble at their own wish. The public granaries were once more opened. The mob was happy, the Senate was embittered, and the way was again opened for the full tide of political violence which immediately followed.
Caesar was now fast becoming popular. He and Bibulus had been elected aediles for the year 65, the office of which was to take charge of the public buildings and the games and theaters. "They were expected to decorate the city with new ornaments, and to entertain the people with magnificent spectacles." Caesar acquitted himself so well in this as to make himself the favorite of the whole multitude of the people. Then as he felt his influence becoming more firmly established, he set on foot an inquiry into the proscription that had been carried on by Sulla. A committee of investigation was appointed, of which Caesar himself was made chairman. At the time when the roof of the Senate house had been torn off, and Saturninus and Glaucia were pelted to death with tiles, in Saturninus, the father of Titus Labienus had been killed. One of those engaged in the massacre at the time was Rabirius, and although he was now a very old man, Labienus prosecuted him before Caesar''s committee for the murder of his father. Rabirius was convicted, but he appealed to the people, who could not see their way clear to convict him of a guilt that was common to the whole aristocracy; and although he was acquitted, they chose to show to the senatorial party that it was out of no respect to them. The people decided to make Caesar the head of religion by electing him to the office of Pontifex Maximus, which became vacant just at this time. This was the greatest honor that could come to a Roman citizen. The office was for life, and until now had always been held by members of the aristocracy, and Sulla had sought to confine it exclusively to these by giving to the sacred college the privilege of electing its own chief. Labienus being tribune, had succeeded in carrying a vote in the assembly by which this privilege was resumed by the people. To fill the vacancy which now occurred, two of the aristocracy were presented by the senatorial party, and Caesar was nominated by the people. Immense sums of money were spend by the senatorial party to buy sufficient votes to elect one or the other of their two candidates. Caesar likewise spent money freely, although deeply in debt already. When he left home for the Forum on the morning of the election day, and his mother kissed him good-by, he told her he would either come home Pontifex Maximus or would not come home at all. Such an extreme alternative, however, was not necessary, because he was elected by a vote larger than that of both the other candidates put together. This was in the year 63, and soon afterward Caesar was elected praetor for the next year.
The land monopoly had again become as notorious as at any time before. The small proprietors had sold, out and large holdings had increased, until the land had fallen into a few hands, and Rome was crowded with a rabble of poor citizens largely fed at public expense. Against the will of the Senate, and by the unanimous voice of the people, Pompey had been sent, B. C. 72, to the East against Mithradates, who had again strongly asserted his power. Pompey was victorious everywhere, and his conquests in the East had brought to the State large quantities of land, and his honest conduct in these affairs had filled the treasury with money. Here was a grand opportunity for reform. Rullus, a tribune, brought forward a proposition that part of the territory acquired by Pompey should be sold, and the money used to buy land in Italy upon which to settle poor citizens from Rome. Cicero, as consul, opposed it strenuously. He railed on Rullus with all the bitterness his abusive tongue could utter. Rullus had stated that the populace of Rome was become so powerful as to be dangerous, and that for the good of the State it would be proper that some should be removed from the city, and placed upon lands where they could support themselves. This was all true, as Cicero well knew; yet he hesitated not a moment to curry favor with these, by setting it before them in as objectionable a light as possible in order to defeat the aim of Rullus. Cicero hated the influence of the people as much as anybody else in Rome, but he hated Rullu''s proposition more because it would lessen the power of the aristocracy, whose favor he just now longed for more than for anything else; he therefore pretended to be the friend of the people and to be defending them against the ulterior scheme of Rullus. He succeeded. Rullu''s bill was defeated, and his plan came to nothing. And had his plan even succeeded it would likewise have come to nothing; because now the cry had become popular and was becoming more and more imperative -- "Bread for nothing, and games forever!"
1 [Page 19] "Caesar," chap. ii, par. 6.
2 [Page 21] Id., par.8.
3 [Page 21] Id.,par. 7.
4 [Page 22] Id., par. 8, 9.
5 [Page 22] Id., chap. 1, par. 5.
6 [Page 23] Id., chap. ii, par. 9.
7 [Page 25] Reference to the Roman Constitution must not be understood in the american sense, as being a written constitution. The Roman Constitution was, as is the British, merely a system of precedents and unwritten rules of long-established usage.
8 [Page 28] Id., chap. iii, par. 5.
9 [Page 31] Id., chap. iv, par. 6.
10 [Page 38] Id., chap.vii, par.8.
11 [Page 39] Froude uses the spelling "Sylla" instead of "Sulla." I have preferred the latter form. It is that used by Merivale, Mommsen, and the "Encyclopedia Britannica."
12 [Page 40] Id., chap. viii, par. 10, 13.