Caesar: A Sketch
by James Anthony Froude
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

So proud a bearing may have commanded Sylla's admiration, but it taught him, also, that a young man capable of assuming an attitude so bold might be dangerous to the rickety institutions which he had constructed so carefully. He tried coercion. He deprived Caesar of his priesthood. He took his wife's dowry from him, and confiscated the estate which he had inherited from his father. When this produced no effect, the rebellious youth was made over to the assassins, and a price was set upon his head. He fled into concealment. He was discovered once, and escaped only by bribing Sylla's satellites. His fate would soon have overtaken him, but he had powerful relations, whom Sylla did not care to offend. Aurelius Cotta, who was perhaps his mother's brother, Mamercus Aemilius, a distinguished patrician, and singularly also the College of the Vestal Virgins, interceded for his pardon. The Dictator consented at last, but with prophetic reluctance. "Take him," he said at length, "since you will have it so—but I would have you know that the youth for whom you are so earnest will one day overthrow the aristocracy, for whom you and I have fought so hardly; in this young Caesar there are many Mariuses." [7] Caesar, not trusting too much to Sylla's forbearance, at once left Italy, and joined the army in Asia. The little party of young men who had grown up together now separated, to meet in the future on altered terms. Caesar held to his inherited convictions, remaining constant through good and evil to the cause of his uncle Marius. His companion Cicero, now ripening into manhood, chose the other side. With his talents for his inheritance, and confident in the consciousness of power, but with weak health and a neck as thin as a woman's, Cicero felt that he had a future before him, but that his successes must be won by other weapons than arms. He chose the bar for his profession; he resolved to make his way into popularity as a pleader before the Senate courts and in the Forum. He looked to the Senate itself as the ultimate object of his ambition. There alone he could hope to be distinguished, if distinguished he was to be.

Cicero, however, was no more inclined than Caesar to be subservient to Sylla, as he took an early opportunity of showing. It was to the cause of the constitution, and not to the person of the Dictator, that Cicero had attached himself, and he, too, ventured to give free expression to his thoughts when free speech was still dangerous.

Sylla's career was drawing to its close, and the end was not the least remarkable feature of it. On him had fallen the odium of the proscription and the stain of the massacres. The sooner the senators could be detached from the soldier who had saved them from destruction, the better chance they would have of conciliating quiet people on whose support they must eventually rely. Sylla himself felt the position; and having completed what he had undertaken, with a half-pitying, half-contemptuous self- abandonment he executed what from the first he had intended—he resigned the dictatorship, and became a private citizen again, amusing the leisure of his age, as he had abused the leisure of his youth, with theatres and actresses and dinner-parties. He too, like so many of the great Romans, was indifferent to life; of power for the sake of power he was entirely careless; and if his retirement had been more dangerous to him than it really was, he probably would not have postponed it. He was a person of singular character, and not without many qualities which were really admirable. He was free from any touch of charlatanry. He was true, simple, and unaffected, and even without ambition in the mean and personal sense. His fault, which he would have denied to be a fault, was that he had a patrician disdain of mobs and suffrages and the cant of popular liberty. The type repeats itself era after era. Sylla was but Graham of Claverhouse in a Roman dress and with an ampler stage. His courage in laying down his authority has been often commented on, but the risk which he incurred was insignificant. There was in Rome neither soldier nor statesman who could for a moment be placed in competition with Sylla, and he was so passionately loved by the army, he was so sure of the support of his comrades, whom he had quartered on the proscribed lands, and who, for their own interest's sake, would resist attempts at counter-revolution, that he knew that if an emergency arose he had but to lift his finger to reinstate himself in command. Of assassination he was in no greater danger than when dictator, while the temptation to assassinate him was less. His influence was practically undiminished, and as long as he lived he remained, and could not but remain, the first person in the Republic.

Some license of speech he was, of course, prepared for, but it required no small courage to make a public attack either on himself or his dependants, and it was therefore most creditable to Cicero that his first speech of importance was directed against the Dictator's immediate friends, and was an exposure of the iniquities of the proscription. Cicero no doubt knew that there would be no surer road to favor with the Roman multitude than by denouncing Sylla's followers, and that, young and unknown as he was, his insignificance might protect him, however far he ventured. But he had taken the Senate's side. From first to last he had approved of the reactionary constitution, and had only condemned the ruthless methods by which it had been established. He never sought the popularity of a demagogue, or appealed to popular passions, or attempted to create a prejudice against the aristocracy, into whose ranks he intended to make his way. He expressed the opinions of the respectable middle classes, who had no sympathy with revolutionists, but who dreaded soldiers and military rule and confiscations of property.

The occasion on which Cicero came forward was characteristic of the time. Sextus Roscius was a country gentleman of good position, residing near Ameria, in Umbria. He had been assassinated when on a visit to Rome by two of his relations, who wished to get possession of his estate. The proscription was over, and the list had been closed; but Roscius's name was surreptitiously entered upon it, with the help of Sylla's favorite freedman, Chrysogonus. The assassins obtained an acknowledgment of their claims, and they and Chrysogonus divided the spoils. Sextus Roscius was entirely innocent. He had taken no part in politics at all. He had left a son who was his natural heir, and the township of Ameria sent up a petition to Sylla remonstrating against so iniquitous a robbery. The conspirators, finding themselves in danger of losing the reward of their crime, shifted their ground. They denied that they had themselves killed Sextus Roscius. They said that the son had done it, and they charged him with parricide. Witnesses were easily provided. No influential pleader, it was justly supposed, would venture into antagonism with Sylla's favorite and appear for the defence. Cicero heard of the case, however, and used the opportunity to bring himself into notice. He advocated young Roscius's cause with skill and courage. He told the whole story in court without disguise. He did not blame Sylla. He compared Sylla to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, who was sovereign of the universe, and on the whole a good sovereign, but with so much business on his hands that he had not time to look into details. But Cicero denounced Chrysogonus as an accomplice in an act of atrocious villainy. The court took the same view, and the rising orator had the honor of clearing the reputation of the injured youth, and of recovering his property for him.

Sylla showed no resentment, and probably felt none. He lived for a year after his retirement, and died 78 B.C., being occupied at the moment in writing his memoirs, which have been unfortunately lost. He was buried gorgeously in the Campus Martius, among the old kings of Rome. The aristocrats breathed freely when delivered from his overpowering presence, and the constitution which he had set upon its feet was now to be tried.

[1] "Nigris vegetisque oculis."—Suetonius.

[2] "Ac primum illud tempus familiaritatis et consuetudinis, quae mihi cum illo, quae fratri meo, quae Caio Varroni, consobrino nostro, ab omnium nostrum adolescentia fuit, praetermitto."—Cicero, De Provinciis Consularibus, 17. Cicero was certainly speaking of a time which preceded Sylla's dictatorship, for Caesar left Rome immediately after it, and when he came back he attached himself to the political party to which Cicero was most opposed.

[3] On the Adriatic, between Anconia and Pescara.

[4] See, for the story of Oppianicus, the remarkable speech of Cicero, Pro Cluentio.

[5] Appian, on the other hand, says that the courts of the equites had been more corrupt than the senatorial courts.—De Bello Civili, i. 22. Cicero was perhaps prejudiced in favor of his own order, but a contemporary statement thus publicly made is far more likely to be trustworthy.

[6] Sylla had himself nominated a large number of senators.

[7] So says Suetonius, reporting the traditions of the following century; but the authority is doubtful, and the story, like so many others, is perhaps apocryphal.


The able men of the democracy had fallen in the proscription. Sertorius, the only eminent surviving soldier belonging to them, was away, making himself independent in Spain. The rest were all killed. But the Senate, too, had lost in Sylla the single statesman that they possessed. They were a body of mediocrities, left with absolute power in their hands, secure as they supposed from further interference, and able to return to those pleasant occupations which for a time had been so rudely interrupted. Sertorius was an awkward problem with which Pompey might perhaps be entrusted to deal. No one knew as yet what stuff might be in Pompey. He was for the present sunning himself in his military splendors; too young to come forward as a politician, and destitute, so far as appeared, of political ambition. If Pompey promised to be docile, he might be turned to use at a proper time; but the aristocracy had seen too much of successful military commanders, and were in no hurry to give opportunities of distinction to a youth who had so saucily defied them. Sertorius was far off, and could be dealt with at leisure.

In his defence of Roscius, Cicero had given an admonition to the noble lords that unless they mended their ways they could not look for any long continuance.[1] They regarded Cicero perhaps, if they heard what he said of them, as an inexperienced young man, who would understand better by and by of what materials the world was made. There had been excitement and anxiety enough. Conservatism was in power again. Fine gentlemen could once more lounge in their clubs, amuse themselves with their fish-ponds and horses and mistresses, devise new and ever new means of getting money and spending it, and leave the Roman Empire for the present to govern itself.

The leading public men belonging to the party in power had all served in some capacity or other with Sylla or under him. Of those whose names deserve particular mention there were at most five.

Licinius Lucullus had been a special favorite of Sylla. The Dictator left him his executor, with the charge of his manuscripts. Lucullus was a commoner, but of consular family, and a thorough-bred aristocrat. He had endeared himself to Sylla by a languid talent which could rouse itself when necessary into brilliant activity, by the easy culture of a polished man of rank, and by a genius for luxury which his admirers followed at a distance, imitating their master but hopeless of overtaking him.

Caecilius Metellus, son of the Metellus whom Marius had superseded in Africa, had been consul with Sylla in 80 B.C. He was now serving in Spain against Sertorius, and was being gradually driven out of the peninsula.

Lutatius Catulus was a proud but honest patrician, with the conceit of his order, but without their vices. His father, who had been Marius's colleague, and had been defeated by the Cimbri, had killed himself during the Marian revolution. The son had escaped, and was one of the consuls at the time of Sylla's death.

More noticeable than either of these was Marcus Crassus, a figure singularly representative, of plebeian family, but a family long adopted into the closest circle of the aristocracy, the leader and impersonation of the great moneyed classes in Rome. Wealth had for several generations been the characteristic of the Crassi. They had the instinct and the temperament which in civilized ages take to money-making as a natural occupation. In politics they aimed at being on the successful side; but living as they did in an era of revolutions, they were surprised occasionally in unpleasant situations. Crassus the rich, father of Marcus, had committed himself against Marius, and had been allowed the privilege of being his own executioner. Marcus himself, who was a little older than Cicero, took refuge in Sylla's camp. He made himself useful to the Dictator by his genius for finance, and in return he was enabled to amass an enormous fortune for himself out of the proscriptions. His eye for business reached over the whole Roman Empire. He was banker, speculator, contractor, merchant. He lent money to the spendthrift young lords, but with sound securities and at usurious interest. He had an army of slaves, but these slaves were not ignorant field-hands; they were skilled workmen in all arts and trades, whose labors he turned to profit in building streets and palaces. Thus all that he touched turned to gold. He was the wealthiest single individual in the whole Empire, the acknowledged head of the business world of Rome.

The last person who need be noted was Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, the father of the future colleague of Augustus and Antony. Lepidus, too, had been an officer of Sylla's. He had been rewarded for his services by the government of Sicily, and when Sylla died was the second consul with Catulus. It was said against him that, like so many other governors, he had enriched himself by tyrannizing over his Sicilian subjects. His extortions had been notorious; he was threatened with prosecution as soon as his consulship should expire; and the adventure to which he was about to commit himself was undertaken, so the aristocrats afterward maintained, in despair of an acquittal. Lepidus's side of the story was never told, but another side it certainly had. Though one of Sylla's generals, he had married the daughter of the tribune Saturninus. He had been elected consul by a very large majority against the wishes of the Senate, and was suspected of holding popular opinions. It may be that the prosecution was an after-thought of revenge, and that Lepidus was to have been tried before a senatorial jury already determined to find him guilty.

Among these men lay the fortunes of Rome when the departure of their chief left the aristocrats masters of their own destiny.

During this time Caesar had been serving his apprenticeship as a soldier. The motley forces which Mithridates had commanded had not all submitted on the king's surrender to Sylla. Squadrons of pirates hung yet about the smaller islands in the Aegean. Lesbos was occupied by adventurers who were fighting for their own hand, and the praetor Minucius Thermus had been sent to clear the seas and extirpate these nests of brigands. To Thermus Caesar had attached himself. The praetor, finding that his fleet was not strong enough for the work, found it necessary to apply to Nicomedes, the allied sovereign of the adjoining kingdom of Bithynia, to supply him with a few additional vessels; and Caesar, soon after his arrival, was despatched on this commission to the Bithynian court.

Long afterward, when Roman cultivated society had come to hate Caesar, and any scandal was welcome to them which would make him odious, it was reported that on this occasion he entered into certain relations with Nicomedes of a kind indisputably common at the time in the highest patrician circles. The value of such a charge in political controversy was considerable, for whether true or false it was certain to be believed; and similar accusations were flung indiscriminately, so Cicero says, at the reputation of every eminent person whom it was desirable to stain, if his personal appearance gave the story any air of probability.[2]

The disposition to believe evil of men who have risen a few degrees above their contemporaries is a feature of human nature as common as it is base; and when to envy there are added fear and hatred, malicious anecdotes spring like mushrooms in a forcing-pit. But gossip is not evidence, nor does it become evidence because it is in Latin and has been repeated through many generations. The strength of a chain is no greater than the strength of its first link, and the adhesive character of calumny proves only that the inclination of average men to believe the worst of great men is the same in all ages. This particular accusation against Caesar gains, perhaps, a certain credibility from the admission that it was the only occasion on which anything of the kind could be alleged against him. On the other hand, it was unheard of for near a quarter of a century. It was produced in Rome in the midst of a furious political contest. No witnesses were forthcoming; no one who had been at Bithynia at the time; no one who ever pretended to have original knowledge of the truth of the story. Caesar himself passed it by with disdain, or alluded to it, if forced upon his notice, with contemptuous disgust.

The Bithynian mission was otherwise successful. He brought the ships to Thermus. He distinguished himself personally in the storming of Mitylene, and won the oak-wreath, the Victoria Cross of the Roman army. Still pursuing the same career, Caesar next accompanied Servilius Isauricus in a campaign against the horde of pirates, afterwards so famous, that was forming itself among the creeks and river-mouths of Cilicia. The advantages which Servilius obtained over them were considerable enough to deserve a triumph, but were barren of result. The news that Sylla was dead reached the army while still in the field; and the danger of appearing in Rome being over, Caesar at once left Cilicia and went back to his family. Other causes are said to have contributed to hasten his return. A plot had been formed, with the consul Lepidus at its head, to undo Sylla's laws and restore the constitution of the Gracchi. Caesar had been urged by letter to take part in the movement, and he may have hurried home either to examine the prospects of success or perhaps to prevent an attempt which, under the circumstances, he might think criminal and useless. Lepidus was not a wise man, though he may have been an honest one. The aristocracy had not yet proved that they were incapable of reform. It might be that they would digest their lesson after all, and that for a generation to come no more revolutions would be necessary.

[Sidenote: B.C. 77. Caesar aet. 23.] Caesar at all events declined to connect himself with this new adventure. He came to Rome, looked at what was going on, and refused to have anything to do with it. The experiment was tried without him. Young Cinna, his brother-in-law, joined Lepidus. Together they raised a force in Etruria, and marched on Rome. They made their way into the city, but were met in the Campus Martius by Pompey and other consul, Catulus, at the head of some of Sylla's old troops; and an abortive enterprise, which, if it had succeeded, would probably have been mischievous, was ended almost as soon as it began. The two leaders escaped. Cinna joined Sertorius in Spain. Lepidus made his way to Sardinia, where in the next year he died, leaving a son to play the game of democracy under more brilliant auspices.

[Sidenote: Caesar aet. 24.] Caesar meanwhile felt his way, as Cicero was doing in the law-courts, attacking the practical abuses which the Roman administration was generating everywhere. Cornelius Dolabella had been placed by Sylla in command of Macedonia. His father had been a friend of Saturninus, and had fallen at his side. The son had gone over to the aristocracy, and for this reason was perhaps an object of aversion to the younger liberals. The Macedonians pursued him, when his government had expired, with a list of grievances of the usual kind. Young Caesar took up their cause, and prosecuted him. Dolabella was a favorite of the Senate; he had been allowed a triumph for his services, and the aristocracy adopted his cause as their own. The unpractised orator was opposed at the trial by his kinsman Aurelius Cotta and the most celebrated pleaders in Rome. To have crossed swords with such opponents was a dangerous honor for him; success against them was not to be expected, and Caesar was not yet master of his art. Dolabella was acquitted. Party feeling had perhaps entered into the accusation. Caesar found it prudent to retire again from the scene. There were but two roads to eminence in Rome—oratory and service in the army. He had no prospect of public employment from the present administration, and the platform alone was open to him. Plain words with a plain meaning in them no longer carried weight with a people who expected an orator to delight as well as instruct them. The use of the tongue had become a special branch of a statesman's education, and Caesar, feeling his deficiency, used his leisure to put himself in training and to go to school at Rhodes with the then celebrated Apollonius Molo. He had recovered his property and his priesthood, and was evidently in no want of money. He travelled with the retinue of a man of rank, and on his way to Rhodes he fell in with an adventure which may be something more than legend. When he was crossing the Aegean his vessel is said to have been taken by pirates. They carried him to Pharmacusa,[3] an island off the Carian coast, which was then in their possession, and there he was detained for six weeks with three of his attendants, while the rest of his servants were sent to the nearest Roman station to raise his ransom. The pirates treated him with politeness. He joined in their sports, played games with them, looked into their habits, and amused himself with them as well as he could, frankly telling them at the same time that they would all be hanged.

The ransom, a very large one, about L10,000, was brought and paid. Caesar was set upon the mainland near Miletus, where, without a moment's delay, he collected some armed vessels, returned to the island, seized the whole crew while they were dividing their plunder, and took them away to Pergamus, the seat of government in the Asiatic province, where they were convicted and crucified. Clemency was not a Roman characteristic. It was therefore noted with some surprise that Caesar interceded to mitigate the severity of the punishment. The poor wretches were strangled before they were stretched on their crosses, and were spared the prolongation of their torture. The pirate business being disposed of, he resumed his journey to Rhodes, and there he continued for two years practising gesture and expression under the tuition of the great master.

[Sidenote: B.C. 78-72] During this time the government of Rome was making progress in again demonstrating its unfitness for the duties which were laid upon it, and sowing the seeds which in a few years were to ripen into a harvest so remarkable. Two alternatives only lay before the Roman dominion—either disruption or the abolition of the constitution. If the aristocracy could not govern, still less could the mob govern. The Latin race was scattered over the basin of the Mediterranean, no longer bound by any special ties to Rome or Italy, each man of it individually vigorous and energetic, and bent before all things on making his own fortune. If no tolerable administration was provided from home, their obvious course could only be to identify themselves with local interests and nationalities and make themselves severally independent, as Sertorius was doing in Spain. Sertorius was at last disposed of, but by methods promising ill for the future. He beat Metellus till Metellus could do no more against him. The all-victorious Pompey was sent at last to win victories and gain nothing by them. Six campaigns led to no result and the difficulty was only removed at last by treachery and assassination.

A more extraordinary and more disgraceful phenomenon was the growth of piracy, with the skirts of which Caesar had come in contact at Pharmacusa. The Romans had become masters of the world, only that the sea from one end of their dominions to the other should be patrolled by organized rovers. For many years, as Roman commerce extended, the Mediterranean had become a profitable field of enterprise for those gentry. From every country which they had overrun or occupied the conquests of the Romans had let loose swarms of restless patriots who, if they could not save the liberties of their own countries, could prey upon the oppressor. Illyrians from the Adriatic, Greeks from the islands and the Asiatic ports, Syrians, Egyptians, Africans, Spaniards, Gauls, and disaffected Italians, trained many of them to the sea from their childhood, took to the water in their light galleys with all the world before them. Under most circumstances society is protected against thieves by their inability to combine. But the pirates of the Mediterranean had learnt from the Romans the advantage of union, and had drifted into a vast confederation. Cilicia was their head-quarters. Servilius had checked them for a time, but the Roman Senate was too eager for a revenue, and the Roman governors and farmers of the taxes were too bent upon filling their private purses, to allow fleets to be maintained in the provincial harbors adequate to keep the peace. When Servilius retired, the pirates reoccupied their old haunts. The Cilician forests furnished them with ship timber. The mountain gorges provided inaccessible storehouses for plunder. Crete was completely in their hands also, and they had secret friends along the entire Mediterranean shores. They grew at last into a thousand sail, divided into squadrons under separate commanders. They were admirably armed. They roved over the waters at their pleasure, attacking islands or commercial ports, plundering temples and warehouses, arresting every trading vessel they encountered, till at last no Roman could go abroad on business save during the winter storms, when the sea was comparatively clear. They flaunted their sails in front of Ostia itself; they landed in their boats at the villas on the Italian coast, carrying off lords and ladies, and holding them to ransom. They levied black-mail at their pleasure. The wretched provincials had paid their taxes to Rome in exchange for promised defence, and no defence was provided.[4] The revenue which ought to have been spent on the protection of the Empire a few patricians were dividing among themselves. The pirates had even marts in different islands, where their prisoners were sold to the slave-dealers; and for fifteen years nothing was done or even attempted to put an end to so preposterous an enormity. The ease with which these buccaneers of the old world were eventually suppressed proved conclusively that they existed by connivance. It was discovered at last that large sums had been sent regularly from Crete to some of the most distinguished members of the aristocracy. The Senate was again the same body which it was found by Jugurtha, and the present generation were happier than their fathers in that larger and richer fields were now open to their operation.

While the pirates were at work on the extremities, the senators in the provinces were working systematically, squeezing the people as one might squeeze a sponge of all the wealth that could be drained out of them. After the failure of Lepidus the elections in Rome were wholely in the Senate's hands. Such independence as had not been crushed was corrupted. The aristocracy divided the consulships, praetorships, and quaestorships among themselves, and after the year of office the provincial prizes were then distributed. Of the nature of their government a picture has been left by Cicero, himself one of the senatorial party, and certainly not to be suspected of having represented it as worse than it was in the famous prosecution of Verres. There is nothing to show that Verres was worse than the rest of his order. Piso, Gabinius, and many others equalled or perhaps excelled him in villainy. But historical fate required a victim, and the unfortunate wretch has been selected out of the crowd individually to illustrate his class.

By family he was connected with Sylla. His father was noted as an election manager at the Comitia. The son had been attached to Carbo when the democrats were in power, but he had deserted them on Sylla's return. He had made himself useful in the proscriptions, and had scraped together a considerable fortune. He was employed afterward in Greece and Asia, where he distinguished himself by fresh rapacity and by the gross brutality with which he abused an innocent lady. With the wealth which he had extorted or stolen he bought his way into the praetorship, probably with his father's help; he then became a senator, and was sent to govern Sicily—a place which had already suffered, so the Senate said, from the malpractices of Lepidus, and needing, therefore, to be generously dealt with.

Verres held his province for three years. He was supreme judge in all civil and criminal cases. He negotiated with the parties to every suit which was brought before him, and then sold his decisions. He confiscated estates on fictitious accusations. The island was rich in works of art. Verres had a taste for such things, and seized without scruple the finest productions of Praxiteles or Zeuxis. If those who were wronged dared to complain, they were sent to forced labor at the quarries, or, as dead men tell no tales, were put out of the world. He had an understanding with the pirates, which throws light upon the secret of their impunity. A shipful of them were brought into Messina as prisoners, and were sentenced to be executed. A handsome bribe was paid to Verres, and a number of Sicilians whom he wished out of the way were brought out, veiled and gagged that they might not be recognized, and were hanged as the pirates' substitutes. By these methods Verres was accused of having gathered out of Sicily three quarters of a million of our money. Two thirds he calculated on having to spend in corrupting the consuls and the court before which he might be prosecuted. The rest he would be able to save, and with the help of it to follow his career of greatness through the highest offices of state. Thus he had gone on upon his way, secure, as he supposed, of impunity. One of the consuls for the year and the consuls for the year which was to come next were pledged to support him. The judges would be exclusively senators, each of whom might require assistance in a similar situation. The chance of justice on these occasions was so desperate that the provincials preferred usually to bear their wrongs in silence rather than expose themselves to expense and danger for almost certain failure. But, as Cicero said, the whole world inside the ocean was ringing with the infamy of the Roman senatorial tribunals.

Cicero, whose honest wish was to save the Senate from itself, determined to make use of Verres's conduct to shame the courts into honesty. Every difficulty was thrown in his way. He went in person to Sicily to procure evidence. He was browbeaten and threatened with violence. The witnesses were intimidated, and in some instances were murdered. The technical ingenuities of Roman law were exhausted to shield the culprit. The accident that the second consul had a conscience alone enabled Cicero to force the criminal to the bar. But the picture which Cicero drew and laid before the people, proved as it was to every detail, and admitting of no answer save that other governors had been equally iniquitous and had escaped unpunished, created a storm which the Senate dared not encounter. Verres dropped his defence and fled, and part of his spoils was recovered. There was no shame in the aristocracy to prevent them from committing crimes: there was enough to make them abandon a comrade who was so unfortunate as to be detected and brought to justice.

This was the state of the Roman dominion under the constitution as reformed by Sylla: the Spanish Peninsula recovered by murder to temporary submission; the sea abandoned to buccaneers; decent industrious people in the provinces given over to have their fortunes stolen from them, their daughters dishonored, and themselves beaten or killed if they complained, by a set of wolves calling themselves Roman senators—and these scenes not localized to any one unhappy district, but extending through the entire civilized part of mankind. There was no hope for these unhappy people, for they were under the tyranny of a dead hand. A bad king is like a bad season. The next may bring improvement, or if his rule is wholly intolerable he can be deposed. Under a bad constitution no such change is possible. It can be ended only by a revolution. Republican Rome had become an Imperial State—she had taken upon herself the guardianship of every country in the world where the human race was industrious and prosperous, and she was discharging her great trust by sacrificing them to the luxury and ambition of a few hundred scandalous politicians.

[Sidenote: B.C. 74.] The nature of man is so constructed that a constitution so administered must collapse. It generates faction within, it invites enemies from without. While Sertorius was defying the Senate in Spain and the pirates were buying its connivance in the Mediterranean, Mithridates started into life again in Pontus. Sylla had beaten him into submission; but Sylla was gone, and no one was left to take Sylla's place. The watchful barbarian had his correspondents in Rome, and knew everything that was passing there. He saw that he had little to fear by trying the issue with the Romans once more. He made himself master of Armenia. In the corsair fleet he had an ally ready made. The Roman province in Asia Minor, driven to despair by the villainy of its governors, was ripe for revolt. Mithridates rose, and but for the young Caesar would a second time have driven the Romans out of Asia. Caesar, in the midst of his rhetorical studies at Rhodes, heard the mutterings of the coming storm. Deserting Apollonius's lecture-room, he crossed over to the continent, raised a corps of volunteers, and held Caria to its allegiance; but Mithridates possessed himself easily of the interior kingdoms and of the whole valley of the Euphrates to the Persian Gulf. The Black Sea was again covered with his ships. He defeated Cotta in a naval battle, drove him through the Bosphorus, and destroyed the Roman squadron. The Senate exerted itself at last. Lucullus, Sylla's friend, the only moderately able man that the aristocracy had among them, was sent to encounter him. Lucullus had been trained in a good school, and the superiority of the drilled Roman legions when tolerably led again easily asserted itself. Mithridates was forced back into the Armenian hills. The Black Sea was swept clear, and eight thousand of the buccaneers were killed at Sinope. Lucullus pursued the retreating prince across the Euphrates, won victories, took cities and pillaged them. He reached Lake Van, he marched round Mount Ararat and advanced to Artaxata. But Asia was a scene of dangerous temptation for a Roman commander. Cicero, though he did not name Lucullus, was transparently alluding to him when he told the assembly in the Forum that Rome had made herself abhorred throughout the world by the violence and avarice of her generals. No temple had been so sacred, no city so venerable, no houses so well protected, as to be secure from their voracity. Occasions of war had been caught at with rich communities where plunder was the only object. The proconsuls could win battles, but they could not keep their hands from off the treasures of their allies and subjects.[5]

Lucullus was splendid in his rapacity, and amidst his victories he had amassed the largest fortune which had yet belonged to patrician or commoner, except Crassus. Nothing came amiss to him. He had sold the commissions in his army. He had taken money out of the treasury for the expenses of the campaign. Part he had spent in bribing the administration to prolong his command beyond the usual time; the rest he had left in the city to accumulate for himself at interest.[6] He lived on the plunder of friend and foe, and the defeat of Mithridates was never more than a second object to him. The one steady purpose in which he never varied was to pile up gold and jewels.

An army so organized and so employed soon loses efficiency and coherence. The legions, perhaps considering that they were not allowed a fair share of the spoil, mutinied. The disaffection was headed by young Publius Clodius, whose sister Lucullus had married. The campaign which had opened brilliantly ended ignominiously. The Romans had to fall back behind Pontus, closely pursued by Mithridates. Lucullus stood on the defensive till he was recalled, and he then returned to Rome to lounge away the remainder of his days in voluptuous magnificence.

While Lucullus was making his fortune in the East, a spurt of insurrectionary fire had broken out in Italy. The agrarian laws and Sylla's proscriptions and confiscations had restored the numbers of the small proprietors, but the statesmen who had been so eager for their reinstatement were fighting against tendencies too strong for them. Life on the farm, like life in the city, was growing yearly more extravagant. [7] The small peasants fell into debt. Sylla's soldiers were expensive, and became embarrassed. Thus the small properties artificially re-established were falling rapidly again into the market. The great landowners bought them up, and Italy was once more lapsing to territorial magnates cultivating their estates by slaves.

Vast gangs of slave laborers were thus still dispersed over the peninsula, while others in large numbers were purchased and trained for the amusement of the metropolis. Society in Rome, enervated as it was by vicious pleasures, craved continually for new excitements. Sensuality is a near relation of cruelty; and the more savage the entertainments, the more delightful they were to the curled and scented patricians who had lost the taste for finer enjoyments. Combats of wild beasts were at first sufficient for them, but to see men kill each other gave a keener delight; and out of the thousands of youths who were sent over annually by the provincial governors, or were purchased from the pirates by the slave-dealers, the most promising were selected for the arena. Each great noble had his training establishment of gladiators, and was as vain of their prowess as of his race-horses. The schools of Capua were the most celebrated; and nothing so recommended a candidate for the consulship to the electors as the production of a few pairs of Capuan swords-men in the circus.

[Sidenote: B.C. 72-70.] These young men had hitherto performed their duties with more submissiveness than might have been expected, and had slaughtered one another in the most approved methods. But the horse knows by the hand on his rein whether he has a fool for his rider. The gladiators in the schools and the slaves on the plantations could not be kept wholly ignorant of the character of their rulers. They were aware that the seas were held by their friends the pirates, and that their masters were again being beaten out of Asia, from which many of themselves had been carried off. They began to ask themselves why men who could use their swords should be slaves when their comrades and kindred were up and fighting for freedom. They found a leader in a young Thracian robber chief, named Spartacus, who was destined for the amphitheatre, and who preferred meeting his masters in the field to killing his friends to make a Roman holiday. Spartacus, with two hundred of his companions, burst out from the Capuan "stable," seized their arms, and made their way into the crater of Vesuvius, which was then, after the long sleep of the volcano, a dense jungle of wild vines. The slaves from the adjoining plantations deserted and joined them. The fire spread, Spartacus proclaimed universal emancipation, and in a few weeks was at the head of an army with which he overran Italy to the foot of the Alps, defeated consuls and praetors, captured the eagles of the legions, wasted the farms of the noble lords, and for two years held his ground against all that Rome could do.

Of all the illustrations of the Senate's incapacity, the slave insurrection was perhaps the worst. It was put down at last after desperate exertions by Crassus and Pompey. Spartacus was killed, and six thousand of his followers were impaled at various points on the sides of the high-roads, that the slaves might have before their eyes examples of the effect of disobedience. The immediate peril was over; but another symptom had appeared of the social disease which would soon end in death unless some remedy could be found. The nation was still strong. There was power and worth in the undegenerate Italian race, which needed only to be organized and ruled. But what remedy was possible? The practical choice of politicians lay between the Senate and the democracy. Both were alike bloody and unscrupulous; and the rule of the Senate meant corruption and imbecility, and the rule of the democracy meant anarchy.

[1] "Unum hoc dico: nostri isti nobiles, nisi vigilantes et boni et fortes et misericordes erunt, iis hominibus in quibus haec erunt, ornamenta sua concedant necesse est."—Pro Roscio Amerino, sec. 48.

[2] "Sunt enim ista maledicta pervulgata in omnes, quorum in adolescentia forma et species fuit liberalis."—Oratio pro Marca Caelio.

[3] Now Fermaco.

[4] "Videbat enim populum Romanum non locupletari quotannis pecunia publica praeter paucos: neque eos quidquam aliud assequi classium nomine, nisi ut, detrimentis accipiendis majore affici turpitudine videremur."—Cicero, Pro Lege Manilia, 23.

[5] "Difficile est dictu, Quirites, quanto in odio simus apud exteras nationes, propter eorum, quos ad eas per hos annos cum imperio misimus, injurias ac libidines. Quod enim fanum putatis in illis terris nostris magistratibus religiosum, quam civitatem sanctam, quam domum satis clausam ac munitam fuisse? Urbes jam locupletes ac copiosae requiruntur, quibus causa belli propter diripiendi cupiditatem inferatur.... Quare etiamsi quem habetis, qui collatis signis exercitus regios superare posse videatur, tamen, nisi erit idem, qui se a pecuniis sociorum, qui ab eorum conjugibus ac liberis, qui ab ornamentis fanorum atque oppidorum, qui ab auro gazaque regia manus, oculos, animum cohibere possit, non erit idoneus, qui ad bellum Asiaticum regiumque mittatur."—Pro Lege Manilia, 22, 23.

[6] "Quem possumus imperatorem aliquo in numero putare, cujus in exercitu veneant centuriatus atque venierint? Quid hunc hominem magnum aut amplum de republica cogitare, qui pecuniam ex aerario depromtam ad bellum administrandum, aut propter cupiditatem provinciae magistratibus diviserit aut propter avaritiam Romae in quaestu reliquerit? Vestra admurmuratio facit, Quirites, ut agnoscere videamini qui haec fecerint: ego autem neminem nomino."—Pro Lege Manilia, 13.

[7] Varro mentions curious instances of the change in country manners. He makes an old man say that when he was a boy, a farmer's wife used to be content with a jaunt in a cart once or twice a year, the farmer not taking out the covered wagon (the more luxurious vehicle) at all unless he pleased. The farmer used to shave only once a week, etc.—M. Ter. Varronis Reliquiae, ed. Alexander Riese, pp. 139, 140.


Caesar, having done his small piece of independent service in Caria, and having finished his course with Apollonius, now came again to Rome and re-entered practical life. He lived with his wife and his mother Aurelia in a modest house, attracting no particular notice. But his defiance of Sylla, his prosecution of Dolabella, and his known political sympathies made him early a favorite with the people. The growing disorders at home and abroad, with the exposures on the trial of Verres, were weakening daily the influence of the Senate. Caesar was elected military tribune as a reward for his services in Asia, and he assisted in recovering part of the privileges so dear to the citizens which Sylla had taken from the tribunes of the people. They were again enabled to call the assembly together, and though they were still unable to propose laws without the Senate's sanction, yet they regained the privilege of consulting directly with the nation on public affairs. Caesar now spoke well enough to command the admiration of even Cicero—without ornament, but directly to the purpose. Among the first uses to which he addressed his influence was to obtain the pardon of his brother-in-law, the younger Cinna, who had been exiled since the failure of the attempt of Lepidus. In B.C. 68, being then thirty-two, he gained his first step on the ladder of high office. He was made quaestor, which gave him a place in the Senate.

Soon after his election, his aunt Julia, the widow of Marius, died. It was usual on the death of eminent persons for a near relation to make an oration at the funeral. Caesar spoke on this occasion. It was observed that he dwelt with some pride on the lady's ancestry, descending on one side from the gods, on another from the kings of Rome. More noticeably he introduced into the burial procession the insignia and images of Marius himself, whose name for some years it had been unsafe to mention.[1]

Pompey, after Sertorius's death, had pacified Spain. He had assisted Crassus in extinguishing Spartacus. The Senate had employed him, but had never liked him or trusted him. The Senate, however, was no longer omnipotent, and in the year 70 he and Crassus had been consuls. Pompey was no politician, but he was honorable and straightforward. Like every true Roman, he was awake to the dangers and disgrace of the existing mal-administration, and he and Caesar began to know each other, and to find their interest in working together. Pompey was the elder of the two by six years. He was already a great man, covered with distinctions, and perhaps he supposed that he was finding in Caesar a useful subordinate. Caesar naturally liked Pompey, as a really distinguished soldier and an upright disinterested man. They became connected by marriage. Cornelia dying, Caesar took for his second wife Pompey's cousin, Pompeia; and, no doubt at Pompey's instance, he was sent into Spain to complete Pompey's work and settle the finances of that distracted country. His reputation as belonging to the party of Marius and Sertorius secured him the confidence of Sertorius's friends. He accomplished his mission completely and easily. On his way back he passed through northern Italy, and took occasion to say there that he considered the time to have come for the franchise, which now stopped at the Po, to be extended to the foot of the Alps.

The consulship of Pompey and Crassus had brought many changes with it, all tending in the same direction. The tribunes were restored to their old functions, the censorship was re-established, and the Senate was at once weeded of many of its disreputable members. Cicero, conservative as he was, had looked upon these measures if not approvingly yet without active opposition. To another change he had himself contributed by his speeches on the Verres prosecution. The exclusive judicial powers which the Senate had abused so scandalously were again taken from them. The courts of the equites were remembered in contrast, and a law was passed that for the future the courts were to be composed two thirds of knights and one third only of senators. Cicero's hope of resisting democracy lay in the fusion of the great commoners with the Senate. It was no longer possible for the aristocracy to rule alone. The few equites who, since Sylla's time, had made their way into the Senate had yielded to patrician ascendency. Cicero aimed at a reunion of the orders; and the consulship of Crassus, little as Cicero liked Crassus personally, was a sign of a growing tendency in this direction. At all costs the knights must be prevented from identifying themselves with the democrats, and therefore all possible compliments and all possible concessions to their interests were made to them.

They recovered their position in the law-courts; and, which was of more importance to them, the system of farming the taxes, in which so many of them had made their fortunes, and which Sylla had abolished, was once again reverted to. It was not a good system, but it was better than a state of things in which little of the revenue had reached the public treasury at all, but had been intercepted and parcelled out among the oligarchy.

[Sidenote: B.C. 67.] With recovered vitality a keener apprehension began to be felt of the pirate scandal. The buccaneers, encouraged by the Senate's connivance, were more daring than ever. They had become a sea community, led by high-born adventurers, who maintained out of their plunder a show of wild magnificence. The oars of the galleys of their commanders were plated with silver; their cabins were hung with gorgeous tapestry. They had bands of music to play at their triumphs. They had a religion of their own, an oriental medley called the Mysteries of Mithras. They had captured and pillaged four hundred considerable towns, and had spoiled the temples of the Grecian gods. They had maintained and extended their depots where they disposed of their prisoners to the slave-dealers. Roman citizens who could not ransom themselves, and could not conveniently be sold, were informed that they might go where they pleased; they were led to a plank projecting over some vessel's side, and were bidden depart—into the sea. Not contented with insulting Ostia by their presence outside, they had ventured into the harbor itself, and had burnt the ships there. They held complete possession of the Italian waters. Rome, depending on Sicily and Sardinia and Africa for her supplies of corn, was starving for want of food, and the foreign trade on which so many of the middle classes were engaged was totally destroyed. The return of the commoners to power was a signal for an active movement to put an end to the disgrace. No one questioned that it could be done if there was a will to do it. But the work could be accomplished only by persons who would be proof against corruption. There was but one man in high position who could be trusted, and that was Pompey. The general to be selected must have unrestricted and therefore unconstitutional authority. But Pompey was at once capable and honest. Pompey could not be bribed by the pirates, and Pompey could be depended on not to abuse his opportunities to the prejudice of the Commonwealth.

[Sidenote: B.C. 67.] The natural course, therefore, would have been to declare Pompey dictator; but Sylla had made the name unpopular; the right to appoint a dictator lay with the Senate, with whom Pompey had never been a favorite, and the aristocracy had disliked and feared him more than ever since his consulship. From that quarter no help was to be looked for, and a method was devised to give him the reality of power without the title. Unity of command was the one essential—command untrammelled by orders from committees of weak and treacherous noblemen, who cared only for the interest of their class. The established forms were scrupulously observed, and the plan designed was brought forward first, according to rule, in the Senate. A tribune, Aulus Gabinius, introduced a proposition there that one person of consular rank should have absolute jurisdiction during three years over the whole Mediterranean, and over all Roman territory for fifty miles inland from the coast; that the money in the treasury should be at his disposition; that he should have power to raise 500 ships of war and to collect and organize 130,000 men. No such command for such a time had ever been committed to any one man since the abolition of the monarchy. It was equivalent to a suspension of the Senate itself, and of all constitutional government. The proposal was received with a burst of fury. Every one knew that the person intended was Pompey. The decorum of the old days was forgotten. The noble lords started from their seats, flew at Gabinius, and almost strangled him: but he had friends outside the house ready to defend their champion; the country people had flocked in for the occasion; the city was thronged with multitudes such as had not been seen there since the days of the Gracchi. The tribune freed himself from the hands that were at his throat; he rushed out into the Forum, closely pursued by the consul Piso, who would have been torn in pieces in turn had not Gabinius interposed to save him. Senate or no Senate, it was decided that Gabinius's proposition should be submitted to the assembly, and the aristocrats were driven to their old remedy of bribing other members of the college of tribunes to interfere. Two renegades were thus secured, and when the voting-day came, Trebellius, who was one of them, put in a veto; the other, Roscius, said that the power intended for Pompey was too considerable to be trusted to a single person, and proposed two commanders instead of one. The mob was packed so thick that the house-tops were covered. A yell rose from tens of thousands of throats so piercing that it was said a crow flying over the Forum dropped dead at the sound of it. The old patrician Catulus tried to speak, but the people would not hear him. The vote passed by acclamation, and Pompey was for three years sovereign of the Roman world.

It now appeared how strong the Romans were when a fair chance was allowed them. Pompey had no extraordinary talents, but not in three years, but in three months, the pirates were extinguished. He divided the Mediterranean into thirteen districts, and allotted a squadron to each, under officers on whom he could thoroughly rely. Ships and seamen were found in abundance lying idle from the suspension of trade. In forty days he had cleared the seas between Gibraltar and Italy. He had captured entire corsair fleets, and had sent the rest flying into the Cilician creeks. There, in defence of their plunder and their families, they fought one desperate engagement, and when defeated, they surrendered without a further blow. Of real strength they had possessed none from the first. They had subsisted only through the guilty complicity of the Roman authorities, and they fell at the first stroke which was aimed at them in earnest. Thirteen hundred pirate ships were burnt. Their docks and arsenals were destroyed, and their fortresses were razed. Twenty-two thousand prisoners fell into the hands of Pompey. To the astonishment of mankind, Pompey neither impaled them, as the Senate had impaled the followers of Spartacus, nor even sold them for slaves. He was contented to scatter them among inland colonies, where they could no longer be dangerous.

The suppression of the buccaneers was really a brilliant piece of work, and the ease with which it was accomplished brought fresh disgrace on the Senate and fresh glory on the hero of the hour. Cicero, with his thoughts fixed on saving the constitution, considered that Pompey might be the man to save it; or, at all events, that it would be unsafe to leave him to the democrats who had given him power and were triumphing in his success. On political grounds Cicero thought that Pompey ought to be recognized by the moderate party which he intended to form; and a person like himself who hoped to rise by the popular votes could not otherwise afford to seem cold amidst the universal enthusiasm. The pirates were abolished. Mithridates was still undisposed of. Lucullus, the hope of the aristocracy, was lying helpless within the Roman frontier, with a disorganized and mutinous army. His victories were forgotten. He was regarded as the impersonation of every fault which had made the rule of the Senate so hateful. Pompey, the people's general, after a splendid success, had come home with clean hands; Lucullus had sacrificed his country to his avarice. The contrast set off his failures in colors perhaps darker than really belonged to them, and the cry naturally rose that Lucullus must be called back, and the all-victorious Pompey must be sent for the reconquest of Asia. Another tribune, Manilius, brought the question forward, this time directly before the assembly, the Senate's consent not being any more asked for. Caesar again brought his influence to bear on Pompey's side; but Caesar found support in a quarter where it might not have been looked for. The Senate was furious as before, but by far the most gifted person in the conservative party now openly turned against them. Cicero was praetor this year, and was thus himself a senator. A seat in the Senate had been the supreme object of his ambition. He was vain of the honor which he had won, and delighted with the high company into which he had been received; but he was too shrewd to go along with them upon a road which could lead only to their overthrow; and for their own sake, and for the sake of the institution itself of which he meant to be an illustrious ornament, he not only supported the Manilian proposition, but supported it in a speech more effective than the wildest outpourings of democratic rhetoric.

Asia Minor, he said, was of all the Roman provinces the most important, because it was the most wealthy.[2] So rich it was and fertile that, for the productiveness of its soil, the variety of its fruits, the extent of its pastures, and the multitude of its exports, there was no country in the world to be compared with it; yet Asia was in danger of being utterly lost through the worthlessnesss of the governors and military commanders charged with the care of it. "Who does not know," Cicero asked, "that the avarice of our generals has been the cause of the misfortunes of our armies? You can see for yourselves how they act here at home in Italy; and what will they not venture far away in distant countries? Officers who cannot restrain their own appetites can never maintain discipline in their troops. Pompey has been victorious because he does not loiter about the towns for plunder or pleasure, or making collections of statues and pictures. Asia is a land of temptations. Send no one thither who cannot resist gold and jewels and shrines and pretty women. Pompey is upright and pure-sighted. Pompey knows that the State has been impoverished because the revenue flows into the coffers of a few individuals. Our fleets and armies have availed only to bring the more disgrace upon us through our defeats and losses." [3]

After passing a deserved panegyric on the suppression of the pirates, Cicero urged with all the power of his oratory that Manilius's measures should be adopted, and that the same general who had done so well already should be sent against Mithridates.

This was perhaps the only occasion on which Cicero ever addressed the assembly in favor of the proposals of a popular tribune. Well would it have been for him and well for Rome if he could have held on upon a course into which he had been led by real patriotism. He was now in his proper place, where his better mind must have told him that he ought to have continued, working by the side of Caesar and Pompey. It was observed that more than once in his speech he mentioned with high honor the name of Marius. He appeared to have seen clearly that the Senate was bringing the State to perdition; and that unless the Republic was to end in dissolution, or in mob rule and despotism, the wise course was to recognize the legitimate tendencies of popular sentiment, and to lend the constant weight of his authority to those who were acting in harmony with it. But Cicero could never wholly forget his own consequence, or bring himself to persist in any policy where he could play but a secondary part.

[Sidenote: B.C. 66-63.] The Manilian law was carried. In addition to his present extraordinary command, Pompey was entrusted with the conduct of the war in Asia, and he was left unfettered to act at his own discretion. He crossed the Bosphorus with fifty thousand men; he invaded Pontus; he inflicted a decisive defeat on Mithridates, and broke up his army; he drove the Armenians back into their own mountains, and extorted out of them a heavy war indemnity. The barbarian king who had so long defied the Roman power was beaten down at last, and fled across the Black Sea to Kertch, where his sons turned against him. He was sixty-eight years old, and could not wait till the wheel should make another turn. Broken down at last, he took leave of a world in which for him there was no longer a place. His women poisoned themselves successfully. He, too fortified by antidotes to end as they ended, sought a surer death, and fell like Saul by the sword of a slave. Rome had put out her real strength, and at once, as before, all opposition went down before her. Asia was completely conquered up to the line of the Euphrates. The Black Sea was held securely by a Roman fleet. Pompey passed down into Syria. Antioch surrendered without resistance. Tyre and Damascus followed. Jerusalem was taken by storm, and the Roman general entered the Holy of Holies. Of all the countries bordering on the Mediterranean Egypt only was left independent, and of all the islands only Cyprus. A triumphal inscription in Rome declared that Pompey, the people's general, had in three years captured fifteen hundred cities, and had slain, taken, or reduced to submission twelve million human beings. He justified what Cicero had foretold of his moral uprightness. In the midst of opportunities such as had fallen to no commander since Alexander, he outraged no woman's honor, and he kept his hands clean from "the accursed thing." When he returned to Rome, he returned, as he went, personally poor, but he filled the treasury to overflowing. His campaign was not a marauding raid, like the march of Lucullus on Artaxata. His conquests were permanent. The East, which was then thickly inhabited by an industrious civilized Graeco-Oriental race, became incorporated in the Roman dominion, and the annual revenue of the State rose to twice what it had been. Pompey's success had been dazzlingly rapid. Envy and hatred, as he well knew, were waiting for him at home, and he was in no haste to present himself there. He lingered in Asia, organizing the administration and consolidating his work, while at Rome the constitution was rushing on upon its old courses among the broken waters, with the roar of the not distant cataract growing every moment louder.

[1] The name of Marius, it is to be observed, remained so popular in Rome that Cicero after this always spoke of him with respect.

[2] "Asia vero tam opima est et fertilis, ut et ubertate agrorum et varietate fructuum et magnitudine pastionis, et multitudine earum rerum, quae exportentur, facile omnibus terris antecellat."—Pro Lege Manilia. Cicero's expressions are worth notice at a time when Asia Minor has become of importance to England.

[3] Pro Lege Manilia. abridged.


[Sidenote: B.C. 64.] Among the patricians who were rising through the lower magistracies and were aspiring to the consulship was Lucius Sergius Catiline. Catiline, now in middle life, had when young been a fervent admirer of Sylla, and, as has been already said, had been an active agent in the proscription. He had murdered his brother-in-law, and perhaps his brother, under political pretences. In an age when licentiousness of the grossest kind was too common to attract attention, Catiline had achieved a notoriety for infamy. Ho had intrigued with a Vestal virgin, the sister of Cicero's wife, Terentia. If Cicero is to be believed, he had made away with his own wife, that he might marry Aurelia Orestilla, a woman as wicked as she was beautiful, and he had killed his child also because Aurelia had objected to be encumbered with a step-son. But this, too, was common in high society in those days. Adultery and incest had become familiar excitements. Boys of ten years old had learnt the art of poisoning their fathers,[1] and the story of Aurelia Orestilla and Catiline had been rehearsed a few years before by Sassia and Oppianicus at Larino.[2] Other enormities Catiline had been guilty of which Cicero declined to mention, lest he should show too openly what crimes might go unpunished under the senatorial administration. But villainy, however notorious, did not interfere with advancement in the public service. Catiline was adroit, bold, and even captivating. He made his way into high office along the usual gradations. He was praetor in B.C. 68. He went as governor to Africa in the year following, and he returned with money enough, as he reasonably hoped, to purchase the last step to the consulship. He was impeached when he came back for extortion and oppression, under one of the many laws which were made to be laughed at. Till his trial was over he was disqualified from presenting himself as a candidate, and the election for the year 65 was carried by Autronius Paetus and Cornelius Sylla. Two other patricians, Aurelius Cotta and Manlius Torquatus, had stood against them. The successful competitors were unseated for bribery; Cotta and Torquatus took their places, and, apparently as a natural resource in the existing contempt into which the constitution had fallen, the disappointed candidates formed a plot to kill their rivals and their rivals' friends in the Senate, and to make a revolution. Cneius Piso, a young nobleman of the bluest blood, joined in the conspiracy. Catiline threw himself into it as his natural element, and aristocratic tradition said in later years that Caesar and Crassus were implicated also. Some desperate scheme there certainly was, but the accounts of it are confused: one authority says that it failed because Catiline gave the signal prematurely; others that Caesar was to have given the signal, and did not do it; others that Crassus's heart failed him; others that the consuls had secret notice given to them and took precautions. Cicero, who was in Rome at the time, declares that he never heard of the conspiracy.[3] When evidence is inconclusive, probability becomes argument. Nothing can be less likely than that a cautious capitalist of vast wealth like Crassus should have connected himself with a party of dissolute adventurers. Had Caesar committed himself, jealously watched as he was by the aristocrats, some proofs of his complicity would have been forthcoming. The aristocracy under the empire revenged themselves for their ruin by charging Caesar with a share in every combination that had been formed against them, from Sylla's time downwards. Be the truth what it may, nothing came of this project. Piso went to Spain, where he was killed. The prosecution of Catiline for his African misgovernment was continued, and, strange to say, Cicero undertook his defence. He was under no uncertainty as to Catiline's general character, or his particular guilt in the charge brought against him. It was plain as the sun at midday.[4] But Cicero was about to stand himself for the consulship, the object of his most passionate desire. He had several competitors; and as he thought well of Catiline's prospects, he intended to coalesce with him.[5] Catiline was acquitted, apparently through a special selection of the judges, with the connivance of the prosecutor. The canvass was violent, and the corruption flagrant. [6]Cicero did not bribe himself, but if Catiline's voters would give him a help, he was not so scrupulous as to be above taking advantage of it. Catiline's humor or the circumstances of the time provided him with a more honorable support. He required a more manageable colleague than he could have found in Cicero. Among the candidates was one of Sylla's officers, Caius Antonius, the uncle of Marc Antony, the triumvir. This Antonius had been prosecuted by Caesar for ill-usage of the Macedonians. He had been expelled by the censors from the Senate for general worthlessness; but public disgrace seems to have had no effect whatever on the chances of a candidate for the consulship in this singular age. Antonius was weak and vicious, and Catiline could mould him as he pleased. He had made himself popular by his profusion when aedile in providing shows for the mob. The feeling against the Senate was so bitter that the aristocracy had no chance of carrying a candidate of their own, and the competition was reduced at last to Catiline, Antonius and Cicero. Antonius was certain of his election, and the contest lay between Catiline and Cicero. Each of them tried to gain the support of Antonius and his friends. Catiline promised Antonius a revolution, in which they were to share the world between them. Cicero promised his influence to obtain some lucrative province for Antonius to misgovern. Catiline would probably have succeeded, when the aristocracy, knowing what to expect if so scandalous a pair came into office, threw their weight on Cicero's side and turned the scale. Cicero was liked among the people for his prosecution of Verres, for his support of the Manilian law, and for the boldness with which he had exposed patrician delinquencies. With the Senate for him also, he was returned at the head of the poll. The proud Roman nobility had selected a self-made lawyer as their representative. Cicero was consul, and Antonius with him. Catiline had failed. It was the turning-point of Cicero's life. Before his consulship he had not irrevocably taken a side. No public speaker had more eloquently shown the necessity for reform; no one had denounced with keener sarcasm the infamies and follies of senatorial favorites. Conscience and patriotism should have alike held him to the reforming party; and political instinct, if vanity had left him the use of his perception, would have led him in the same direction. Possibly before he received the votes of the patricians and their clients he had bound himself with certain engagements to them. Possibly he held the Senate's intellect cheap, and saw the position which he could arrive at among the aristocracy if he offered them his services. The strongest intellect was with the reformers, and first on that side he could never be. First among the Conservatives[7] he could easily be; and he might prefer being at the head of a party which at heart he despised, to working at the side of persons who must stand inevitably above him. We may regret that gifted men should be influenced by personal considerations, but under party government it is a fact that they are so influenced, and will be as long as it continues. Caesar and Pompey were soldiers. The army was democratic, and the triumph of the democracy meant the rule of a popular general. Cicero was a civilian, and a man of speech. In the forum and in the Curia he knew that he could reign supreme.

Cicero had thus reached the highest step in the scale of promotion by trimming between the rival factions. Caesar was rising simultaneously behind him on lines of his own. In the year B.C. 65 he had been aedile, having for his colleague Bibulus, his future companion on the successive grades of ascent. Bibulus was a rich plebeian, whose delight in office was the introduction which it gave him into the society of the great; and in his politics he outdid his aristocratic patrons. The aediles had charge of the public buildings and the games and exhibitions in the capital. The aedileship was a magistracy through which it was ordinarily necessary to pass in order to reach the consulship; and as the aediles were expected to bear their own expenses, the consulship was thus restricted to those who could afford an extravagant outlay. They were expected to decorate the city with new ornaments, and to entertain the people with magnificent spectacles. If they fell short of public expectation, they need look no further for the suffrages of their many-headed master. Cicero had slipped through the aedileship, without ruin to himself. He was a self-raised man, known to be dependent upon his own exertions, and liked from the willingness with which he gave his help to accused persons on their trials. Thus no great demands had been made upon him. Caesar, either more ambitious or less confident in his services, raised a new and costly row of columns in front of the Capitol. He built a temple to the Dioscuri, and he charmed the populace with a show of gladiators unusually extensive. Personally he cared nothing for these sanguinary exhibitions, and he displayed his indifference ostentatiously by reading or writing while the butchery was going forward.[8] But he required the favor of the multitude, and then, as always, took the road which led most directly to his end. The noble lords watched him suspiciously, and their uneasiness was not diminished when, not content with having produced the insignia of Marius at his aunt's funeral, he restored the trophies for the victories over the Cimbri and Teutons, which had been removed by Sylla. The name of Marius was growing every day more dear to the popular party. They forgave, if they had ever resented, his credulities. His veterans who had fought with him through his campaigns came forward in tears to salute the honored relics of their once glorious commander.

As he felt the ground stronger under his feet, Caesar now began to assume an attitude more peremptorily marked. He had won a reputation in the Forum; he had spoken in the Senate; he had warmly advocated the appointment of Pompey to his high commands; and he was regarded as a prominent democratic leader. But he had not aspired to the tribunate; he had not thrown himself into politics with any absorbing passion. His exertions had been intermittent, and he was chiefly known as a brilliant member of fashionable society, a peculiar favorite with women, and remarkable for his abstinence from the coarse debauchery which disgraced his patrician contemporaries. He was now playing for a higher stake, and the oligarchy had occasion to be reminded of Sylla's prophecy. In carrying out the proscription, Sylla had employed professional assassins, and payments had been made out of the treasury to wretches who came to him with bloody trophies in their hands to demand the promised fees. The time had come when these doings were to be looked into; hundreds of men had been murdered, their estates confiscated, and their families ruined, who had not been even ostensibly guilty of any public crime. At Caesar's instance an inquiry was ordered. He himself was appointed Judex Quaestionis, or chairman of a committee of investigation; and Catiline, among others, was called to answer for himself—a curious commentary on Caesar's supposed connection with him.

[Sidenote: B.C. 63.] Nor did the inquisition stop with Sylla. Titus Labienus, afterward so famous and so infamous, was then tribune of the people. His father had been killed at the side of Saturninus and Glaucia thirty-seven years before, when the young lords of Rome had unroofed the senate-house, and had pelted them and their companions to death with tiles. One of the actors in the scene, Caius Rabirius, now a very old man, was still alive. Labienus prosecuted him before Caesar. Rabirius was condemned, and appealed to the people; and Cicero, who had just been made consul, spoke in his defence. On this occasion Cicero for the first time came actively in collision with Caesar. His language contrasted remarkably with the tone of his speeches against Verres and for the Manilian law. It was adroit, for he charged Marius with having shared the guilt, if guilt there had been, in the death of those men; but the burden of what he said was to defend enthusiastically the conservative aristocracy, and to censure with all his bitterness the democratic reformers. Rabirius was acquitted, perhaps justly. It was a hard thing to revive the memory of a political crime which had been shared by the whole patrician order after so long an interval. But Cicero had shown his new colors; no help, it was evident, was thenceforward to be expected from him in the direction of reform. The popular party replied in a singular manner. The office of Pontifex Maximus was the most coveted of all the honors to which a Roman citizen could aspire. It was held for life, it was splendidly endowed, and there still hung about the pontificate the traditionary dignity attaching to the chief of the once sincerely believed Roman religion. Like other objects of ambition, the nomination had fallen, with the growth of democracy, to the people, but the position had always been held by some member of the old aristocracy; and Sylla, to secure them in the possession of it, had reverted to the ancient constitution, and had restored to the Sacred College the privilege of choosing their head. Under the impulse which the popular party had received from Pompey's successes, Labienus carried a vote in the assembly, by which the people resumed the nomination to the pontificate themselves. In the same year it fell vacant by the death of the aged Metullus Pius. Two patricians, Quintus Catulus and Caesar's old general Servilius Isauricus, were the Senate's candidates, and vast sums were subscribed and spent to secure the success of one or other of the two. Caesar came forward to oppose them. Caesar aspired to be Pontifex Maximus—Pope of Rome—he who of all men living was the least given to illusion; he who was the most frank in his confession of entire disbelief in the legends which, though few credited them any more, yet almost all thought it decent to pretend to credit. Among the phenomena of the time this was surely the most singular. Yet Caesar had been a priest from his boyhood, and why should he not be Pope? He offered himself to the Comitia. Committed as he was to a contest with the richest men in Rome, he spent money freely. He was in debt already for his expenses as aedile. He engaged his credit still deeper for this new competition. The story ran that when his mother kissed him as he was leaving his home for the Forum on the morning of the election, he told her that he would return as pontiff, or she would never see him more. He was chosen by an overwhelming majority, the votes given for him being larger than the collective numbers of the votes entered for his opponents.

[Sidenote: B.C. 63.] The election for the pontificate was on the 6th of March, and soon after Caesar received a further evidence of popular favor on being chosen praetor for the next year. As the liberal party was growing in courage and definiteness, Cicero showed himself more decidedly on the other side. Now was the time for him, highly placed as he was, to prevent a repetition of the scandals which he had so eloquently denounced, to pass laws which no future Verres or Lucullus could dare to defy. Now was his opportunity to take the wind out of the reformers' sails, and to grapple himself with the thousand forms of patrician villainy which he well knew to be destroying the Commonwealth. Not one such measure, save an ineffectual attempt to check election bribery, distinguished the consulship of Cicero. His entire efforts were directed to the combination in a solid phalanx of the equestrian and patrician orders. The danger to society, he had come to think, was an approaching war against property, and his hope was to unite the rich of both classes in defence against the landless and moneyless multitudes.[9] The land question had become again as pressing as in the time of the Gracchi. The peasant proprietors were melting away as fast as ever, and Rome was becoming choked with impoverished citizens, who ought to have been farmers and fathers of families, but were degenerating into a rabble fed upon the corn grants, and occupied with nothing but spectacles and politics. The agrarian laws in the past had been violent, and might reasonably be complained of; but a remedy could now be found for this fast-increasing mischief without injury to anyone. Pompey's victories had filled the public treasury. Vast territories abroad had lapsed to the possession of the State; and Rullus, one of the tribunes, proposed that part of these territories should be sold, and that out of the proceeds, and out of the money which Pompey had sent home, farms should be purchased in Italy and poor citizens settled upon them. Rullus's scheme might have been crude, and the details of it objectionable; but to attempt the problem was better than to sit still and let the evil go unchecked. If the bill was impracticable in its existing form, it might have been amended; and so far as the immediate effect of such a law was concerned, it was against the interests of the democrats. The popular vote depended for its strength on the masses of poor who were crowded into Rome; and the tribune was proposing to weaken his own army. But the very name of an agrarian law set patrician households in a flutter, and Cicero stooped to be their advocate. He attacked Rullus with brutal sarcasm. He insulted his appearance; he ridiculed his dress, his hair, and his beard. He mocked at his bad enunciation and bad grammar. No one more despised the mob than Cicero; but because Rullus had said that the city rabble was dangerously powerful, and ought to be "drawn off" to some wholesome employment, the eloquent consul condescended to quote the words, to score a point against his opponent; and he told the crowd that their tribune had described a number of excellent citizens to the Senate as no better than the contents of a cesspool.[10]

By these methods Cicero caught the people's voices. The plan came to nothing, and his consulship would have waned away, undistinguished by any act which his country would have cared to remember, but for an accident which raised him for a moment into a position of real consequence, and impressed on his own mind a conviction that he was a second Romulus.

Revolutionary conspiracies are only formidable when the government against which they are directed is already despised and detested. As long as an administration is endurable the majority of citizens prefer to bear with it, and will assist in repressing violent attempts at its overthrow. Their patience, however, may be exhausted, and the disgust may rise to a point when any change may seem an improvement. Authority is no longer shielded by the majesty with which it ought to be surrounded. It has made public its own degradation; and the most worthless adventurer knows that he has no moral indignation to fear if he tries to snatch the reins out of hands which are at least no more pure than his own. If he can dress his endeavors in the livery of patriotism, if he can put himself forward as the champion of an injured people, he can cover the scandals of his own character and appear as a hero and a liberator. Catiline had missed the consulship, and was a ruined man. He had calculated on succeeding to a province where he might gather a golden harvest and come home to live in splendor, like Lucullus. He had failed, defeated by a mere plebeian whom his brother-patricians had stooped to prefer to him. Were the secret history known of the contest for the consulship, much might be discovered there to explain Cicero's and Catiline's hatred of each other. Cicero had once thought of coalescing with Catiline, notwithstanding his knowledge of his previous crimes: Catiline had perhaps hoped to dupe Cicero, and had been himself outwitted. He intended to stand again for the year 62, but evidently on a different footing from that on which he had presented himself before. That such a man should have been able to offer himself at all, and that such a person as Cicero should have entered into any kind of amicable relations with him, was a sign by itself that the Commonwealth was already sickening for death.

Catiline was surrounded by men of high birth, whose fortunes were desperate as his own. There was Lentulus, who had been consul a few years before, and had been expelled from the Senate by the censors. There was Cethegus, staggering under a mountain of debts. There was Autronius, who had been unseated for bribery when chosen consul in 65. There was Manlius, once a distinguished officer in Sylla's army, and now a beggar. Besides these were a number of senators, knights, gentlemen, and dissolute young patricians, whose theory of the world was that it had been created for them to take their pleasure in, and who found their pleasures shortened by emptiness of purse. To them, as to their betters, the Empire was but a large dish out of which they considered that they had a right to feed themselves. They were defrauded of their proper share, and Catiline was the person who would help them to it.

Etruria was full of Sylla's disbanded soldiers, who had squandered their allotments, and were hanging about, unoccupied and starving. Catiline sent down Manlius, their old officer, to collect as many as he could of them without attracting notice. He himself, as the election day approached, and Cicero's year of office was drawing to an end, took up the character of an aristocratic demagogue, and asked for the suffrages of the people as the champion of the poor against the rich, as the friend of the wretched and oppressed; and those who thought themselves wretched and oppressed in Rome were so large a body, and so bitterly hostile were they all to the prosperous classes, that his election was anticipated as a certainty. In the Senate the consulship of Catiline was regarded as no less than an impending national calamity. Marcus Cato, great-grandson of the censor, then growing into fame by his acrid tongue and narrow republican fanaticism, who had sneered at Pompey's victories as triumphs over women, and had not spared even Cicero himself, threatened Catiline in the Curia. Catiline answered, in a fully attended house, that if any agitation was kindled against him he would put it out, not with water, but with revolution. His language became so audacious that, on the eve of the election day, Cicero moved for a postponement, that the Senate might take his language into consideration. Catiline's conduct was brought on for debate, and the consul called on him to explain himself. There was no concealment in Catiline. Then and always Cicero admits he was perfectly frank. He made no excuses. He admitted the truth of what had been reported of him. The State, he said, had two bodies, one weak (the aristocracy), with a weak leader (Cicero); the other, the great mass of the citizens— strong in themselves, but without a head, and he himself intended to be that head.[11] A groan was heard in the house, but less loud than in Cicero's opinion it ought to have been; and Catiline sailed out in triumph, leaving the noble lords looking in each other's faces.

[Sidenote: October, B.C. 63.] Both Cicero and the Senate were evidently in the greatest alarm that Catiline would succeed constitutionally in being chosen consul, and they strained every sinew to prevent so terrible a catastrophe. When the Comitia came on, Cicero admits that he occupied the voting place in the Campus Martius with a guard of men who could be depended on. He was violating the law, which forbade the presence of an armed force on those occasions. He excused himself by pretending that Catiline's party intended violence, and he appeared ostentatiously in a breastplate as if his own life was aimed at. The result was that Catiline failed once more, and was rejected by a small majority. Cicero attributes his defeat to the moral effect produced by the breastplate. But from the time of the Gracchi downwards the aristocracy had not hesitated to lay pressure on the elections when they could safely do it; and the story must be taken with reservation, in the absence of a more impartial account than we possess of the purpose to which Cicero's guard was applied. Undoubtedly it was desirable to strain the usual rules to keep a wretch like Catiline from the consulship; but as certainly, both before the election and after it, Catiline had the sympathies of a very large part of the resident inhabitants of the city, and these sympathies must be taken into account if we are to understand the long train of incidents of which this occasion was the beginning.

Two strict aristocrats, Decimus Silanus and Lucius Murena,[12] were declared elected. Pompey was on his way home, but had not yet reached Italy. There were no regular troops in the whole peninsula, and the nearest approach to an army was the body of Syllans, whom Manlius had quietly collected at Fiesole. Cicero's colleague Antonius was secretly in communication with Catiline, evidently thinking it likely that he would succeed. Catiline determined to wait no longer, and to raise an insurrection in the capital, with slave emancipation and a cancelling of debt for a cry. Manlius was to march on Rome, and the Senate, it was expected, would fall without a blow. Caesar and Crassus sent a warning to Cicero to be on his guard. Caesar had called Catiline to account for his doings at the time of the proscription, and knew his nature too well to expect benefit to the people from a revolution conducted under the auspices of bankrupt patrician adventurers. No citizen had more to lose than Crassus from a crusade of the poor against the rich. But they had both been suspected two years before, and in the excited temper of men's minds they took precautions for their own reputation's sake, as well as for the safety of the State. Quintus Curius, a senator, who was one of the conspirators, was meanwhile betraying his accomplices, and gave daily notice to the consuls of each step which was contemplated. But so weak was authority and so dangerous the temper of the people that the difficulty was to know what to do. Secret information was scarcely needed. Catiline, as Cicero said, was "apertissimus," most frank in the declaration of his intentions. Manlius's army at Fiesole was an open fact, and any day might bring news that he was on the march to Rome. The Senate, as usual in extreme emergencies, declared the State in danger, and gave the consuls unlimited powers to provide for public security. So scornfully confident was Catiline that he offered to place himself under surveillance at the house of any senator whom Cicero might name, or to reside with Cicero himself, if the consul preferred to keep a personal eye upon him. Cicero answered that he dared not trust himself with so perilous a guest.

[Sidenote: November, B.C. 63.] So for a few days matters hung in suspense, Manlius expecting an order to advance, Catiline waiting apparently for a spontaneous insurrection in the city before he gave the word. Intended attempts at various points had been baffled by Cicero's precautions. At last, finding that the people remained quiet, Catiline called a meeting of his friends one stormy night at the beginning of November, and it was agreed that two of the party should go the next morning at dawn to Cicero's house, demand to see him on important business, and kill him in his bed. Curius, who was present, immediately furnished Cicero with an account of what had passed. When his morning visitors arrived they were told that they could not be admitted; and a summons was sent round to the senators to assemble immediately at the Temple of Jupiter Stator, one of the strongest positions in the city.[13] The audacious Catiline attended, and took his usual seat; every one shrank from him, and he was left alone on the bench. Then Cicero rose. In the Senate, where to speak was the first duty of man, he was in his proper element, and had abundant courage. He addressed himself personally to the principal conspirator. He exposed, if exposure be the fitting word when half the persons present knew as much as he could tell them, the history of Catiline's proceedings. He described in detail the meeting of the past evening, looking round perhaps in the faces of the senators who he was aware had been present at it. He spoke of the visit designed to himself in the morning, which had been baffled by his precautions. He went back over the history of the preceding half-century. Fresh from the defence of Rabirius, he showed how dangerous citizens, the Gracchi, Saturninus, Glaucia, had been satisfactorily killed when they were meditating mischief. He did not see that a constitution was already doomed when the ruling powers were driven to assassinate their opponents, because a trial with the forms of law would have ended in their acquittal. He told Catiline that under the powers which the Senate had conferred on him he might order his instant execution. He detailed Catiline's past enormities, which he had forgotten when he sought his friendship, and he ended in bidding him leave the city, go and join Manlius and his army.

Never had Cicero been greater, and never did oratory end in a more absurd conclusion. He dared not arrest Catiline. He confessed that he dared not. There was not a doubt that Catiline was meditating a revolution—but a revolution was precisely what half the world was wishing for. Rightly read, those sounding paragraphs, those moral denunciations, those appeals to history and patriotic sentiment, were the funeral knell of the Roman Commonwealth.

Let Catiline go into open war, Cicero said, and then there would no longer be a doubt. Then all the world would admit his treason. Catiline went; and what was to follow next? Antonius, the second consul, was notoriously not to be relied on. The other conspirators, senators who sat listening while Cicero poured out his eloquent indignation, remained still in the city with the threads of insurrection in their hands, and were encouraged to persevere by the evident helplessness of the government. The imperfect record of history retains for us only the actions of a few individuals whom special talent or special circumstances distinguished, and such information is only fragmentary. We lose sight of the unnamed seething multitudes by whose desires and by whose hatreds the stream of events was truly guided. The party of revolution was as various as it was wide. Powerful wealthy men belonged to it, who were politically dissatisfied; ambitious men of rank, whose money embarrassments weighted them in the race against their competitors; old officers and soldiers of Sylla, who had spent the fortunes which they had won by violence, and were now trying to bring him back from the dead to renew their lease of plunder; ruined wretches without number, broken down with fines and proscriptions, and debts and the accumulation of usurious interest. Add to these "the dangerous classes," the natural enemies of all governments—parricides, adulterers, thieves, forgers, escaped slaves, brigands, and pirates who had lost their occupation; and, finally, Catiline's own chosen comrades, the smooth-faced patrician youths with curled hair and redolent with perfumes, as yet beardless or with the first down upon their chins, wearing scarves and veils and sleeved tunics reaching to their ankles, industrious but only with the dice-box, night-watchers but in the supper- rooms, in the small hours before dawn, immodest, dissolute boys, whose education had been in learning to love and to be loved, to sing and to dance naked at the midnight orgies, and along with it to handle poniards and mix poisoned bowls.[14]

[Sidenote: November, B.C. 64.] Well might Cicero be alarmed at such a combination; well might he say that if a generation of such youths lived to manhood there would be a commonwealth of Catilines. But what was to be thought of the prospects of a society in which such phenomena were developing themselves? Cicero bade them all go—follow their chief into the war, and perish in the snow of the Apennines. But how if they would not go? How if from the soil of Rome, under the rule of his friends the Senate, fresh crops of such youths would rise perennially? The Commonwealth needed more drastic medicine than eloquent exhortations, however true the picture might be.

[Sidenote: November, B.C. 63.] None of the promising young gentlemen took Cicero's advice. Catiline went alone and joined Manlius, and had he come on at once he might perhaps have taken Rome. The army was to support an insurrection, and the insurrection was to support the army. Catiline waited for a signal from his friends in the city, and Lentulus, Cethegus, Autronius, and the rest of the leaders waited for Catiline to arrive. Conspirators never think that they have taken precautions enough or have gained allies enough; and in endeavoring to secure fresh support they made a fatal mistake. An embassy of Allobroges was in the city, a frontier tribe on the borders of the Roman province in Gaul, who were allies of Rome, though not as yet subjects. The Gauls were the one foreign nation whom the Romans really feared. The passes of the Alps alone protected Italy from the hordes of German or Gallic barbarians, whose numbers being unknown were supposed to be exhaustless. Middle-aged men could still remember the panic at the invasion of the Cimbri and Teutons, and it was the chief pride of the democrats that the State had then been saved by their own Marius. At the critical moment it was discovered that the conspirators had entered into a correspondence with these Allobroges, and had actually proposed to them to make a fresh inroad over the Alps. The suspicion of such an intention at once alienated from Catiline the respectable part of the democratic party. The fact of the communication was betrayed to Cicero. He intercepted the letters; he produced them in the Senate with the seals unbroken, that no suspicion might rest upon himself. Lentulus and Cethegus were sent for, and could not deny their hands. The letters were then opened and read, and no shadow of uncertainty any longer remained that they had really designed to bring in an army of Gauls. Such of the conspirators as were known and were still within reach were instantly seized.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse