Yet the plebeians were making their way, and at last succeeded in gaining the plebeian magistracies and equal honors with the patricians. A curious story is told of the cause of the last effort which gained the day. A patrician named Fabius Ambustus had two daughters, one of whom he gave in marriage to Servius Sulpicius, a patrician and military tribune, the other to Licinius Stolo. One day, when Stolo's wife was visiting her sister, there was a great noise and thundering at the gates which frightened her, until the other Fabii said it was only her husband coming home from the Forum attended by his lictors and clients, laughing at her ignorance and alarm, until a whole troop of the clients came in to pay their court to the tribune's wife.
Stolo's wife went home angry and vexed, and reproached her husband and her father for not having made her equal with her sister, and so wrought on them that they put themselves at the head of the movement in favor of the plebeians; and Licinius and another young plebeian named Lucius Sextius, being elected year after year tribunes of the people, went on every time saying Veto to whatever was proposed by anybody, and giving out that they should go on doing so till three measures were carried—viz., that interest on debt should not be demanded; that no citizen should possess more than three hundred and twenty acres of the public land, or feed more than a certain quantity of cattle on the public pastures; and, lastly, that one of the two consuls should always be a plebeian.
They went on for eight years, always elected by the people and always stopping everything. At last there was another inroad of the Gauls expected, and Camillus, though eighty years old, was for the fifth time chosen Dictator, and gained a great victory upon the banks of the Anio. The Senate begged him to continue Dictator till he could set their affairs to rights, and he vowed to build a temple to Concord if he could succeed. He saw indeed that it was time to yield, and persuaded the Senate to think so; so that at last, in the year 367, Sextius was elected consul, together with a patrician, AEmilius. Even then the Senate would not receive Sextius till he was introduced by Camillus. From this time the patricians and plebeians were on an equal footing as far as regarded the magistracies, but the priesthood could belong only to the patricians. Camillus lived to a great age, and was honored as having three times saved his country. He died at last of a terrible pestilence which raged in Rome in the year 365.
The priests recommended that they should invite the players from Etruria to perform a drama in honor of the feats of the gods, and this was the beginning of play-acting in Rome.
Not long after there yawned a terrible chasm in the Forum, most likely from an earthquake, but nothing seemed to fill it up, and the priests and augurs consulted their oracles about it. These made answer that it would only close on receiving of what was most precious. Gold and jewels were thrown in, but it still seemed bottomless, and at last the augurs declared that it was courage that was the most precious thing in Rome. Thereupon a patrician youth named Marcus Curtius decked himself in his choicest robes, put on his armor, took his shield, sword, and spear, mounted his horse, and leapt headlong into the gulf, thus giving it the most precious of all things, courage and self-devotion. After this one story says it closed of itself, another that it became easy to fill it up with earth.
The Romans thought that such a sacrifice must please the gods and bring them success in their battles; but in the war with the Hernici that was now being waged the plebeian consul was killed, and no doubt there was much difficulty in getting the patricians to obey a plebeian properly, for in the course of the next twenty years it was necessary fourteen times to appoint a Dictator for the defence of the state, so that it is plain there must have been many alarms and much difficulty in enforcing discipline; but, on the whole, success was with Rome, and the neighboring tribes grew weaker.
THE DEVOTION OF DECIUS.
Other tribes of the Gauls did not fail to come again and make fresh inroads on the valleys of the Tiber and Anio. Whenever they came, instead of choosing men from the tribes to form an army, as in a war with their neighbors, all the fighting men of the nation turned out to oppose them, generally under a Dictator.
In one of these wars the Gauls came within three miles of Rome, and the two hosts were encamped on the banks of the Anio, with a bridge between them. Along this bridge strutted an enormous Gallic chief, much taller than any of the Romans, boasting himself, and calling on any one of them to come out and fight with him. Again it was a Manlius who distinguished himself. Titus, a young man of that family, begged the Dictator's permission to accept the challenge, and, having gained it, he changed his round knight's shield for the square one of the foot soldiers, and with his short sword came forward on the bridge. The Gaul made a sweep at him with his broadsword, but, slipping within the guard, Manlius stabbed the giant in two places, and as he fell cut off his head, and took the torc, or broad twisted gold collar that was the mark of all Gallic chieftains. Thence the brave youth was called Titus Manlius Torquatus—a surname to make up for that of Capitolinus, which had never been used again.
The next time the Gauls came, Marcus Valerius, a descendant of the old hero Publicola, was consul, and gained a great victory. It was said that in the midst of the fight a monstrous raven appeared flying over his head, resting now and then on his helmet, but generally pecking at the eyes of the Gauls and flapping its wings in their faces, so that they fled discomfited. Thence he was called Corvus or Corvinus. The Gauls never again came in such force, but a new enemy came against them, namely, the Samnites, a people who dwelt to the south of them. They were of Italian blood, mountaineers of the Southern Apennines, not unlike the Romans in habits, language, and training, and the staunchest enemies they had yet encountered. The war began from an entreaty from the people of Campania to the Romans to defend them from the attacks of the Samnites. For the Campanians, living in the rich plains, whose name is still unchanged, were an idle, languid people, whom the stout men of Samnium could easily overcome. The Romans took their part, and Valerius Corvus gained a victory at Mount Gaurus; but the other consul, Cornelius Cossus, fell into danger, having marched foolishly into a forest, shut in by mountains, and with only one way out through a deep valley, which was guarded by the Samnites. In this almost hopeless danger one of the military tribunes, Publius Decius Mus, discovered a little hill above the enemy's camp, and asked leave to lead a small body of men to seize it, since he would be likely thus to draw off the Samnites, and while they were destroying him, as he fully expected, the Romans could get out of the valley. Hidden by the wood, he gained the hill, and there the Samnites saw him, to their great amazement; and while they were considering whether to attack him, the other Romans were able to march out of the valley. Finding he was not attacked, Decius set guards, and, when night came on, marched down again as quietly as possible to join the army, who were now on the other side of the Samnite camp. Through the midst of this he and his little camp went without alarm, until, about half-way across, one Roman struck his foot against a shield. The noise awoke the Samnites, but Decius caused his men to give a great shout, and this, in the darkness, so confused the enemy that they missed the little body of Romans, who safely gained their own camp. Decius cut short the thanks and joy of the consul by advising him to fall at once on the Samnite camp in its dismay, and this was done; the Samnites were entirely routed, 30,000 killed, and their camp taken. Decius received for his reward a hundred oxen, a white bull with gilded horns, and three crowns—one of gold for courage, one of oak for having saved the lives of his fellow-citizens, and one of grass for having taken the enemy's camp—while all his men were for life to receive a double allowance of corn. Decius offered up the white bull in sacrifice to Mars, and gave the oxen to the companions of his glory.
Afterwards Valerius routed the Samnites again, and his troops brought in 120 standards and 40,000 shields which they had picked up, having been thrown away by the enemy in their flight.
Peace was made for the time; but the Latins, now in alliance with Rome, began to make war on the Samnites. They complained, and the Romans feeling bound to take their part, a great Latin war began. Manlius Torquatus and Decius Mus, the two greatest heroes of Rome, were consuls. As the Latins and Romans were alike in dress, arms, and language, in order to prevent taking friend for foe, strict orders were given that no one should attack a Latin without orders, or go out of his rank, on pain of death. A Latin champion came out boasting, as the two armies lay beneath Mount Vesuvius, then a fair vine-clad hill showing no flame. Young Manlius remembering his father's fame, darted out, fought hand to hand with the Latin, slew him, and brought home his spoils to his father's feet. He had forgotten that his father had only fought after permission was given. The elder Manlius received him with stern grief. He had broken the law of discipline, and he must die. His head was struck off amid the grief and anger of the army. The battle was bravely fought, but it went against the Romans at first. Then Decius, recollecting a vision which had declared that a consul must devote himself for his country, called on Valerius, the Pontifex Maximus, to dedicate him. He took off his armor, put on his purple toga, covered his head with a veil, and standing on a spear, repeated the words of consecration after Valerius, then mounted his horse and rode in among the Latins. They at first made way, but presently closed in and overpowered him with a shower of darts; and thus he gave for his country the life he had once offered for it.
The victory was won, and was so followed up that the Latins were forced to yield to Rome. Some of the cities retained their own laws and magistrates, but others had Romans with their families settled in them, and were called colonies, while the Latin people themselves became Roman citizens in everything but the power of becoming magistrates or voting for them, being, in fact, very much what the earliest plebeians had been before they acquired any rights.
THE SAMNITE WARS.
In the year 332, just when Alexander the Great was making his conquests in the East, his uncle Alexander, king of Epirus, brother to his mother Olympius, came to Italy, where there were so many Grecian citizens south of the Samnites that the foot of Italy was called Magna Graecia, or Greater Greece. He attacked the Samnites, and the Romans were not sorry to see them weakened, and made an alliance with him. He stayed in Italy about six years, and was then killed.
To overthrow the Samnites was the great object of Rome at this time, and for this purpose they offered their protection and alliance to all the cities that stood in dread of that people. One of the cities was founded by men from the isle of Euboea, who called it Neapolis, or the New City, to distinguish it from the old town near at hand, which they called Palaeopolis, or the Old City. The elder city held out against the Romans, but was easily overpowered, while the new one submitted to Rome; but these southern people were very shallow and fickle, and little to be depended on, as they often changed sides between the Romans and Samnites. In the midst of the siege of Palaeopolis, the year of the consulate came to an end, but the Senate, while causing two consuls as usual to be elected, at home, would not recall Publilius Philo from the siege, and therefore appointed him proconsul there. This was in 326, and was the beginning of the custom of sending the ex-consul as proconsul to command the armies or govern the provinces at a distance from home.
In 320, the consul falling sick, a dictator was appointed, Lucius Papirius Cursor, one of the most stern and severe men in Rome. He was obliged by some religious ceremony to return to Rome for a time, and he forbade his lieutenant, Quintus Fabius Rullianus, to venture a battle in his absence. But so good an opportunity offered that Fabius attacked the enemy, beat them, and killed 20,000 men. Then selfishly unwilling to have the spoils he had won carried in the dictator's triumph, he burnt them all. Papirius arrived in great anger, and sentenced him to death for his disobedience; but while the lictors were stripping him, he contrived to escape from their hands among the soldiers, who closed on him, so that he was able to get to Rome, where his father called the Senate together, and they showed themselves so resolved to save his life that Papirius was forced to pardon him, though not without reproaching the Romans for having fallen from the stern justice of Brutus and Manlius.
Two years later the two consuls, Titus Veturius and Spurius Posthumius, were marching into Campania, when the Samnite commander, Pontius Herennius, sent forth people disguised as shepherds to entice them into a narrow mountain pass near the city of Candium, shut in by thick woods, leading into a hollow curved valley, with thick brushwood on all sides, and only one way out, which the Samnites blocked up with trunks of trees. As soon as the Romans were within this place the other end was blocked in the same way, and thus they were all closed up at the mercy of their enemies.
What was to be done with them? asked the Samnites; and they went to consult old Herennius, the father of Pontius, the wisest man in the nation. "Open the way and let them all go free," he said.
"What! without gaining any advantage?"
"Then kill them all."
He was asked to explain such extraordinary advice. He said that to release them generously would be to make them friends and allies for ever; but if the war was to go on, the best thing for Samnium would be to destroy such a number of enemies at a blow. But the Samnites could not resolve upon either plan; so they took a middle course, the worst of all, since it only made the Romans furious without weakening them. They were made to take off all their armor and lay down their weapons, and thus to pass out under the yoke, namely, three spears set up like a doorway. The consuls, after agreeing to a disgraceful peace, had to go first, wearing only their undermost garment, then all the rest, two and two, and if any one of them gave an angry look, he was immediately knocked down and killed. They went on in silence into Campania, where, when night came on, they all threw themselves, half-naked, silent, and hungry upon the grass. The people of Capua came out to help them, and brought them food and clothing, trying to do them all honor and comfort them, but they would neither look up nor speak. And thus they went on to Rome, where everybody had put on mourning, and all the ladies went without their jewels, and the shops in the Forum were closed. The unhappy men stole into their houses at night one by one, and the consuls would not resume their office, but two were appointed to serve instead for the rest of the year.
Revenge was all that was thought of, but the difficulty was the peace to which the consuls had sworn. Posthumius said that if it was disavowed by the Senate, he, who had been driven to make it, must be given back to the Samnites. So, with his hands tied, he was taken back to the Samnite camp by a herald and delivered over; but at that moment Posthumius gave the herald a kick, crying out, "I am now a Samnite, and have insulted you, a Roman herald. This is a just cause of war." Pontius and the Samnites were very angry, and they said it was an unworthy trick; but they did not prevent Posthumius from going safely back to the Romans, who considered him to have quite retrieved his honor.
A battle was fought, in which Pontius and 7000 men were forced to lay down their arms and pass under the yoke in their turn. The struggle between these two fierce nations lasted altogether seventy years, and the Romans had many defeats. They had other wars at the same time. They never subdued Etruria, and in the battle of Sentinum, fought with the Gauls, the consul Decius Mus, devoted himself exactly as his father had done at Vesuvius, and by his death won the victory.
The Samnite wars may be considered as ending in 290, when the chief general of Samnium, Pontius Telesimus, was made prisoner and put to death at Rome. The lands in the open country were quite subdued, but many Samnites still lived in the fastnesses of the Apennines in the south, which have ever since been the haunt of wild untamed men.
THE WAR WITH PYRRHUS.
In the Grecian History you remember that Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, the townsman of Alexander the Great, made an expedition to Italy. This was the way it came about. The city of Tarentum was a Spartan colony at the head of the gulf that bears its name. It was as proud as its parent, but had lost all the grave sternness of manners, and was as idle and fickle as the other places in that languid climate. The Tarentines first maltreated some Roman ships which put into their gulf, and then insulted the ambassador who was sent to complain. Then when the terrible Romans were found to be really coming to revenge their honor, the Tarentines took fright, and sent to beg Pyrrhus to come to their aid.
He readily accepted the invitation, and coming to Italy with 28,000 men and twenty elephants, hoped to conquer the whole country; but he found the Tarentines not to be trusted, and soon weary of entertaining him, while they could not keep their promises of aid from the other Greeks of Italy.
The Romans marched against him, and there was a great battle on the banks of the river Siris, where the fighting was very hard, but when the elephants charged the Romans broke and fled, and were only saved by nightfall from being entirely destroyed. So great, however, had been Pyrrhus' loss that he said, "Such another victory, and I shall have to go back alone to Epirus."
He thought he had better treat with the Romans, and sent his favorite counsellor Kineas to offer to make peace, provided the Romans would promise safety to his Italian allies, and presents were sent to the senators and their wives to induce them to listen favorably. People in ancient Greece expected such gifts to back a suit; but Kineas found that nobody in Rome would hear of being bribed, though many were not unwilling to make peace. Blind old Appius Claudius, who had often been consul, caused himself to be led into the Senate to oppose it, for it was hard to his pride to make peace as defeated men. Kineas was much struck with Rome, where he found a state of things like the best days of Greece, and, going back to his master, told him that the senate-house was like a temple, and those who sat there like an assembly of kings, and that he feared they were fighting with the Hydra of Lerna, for as soon as they had destroyed one Roman army another had sprung up in its place.
However, the Romans wanted to treat about the prisoners Pyrrhus had taken, and they sent Caius Fabricius to the Greek camp for the purpose. Kineas reported him to be a man of no wealth, but esteemed as a good soldier and an honest man. Pyrrhus tried to make him take large presents, but nothing would Fabricius touch; and then, in the hope of alarming him, in the middle of a conversation the hangings of one side of the tent suddenly fell, and disclosed the biggest of all the elephants, who waved his trunk over Fabricius and trumpeted frightfully. The Roman quietly turned round and smiled as he said to the king, "I am no more moved by your gold than by your great beast."
At supper there was a conversation on Greek philosophy, of which the Romans as yet knew nothing. When the doctrine of Epicurus was mentioned, that man's life was given to be spent in the pursuit of joy, Fabricius greatly amused the company by crying out, "O Hercules! grant that the Greeks may be heartily of this mind so long as we have to fight with them."
Pyrrhus even tried to persuade Fabricius to enter his service, but the answer was, "Sir. I advise you not; for if your people once tasted of my rule, they would all desire me to govern them instead of you." Pyrrhus consented to let the prisoners go home, but, if no peace were made, they were to return again as soon as the Saturnalia were over; and this was faithfully done. Fabricius was consul the next year, and thus received a letter from Pyrrhus' physician, offering for a reward to rid the Romans of his master by poison. The two consuls sent it to the king with the following letter:—"Caius Fabricius and Quintus AEmilius, consuls, to Pyrrhus, king, greeting. You choose your friends and foes badly. This letter will show that you make war with honest men and trust rogues and knaves. We tell you, not to win your favor, but lest your ruin might bring on the reproach of ending the war by treachery instead of force."
Pyrrhus made enquiry, put the physician to death, and by way of acknowledgment released the captives, trying again to make peace; but the Romans would accept no terms save that he should give up the Tarentines and go back in the same ships. A battle was fought in the wood of Asculum. Decius Mus declared he would devote himself like his father and grandfather; but Pyrrhus heard of this, and sent word that he had given orders that Decius should not be killed, but taken alive and scourged; and this prevented him. The Romans were again forced back by the might of the elephants, but not till night fell on them. Pyrrhus had been wounded, and hosts of Greeks had fallen, among them many of Pyrrhus' chief friends.
He then went to Sicily, on an invitation from the Greeks settled there, to defend them from the Carthaginians; but finding them as little satisfactory as the Italian Greeks, he suddenly came back to Tarentum. This time one of the consuls was Marcus Curius—called Dentatus, because he had been born with teeth in his mouth—a stout, plain old Roman, very stern, for when he levied troops against Pyrrhus, the first man who refused to serve was punished by having his property seized and sold. He then marched southward, and at Beneventum at length entirely defeated Pyrrhus, and took four of his elephants. Pyrrhus was obliged to return to Epirus, and the Roman steadiness had won the day after nine years.
Dentatus had the grandest triumph that had ever been known at Rome, with the elephants walking in the procession, the first that the Romans had ever seen. All the spoil was given up to the commonwealth; and when, some time after, it was asserted that he had taken some for himself, it turned out that he had only kept one old wooden vessel, which he used in sacrificing to the gods.
The Greeks of Southern Italy had behaved very ill to Pyrrhus and turned against him. The Romans found them so fickle and troublesome that they were all reduced in one little war after another. The Tarentines had to surrender and lose their walls and their fleet, and so had the people of Sybaris, who have become a proverb for idleness, for they were so lazy that they were said to have killed all their crowing-birds for waking them too early in the morning. All the peninsula of Italy now belonged to Rome, and great roads were made of paved stones connecting them with it, many of which remain to this day, even the first of all, called the Appian Way, from Rome to Capua, which was made under the direction of the censor Appius Claudius, during the Samnite war.
THE FIRST PUNIC WAR.
We are now come to the time when Rome became mixed up in wars with nations beyond Italy. There was a great settlement of the Phoenicians, the merchants of the old world, at Carthage, on the northern coast of Africa, the same place at which Virgil afterwards described AEneas as spending so much time. Dido, the queen who was said to have founded Carthage when fleeing from her wicked brother-in-law at Tyre, is thought to have been an old goddess, and the religion and manners of the Carthaginians were thoroughly Phoenician, or, as the Romans called them, Punic. They had no king, but a Senate, and therewith rulers called by the name that is translated as judges in the Bible; and they did not love war, only trade, and spread out their settlements for this purpose all over the coast of the Mediterranean, from Spain to the Black Sea, wherever a country had mines, wool, dyes, spices, or men to trade with; and their sailors were the boldest to be found anywhere, and were the only ones who had passed beyond the Pillars of Hercules, namely, the Straits of Gibraltar, in the Atlantic Ocean. They built handsome cities, and country houses with farms and gardens round them, and had all tokens of wealth and luxury—ivory, jewels, and spices from India, pearls from the Persian Gulf, gold from Spain, silver from the Balearic Isles, tin from the Scilly Isles, amber from the Baltic; and they had forts to protect their settlements. They generally hired the men of the countries, where they settled, to fight their battles, sometimes under hired Greek captains, but often under generals of their own.
The first place where they did not have everything their own way was Sicily. The old inhabitants of the island were called Sicels, a rough people; but besides these there were a great number of Greek settlements, also of Carthaginian ones, and these two hated one another. The Carthaginians tried to overthrow the Greeks, and Pyrrhus, by coming to help his countrymen, only made them more bitter against one another. When he went away he exclaimed, "What an arena we leave for the Romans and Carthaginians to contend upon!" so sure was he that these two great nations must soon fight out the struggle for power.
The beginning of the struggle was, however, brought on by another cause. Messina, the place founded long ago by the brave exiles of Messene, when the Spartans had conquered their state, had been seized by a troop of Mamertines, fierce Italians from Mamertum; and these, on being threatened by Xiero, king of Syracuse, sent to offer to become subjects to the Romans, thus giving them the command of the port which secured the entrance of the island. The Senate had great scruples about accepting the offer, and supporting a set of mere robbers; but the two consuls and all the people could not withstand the temptation, and it was resolved to assist the Mamertines. Thus began what was called the First Punic War. The difficulty was, however, want of ships. The Romans had none of their own, and though they collected a few from their Greek allies in Italy, it was not in time to prevent some of the Mamertines from surrendering the citadel to Xanno, the Carthaginian general, who thought himself secure, and came down to treat with the Roman tribune Claudius, haughtily bidding the Romans no more to try to meddle with the sea, for they should not be allowed so much as to wash their hands in it. Claudius, angered at this, treacherously laid hands on Xanno, and he agreed to give up the castle on being set free; but he had better have remained a prisoner, for the Carthaginians punished him with crucifixion, and besieged Messina, but in vain.
The Romans felt that a fleet was necessary, and set to work to build war galleys on the pattern of a Carthaginian one which had been wrecked upon their coast. While a hundred ships were building, oarsmen were trained to row on dry land, and in two months the fleet put to sea. Knowing that there was no chance of being able to fight according to the regular rules of running the beaks of their galleys into the sides of those of their enemies, they devised new plans of letting heavy weights descend on the ships of the opposite fleet, and then of letting drawbridges down by which to board them. The Carthaginians, surprised and dismayed, when thus attacked off Mylae by the consul Duilius, were beaten and chased to Sardinia, where their unhappy commander was nailed to a cross by his own soldiers; while Duilius not only received in Rome a grand triumph for his first naval victory, but it was decreed that he should never go out into the city at night without a procession of torch-bearers.
The Romans now made up their minds to send an expedition to attack the Carthaginian power not only in Sicily but in Africa, and this was placed under the command of a sturdy plebeian consul, Marcus Attilius Regulus. He fought a great battle with the Carthaginian fleet on his way, and he had even more difficulty with his troops, who greatly dreaded the landing in Africa as a place of unknown terror. He landed, however, at some distance from the city, and did not at once advance on it. When he did, according to the story current at Rome, he encountered on the banks of the River Bagrada an enormous serpent, whose poisonous breath killed all who approached it, and on whose scales darts had no effect. At last the machines for throwing huge stones against city walls were used against it; its backbone was broken, and it was at last killed, and its skin sent to Rome.
The Romans met other enemies, whom they defeated, and gained much plunder. The Senate, understanding that the Carthaginians were cooped up within their walls, recalled half the army. Regulus wished much to return, as the slave who tilled his little farm had run away with his plough, and his wife was in distress; but he was so valuable that he could not be recalled, and he remained and soon took Tunis. The Carthaginians tried to win their gods' favor back by offering horrid human sacrifices to Moloch and Baal, and then hired a Spartan general named Xanthippus, who defeated the Romans, chiefly by means of the elephants, and made Regulus prisoner. The Romans, who hated the Carthaginians so much as to believe them capable of any wickedness, declared that in their jealousy of Xanthippus' victory, they sent him home to Greece in a vessel so arranged as to founder at sea.
However, the Romans, after several disasters in Sicily, gained a great victory near Panormus, capturing one hundred elephants, which were brought to Rome to be hunted by the people that they might lose their fear of them. The Carthaginians were weakened enough to desire peace, and they sent Regulus to propose it, making him swear to return if he did not succeed. He came to the outskirts of the city, but would not enter. He said he was no Roman proconsul, but the slave of Carthage. However, the Senate came out to hear him, and he gave the message, but added that the Romans ought not to accept these terms, but to stand out for much better ones, giving such reasons that the whole people was persuaded. He was entreated to remain and not meet the angry men of Carthage; but nothing would persuade him to break his word, and he went back. The Romans told dreadful stories of the treatment he met with—how his eyelids were cut off and he was put in the sunshine, and at last he was nailed up in a barrel lined with spikes and rolled down hill. Some say that this was mere report, and that Carthaginian prisoners at Rome were as savagely treated; but at any rate the constancy of Regulus has always been a proverb.
The war went on, and one of the proud Claudius family was in command at Trepanum, in Sicily, when the enemy's fleet came in sight. Before a battle the Romans always consulted the sacred fowls that were carried with the army. Claudius was told that their augury was against a battle—they would not eat. "Then let them drink," he cried, and threw them into the sea. His impiety, as all felt it, was punished by an utter defeat, and he killed himself to avoid an enquiry. The war went on by land and sea all over and around Sicily, till at the end of twenty-four years peace was made, just after another great sea-fight, in which Rome had the victory. She made the Carthaginians give up all they held in Sicily, restore their prisoners, make a large payment, and altogether humble their claims; thus beginning a most bitter hatred towards the conquerors, who as greatly hated and despised them. Thus ended the First Punic War.
CONQUEST OF CISALPINE GAUL.
After the end of the Punic war, Carthage fell into trouble with her hired soldiers, and did not interfere with the Romans for a long time, while they went on to arrange the government of Sicily into what they called a province, which was ruled by a propraetor for a year after his magistracy at home. The Greek kingdom of Syracuse indeed still remained as an ally of Rome, and Messina and a few other cities were allowed to choose their own magistrates and govern themselves.
Soon after, Sardinia and Corsica were given up to the Romans by the hired armies of the Carthaginians, and as the natives fought hard against Rome, when they were conquered they were for the most part sold as slaves. These two islands likewise had a propraetor.
The Romans now had all the peninsula south of themselves, and as far north as Ariminim (now shortened into Rimini), but all beyond belonged to the Gauls—the Cisalpine Gauls, or Gauls on this side the Alps, as the Romans called them; while those on the other side were called Transalpine Gauls, or Gauls across the Alps. These northern Gauls were gathering again for an inroad on the south, and in the midst of the rumors of this danger there was a great thunderstorm at Rome, and the Capitol was struck by lightning. The Sybilline books were searched into to see what this might mean, and a warning was found, "Beware of the Gauls." Moreover, there was a saying that the Greeks and Gauls should one day enjoy the Forum; but the Romans fancied they could satisfy this prophecy by burying a man and woman of each nation, slaves, in the middle of the Forum, and then they prepared to attack the Gauls in their own country before the inroad could be made. There was a great deal of hard fighting, lasting for years; and in the course of it the consul, Caius Flaminius, began the great road which has since been called after him the Flaminian Way, and was the great northern road from Rome, as the Appian Way was the southern.
The great hero of the war was Marcus Claudius Marcellus, who had already made himself known for his dauntless courage. As consul, he fought a desperate battle on the banks of the Po with the Gauls of both sides the Alps, and himself killed their king or chief, Viridomar. He brought the spoils to Rome, and hung them in the Temple of Jupiter. It was only the third time in the history of Rome that such a thing had been done. Cisalpine Gaul was thus subdued, and another road was made to secure it; while in the short peace that followed the gates of the Temple of Janus were shut, having stood open ever since the reign of Numa.
The Romans were beginning to make their worship the same with that of the Greeks. They sent offerings to Greek temples, said that their old gods were the same as those of the Greeks, only under different names, and sent an embassy to Epidaurus to ask for a statue of Esculapius, the god of medicine and son of Phoebus Apollo. The emblem of Esculapius was a serpent, and tame serpents were kept about his temple at Epidaurus. One of these glided into the Roman galley that had come for the statue, and it was treated with great respect by all the crew until they sailed up the Tiber, when it made its way out of the vessel and swam to the island which had been formed by the settling of the mud round the heap of corn that had been thrown into the river when Porsena wasted the country. This was supposed to mean that the god himself took possession of the place, and a splendid temple there rose in his honor.
Another imitation of the Greeks which came into fashion at this time had a sad effect on the Romans. The old funerals in Greek poems had ended by games and struggles between swordsmen. Two brothers of the Brutus family first showed off such a game at their father's funeral, and it became a regular custom, not only at funerals, but whenever there was need to entertain the people, to show off fights of swordsmen. The soldier captives from conquered nations were used in this way; and some persons kept schools of slaves, who were trained for these fights and called gladiators. The battle was a real one, with sharp weapons, for life or death; and when a man was struck down, he was allowed to live or sentenced to death according as the spectators turned down or turned up their thumbs. The Romans fancied that the sight trained them to be brave, and to despise death and wounds; but the truth was that it only made them hard-hearted, and taught them to despise other people's pain—a very different thing from despising their own.
Another thing that did great harm was the making it lawful for a man to put away a wife who had no children. This ended by making the Romans much less careful to have one good wife, and the Roman ladies became much less noble and excellent than they had been in the good old days.
In the meantime, the Carthaginians, having lost the three islands, began to spread their settlements further in Spain, where their chief colony was New Carthage, or, as we call it, Carthagena. The mountains were full of gold mines, and the Iberians, the nation who held them, were brave and warlike, so that there was much fighting to train up fresh armies. Hamilcar, the chief general in command there, had four sons, whom he said were lion whelps being bred up against Rome. He took them with him to Spain, and at a great sacrifice for the success of his arms the youngest and most promising, Hannibal, a boy of nine years old, was made to lay his hand on the altar of Baal and take an oath that he would always be the enemy of the Romans. Hamilcar was killed in battle, but Hannibal grew up to be all that he had hoped, and at twenty-six was in command of the army. He threatened the Iberians of Saguntum, who sent to ask help from Rome. A message was sent to him to forbid him to disturb the ally of Rome; but he had made up his mind for war, and never even asked the Senate of Carthage what was to be done, but went on with the siege of Saguntum. Rome was busy with a war in Illyria, and could send no help, and the Saguntines held out with the greatest bravery and constancy, month after month, till they were all on the point of starvation, then kindled a great fire, slew all their wives and children, and let Hannibal win nothing but a pile of smoking ruins.
Again the Romans sent to Carthage to complain, but the Senate there had made up their minds that war there must be, and that it was a good time when Rome had a war in Illyria on her hands, and Cisalpine Gaul hardly subdued; and they had such a general as Hannibal, though they did not know what a wonderful scheme he had in his mind, namely, to make his way by land from Spain to Italy, gaining the help of the Gauls, and stirring up all those nations of Italy who had fought so long against Rome. His march, which marks the beginning of the Second Punic War, started from the banks of the Ebro in the beginning of the summer of 219. His army was 20,000 foot and 12,000 horse, partly Carthaginian, partly Gaul and Iberian. The horsemen were Moorish, and he had thirty-seven elephants. He left his brother Hasdrubal with 10,000 men at the foot of the Pyrenees and pushed on, but he could not reach the Alps before the late autumn, and his passage is one of the greatest wonders of history. Roads there were none, and he had to force his way up the passes of the Little St. Bernard through snow and ice, terrible to the men and animals of Africa, and fighting all the way, so that men and horses perished in great numbers, and only seven of the elephants were left when he at length descended into the plains of Northern Italy, where he hoped the Cisalpine Gauls would welcome him.
THE SECOND PUNIC WAR.
When the Romans heard that Hannibal had passed the Pyrenees, they had two armies on foot, one under Publius Cornelius Scipio, which was to go to Spain, and the other under Tiberius Sempronius Longus, to attack Africa. They changed their plan, and kept Sempronius to defend Italy, while Scipio went by sea to Marsala, a Greek colony in Gaul, to try to stop Hannibal at the Rhone; but he was too late, and therefore, sending on most of his army to Spain, he came back himself with his choicest troops. With these he tried to stop the enemy from crossing the river Ticinus, but he was defeated and so badly wounded that his life was only saved by the bravery of his son, who led him out of the battle.
Before he was able to join the army again, Sempronius had fought another battle with Hannibal on the banks of the Trebia and suffered a terrible defeat. But winter now came on, and the Carthaginians found it very hard to bear in the marshes of the Arno. Hannibal himself was so ill that he only owed his life to the last of his elephants, which carried him safely through when he was almost blind, and in the end he lost an eye. In the spring he went on ravaging the country in hopes to make the two new consuls, Flaminius and Servilius, fight with him, but they were too cautious, until at last Flaminius attacked him in a heavy fog on the shore of Lake Trasimenus. It is said that an earthquake shook the ground, and that the eager warriors never perceived it; but again the Romans lost, Flaminius was killed, and there was a dreadful slaughter, for Hannibal had sworn to give no quarter to a Roman. The only thing that was hopeful for Rome was that neither Gauls, Etruscans, nor Italians showed any desire to rise in favor of Hannibal; and though he was now very near Rome, he durst not besiege it without the help of the people around to bring him supplies, so he only marched southwards, hoping to gain the support of the Greek colonies. A dictator was appointed, Quintus Fabius Maximus, who saw that, by strengthening all the garrisons in the towns and cutting off all provisions, he should wear the enemy out at last. As he always put off a battle, he was called Cunctator, or the Delayer; but at last he had the Carthaginians enclosed as in a trap in the valley of the river Vulturnus, and hoped to cut them off, posting men in ambush to fall on them on their morning's march. Hannibal guessed that this must be the plan; and at night he had the cattle in the camp collected, fastened torches to their horns, and drove them up the hills. The Romans, fancying themselves surrounded by the enemy, came out of their hiding-places to fall back on the camp, and Hannibal and his army safely escaped. This mischance made the Romans weary of the Delayer's policy, and when the year was out, and two consuls came in, though one of them, Lucius AEmilius Paulus, would have gone on in the same cautious plan of starving Hannibal out without a battle, the other, Caius Terentius Varro, who commanded on alternate days with him, was determined on a battle. Hannibal so contrived that it was fought on the plain of Cannae, where there was plenty of space to use his Moorish horse. It was Varro's day of command, and he dashed at the centre of the enemy; Hannibal opened a space for him, then closed in on both sides with his terrible horse, and made a regular slaughter of the Romans. The last time that the consul AEmilius was seen was by a tribune named Lentulus, who found him sitting on a stone faint and bleeding, and would have given him his own horse to escape, but AEmilius answered that he had no mind to have to accuse his comrade of rashness, and had rather die. A troop of enemies coming up, Lentulus rode off, and looking back, saw his consul fall, pierced with darts. So many Romans had been killed, that Hannibal sent to Carthage a basket containing 10,000 of the gold rings worn by the knights.
Hannibal was only five days' march beyond Rome, and his officers wanted him to turn back and attack it in the first shock of the defeat, but he could not expect to succeed without more aid from home, and he wanted to win over the Greek cities of the south; so he wintered in Campania, waiting for the fresh troops he expected from Africa or from Spain, where his brother Mago was preparing an army. But the Carthaginians did not care about Hannibal's campaigns in Italy, and sent no help; and Publius Cornelius Scipio and his brother, with a Roman army in Spain, were watching Mago and preventing him from marching, until at last he gave them battle and defeated and killed them both. But he was not allowed to go to Italy to his brother, who, in the meantime, found his army so unstrung and ill-disciplined in the delightful but languid Campania, that the Romans declared the luxuries of Capua were their best allies. He stayed in the south, however, trying to gain the alliance of the king of Macedon, and stirring up Syracuse to revolt. Marcellus, who was consul for the third time, was sent to reduce the city, which made a famous defence, for it contained Archimedes, the greatest mathematician of his time, who devised wonderful machines for crushing the besiegers in unexpected ways; but at last Marcellus found a weak part of the walls and surprised the citizens. He had given orders that Archimedes should be saved, but a soldier broke into the philosopher's room without knowing him, and found him so intent on his study that he had never heard the storming of the city. The man brandished his sword. "Only wait," muttered Archimedes, "till I have found out my problem;" but the man, not understanding him, killed him.
Hannibal remained in Italy, maintaining himself there with wonderful skill, though with none of the hopes with which he had set out. His brother Hasdrubal did succeed in leaving Spain with an army to help him, but was met on the river Metaurus by Tiberius Claudius Nero, beaten, and slain. His head was cut off by Nero's order, and thrown into Hannibal's camp to give tidings of his fate.
Young Scipio, meantime, had been sent to Spain, where he gained great advantages, winning the friendship of the Iberians, and gaining town after town till Mago had little left but Gades and the extreme south. Scipio was one of the noblest of the Romans, brave, pious, and what was more unusual, of such sweet and winning temper, that it was said of him that wherever he went he might have been a king.
On returning to Rome, he showed the Senate that the best way to get Hannibal out of Italy was to attack Africa. Cautious old Fabius doubted, but Scipio was sent to Sicily, where he made an alliance with Massinissa, the Moorish king in Africa; and, obtaining leave to carry out his plan, he was sent thither, and so alarmed Carthage, that Hannibal was recalled to defend his own country, where he had not been since he was a child. A great battle took place at Zama between him and Hannibal, in which Scipio was the conqueror, and the loss of Carthage was so terrible that the Romans were ready to have marched in on her and made her their subject, but Scipio persuaded them to be forbearing. Carthage was to pay an immense tribute, and swear never to make war on any ally of Rome. And thus ended the Second Punic War, in the year 201.
THE FIRST EASTERN WAR.
Scipio remained in Africa till he had arranged matters and won such a claim to Massinissa's gratitude that this king of Numidia was sure to watch over the interests of Rome. Scipio then returned home, and entered Rome with a grand triumph, all the nobler for himself that he did not lead Hannibal in his chains. He had been too generous to demand that so brave an enemy should be delivered up to him. He received the surname of Africanus, and was one of the most respected and beloved of Romans. He was the first who began to take up Greek learning and culture, and to exchange the old Roman ruggedness for the graces of philosophy and poetry. Indeed the Romans were beginning to have much to do with the Greeks, and the war they entered upon now was the first for the sake of spreading their own power. All the former ones had been in self-defence, and the new one did in fact spring out of the Punic war, for the Carthaginians had tried to persuade Philip, king of Macedon, to follow in the track of Pyrrhus, and come and help Hannibal in Southern Italy. The Romans had kept him off by stirring up the robber AEtolians against him; and when he began to punish these wild neighbors, the Romans leagued themselves with the old Greek cities which Macedon oppressed, and a great war took place.
Titus Quinctius Flaminius commanded in Greece for four years, first as consul and then as proconsul. His crowning victory was at Cynocephalae, or the Dogshead Rocks, where he so broke the strength of Macedon that at the Isthmian games he proclaimed the deliverance of Greece, and in their joy the people crowded round him with crowns and garlands, and shouted so loud that birds in the air were said to have dropped down at the sound.
Macedon had cities in Asia Minor, and the king of Syria's enemy, Antiochus the Great, hoped to master them, and even to conquer Greece by the help of Hannibal, who had found himself unable to live in Carthage after his defeat, and was wandering about to give his services to any one who was a foe of Rome.
As Rome took the part of Philip, as her subject and ally, there was soon full scope for his efforts; but the Syrians were such wretched troops that even Hannibal could do nothing with them, and the king himself would not attend to his advice, but wasted his time in pleasure in the isle of Euboea. So the consul Acilius first beat them at Thermopylae, and then, on Lucius Cornelius Scipio being sent to conduct the war, his great brother Africanus volunteered to go with him as his lieutenant, and together they followed Antiochus into Asia Minor, and gained such advantages that the Syrian was obliged to sue for peace. The Romans replied by requiring of him to give up all Asia Minor as far as Mount Tarsus, and in despair he risked a battle in Magnesia, and met with a total defeat; 80,000 Greeks and Syrians being overthrown by 50,000 Romans. Neither Africanus nor Hannibal were present in this battle, since the first was ill, and the second was besieged in a city in Pamphylia; but while terms of peace were being made, the two are said have met on friendly terms, and Scipio asked Hannibal whom he thought the greatest of generals. "Alexander," was the answer. "Whom the next greatest?" "Pyrrhus." "Whom do you rank as the third?" "Myself," said Hannibal. "But if you had beaten me?" asked Scipio. "Then I would have placed myself before Alexander."
The Romans insisted that Hannibal should be dismissed by Antiochus, though Scipio declared that this was ungenerous; but they dreaded his never-ceasing enmity; and when he took refuge with the king of Bothnia, they still required that he should be given up or driven a way. On this, Hannibal, worn-out and disappointed, put an end to his own life by poison, saying he would rid the Romans of their fear of an old man.
The provinces taken from Antiochus were given to Eumenes, king of Pergamus, who was to reign over them as tributary to the Romans. Lucius Scipio received the surname of Asiaticus, and the two brothers returned to Rome; but they had been too generous and merciful to the conquered to suit the grasping spirit that had begun to prevail at Rome, and directly after his triumph Lucius was accused of having taken to himself an undue share of the spoil. His brother was too indignant at the shameful accusation to think of letting him justify himself, but tore up his accounts in the face of the people. The tribune, Naevius, thereupon spitefully called upon him to give an account of the spoil of Carthage taken twenty years before. The only reply he gave was to exclaim, "This is the day of the victory of Zama. Let us give thanks to the gods for it;" and he led all that was noble and good in Rome with him to the temple of Jupiter and offered the anniversary sacrifice. No one durst say another word against him or his brother; but he did not choose to remain among the citizens who had thus insulted him, but went away to his estate at Liternum, and when he died, desired to be buried there, saying that he would not even leave his bones to his ungrateful country. The Cornelian family was the only one among the higher Romans who buried instead of burning their dead. He left no son, only a daughter, who was married to Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, a brave officer who was among those who were sent to finish reducing Spain. It was a long, terrible war, fought city by city, inch by inch; but Gracchus is said to have taken no less than three hundred fortresses. But he was a milder conqueror than some of the Romans, and tried to tame and civilize the wild races instead of treating them with the terrible severity shown by Marcus Porcius Cato, the sternest of all old Romans. However, by the year 178 Spain had been reduced to obedience, and the cities and the coast were in good order, though the mountains harbored fierce tribes always ready for revolt.
Gracchus died early, and Cornelia, his widow, devoted herself to the cause of his three children, refusing to be married again, which was very uncommon in a Roman lady. When a lady asked her to show her her ornaments, she called her two boys, Tiberius and Caius, and their sister Sempronia, and said, "These are my jewels;" and when she was complimented on being the daughter of Africanus, she said that the honor she should care more for was the being called "the mother of the Gracchi."
It was not, however, one of her sons that was chosen to carry on their grandfather's name and the sacrifices of the Cornelian family. Probably Caius was not born when Scipio died, for his choice had been the second son of his sister and of Lucius AEmilius Paulus (son of him who died at Cannae.) This child being adopted by his uncle, was called Publius Cornelius Scipio AEmilianus, and when he grew up was to marry his cousin Sempronia.
THE CONQUEST OF GREECE, CORINTH, AND CARTHAGE.
It was a great change when Rome, which to the Greeks of Pyrrhus' time had seemed so rude and simple, was thought such a school of policy that Greek and half-Greek kings sent their sons to be educated there, partly as hostages for their own peaceableness, and partly to learn the spirit of Roman rule. The first king who did this was Philip of Macedon, who sent his son Demetrius to be brought up at Rome; but when he came back, his father and brother were jealous of him, and he was soon put to death.
When his brother Perseus came to the throne, there was hatred between him and the Romans, and ere long he was accused of making war on their allies. He offered to make peace, but they replied that they would hear nothing till he had laid down his arms, and this he would not do, so that Lucius AEmilius Paulus (the brother-in-law of Scipio) was sent to reduce him. As AEmilius came into his own house after receiving the appointment, he met his little daughter crying, and when he asked her what was the matter, she answered, "Oh, father, Perseus is dead!" She meant her little dog, but he kissed her and thanked her for the good omen. He overran Macedon, and gained the great battle of Pydna, after which Perseus was obliged to give himself up into the hands of the Romans, begging, however, not to be made to walk in AEmilius' triumph. The general answered that he might obtain that favor from himself, meaning that he could die by his own hand; but Perseus did not take the hint, which seems to us far more shocking than it did to a Roman; he did walk in the triumph, and died a few years after in Italy. AEmilius' two sons were with him throughout this campaign, though still boys under Polybius, their Achaian tutor. Macedon was divided into four provinces, and became entirely subject to Rome.
The Greeks of the Achaian League began to have quarrels among themselves, and when the Romans interfered a fierce spirit broke out, and they wanted to have their old freedom, forgetting how entirely unable they were to stand against the power of the Romans. Caius Caecilius Metellus, a man of one of the best and most gracious Roman families, was patient with them and did his best to pacify them, being most unwilling to ruin the noble old historical cities; but these foolish Greeks fancied that his kindness showed weakness, and forced on the war, sending a troop to guard the pass of Thermopylae, but they were swept away. Unfortunately, Metellus had to go out of office, and Lucius Mummius, a fierce, rude, and ignorant soldier, came in his stead to complete the conquest. Corinth was taken, utterly ruined and plundered throughout, and a huge amount of treasure was sent to Rome, as well as pictures and statues famed all over the world. Mummius was very much laughed at for having been told they must be carried in his triumph; and yet, not understanding their beauty, he told the sailors to whose charge they were given, that if they were lost, new ones must be supplied. However, he was an honest man, who did not help himself out of the plunder, as far too many were doing. After that, Achaia was made a Roman province.
At this time the third and last Punic war was going on. The old Moorish king, Massinissa, had been continually tormenting Carthage ever since she had been weak, and declaring that Phoenician strangers had no business in Africa. The Carthaginians, who had no means of defending themselves, complained; but the Romans would not listen, hoping, perhaps, that they would be goaded at last into attacking the Moor, and thus giving a pretext for a war. Old Marcus Porcius Cato, who was sent on a message to Carthage, came back declaring that it was not safe to let so mighty a city of enemies stand so near. He brought back a branch of figs fresh and good, which he showed the Senate in proof of how near she was, and ended each sentence with saying, "Delenda est Carthago" (Carthage is to be wiped out). He died that same year at ninety years old, having spent most of his life in making a staunch resistance to the easy and luxurious fashions that were coming in with wealth and refinement. One of his sayings always deserves to be remembered. When he was opposing a law giving permission to the ladies to wear gold and purple, he said they would all be vying with one another, and that the poor would be ashamed of not making as good an appearance as the rich. "And," said he, "she who blushes for doing what she ought, will soon cease to blush for doing what she ought not."
One wonders he did not see that to have no enemy near at hand to guard against was the very worst thing for the hardy, plain old ways he was so anxious to keep up. However, Carthage was to be wiped out, and Scipio AEmilianus was sent to do the terrible work. He defeated Hasdrubal, the last of the Carthaginian generals, and took the citadel of Byrsa; but though all hope was over, the city held out in utter desperation. Weapons were forged out of household implements, even out of gold and silver, and the women twisted their long hair into bow-strings; and when the walls were stormed, they fought from street to street and house to house, so that the Romans gained little but ruins and dead bodies. Carthage and Corinth fell on the same day of the year 179.
Part of Spain still had to be subdued, and Scipio AEmilianus was sent thither. The city of Numantia, with only 5000 inhabitants, endured one of those long, hopeless sieges for which Spanish cities have in all times been remarkable, and was only taken at last when almost every citizen had perished.
At the same time, Attalus, king of Pergamus in Asia Minor, being the last of his race, bequeathed his dominions to the Romans, and thus gave them their first solid footing there.
All this was altering Roman manners much. Weak as the Greeks were, their old doings of every kind were still the admiration of every one, and the Romans, who had always been rough, straightforward doers, began to wish to learn of them to think. All the wealthier families had Greeks for tutors for their sons, and expected them to talk and write the language, and study the philosophy and poetry till they should be as familiar with it as if they were Greeks themselves. Unluckily, the Greeks themselves had fallen from their earnestness and greatness, so that there was not much to be learnt of them now but vain deceit and bad taste.
Rich Romans, too, began to get most absurdly luxurious. They had splendid villas on the Italian hill-sides, where they went to spend the summer when Rome was unhealthy, and where they had beautiful gardens, with courts paved with mosaic, and fish-ponds for the pet fish for which many had a passion. One man was laughed at for having shed tears when his favorite fish died, and he retorted by saying that it was more than his accuser had done for his wife.
Their feasts were as luxurious as they could make them, in spite of laws to keep them within bounds. Dishes of nightingales' tongues, of fatted dormice, and even of snails, were among their food: and sometimes a stream was made to flow along the table, containing the living companion of the mullet which served as part of the meal.
Young Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, the eldest of Cornelia's jewels, was sent in the year 137 to join the Roman army in Spain. As he went through Etruria, which, as every one knew, had been a thickly peopled, fertile country in old times, he was shocked to see its dreariness and desolation. Instead of farms and vineyards, there were great bare spaces of land, where sheep, kids, or goats were feeding. These vast tracts belonged to Romans, who kept slaves to attend to the flocks; while all the corn that was used in Rome came from Sicily or Africa, and the poorer Romans lived in the city itself—idle men, chiefly trusting to distributions of corn, and unable to work for themselves because they had no ground to till; and as to trades and handicrafts, the rich men had everything they wanted made in their own houses by their slaves.
No wonder the Romans were losing their old character. This was the very thing that the Licinian law had been intended to prevent, by forbidding any citizen to have more than a certain quantity of land, and giving the state the power of resuming it. The law was still there, but it had been disused and forgotten; estates had been gathered into the hands of families and handed down, till now, though there were 400,000 citizens, only 2,000 were men of property.
While Tiberius was serving in Spain, he decided on his plan. As his family was plebeian, he could be a tribune of the people, and as soon as he came home he stood and was elected. Then he proposed reviving the Licinian law, that nobody should have more than 500 acres, and that the rest should be divided among those who had nothing, leaving, however, a larger portion to those who had many children.
There was, of course, a terrible uproar; the populace clamoring for their rights, and the rich trying to stop the measure. They bribed one of the other tribunes to forbid it; but there was a fight, in which Tiberius prevailed, and he and his young brother Caius, and his father-in-law Appius Claudius, were appointed as triumvers to see the law carried out. Then the rich men followed their old plan of spreading reports among the people that Tiberius wanted to make himself a king, and had accepted a crown and purple robe from some foreign envoy. When his year of office was coming to an end, he sought to be elected tribune again, but the patricians said it was against the law. There was a great tumult, in the course of which he put his hand to his head, either to guard it from a blow or to beckon his friends. "He demands the diadem," shouted his enemies, and there was a great struggle, in which three hundred people were killed. Tiberius tried to take refuge in the Temple of Jupiter, but the doors were closed against him; he stumbled, was knocked down with a club, and killed.
However, the Sempronian law had been made, and the people wanted, of course, to have it carried out, while the nobles wanted it to be a dead letter. Scipio AEmilianus, the brother-in-law of the Gracchi, had been in Spain all this time, but he had so much disapproved of Tiberius' doings that he was said to have exclaimed, on hearing of his death, "So perish all who do the like." But when he came home, he did so much to calm and quiet matters, that there was a cry to make him Dictator, and let him settle the whole matter. Young Caius Gracchus, who thought the cause would thus be lost, tried to prevent the choice by fixing on him the name of tyrant. To which Scipio calmly replied, "Rome's enemies may well wish me dead, for they know that while I live Rome cannot perish."
When he went home, he shut himself into his room to prepare his discourse for the next day, but in the morning he was found dead, without a wound, though his slaves declared he had been murdered. Some suspected his wife Sempronia, others even her mother Cornelia, but the Senate would not have the matter enquired into. He left no child, and the Africanus line of Cornelius ended with him.
Caius Gracchus was nine years younger than his brother, and was elected tribune as soon as he was old enough. He was full of still greater schemes than his brother. His mother besought him to be warned by his brother's fate, but he was bent on his objects, and carried some of them out. He had the Sempronian law reaffirmed, though he could not act on it; but in the meantime he began a regular custom of having corn served out to the poorer citizens, and found work for them upon roads and bridges; also he caused the state to clothe the soldiers, instead of their doing it at their own expense. Another scheme which he first proposed was to make the Italians of the countries now one with Roman territory into citizens, with votes like the Romans themselves; but this again angered the patricians, who saw they should be swamped by numbers and lose their power.
He also wanted to found a colony of plebeians on the ruins of Carthage, and when his tribuneship was over he went to Africa to see about it; but when he came home the patricians had arranged an attack on him, and he was insulted by the lictor of the consul Opimius. The patricians collected on one side, the poorer sort around Caius on the Aventine Hill; but the nobles were the strongest, the plebeians fled, and Caius withdrew with one slave into a sacred grove, whence he hoped to reach the Tiber; but the wood was surrounded, his retreat was cut off, and he commanded the slave to kill him that he might not fall alive into the hands of his enemies, after which the poor faithful fellow killed himself, unable to bear the loss of his master. The weight of Caius' head in gold had been promised by the Senate, and the man who found the body was said to have taken out the brains and filled it up with lead that his reward might be larger. Three thousand men were killed in this riot, ten times as many as at Tiberius' death.
Opimius was so proud of having overthrown Caius, that he had a medal struck with Hercules slaying the monsters. Cornelia, broken-hearted, retired to a country-house; but in a few years the feeling turned, great love was shown to the memory of the two brothers, statues were set up in their honor, and when Cornelia herself died, her statue was inscribed with the title she had coveted, "The mother of the Gracchi."
Things were indeed growing worse and worse. The Romans were as brave as ever in the field, and were sure in the end to conquer any nation they came in contact with; but at home, the city was full of overgrown rich men, with huge hosts of slaves, and of turbulent poor men, who only cared for their citizenship for the sake of the corn they gained by it, and the games exhibited by those who stood for a magistracy. Immense sums were spent in hiring gladiators and bringing wild animals to be baited for their amusement; and afterwards, when sent out to govern the provinces, the expenses were repaid by cruel grinding and robbing the people of the conquered states.
THE WARS OF MARIUS.
After the death of Massinissa, king of Numidia, the ally of the Romans, there were disputes among his grandsons, and Jugurtha, whom they held to have the least right, obtained the kingdom. The commander of the army sent against him was Caius Marius, who had risen from being a free Roman peasant in the village of Arpinum, but serving under Scipio AEmilianus, had shown such ability, that when some one was wondering where they would find the equal of Scipio when he was gone, that general touched the shoulder of his young officer and said, "Possibly here."
Rough soldier as he always was, he married Julia, of the high family of the Caesars, who were said to be descended from AEneas; and though he was much disliked by the Senate, he always carried the people with him. When he received the province of Numidia, instead of, as every one had done before, forming his army only of Roman citizens, he offered to enlist whoever would, and thus filled his ranks with all sorts of wild and desperate men, whom he could indeed train to fight, but who had none of the old feeling for honor or the state, and this in the end made a great change in Rome.
Jugurtha maintained a wild war in the deserts of Africa with Marius, but at last he was betrayed to the Romans by his friend Bocchus, another Moorish king, and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Marius' lieutenant, was sent to receive him—a transaction which Sulla commemorated on a signet ring which he always wore. Poor Jugurtha was kept two years to appear at the triumph, where he walked in chains, and then was thrown alive into the dungeon under the Capitol, where he took six days to die of cold and hunger.
Marius was elected consul for the second time even before he had quite come home from Africa, for it was a time of great danger. Two fierce and terrible tribes, whom the Romans called Cimbri and Teutones, and who were but the vanguard of the swarms who would overwhelm them six centuries later, had come down through Germany to the settled countries belonging to Rome, especially the lands round the old Greek settlements in Gaul, which had fallen of course into the hands of the Romans, and were full of beautiful rich cities, with houses and gardens round them. The Province, as the Romans called it, would have been grand plundering ground for these savages, and Marius established himself in a camp on the banks of the Rhone to protect it, cutting a canal to bring his provisions from the sea, which still remains. While he was thus engaged, he was a fourth time elected consul.
The enemy began to move. The Cimbri meant to march eastward round the Alps, and pour through the Tyrol into Italy; the Teutones to go by the West, fighting Marius on the way. But he would not come out of his camp on the Rhone, though the Teutones, as they passed, shouted to ask the Roman soldiers what messages they had to send to their wives in Italy.
When they had all passed, he came out of his camp and followed them as far as Aquae Sextiae, now called Aix, where one of the most terrible battles the world ever saw was fought. These people were a whole tribe—wives, children, and everything they had with them—and to be defeated was utter and absolute ruin. A great enclosure was made with their carts and wagons, whence the women threw arrows and darts to help the men; and when, after three days of hard fighting, all hope was over, they set fire to the enclosure and killed their children and themselves. The whole swarm was destroyed. Marius marched away, and no one was left to bury the dead, so that the spot was called the Putrid Fields, and is still known as Les Pourrieres.
While Marius was offering up the spoil, tidings came that he was a fifth time chosen consul; but he had to hasten into Italy, for the other consul, Catulus, could not stand before the Cimbri, and Marius met him on the Po retreating from them. The Cimbri demanded lands in Italy for themselves and their allies the Teutones. "The Teutones have all the ground they will ever want, on the other side the Alps," said Marius; and a terrible battle followed, in which the Cimbri were as entirely cut off as their allies had been.
Marius was made consul a sixth time. As a reward to the brave soldiers who had fought under him, he made one thousand of them, who came from the city of Camerinum, Roman citizens, and this the patricians disliked greatly. His excuse was, "The din of arms drowned the voice of the law;" but the new citizens were provided for by lands in the Province, which the Romans said the Gauls had lost to the Teutones and they had reconquered. It was very hard on the Gauls, but that was the last thing a Roman cared about.
The Italians, however, were all crying out for the rights of Romans, and the more far-sighted among the Romans would, like Caius Gracchus, have granted them. Marcus Livius Drusus did his best for them; he was a good man, wise and frank-hearted. When he was having a house built, and the plan was shown him which would make it impossible for any one to see into it, he said, "Rather build one where my fellow-countrymen may see all I do." He was very much loved, and when he was ill, prayers were offered at the temples for his recovery; but no sooner did he take up the cause of the Italians than all the patricians hated him bitterly. "Rome for the Romans," was their watchword. Drusus was one day entertaining an Italian gentleman, when his little nephew, Marcus Porcius Cato, a descendant of the old censor, and bred in stern patrician views, was playing about the room. The Italian merrily asked him to favor his cause. "No," said the boy. He was offered toys and cakes if he would change his mind, but he still refused; he was threatened, and at last he was held by one leg out of the window—all without shaking his resolution for a moment; and this constancy he carried with him through life.
People's minds grew embittered, and Drusus was murdered in the street, crying as he fell, "When will Rome find so good a citizen!" After this, the Italians took up arms, and what was called the Social War began. Marius had no high command, being probably too much connected with the enemy. Some of the Italian tribes held with Rome, and these were rewarded with the citizenship; and after all, though the consul Lucius Julius Caesar, brother-in-law to Marius, gained some victories, the revolt was so widespread, that the Senate felt it wisest, on the first sign of peace, to offer citizenship to such Italians as would come within sixty days to claim it. Citizenship brought a man under Roman law, freed him from taxation, and gave him many advantages and openings to a rise in life. But he could only give his vote at Rome, and only there receive the distribution of corn, and he further became liable to be called out to serve in a legion, so that the benefit was not so great as at first appeared, and no very large numbers of Italians came to apply for it.
THE ADVENTURES OF MARIUS.
The chief foe of Marius was almost always his second in command, Publius Cornelius Sulla, one of the men of highest family in Rome. He had all the high culture and elegant learning that the rough soldier Marius despised, spoke and wrote Greek as easily as Latin, and was as well read in Greek poetry and philosophy as any Athenian could be; but he was given up to all the excesses of luxury in which the wealthy Romans indulged, and his way of life had made him frightful to look at. His face was said to be like a mulberry sprinkled with salt, with a terrible pair of blue eyes glaring out of it.
In 93 he was sent to command against Mithridates, king of Pontus, one of the little kingdoms in Asia Minor that had sprung up out of the break-up of Alexander's empire. Under this king, Mithridates, it had grown very powerful. He was of Persian birth, had all the learning and science both of Greece and the far East, and was said in especial to be wonderfully learned in all plants and their virtues, so as to have made himself proof against all kinds of poison, and he could speak twenty-five languages.
He had great power in Asia Minor, and took upon himself to appoint a king of Cappadocia, thus leading to a quarrel with the Romans. In the midst of the Social War, when he thought they had their hands full in Italy, Mithridates caused all the native inhabitants of Asia Minor to rise upon the Romans among them in one night and murder them all, so that 80,000 are said to have perished. Sulla was ordered to take the command of the army which was to avenge their death; but, while he was raising his forces, Marius, angry that the patricians had hindered the plebeians and Italians from gaining more by the Social War, raised up a great tumult, meaning to overpower the patricians' resistance. He would have done more wisely had he waited until Sulla was quite gone, for that general came back to the rescue of his friends with six newly-raised legions, and Marius could only just contrive to escape from Rome, where he was proclaimed a traitor and a price set on his head. He was now seventy years old, but full of spirit. First he escaped to his own farm, whence he hoped to reach Ostia, where a ship was waiting for him; but a party of horsemen were seen coming, and he was hidden in a cart full of beans and driven down the coast, where he embarked, meaning to go to Africa; but adverse winds and want of food forced him to land at Circaeum, whence, with a few friends, he made his way along the coast, through woods and rocks, keeping up the spirits of his companions by telling them that, when a little boy, he robbed an eyrie of seven eaglets, and that a soothsayer had then foretold that he would be seven times consul. At last a troop of horse was seen coming towards them, and at the same time two ships near the coast. The only hope was in swimming out to the nearest ship, and Marius was so heavy and old that this was done with great difficulty. Even then the ships were so near the shore that the pursuers could command the crew to throw Marius out, but this they refused to do, though they only waited till the soldiers were gone, to put him on shore again. Here he was in a marshy, boggy place, where an old man let him rest in his cottage, and then hid him in a cave under a heap of rushes. Again, however, the troops appeared, and threatened the old man for hiding an enemy of the Romans. It was in Marius' hearing, and fearing to be betrayed, he rushed out into a pool, where he stood up to his neck in water till a soldier saw him, and he was dragged out and taken to the city of Minturnae.
There the council decided on his death, and sent a soldier to kill him, but the fierce old man stood glaring at him, and said. "Darest thou kill Caius Marius?" The man was so frightened that he ran away, crying out, "I cannot kill Caius Marius." The Senate of Minturnae took this as an omen, and remembered besides that he had been a good friend to the Italians, so they conducted him through a sacred grove to the sea, and sent him off to Africa. On landing, he sent his son to ask shelter from one of the Numidian princes, and, while waiting for an answer, he was harassed by a messenger from a Roman officer of low rank, forbidding his presence in Africa. He made no reply till the messenger pressed to know what to say to his master. Then the old man looked up, and sternly answered. "Say that you have seen Caius Marius sitting in the ruins of Carthage"—a grand rebuke for the insult to fallen greatness. But the Numidian could not receive him, and he could only find shelter in a little island on the coast.
There he soon heard that no sooner had Sulla embarked for the East than Rome had fallen into dire confusion. The consuls, Caius Octavius and Publius Cornelius Cinna, were of opposite parties, and had a furious fight, in which Cinna was driven out of Rome, and at the same time the Italians had begun a new Social War. Marius saw that his time was come. He hurried to Etruria, where he was joined by a party of his friends and five hundred runaway slaves. The discontented Romans formed another army under Quintus Sertorius, and the Samnites, who had begun the war, overpowered the troops sent against them, and marched to Rome, declaring they would have no peace till they had destroyed the wolf's lair. Cinna and an army were advancing on another side, and, as he was really consul, the Senate in their distress admitted him, hoping that he would stop the rest; but when he marched in and seated himself again in the chair of office, he had by his side old Marius clothed in rags.
They were bent on revenge, and terrible it was, beginning with the consul, Caius Octavius, who had disdained to flee, and whose head was severed from his body and displayed in the Forum, with many other senators of the noblest blood in Rome, who had offended either Marius or Cinna or any of their fierce followers. Marius walked along in gloomy silence, answering no one; but his followers were bidden to spare only those to whom he gave his hand to be kissed. The slaves pillaged the houses, murdered many on their own account, and everything was in the wildest uproar, till the two chiefs called in Sertorius with a legion to restore order.
Then they named themselves consuls, without even asking for an election, and thus Marius was seven times consul. He wanted to go out to the East and take the command from Sulla, but his health was too much broken, and before the year of his consulate was over he died. The last time he had left the house, he had said to some friends that no man ought to trust again to such a doubtful fortune as his had been; and then he took to his bed for seven days without any known illness, and there was found dead, so that he was thought to have starved himself to death.