Caesar: A Sketch
by James Anthony Froude
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Caius Marius was at this time forty-eight years old. Two thirds of his life were over, and a name which was to sound throughout the world and be remembered through all ages had as yet been scarcely heard of beyond the army and the political clubs in Rome. He was born at Arpinum, a Latin township, seventy miles from the capital, in the year 157. His father was a small farmer, and he was himself bred to the plough. He joined the army early, and soon attracted notice by his punctual discharge of his duties. In a time of growing looseness, Marius was strict himself in keeping discipline and in enforcing it as he rose in the service. He was in Spain when Jugurtha was there, and made himself especially useful to Scipio; he forced his way steadily upward, by his mere soldierlike qualities, to the rank of military tribune. Rome, too, had learned to know him, for he was chosen tribune of the people the year after the murder of Caius Gracchus. Being a self-made man, he belonged naturally to the popular party. While in office he gave offence in some way to the men in power, and was called before the Senate to answer for himself. But he had the right on his side, it is likely, for they found him stubborn and impertinent, and they could make nothing of their charges against him. He was not bidding at this time, however, for the support of the mob. He had the integrity and sense to oppose the largesses of corn; and he forfeited his popularity by trying to close the public granaries before the practice had passed into a system. He seemed as if made of a block of hard Roman oak, gnarled and knotted, but sound in all its fibres. His professional merit continued to recommend him. At the age of forty he became praetor, and was sent to Spain, where he left a mark again by the successful severity by which he cleared the province of banditti. He was a man neither given himself to talking nor much talked about in the world; but he was sought for wherever work was to be done, and he had made himself respected and valued in high circles, for after his return from the peninsula he had married into one of the most distinguished of the patrician families.

The Caesars were a branch of the Gens Julia, which claimed descent from Iulus the son of Aeneas, and thus from the gods. Roman etymologists could arrive at no conclusion as to the origin of the name. Some derived it from an exploit on an elephant-hunt in Africa—Caesar meaning elephant in Moorish; some to the entrance into the world of the first eminent Caesar by the aid of a surgeon's knife;[3]some from the color of the eyes prevailing in the family. Be the explanation what it might, eight generations of Caesars had held prominent positions in the Commonwealth. They had been consuls, censors, praetors, aediles, and military tribunes, and in politics, as might be expected from their position, they had been moderate aristocrats. Like other families they had been subdivided, and the links connecting them cannot always be traced. The pedigree of the Dictator goes no further than to his grandfather, Caius Julius. In the middle of the second century before Christ, this Caius Julius, being otherwise unknown to history, married a lady named Marcia, supposed to be descended from Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome. By her he had three children, Caius Julius, Sextus Julius, and a daughter named Julia. Caius Julius married Aurelia, perhaps a member of the consular family of the Cottas, and was the father of the Great Caesar. Julia became the wife of Caius Marius, a mesalliance which implied the beginning of a political split in the Caesar family. The elder branches, like the Cromwells of Hinchinbrook, remained by their order. The younger attached itself for good or ill to the party of the people.

Marius by this marriage became a person of social consideration. His father had been a client of the Metelli; and Caecilius Metellus, who must have known Marius by reputation and probably in person, invited him to go as second in command in the African campaign. He was moderately successful. Towns were taken; battles were won: Metellus was incorruptible, and the Numidians sued for peace. But Jugurtha wanted terms, and the consul demanded unconditional surrender. Jugurtha withdrew into the desert; the war dragged on; and Marius, perhaps ambitious, perhaps impatient at the general's want of vigor, began to think that he could make quicker work of it. The popular party were stirring again in Rome, the Senate having so notoriously disgraced itself. There was just irritation that a petty African prince could defy the whole power of Rome for so many years; and though a democratic consul had been unheard of for a century, the name of Marius began to be spoken of as a possible candidate. Marius consented to stand. The law required that he must be present in person at the election, and he applied to his commander for leave of absence. Metellus laughed at his pretensions, and bade him wait another twenty years. Marius, however, persisted, and was allowed to go. The patricians strained their resources to defeat him, but he was chosen with enthusiasm. Metellus was recalled, and the conduct of the Numidian war was assigned to the new hero of the "populares."

A shudder of alarm ran, no doubt, through the senate-house when the determination of the people was known. A successful general could not be disposed of so easily as oratorical tribunes. Fortunately Marius was not a politician. He had no belief in democracy. He was a soldier, and had a soldier's way of thinking on government and the methods of it. His first step was a reformation in the army. Hitherto the Roman legions had been no more than the citizens in arms, called for the moment from their various occupations, to return to them when the occasion for their services was past. Marius had perceived that fewer men, better trained and disciplined, could he made more effective and be more easily handled. He had studied war as a science. He had perceived that the present weakness need be no more than an accident, and that there was a latent force in the Roman State which needed only organization to resume its ascendency. "He enlisted," it was said, "the worst of the citizens," men, that is to say, who had no occupation and who became soldiers by profession; and as persons without property could not have furnished themselves at their own cost, he must have carried out the scheme proposed by Gracchus, and equipped them at the expense of the State. His discipline was of the sternest. The experiment was new; and men of rank who had a taste for war in earnest, and did not wish that the popular party should have the whole benefit and credit of the improvements, were willing to go with him; among them a dissipated young patrician called Lucius Sylla, whose name also was destined to be memorable.

By these methods and out of these materials an army was formed such as no Roman general had hitherto led. It performed extraordinary marches, carried its water-supplies with it in skins, and followed the enemy across sandy deserts hitherto found impassable. In less than two years the war was over. The Moors to whom Jugurtha had fled surrendered him to Sylla, and he was brought in chains to Rome, where he finished his life in a dungeon.

So ended a curious episode in Roman history, where it holds a place beyond its intrinsic importance, from the light which it throws on the character of the Senate and on the practical working of the institutions which the Gracchi had perished in unsuccessfully attempting to reform.

[1] "Urbem venalem, et mature perituram, si emptorem invenenit."—Sallust, De Bello Jugurthino, c. 35. Livy's account of the business, however, differs from Sallust's, and the expression is perhaps not authentic.

[2] "At ego scio, Quirites, qui, postquam consules facti sunt, acta majorum, et Graecorum militaria praecepta legere coeperint. Homines praeposteri!"—Speech of Marius, Sallust, Jugurtha, 85.

[3] "Caesus ab utero matris."


The Jugurthine war ended in the year 106 B.C. At the same Arpinum which had produced Marius another actor in the approaching drama was in that year ushered into the world, Marcus Tullius Cicero. The Ciceros had made their names, and perhaps their fortunes, by their skill in raising cicer, or vetches. The present representative of the family was a country gentleman in good circumstances given to literature, residing habitually at his estate on the Liris and paying occasional visits to Rome. In that household was born Rome's most eloquent master of the art of using words, who was to carry that art as far, and to do as much with it, as any man who has ever appeared on the world's stage.

Rome, however, was for the present in the face of enemies who had to be encountered with more material weapons. Marius had formed an army barely in time to save Italy from being totally overwhelmed. A vast migratory wave of population had been set in motion behind the Rhine and the Danube. The German forests were uncultivated. The hunting and pasture grounds were too strait for the numbers crowded into them, and two enormous hordes were rolling westward and southward in search of some new abiding-place. The Teutons came from the Baltic down across the Rhine into Luxemburg. The Cimbri crossed the Danube near its sources into Illyria. Both Teutons and Cimbri were Germans, and both were making for Gaul by different routes. The Celts of Gaul had had their day. In past generations they had held the German invaders at bay, and had even followed them into their own territories. But they had split among themselves. They no longer offered a common front to the enemy. They were ceasing to be able to maintain their own independence, and the question of the future was whether Gaul was to be the prey of Germany or to be a province of Rome.

Events appeared already to have decided. The invasion of the Teutons and the Cimbri was like the pouring in of two great rivers. Each division consisted of hundreds of thousands. They travelled with their wives and children, their wagons, as with the ancient Scythians and with the modern South African Dutch, being at once their conveyance and their home. Gray- haired priestesses tramped along among them, barefooted, in white linen dresses, the knife at their girdle; northern Iphigenias, sacrificing prisoners as they were taken to the gods of Valhalla. On they swept, eating up the country, and the people flying before them. In 113 B.C. the skirts of the Cimbri had encountered a small Roman force near Trieste, and destroyed it. Four years later another attempt was made to stop them, but the Roman army was beaten and its camp taken. The Cimbrian host did not, however, turn at that time upon Italy. Their aim was the south of France. They made their way through the Alps into Switzerland, where the Helvetii joined them, and the united mass rolled over the Jura and down the bank of the Rhone. Roused at last into exertion, the Senate sent into Gaul the largest force which the Romans had ever brought into the field. They met the Cimbri at Orange, and were simply annihilated. Eighty thousand Romans and forty thousand camp-followers were said to have fallen. The numbers in such cases are generally exaggerated, but the extravagance of the report is a witness to the greatness of the overthrow. The Romans had received a worse blow than at Cannae. They were brave enough, but they were commanded by persons whose recommendations for command were birth or fortune; "preposterous men," as Marius termed them, who had waited for their appointment to open the military manuals.

Had the Cimbri chosen at this moment to recross the Alps into Italy, they had only to go and take possession, and Alaric would have been antedated by five centuries. In great danger it was the Senate's business to suspend the constitution. The constitution was set aside now, but it was set aside by the people themselves, not by the Senate. One man only could save the country, and that man was Marius. His consulship was over, and custom forbade his re-election. The Senate might have appointed him dictator, but would not. The people, custom or no custom, chose him consul a second time—a significant acknowledgment that the Empire, which had been won by the sword, must be held by the sword, and that the sword itself must be held by the hand that was best fitted to use it. Marius first triumphed for his African victory, and, as an intimation to the Senate that the power for the moment was his and not theirs, he entered the Curia in his triumphal dress. He then prepared for the barbarians who, to the alarmed imagination of the city, were already knocking at its gates. Time was the important element in the matter. Had the Cimbri come at once after their victory at Orange, Italy had been theirs. But they did not come. With the unguided movements of some wild force of nature they swerved away through Aquitaine to the Pyrenees. They swept across the mountains into Spain. Thence, turning north, they passed up the Atlantic coast and round to the Seine, the Gauls flying before them; thence on to the Rhine, where the vast body of the Teutons joined them and fresh detachments of the Helvetii. It was as if some vast tide-wave had surged over the country and rolled through it, searching out the easiest passages. At length, in two divisions, the invaders moved definitely toward Italy, the Cimbri following their old tracks by the eastern Alps toward Aquileia and the Adriatic, the Teutons passing down through Provence and making for the road along the Mediterranean. Two years had been consumed in these wanderings, and Marius was by this time ready for them. The Senate had dropped the reins, and no longer governed or misgoverned; the popular party, represented by the army, was supreme. Marius was continued in office, and was a fourth time consul. He had completed his military reforms, and the army was now a professional service, with regular pay. Trained corps of engineers were attached to each legion. The campaigns of the Romans were thenceforward to be conducted with spade and pickaxe as much as with sword and javelin, and the soldiers learnt the use of tools as well as arms. Moral discipline was not forgotten. The foulest of human vices was growing fashionable in high society in the capital. It was not allowed to make its way into the army. An officer in one of the legions, a near relative of Marius, made filthy overtures to one of his men. The man replied with a thrust of his sword, and Marius publicly thanked and decorated him.

The effect of the change was like enchantment. The delay of the Germans made it unnecessary to wait for them in Italy. Leaving Catulus, his colleague in the consulship, to check the Cimbri in Venetia, Marius went himself, taking Sylla with him, into the south of France. As the barbarian host came on, he occupied a fortified camp near Aix. He allowed the enormous procession to roll past him in their wagons toward the Alps. Then, following cautiously, he watched his opportunity to fall on them. The Teutons were brave, but they had no longer mere legionaries to fight with, but a powerful machine, and the entire mass of them, men, women, and children, in numbers which however uncertain were rather those of a nation than an army, were swept out of existence.

The Teutons were destroyed on the 20th of July, 102. In the year following the same fate overtook their comrades. The Cimbri had forced the passes through the mountains. They had beaten the unscientific patrician Catulus, and had driven him back on the Po. But Marius came to his rescue. The Cimbri were cut to pieces near Mantua, in the summer of 101, and Italy was saved.

The victories of Marius mark a new epoch in Roman history. The legions were no longer the levy of the citizens in arms, who were themselves the State for which they fought. The legionaries were citizens still. They had votes, and they used them; but they were professional soldiers with the modes of thought which belong to soldiers, and beside the power of the hustings was now the power of the sword. The constitution remained to appearance intact, and means were devised sufficient to encounter, it might be supposed, the new danger. Standing armies were prohibited in Italy. Victorious generals returning from campaigns abroad were required to disband their legions on entering the sacred soil. But the materials of these legions remained a distinct order from the rest of the population, capable of instant combination, and in combination irresistible save by opposing combinations of the same kind. The Senate might continue to debate, the Comitia might elect the annual magistrates. The established institutions preserved the form and something of the reality of power in a people governed so much by habit as the Romans. There is a long twilight between the time when a god is first suspected to be an idol and his final overthrow. But the aristocracy had made the first inroad on the constitution by interfering at the elections with their armed followers and killing their antagonists. The example once set could not fail to be repeated, and the rule of an organized force was becoming the only possible protection against the rule of mobs, patrician or plebeian.

The danger from the Germans was no sooner gone than political anarchy broke loose again. Marius, the man of the people, was the saviour of his country. He was made consul a fifth time and a sixth. The party which had given him his command shared, of course, in his pre-eminence. The elections could be no longer interfered with or the voters intimidated. The public offices were filled with the most violent agitators, who believed that the time had come to revenge the Gracchi and carry out the democratic revolution, to establish the ideal Republic and the direct rule of the citizen assembly. This, too, was a chimera. If the Roman Senate could not govern, far less could the Roman mob govern. Marius stood aside and let the voices rage. He could not be expected to support a system which had brought the country so near to ruin. He had no belief in the visions of the demagogues, but the time was not ripe to make an end of it all. Had he tried, the army would not have gone with him, so he sat still till faction had done its work. The popular heroes of the hour were the tribune Saturninus and the praetor Glaucia. They carried corn laws and land laws—whatever laws they pleased to propose. The administration remaining with the Senate, they carried a vote that every senator should take an oath to execute their laws under penalty of fine and expulsion. Marius did not like it, and even opposed it, but let it pass at last. The senators, cowed and humiliated, consented to take the oath, all but one, Marius's old friend and commander in Africa, Caecilius Metellus. No stain had ever rested on the name of Metellus. He had accepted no bribes. He had half beaten Jugurtha, for Marius to finish; and Marius himself stood in a semi-feudal relation to him. It was unlucky for the democrats that they had found so honorable an opponent. Metellus persisted in refusal. Saturninus sent a guard to the senate-house, dragged him out, and expelled him from the city. Aristocrats and their partisans were hustled and killed in the street. The patricians had spilt the first blood in the massacre in 121: now it was the turn of the mob.

Marius was an indifferent politician. He perceived as well as any one that violence must not go on, but he hesitated to put it down. He knew that the aristocracy feared and hated him. Between them and the people's consul no alliance was possible. He did not care to alienate his friends, and there may have been other difficulties which we do not know in his way. The army itself was perhaps divided. On the popular side there were two parties: a moderate one, represented by Memmius, who, as tribune, had impeached the senators for the Jugurthine infamies; the other, the advanced radicals, led by Glaucia and Saturninus. Memmius and Glaucia were both candidates for the consulship; and as Memmius was likely to succeed, he was murdered.

Revolutions proceed like the acts of a drama, and each act is divided into scenes which follow one another with singular uniformity. Ruling powers make themselves hated by tyranny and incapacity. An opposition is formed against them, composed of all sorts, lovers of order and lovers of disorder, reasonable men and fanatics, business-like men and men of theory. The opposition succeeds; the government is overthrown; the victors divide into a moderate party and an advanced party. The advanced party go to the front, till they discredit themselves with crime or folly. The wheel has then gone round, and the reaction sets in. The murder of Memmius alienated fatally the respectable citizens. Saturninus and Glaucia were declared public enemies. They seized the Capitol, and blockaded it. Patrician Rome turned out and besieged them, and Marius had to interfere. The demagogues and their friends surrendered, and were confined in the Curia Hostilia till they could be tried. The noble lords could not allow such detested enemies the chance of an acquittal. To them a radical was a foe of mankind, to be hunted down like a wolf, when a chance was offered to destroy him. By the law of Caius Gracchus no citizen could be put to death without a trial. The persons of Saturninus and Glaucia were doubly sacred, for one was tribune and the other praetor. But the patricians were satisfied that they deserved to be executed, and in such a frame of mind it seemed but virtue to execute them. They tore off the roof of the senate house, and pelted the miserable wretches to death with stones and tiles.


Not far from the scene of the murder of Glaucia and Saturninus there was lying at this time in his cradle, or carried about in his nurse's arms, a child who, in his manhood, was to hold an inquiry into this business, and to bring one of the perpetrators to answer for himself. On the 12th of the preceding July, B.C. 100,[1] was born into the world Caius Julius Caesar, the only son of Caius Julius and Aurelia, and nephew of the then Consul Marius. His father had been praetor, but had held no higher office. Aurelia was a strict stately lady of the old school, uninfected by the lately imported fashions. She, or her husband, or both of them, were rich; but the habits of the household were simple and severe, and the connection with Marius indicates the political opinions which prevailed in the family.

No anecdotes are preserved, of Caesar's childhood. He was taught Greek by Antonius Gnipho, an educated Gaul from the north of Italy. He wrote a poem when a boy in honor of Hercules. He composed a tragedy on the story of Oedipus. His passionate attachment to Aurelia in after-years shows that between mother and child the relations had been affectionate and happy. But there is nothing to indicate that there was any early precocity of talent; and leaving Caesar to his grammar and his exercises, we will proceed with the occurrences which he must have heard talked of in his father's house, or seen with his eyes when he began to open them. The society there was probably composed of his uncle's friends; soldiers and statesmen who had no sympathy with mobs, but detested the selfish and dangerous system on which the Senate had carried on the government, and dreaded its consequences. Above the tumults of the factions in the Capitol a cry rising into shrillness began to be heard from Italy. Caius Gracchus had wished to extend the Roman franchise to the Italian States, and the suggestion had cost him his popularity and his life. The Italian provinces had furnished their share of the armies which had beaten Jugurtha, and had destroyed the German invaders. They now demanded that they should have the position which Gracchus designed for them: that they should be allowed to legislate for themselves, and no longer lie at the mercy of others, who neither understood their necessities nor cared for their interests. They had no friends in the city, save a few far-sighted statesmen. Senate and mob had at least one point of agreement, that the spoils of the Empire should be fought for among themselves; and at the first mention of the invasion of their monopoly a law was passed making the very agitation of the subject punishable by death.

Political convulsions work in a groove, the direction of which varies little in any age or country. Institutions once sufficient and salutary become unadapted to a change of circumstances. The traditionary holders of power see their interests threatened. They are jealous of innovations. They look on agitators for reform as felonious persons desiring to appropriate what does not belong to them. The complaining parties are conscious of suffering and rush blindly on the superficial causes of their immediate distress. The existing authority is their enemy; and their one remedy is a change in the system of government. They imagine that they see what the change should be, that they comprehend what they are doing, and know where they intend to arrive. They do not perceive that the visible disorders are no more than symptoms which no measures, repressive or revolutionary, can do more than palliate. The wave advances and the wave recedes. Neither party in the struggle can lift itself far enough above the passions of the moment to study the drift of the general current. Each is violent, each is one-sided, and each makes the most and the worst of the sins of its opponents. The one idea of the aggressors is to grasp all that they can reach. The one idea of the conservatives is to part with nothing, pretending that the stability of the State depends on adherence to the principles which have placed them in the position which they hold; and as various interests are threatened, and as various necessities arise, those who are one day enemies are frightened the next into unnatural coalitions, and the next after into more embittered dissensions.

To an indifferent spectator, armed especially with the political experiences of twenty additional centuries, it seems difficult to understand how Italy could govern the world. That the world and Italy besides should continue subject to the population of a single city, of its limited Latin environs, and of a handful of townships exceptionally favored, might even then be seen to be plainly impossible. The Italians were Romans in every point, except in the possession of the franchise. They spoke the same language; they were subjects of the same dominion. They were as well educated, they were as wealthy, they were as capable as the inhabitants of the dominant State. They paid taxes, they fought in the armies; they were strong; they were less corrupt, politically and morally, as having fewer temptations and fewer opportunities of evil; and in their simple country life they approached incomparably nearer to the old Roman type than the patrician fops in the circus or the Forum, or the city mob which was fed in idleness on free grants of corn. When Samnium and Tuscany were conquered, a third of the lands had been confiscated to the Roman State, under the name of Ager Publicus. Samnite and Etruscan gentlemen had recovered part of it under lease, much as the descendants of the Irish chiefs held their ancestral domains as tenants of the Cromwellians. The land law of the Gracchi was well intended, but it bore hard on many of the leading provincials, who had seen their estates parcelled out, and their own property, as they deemed it, taken from them under the land commission. If they were to be governed by Roman laws, they naturally demanded to be consulted when the laws were made. They might have been content under a despotism to which Roman and Italian were subject alike. To be governed under the forms of a free constitution by men no better than themselves was naturally intolerable.

[Sidenote: B.C. 95.] [Sidenote: B.C. 91.] The movement from without united the Romans for the instant in defence of their privileges. The aristocracy resisted change from instinct; the mob, loudly as they clamored for their own rights, cared nothing for the rights of others, and the answer to the petition of the Italians, five years after the defeat of the Cimbri, was a fierce refusal to permit the discussion of it. Livius Drusus, one of those unfortunately gifted men who can see that in a quarrel there is sometimes justice on both sides, made a vain attempt to secure the provincials a hearing, but he was murdered in his own house. To be murdered was the usual end of exceptionally distinguished Romans, in a State where the lives of citizens were theoretically sacred. His death was the signal for an insurrection, which began in the mountains of the Abruzzi and spread over the whole peninsula.

The contrast of character between the two classes of population became at once uncomfortably evident. The provincials had been the right arm of the Empire. Rome, a city of rich men with families of slaves, and of a crowd of impoverished freemen without employment to keep them in health and strength, could no longer bring into the field a force which could hold its ground against the gentry and peasants of Samnium. The Senate enlisted Greeks, Numidians, any one whose services they could purchase. They had to encounter soldiers who had been trained and disciplined by Marius, and they were taught by defeat upon defeat that they had a worse enemy before them than the Germans. Marius himself had almost withdrawn from public life. He had no heart for the quarrel, and did not care greatly to exert himself. At the bottom, perhaps, he thought that the Italians were in the right. The Senate discovered that they were helpless, and must come to terms if they would escape destruction. They abandoned the original point of difference, and they offered to open the franchise to every Italian state south of the Po which had not taken arms or which returned immediately to its allegiance. The war had broken out for a definite cause. When the cause was removed no reason remained for its continuance. The Italians were closely connected with Rome. Italians were spread over the Roman world in active business. They had no wish to overthrow the Empire if they were allowed to share in its management. The greater part of them accepted the Senate's terms; and only those remained in the field who had gone to war in the hope of recovering the lost independence which their ancestors had so long heroically defended.

The panting Senate was thus able to breathe again. The war continued, but under better auspices. Sound material could now be collected again for the army. Marius being in the background, the chosen knight of the aristocracy, Lucius Sylla, whose fame in the Cimbrian war had been only second to that of his commander's, came at once to the front.

Sylla, or Sulla, as we are now taught to call him, was born in the year 138 B.C. He was a patrician of the purest blood, had inherited a moderate fortune, and had spent it like other young men of rank, lounging in theatres and amusing himself with dinner-parties. He was a poet, an artist, and a wit, but each and everything with the languor of an amateur. His favorite associates were actresses, and he had neither obtained nor aspired to any higher reputation than that of a cultivated man of fashion. His distinguished birth was not apparent in his person. He had red hair, hard blue eyes, and a complexion white and purple, with the colors so ill- mixed that his face was compared to a mulberry sprinkled with flour. Ambition he appeared to have none; and when he exerted himself to be appointed quaestor to Marius on the African expedition, Marius was disinclined to take him as having no recommendation beyond qualifications which the consul of the plebeians disdained and disliked.

Marius, however, soon discovered his mistake. Beneath his constitutional indolence Sylla was by nature a soldier, a statesman, a diplomatist. He had been too contemptuous of the common objects of politicians to concern himself with the intrigues of the Forum, but he had only to exert himself to rise with easy ascendency to the command of every situation in which he might be placed. He had entered with military instinct into Marius's reform of the army, and became the most active and useful of his officers. He endeared himself to the legionaries by a tolerance of vices which did not interfere with discipline; and to Sylla's combined adroitness and courage Marius owed the final capture of Jugurtha.

Whether Marius became jealous of Sylla on this occasion must be decided by those who, while they have no better information than others as to the actions of men, possess, or claim to possess, the most intimate acquaintance with their motives. They again served together, however, against the Northern invaders, and Sylla a second time lent efficient help to give Marius a victory. Like Marius, he had no turn for platform oratory and little interest in election contests and intrigues. For eight years he kept aloof from politics, and his name and that of his rival were alike for all that time almost unheard of. He emerged into special notice only when he was praetor in the year 93 B.C., and when he characteristically distinguished his term of office by exhibiting a hundred lions in the arena matched against Numidian archers. There was no such road to popularity with the Roman multitude. It is possible that the little Caesar, then a child of seven, may have been among the spectators, making his small reflections on it all.

[Sidenote: B.C. 120.] In 92 Sylla went as propraetor to Asia, where the incapacity of the Senate's administration was creating another enemy likely to be troublesome. Mithridates, "child of the sun," pretending to a descent from Darius Hystaspes, was king of Pontus, one of the semi-independent monarchies which had been allowed to stand in Asia Minor. The coast-line of Pontus extended from Sinope to Trebizond, and reached inland to the line of mountains where the rivers divide which flow into the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The father of Mithridates was murdered when he was a child, and for some years he led a wandering life, meeting adventures which were as wild and perhaps as imaginary as those of Ulysses. In later life he became the idol of Eastern imagination, and legend made free with his history; but he was certainly an extraordinary man. He spoke the unnumbered dialects of the Asiatic tribes among whom he had travelled. He spoke Greek with ease and freedom. Placed, as he was, on the margin where the civilizations of the East and the West were brought in contact, he was at once a barbarian potentate and an ambitious European politician. He was well informed of the state of Rome, and saw reason, perhaps, as well he might, to doubt the durability of its power. At any rate, he was no sooner fixed on his own throne than he began to annex the territories of the adjoining princes. He advanced his sea frontier through Armenia to Batoum, and thence along the coast of Circassia. He occupied the Greek settlements on the Sea of Azof. He took Kertch and the Crimea, and with the help of pirates from the Mediterranean he formed a fleet which gave him complete command of the Black Sea. In Asia Minor no power but the Roman could venture to quarrel with him. The Romans ought in prudence to have interfered before Mithridates had grown to so large a bulk, but money judiciously distributed among the leading politicians had secured the Senate's connivance; and they opened their eyes at last only when Mithridates thought it unnecessary to subsidize them further, and directed his proceedings against Cappadocia, which was immediately under Roman protection. He invaded the country, killed the prince whom Rome had recognized, and placed on the throne a child of his own, with the evident intention of taking Cappadocia for himself.

This was to go too far. Like Jugurtha, he had purchased many friends in the Senate, who, grateful for past favors and hoping for more, prevented the adoption of violent measures against him; but they sent a message to him that he must not have Cappadocia, and Mithridates, waiting for a better opportunity, thought proper to comply. Of this message the bearer was Lucius Sylla. He had time to study on the spot the problem of how to deal with Asia Minor. He accomplished his mission with his usual adroitness and apparent success, and he returned to Rome with new honors to finish the Social war.

It was no easy work. The Samnites were tough and determined. For two years they continued to struggle, and the contest was not yet over when news came from the East appalling as the threatened Cimbrian invasion, which brought both parties to consent to suspend their differences by mutual concessions.

[1] I follow the ordinary date, which has been fixed by the positive statement that Caesar was fifty-six when he was killed, the date of his death being March, B.C. 44. Mommsen, however, argues plausibly for adding another two years to the beginning of Caesar's life, and brings him into the world at the time of the battle at Aix.


Barbarian kings, who found Roman senators ready to take bribes from them, believed, not unnaturally, that the days of Roman dominion were numbered. When the news of the Social war reached Mithridates, he thought it needless to temporize longer, and he stretched out his hand to seize the prize of the dominion of the East. The Armenians, who were at his disposition, broke into Cappadocia and again overthrew the government, which was in dependence upon Rome. Mithridates himself invaded Bithynia, and replied to the remonstrances of the Roman authorities by a declaration of open war. He called under arms the whole force of which he could dispose; frightened rumor spoke of it as amounting to three hundred thousand men. His corsair fleets poured down through the Dardanelles into the archipelago; and so detested had the Roman governors made themselves by their extortion and injustice that not only all the islands, but the provinces on the continent, Ionia, Lydia, and Caria, rose in revolt. The rebellion was preconcerted and simultaneous. The Roman residents, merchants, bankers, farmers of the taxes, they and all their families, were set upon and murdered; a hundred and fifty thousand men, women, and children were said to have been destroyed in a single day. If we divide by ten, as it is generally safe to do with historical round numbers, still beyond doubt the signal had been given in an appalling massacre to abolish out of Asia the Roman name and power. Swift as a thunderbolt Mithridates himself crossed the Bosphorus, and the next news that reached Rome was that northern Greece had risen also and was throwing itself into the arms of its deliverers.

The defeat at Cannae had been received with dignified calm. Patricians and plebeians forgot their quarrels and thought only how to meet their common foe. The massacre in Asia and the invasion of Mithridates let loose a tempest of political frenzy. Never was indignation more deserved. The Senate had made no preparation. Such resources as they could command had been wasted in the wars with the Italians. They had no fleet, they had no armies available; nor, while the civil war was raging, could they raise an army. The garrisons in Greece were scattered or shut in within their lines and unable to move. The treasury was empty. Individuals were enormously rich and the State was bankrupt. Thousands of families had lost brothers, cousins, or friends in the massacre, and the manifest cause of the disaster was the inefficiency and worthlessness of the ruling classes. In Africa, in Gaul, in Italy, and now in Asia it had been the same story. The interests of the Commonwealth had been sacrificed to fill the purses of the few. Dominion, wealth, honors, all that had been won by the hardy virtues of earlier generations, seemed about to be engulfed forever.

In their panic the Senate turned to Sylla, whom they had made consul. An imperfect peace was patched up with the Italians. Sylla was bidden to save the Republic and to prepare in haste for Greece. But Sylla was a bitter aristocrat, the very incarnation of the oligarchy, who were responsible for every disaster which had happened. The Senate had taken bribes from Jugurtha. The Senate had chosen the commanders whose blunders had thrown open the Alps to the Germans; and it was only because the people had snatched the power out of their hands and had trusted it to one of themselves that Italy had not been in flames. Again the oligarchy had recovered the administration, and again by following the old courses they had brought on this new catastrophe. They might have checked Mithridates while there was time. They had preferred to accept his money and look on. The people naturally thought that no successes could be looked for under such guidance, and that even were Sylla to be victorious, nothing was to be expected but the continuance of the same accursed system. Marius was the man. Marius after his sixth consulship had travelled in the East, and understood it as well as Sylla. Not Sylla but Marius must now go against Mithridates. Too late the democratic leaders repented of their folly in encouraging the Senate to refuse the franchise to the Italians. The Italians, they began to perceive, would be their surest political allies. Caius Gracchus had been right after all. The Roman democracy must make haste to offer the Italians more than all which the Senate was ready to concede to them. Together they could make an end of misrule and place Marius once more at their head.

Much of this was perhaps the scheming passion of revolution; much of it was legitimate indignation, penitent for its errors and anxious to atone for them. Marius had his personal grievances. The aristocrats were stealing from him even his military reputation, and claiming for Sylla the capture of Jugurtha. He was willing, perhaps anxious, to take the Eastern command. Sulpicius Rufus, once a champion of the Senate and the most brilliant orator in Rome, went over to the people in the excitement. Rufus was chosen tribune, and at once proposed to enfranchise the remainder of Italy. He denounced the oligarchy. He insisted that the Senate must be purged of its corrupt members and better men be introduced, that the people must depose Sylla, and that Marius must take his place. The Empire was tottering, and the mob and its leaders were choosing an ill moment for a revolution. The tribune carried the assembly along with him. There were fights again in the Forum, the young nobles with their gangs once more breaking up the Comitia and driving the people from the voting-places. The voting, notwithstanding, was got through as Sulpicius Rufus recommended, and Sylla, so far as the assembly could do it, was superseded. But Sylla was not so easily got rid of. It was no time for nice considerations. He had formed an army in Campania out of the legions which had served against the Italians. He had made his soldiers devoted to him. They were ready to go anywhere and do anything which Sylla bade them. After so many murders and so many commotions, the constitution had lost its sacred character; a popular assembly was, of all conceivable bodies, the least fit to govern an empire; and in Sylla's eyes the Senate, whatever its deficiencies, was the only possible sovereign of Rome. The people were a rabble, and their voices the clamor of fools, who must be taught to know their masters. His reply to Sulpicius and to the vote for his recall was to march on the city. He led his troops within the circle which no legionary in arms was allowed to enter, and he lighted his watch-fires in the Forum itself. The people resisted; Sulpicius was killed; Marius, the saviour of his country, had to fly for his life, pursued by assassins, with a price set upon his head. Twelve of the prominent popular leaders were immediately executed without trial, and in hot haste swift decisive measures were taken which permanently, as Sylla hoped, or if not permanently at least for the moment, would lame the limbs of the democracy. The Senate, being below its numbers, was hastily filled up from the patrician families. The arrangements of the Comitia were readjusted to restore to wealth a decisive preponderance in the election of the magistrates. The tribunes of the people were stripped of half their power. Their veto was left to them, but the right of initiation was taken away, and no law or measure of any kind was thenceforth to be submitted to the popular assembly till it had been considered in the Curia and had received the Senate's sanction.

Thus the snake was scotched, and it might be hoped would die of its wounds. Sulpicius and his brother demagogues were dead. Marius was exiled. Time pressed, and Sylla could not wait to see his reforms in operation. Signs became visible before he went that the crisis would not pass off so easily. Fresh consuls had to be elected. The changes in the method of voting were intended to secure the return of the Senate's candidates, and one of the consuls chosen, Cnaeus Octavius, was a man on whom Sylla could rely. His colleague, Lucius Cinna, though elected under the pressure of the legions, was of more doubtful temper. But Cinna was a patrician, though given to popular sentiments. Sylla was impatient to be gone; more important work was waiting for him than composing factions in Rome. He contented himself with obliging the new consuls to take an oath to maintain the constitution in the shape in which he left it, and he sailed from Brindisi in the winter of B.C. 88.

The campaign of Sylla in the East does not fall to be described in this place. He was a second Coriolanus, a proud, imperious aristocrat, contemptuous, above all men living, of popular rights; but he was the first soldier of his age; he was himself, though he did not know it, an impersonation of the change which was passing over the Roman character. He took with him at most 30,000 men. He had no fleet. Had the corsair squadrons of Mithridates been on the alert, they might have destroyed him on his passage. Events at Rome left him almost immediately without support from Italy. He was impeached; he was summoned back. His troops were forbidden to obey him, and a democratic commander was sent out to supersede him. The army stood by their favorite commander. Sylla disregarded his orders from home. He found men and money as he could. He supported himself out of the countries which he occupied, without resources save in his own skill and in the fidelity and excellence of his legions. He defeated Mithridates, he drove him back out of Greece and pursued him into Asia. The interests of his party demanded his presence at Rome; the interests of the State required that he should not leave his work in the East unfinished, and he stood to it through four hard years till he brought Mithridates to sue for peace upon his knees. He had not the means to complete the conquest or completely to avenge the massacre with which the Prince of Pontus had commenced the war. He left Mithridates still in possession of his hereditary kingdom, but he left him bound, so far as treaties could bind so ambitious a spirit, to remain thenceforward within his own frontiers. He recovered Greece and the islands, and the Roman provinces in Asia Minor. He extorted an indemnity of five millions, and executed many of the wretches who had been active in the murders. He raised a fleet in Egypt, with which he drove the pirates out of the archipelago back into their own waters. He restored the shattered prestige of Roman authority, and he won for himself a reputation which his later cruelties might stain but could not efface.

The merit of Sylla shows in more striking colors when we look to what was passing, during these four years of his absence, in the heart of the Empire. He was no sooner out of Italy than the democratic party rose, with Cinna at their head, to demand the restoration of the old constitution. Cinna had been sworn to maintain Sylla's reforms, but no oath could be held binding which was extorted at the sword's point. A fresh Sulpicius was found in Carbo, a popular tribune. A more valuable supporter was found in Quintus Sertorius, a soldier of fortune, but a man of real gifts, and even of genius. Disregarding the new obligation to obtain the previous consent of the Senate, Cinna called the assembly together to repeal the acts which Sylla had forced on them. Sylla, it is to be remembered, had as yet won no victories, nor was expected to win victories. He was the favorite of the Senate, and the Senate had become a byword for incapacity and failure. Again, as so many times before, the supremacy of the aristocrats had been accompanied with dishonor abroad and the lawless murder of political adversaries at home. No true lover of his country could be expected, in Cinna's opinion, to sit quiet under a tyranny which had robbed the people of their hereditary liberties.

The patricians took up the challenge. Octavius, the other consul, came with an armed force into the Forum, and ordered the assembly to disperse. The crowd was unusually great. The country voters had come in large numbers to stand up for their rights. They did not obey, They were not called on to obey. But because they refused to disperse they were set upon with deliberate fury, and were hewn down in heaps where they stood. No accurate register was, of course, taken of the numbers killed; but the intention of the patricians was to make a bloody example, and such a scene of slaughter had never been witnessed in Rome since the first stone of the city was laid. It was an act of savage, ruthless ferocity, certain to be followed with a retribution as sharp and as indiscriminating. Men are not permitted to deal with their fellow-creatures in these methods. Cinna and the tribunes fled, but fled only to be received with open arms by the Italians. The wounds of the Social war were scarcely cicatrized, and the peace had left the allies imperfectly satisfied. Their dispersed armies gathered again about Cinna and Sertorius. Old Marius, who had been hunted through marsh and forest, and had been hiding with difficulty in Africa, came back at the news that Italy had risen again; and six thousand of his veterans flocked to him at the sound of his name. The Senate issued proclamations. The limitations on the Italian franchise left by Sylla were abandoned. Every privilege which had been asked for was conceded. It was too late. Concessions made in fear might be withdrawn on the return of safety. Marius and Cinna joined their forces. The few troops in the pay of the Senate deserted to them. They appeared together at the gate's of the city, and Rome capitulated.

There was a bloody score to be wiped out. There would have been neither cruelty nor injustice in the most severe inquiry into the massacre in the Forum, and the most exemplary punishment of Octavius and his companions. But the blood of the people was up, and they had suffered too deeply to wait for the tardy processes of law. They had not been the aggressors. They had assembled lawfully, to assert their constitutional rights; they had been cut in pieces as if they had been insurgent slaves, and the assassins were not individuals, but a political party in the State.

Marius bears the chief blame for the scenes which followed. Undoubtedly he was in no pleasant humor. A price had been set on his head, his house had been destroyed, his property had been confiscated, he himself had been chased like a wild beast, and he had not deserved such treatment. He had saved Italy when but for him it would have been wasted by the swords of the Germans. His power had afterward been absolute, but he had not abused it for party purposes. The Senate had no reason to complain of him. He had touched none of their privileges, incapable and dishonest as he knew them to be. His crime in their eyes had been his eminence. They had now shown themselves as cruel as they were worthless; and if public justice was disposed to make an end of them, he saw no cause for interference.

Thus the familiar story repeated itself; wrong was punished by wrong, and another item was entered on the bloody account which was being scored up year after year. The noble lords and their friends had killed the people in the Forum. They were killed in turn by the soldiers of Marius. Fifty senators perished; not those who were specially guilty, but those who were most politically marked as patrician leaders. With them fell a thousand equites, commoners of fortune, who had thrown in their lot with the aristocracy. From retaliatory political revenge the transition was easy to pillage and wholesale murder, and for many days the wretched city was made a prey to robbers and cutthroats.

So ended the year 87, the darkest and bloodiest which the guilty city had yet experienced. Marius and Cinna were chosen consuls for the year ensuing, and a witch's prophecy was fulfilled that Marius should have a seventh consulate. But the glory had departed from him. His sun was already setting, redly, among crimson clouds. He lived but a fortnight after his inauguration, and he died in his bed on the 13th of January, at the age of seventy-one.

"The mother of the Gracchi," said Mirabeau, "cast the dust of her murdered sons into the air, and out of it sprang Caius Marius." The Gracchi were perhaps not forgotten in the retribution; but the crime which had been revenged by Marius was the massacre in the Forum by Octavius and his friends. The aristocracy found no mercy, because they had shown no mercy. They had been guilty of the most wantonly wicked cruelty which the Roman annals had yet recorded. They were not defending their country against a national danger. They were engaged in what has been called in later years "saving society;" that is to say, in saving their own privileges, their opportunities for plunder, their palaces, their estates, and their game-preserves. They had treated the people as if they were so many cattle grown troublesome to their masters, and the cattle were human beings with rights as real as their own.

The democratic party were now masters of the situation, and so continued for almost four years. Cinna succeeded to the consulship term after term, nominating himself and his colleagues. The franchise was given to the Italians without reserve or qualification. Northern Italy was still excluded, being not called Italy, but Cisalpine Gaul. South of the Po distinctions of citizenship ceased to exist. The constitution became a rehearsal of the Empire, a democracy controlled and guided by a popular dictator. The aristocrats who had escaped massacre fled to Sylla in Asia, and for a brief interval Rome drew its breath in peace.


Revolutionary periods are painted in history in colors so dark that the reader wonders how, amidst such scenes, peaceful human beings could continue to exist. He forgets that the historian describes only the abnormal incidents which broke the current of ordinary life, and that between the spasms of violence there were long quiet intervals when the ordinary occupations of men went on as usual. Cinna's continuous consulship was uncomfortable to the upper classes, but the daily business of a great city pursued its beaten way. Tradesmen and merchants made money, and lawyers pleaded, and priests prayed in the temples, and "celebrated" on festival and holy day. And now for the first time we catch a personal view of young Julius Caesar. He was growing up, in his father's house, a tall, slight, handsome youth, with dark piercing eyes,[1] a sallow complexion, large nose, lips full, features refined and intellectual, neck sinewy and thick beyond what might have been expected from the generally slender figure. He was particular about his appearance, used the bath frequently, and attended carefully to his hair. His dress was arranged with studied negligence, and he had a loose mode of fastening his girdle so peculiar as to catch the eye.

It may be supposed that he had witnessed Sylla's coming to Rome, the camp- fires in the Forum, the Octavian massacre, the return of his uncle and Cinna, and the bloody triumph of the party to which his father belonged. He was just at the age when such scenes make an indelible impression; and the connection of his family with Marius suggests easily the persons whom he must have most often seen, and the conversation to which he must have listened at his father's table. His most intimate companions were the younger Marius, the adopted son of his uncle; and, singularly enough, the two Ciceros, Marcus and his brother Quintus, who had been sent by their father to be educated at Rome. The connection of Marius with Arpinum was perhaps the origin of the intimacy. The great man may have heard of his fellow-townsman's children being in the city, and have taken notice of them. Certain, at any rate, it is that these boys grew up together on terms of close familiarity.[2]

Marius had observed his nephew, and had marked him for promotion. During the brief fortnight of his seventh consulship he gave him an appointment which reminds us of the boy-bishops of the middle ages. He made him flamen dialis, or priest of Jupiter, and a member of the Sacred College, with a handsome income, when he was no more than fourteen. Two years later, during the rule of Cinna, his father arranged a marriage for him with a lady of fortune named Cossutia. But the young Caesar had more ambitious views for himself. His father died suddenly at Pisa, in B.C. 84; he used his freedom to break off his engagement, and instead of Cossutia he married Cornelia, the daughter of no less a person than the all- powerful Cinna himself. If the date commonly received for Caesar's birth is correct, he was still only in his seventeenth year. Such connections were rarely formed at an age so premature; and the doubt is increased by the birth of his daughter, Julia, in the year following. Be this as it may, a marriage into Cinna's family connected Caesar more closely than ever with the popular party. Thus early and thus definitively he committed himself to the politics of his uncle and his father-in-law; and the comparative quiet which Rome and Italy enjoyed under Cinna's administration may have left a permanent impression upon him.

The quiet was not destined to be of long endurance. The time was come when Sylla was to demand a reckoning for all which had been done in his absence. No Roman general had deserved better of his country than Sylla. He had driven Mithridates out of Greece, and had restored Roman authority in Asia under conditions peculiarly difficult. He had clung resolutely to his work, while his friends at home were being trampled upon by the populace whom he despised. He perhaps knew that in subduing the enemies of the State by his own individual energy he was taking the surest road to regain his ascendency. His task was finished. Mithridates was once more a petty Asiatic prince existing upon sufferance, and Sylla announced his approaching return to Italy. By his victories he had restored confidence to the aristocracy, and had won the respect of millions of his countrymen. But the party in power knew well that if he gained a footing in Italy their day was over, and the danger to be expected from him was aggravated by his transcendent services. The Italians feared naturally that they would lose the liberties which they had won. The popular faction at Rome was combined and strong, and was led by men of weight and practical ability. No reconciliation was possible between Cinna and Sylla. They were the respective chiefs of heaven and hell, and which of the two represented the higher power and which the lower could be determined only when the sword had decided between them. In Cinna lay the presumed lawful authority. He represented the people as organized in the Comitia, and his colleague in the consulship when the crisis came was the popular tribune Carbo. Italy was ready with armies; and as leaders there were young Marius, already with a promise of greatness in him, and Sertorius, gifted, brilliant, unstained by crime, adored by his troops as passionately as Sylla himself, and destined to win a place for himself elsewhere in the Pantheon of Rome's most distinguished men.

Sylla had measured the difficulty of the task which lay before him. But he had an army behind him accustomed to victory, and recruited by thousands of exiles who had fled from the rule of the democracy. He had now a fleet to cover his passage; and he was watching the movements of his enemies before deciding upon his own, when accident came suddenly to his help. Cinna had gone down to Brindisi, intending himself to carry his army into Greece, and to spare Italy the miseries of another civil war, by fighting it out elsewhere. The expedition was unpopular with the soldiers, and Cinna was killed in a mutiny. The democracy was thus left without a head, and the moderate party in the city who desired peace and compromise used the opportunity to elect two neutral consuls, Scipio and Norbanus. Sylla, perhaps supposing the change of feeling to be more complete than it really was, at once opened communications with them. But his terms were such as he might have dictated if the popular party were already under his feet. He intended to re-enter Rome with the glory of his conquests about him, for revenge and a counter-revolution. The consuls replied with refusing to treat with a rebel in arms, and with a command to disband his troops.

Sylla had lingered at Athens, collecting paintings and statues and manuscripts, the rarest treasures on which he could lay his hands, to decorate his Roman palace. On receiving the consuls' answer, he sailed for Brindisi in the spring of 83, with forty thousand legionaries and a large fleet. The south of Italy made no resistance, and he secured a standing- ground where his friends could rally to him. They came in rapidly, some for the cause which he represented, some for private hopes or animosities, some as aspiring military adventurers, seeking the patronage of the greatest soldier of the age. Among these last came Cnaeus Pompey, afterward Pompey the Great, son of Pompey, surnamed Strabo, or the squint- eyed, either from some personal deformity or because he had trimmed between the two factions and was distrusted and hated by them both.

Cnaeus Pompey had been born in the same year with Cicero, and was now twenty-three. He was a high—spirited ornamental youth, with soft melting eyes, as good as he was beautiful, and so delightful to women that it was said they all longed to bite him. The Pompeys had been hardly treated by Cinna. The father had been charged with embezzlement. The family house in Rome had been confiscated; the old Strabo had been killed; the son had retired to his family estate in Picenum,[3] where he was living when Sylla landed. To the young Roman chivalry Sylla was a hero of romance. Pompey raised a legion out of his friends and tenants, scattered the few companies that tried to stop him, and rushed to the side of the deliverer. Others came, like Sergius Catiline or Oppianicus of Larino,[4] men steeped in crime, stained with murder, incest, adultery, forgery, and meaning to secure the fruits of their villanies by well-timed service. They were all welcome, and Sylla was not particular. His progress was less rapid than it promised to be at the outset. He easily defeated Norbanus; and Scipio's troops, having an aristocratic leaven in them, deserted to him. But the Italians, especially the Samnites, fought most desperately. The war lasted for more than a year, Sylla slowly advancing. The Roman mob became furious. They believed their cause betrayed, and were savage from fear and disappointment. Suspected patricians were murdered: among them fell the Pontifex Maximus, the venerable Scaevola. At length the contest ended in a desperate fight under the walls of Rome itself on the 1st of November, B.C. 82. The battle began at four in the afternoon, and lasted through the night to the dawn of the following day. The popular army was at last cut to pieces; a few thousand prisoners were taken, but they were murdered afterward in cold blood. Young Marius killed himself, Sertorius fled to Spain, and Sylla and the aristocracy were masters of Rome and Italy. Such provincial towns as continued to resist were stormed and given up to pillage, every male inhabitant being put to the sword. At Norba, in Latium, the desperate citizens fired their own houses and perished by each other's hands.

Sylla was under no illusions. He understood the problem which he had in hand. He knew that the aristocracy were detested by nine tenths of the people; he knew that they deserved to be detested; but they were at least gentlemen by birth and breeding. The democrats, on the other hand, were insolent upstarts, who, instead of being grateful for being allowed to live and work and pay taxes and serve in the army, had dared to claim a share in the government, had turned against their masters, and had set their feet upon their necks. The miserable multitude were least to blame. They were ignorant, and without leaders could be controlled easily. The guilt and the danger lay with the men of wealth and intellect, the country gentlemen, the minority of knights and patricians like Cinna, who had taken the popular side and had deserted their own order. Their motives mattered not; some might have acted from foolish enthusiasm, some from personal ambition; but such traitors, from the Gracchi onward, had caused all the mischief which had happened to the State. They were determined, they were persevering. No concessions had satisfied them, and one demand had been a prelude to another. There was no hope for an end of agitation till every one of these men had been rooted out, their estates taken from them, and their families destroyed.

To this remarkable work Sylla addressed himself, unconscious that he was attempting an impossibility, that opinion could not be controlled by the sword, and that for every enemy to the oligarchy that he killed he would create twenty by his cruelty. Like Marius after the Octavian massacre, he did not attempt to distinguish between degrees of culpability. Guilt was not the question with him. His object was less to punish the past than to prevent a recurrence of it, and moderate opposition was as objectionable as fanaticism and frenzy. He had no intention of keeping power in his own hands. Personal supremacy might end with himself, and he intended to create institutions which would endure, in the form of a close senatorial monopoly. But for his purpose it would be necessary to remove out of the way every single person either in Rome or in the provinces who was in a position to offer active resistance, and therefore for the moment he required complete freedom of action. The Senate at his direction appointed him dictator, and in this capacity he became absolute master of the life and property of every man and woman in Italy. He might be impeached afterward and his policy reversed, but while his office lasted he could do what he pleased.

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, Oppianicus of Larino, who inscribed individuals whom he had already murdered, and their relations whose prosecution he feared. It mattered little to Sylla 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 L500 was offered for the head of any person whose name was in the schedule.

It was one of those deliberate acts, carried out with method and order, which are possible only in countries in an advanced stage of civilization, and which show how thin is the film spread over human ferocity by what is called progress and culture. We read in every page of history of invasions of hostile armies, of towns and villages destroyed and countries wasted and populations perishing of misery; the simplest war brings a train of horrors behind it; but we bear them with comparative equanimity. Personal hatreds are not called out on such occasions. The actors in them are neither necessarily nor generally fiends. The grass grows again on the trampled fields. Peace returns, and we forget and forgive. The coldly ordered massacres of selected victims in political and spiritual struggles rise in a different order of feelings, and are remembered through all ages with indignation and shame. The victims perish as the champions of principles which survive through the changes of time. They are marked for the sacrifice on account of their advocacy of a cause which to half mankind is the cause of humanity. They are the martyrs of history, and the record of atrocity rises again in immortal witness against the opinions out of which it rose.

Patricians and plebeians, aristocrats and democrats, have alike stained their hands with blood in the working out of the problem of politics. But impartial history declares also that the crimes of the popular party have in all ages been the lighter in degree, while in themselves they have more to excuse them; and if the violent acts of revolutionists have been held up more conspicuously for condemnation, it has been only because the fate of noblemen and gentlemen has been more impressive to the imagination than the fate of the peasant or the artisan. But the endurance of the inequalities of life by the poor is the marvel of human society. When the people complain, said Mirabeau, the people are always right. The popular cause has been the cause of the laborer struggling for a right to live and breathe and think as a man. Aristocracies fight for wealth and power, wealth which they waste upon luxury, and power which they abuse for their own interests. Yet the cruelties of Marius were as far exceeded by the cruelties of Sylla as the insurrection of the beggars of Holland was exceeded by the bloody tribunal of the Duke of Alva, or as "the horrors of the French Revolution" were exceeded by the massacre of the Huguenots two hundred years before, for which the Revolution was the expiatory atonement.

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.

The ground being thus cleared, the Dictator took up again his measures of political reform. He did not attempt a second time to take the franchise from the Italians. Romans and Italians he was ready to leave on the same level, but it was to be a level of impotence. Rome was to be ruled by the Senate, and as a first step, and to protect the Senate's dignity, he enfranchised ten thousand slaves who had belonged to the proscribed gentlemen, and formed them into a senatorial guard. Before departing for the East he had doubled the Senate's numbers out of the patrician order. Under Cinna the new members had not claimed their privilege, and had probably been absent from Italy. They were now installed in their places, and the power of the censors to revise the list and remove those who had proved unworthy was taken away. The senators were thus peers for life, peers in a single chamber which Sylla meant to make omnipotent. Vacancies were to be supplied as before from the retiring consuls, praetors, aediles, and quaestors. The form of a popular constitution would remain, since the road into the council of State lay through the popular elections. But to guard against popular favorites finding access to the consulship, a provision was made that no person who had been a tribune of the people could be chosen afterward to any other office.

The Senate's power depended on the withdrawal from the assembly of citizens of the right of original legislation. So long as the citizens could act immediately at the invitation of either consul or tribune, they could repeal at their pleasure any arrangement which Sylla might prescribe. As a matter of course, therefore, he re-enacted the condition which restricted the initiation of laws to the Senate. The tribunes still retained their veto, but a penalty was attached to the abuse of the veto, the Senate being the judge in its own cause, and possessing a right to depose a tribune.

In the Senate so reconstituted was thus centred a complete restrictive control over the legislation and the administration. And this was not all. The senators had been so corrupt in the use of their judicial functions that Gracchus had disabled them from sitting in the law courts, and had provided that the judges should be chosen in future from the equites. The knights had been exceptionally pure in their office. Cicero challenged his opponents on the trial of Verres[5] to find a single instance in which an equestrian court could be found to have given a corrupt verdict during the forty years for which their privilege survived. But their purity did not save them, nor, alas! those who were to suffer by a reversion to the old order. The equestrian courts were abolished: the senatorial courts were reinstated. It might be hoped that the senators had profited by their lesson, and for the future would be careful of their reputation.

Changes were made also in the modes of election to office. The College of Priests had been originally a close corporation, which filled up its own numbers. Democracy had thrown it open to competition, and given the choice to the people. Sylla reverted to the old rule. Consuls like Marius and Cinna, who had the confidence of the people, had been re-elected year after year, and had been virtual kings. Sylla provided that ten years must elapse between a first consulship and a second. Nor was any one to be a consul who was not forty-three years old and had not passed already through the lower senatorial offices of praetor or quaestor.

The assembly of the people had been shorn of its legislative powers. There was no longer, therefore, any excuse for its meeting, save on special occasions. To leave the tribunes power to call the citizens to the Forum was to leave them the means of creating inconvenient agitation. It was ordered, therefore, that the assembly should only come together at the Senate's invitation. The free grants of corn, which filled the city with idle vagrants, were abolished. Sylla never courted popularity, and never shrank from fear of clamor.

The Senate was thus made omnipotent and irresponsible. It had the appointment of all the governors of the provinces. It was surrounded by its own body-guard. It had the administration completely in hand. The members could be tried only by their peers, and were themselves judges of every other order. No legal force was left anywhere to interfere with what it might please them to command. A senator was not necessarily a patrician, nor a patrician a senator. The Senate was,[6] or was to be as time wore on, a body composed of men of any order who had secured the suffrages of the people. But as the value of the prize became so vast, the way to the possession of it was open practically to those only who had wealth or interest. The elections came to be worked by organized committees, and except in extraordinary circumstances no candidate could expect success who had not the Senate's support, or who had not bought the services of the managers, at a cost within the reach only of the reckless spendthrift or the speculating millionaire.

What human foresight could do to prevent democracy from regaining the ascendency, Sylla had thus accomplished. He had destroyed the opposition; he had reorganized the constitution on the most strictly conservative lines. He had built the fortress, as he said; it was now the Senate's part to provide a garrison; and here it was, as Caesar said afterward, that Sylla had made his great mistake. His arrangements were ingenious, and many of them excellent; but the narrower the body to whose care the government was entrusted, the more important became the question of the composition of this body. The theory of election implied that they would be the best that the Republic possessed; but Sylla must have been himself conscious that fact and theory might be very far from corresponding.

The key of the situation was the army. As before, no troops were to be maintained in Italy; but beyond the frontiers the provinces were held by military force, and the only power which could rule the Empire was the power which the army would obey. It was not for the Senate's sake that Sylla's troops had followed him from Greece. It was from their personal devotion to himself. What charm was there in this new constructed aristocratic oligarchy, that distant legions should defer to it—more than Sylla's legions had deferred to orders from Cinna and Carbo? Symptoms of the danger from this quarter were already growing even under the Dictator's own eyes, and at the height of his authority. Sertorius had escaped the proscription. After wandering in Africa he made his way into Spain, where, by his genius as a statesman and a soldier, he rose into a position to defy the Senate and assert his independence. He organized the peninsula after the Roman model; he raised armies, and defeated commander after commander who was sent to reduce him. He revived in the Spaniards a national enthusiasm for freedom. The Roman legionaries had their own opinions, and those whose friends Sylla had murdered preferred Sertorius and liberty to Rome and an aristocratic Senate. Unconquerable by honorable means, Sertorius was poisoned at last. But his singular history suggests a doubt whether, if the Syllan constitution had survived, other Sertoriuses might not have sprung up in every province, and the Empire of Rome have gone to pieces like the Macedonian. The one condition of the continuance of the Roman dominion was the existence of a central authority which the army as a profession could respect, and the traditionary reverence which attached to the Roman Senate would scarcely have secured their disinterested attachment to five hundred elderly rich men who had bought their way into pre-eminence.

Sylla did not live to see the significance of the Sertorian revolt. He experienced, however, himself, in a milder form, an explosion of military sauciness. Young Pompey had been sent, after the occupation of Rome, to settle Sicily and Africa. He did his work well and rapidly, and when it was over he received orders from the Senate to dismiss his troops. An order from Sylla Pompey would have obeyed; but what was the Senate, that an ambitious brilliant youth with arms in his hands should send away an army devoted to him and step back into common life? Sylla himself had to smooth the ruffled plumes of his aspiring follower. He liked Pompey, he was under obligations to him, and Pompey had not acted after all in a manner so very unlike his own. He summoned him home, but he gave him a triumph for his African conquests, and allowed him to call himself by the title of "Magnus," or "The Great." Pompey was a promising soldier, without political ambition, and was worth an effort to secure. To prevent the risk of a second act of insubordination, Sylla made personal arrangements to attach Pompey directly to himself. He had a step-daughter, named Aemilia. She was already married, and was pregnant. Pompey too was married to Antistia, a lady of good family; but domestic ties were not allowed to stand in the way of higher objects. Nor did it matter that Antistia's father had been murdered by the Roman populace for taking Sylla's side, or that her mother had gone mad and destroyed herself, on her husband's horrible death. Late Republican Rome was not troubled with sentiment. Sylla invited Pompey to divorce Antistia and marry Aemilia. Pompey complied. Antistia was sent away. Aemilia was divorced from her husband, and was brought into Pompey's house, where she immediately died.

In another young man of high rank, whom Sylla attempted to attach to himself by similar means, he found less complaisance. Caesar was now eighteen, his daughter Julia having been lately born. He had seen his party ruined, his father-in-law and young Marius killed, and his nearest friends dispersed or murdered. He had himself for a time escaped proscription; but the Dictator had his eye on him, and Sylla had seen something in "the youth with the loose girdle" which struck him as remarkable. Closely connected though Caesar was both with Cinna and Marius, Sylla did not wish to kill him if he could help it. There was a cool calculation in his cruelties. The existing generation of democrats was incurable, but he knew that the stability of the new constitution must depend on his being able to conciliate the intellect and energy of the next. Making a favor perhaps of his clemency, he proposed to Caesar to break with his liberal associates, divorce Cinna's daughter, and take such a wife as he would himself provide. If Pompey had complied, who had made a position of his own, much more might it be expected that Caesar would comply. Yet Caesar answered with a distinct and unhesitating refusal. The terrible Sylla, in the fulness of his strength, after desolating half the homes in Italy, after revolutionizing all Roman society, from the peasant's cottage in the Apennines to the senate-house itself, was defied by a mere boy! Throughout his career Caesar displayed always a singular indifference to life. He had no sentimental passion about him, no Byronic mock-heroics. He had not much belief either in God or the gods. On all such questions he observed from first to last a profound silence. But one conviction he had. He intended, if he was to live at all, to live master of himself in matters which belonged to himself. Sylla might kill him if he so pleased. It was better to die than to put away a wife who was the mother of his child, and to marry some other woman at a dictator's bidding. Life on such terms was not worth keeping.

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