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life, so impetuous and savage - with terror and awe. But their time had
not yet come. Numbers were of no avail against science, when science was
itself directed by genius and sustained by enthusiasm. The result of the
decisive battles of Aquae Sextiae and Vercellae was to roll back the tide
of northern immigration for three hundred years, and to prepare the way
for the conquests of Caesar in Gaul.

[Sidenote: The Social War.]

[Sidenote: Rise of Sulla.]

Then followed that great insurrection of the old states of Italy against
their imperious mistress - their last struggle for independence, called
the Social War, in which three hundred thousand of the young men of
Italy fell, and in which Sulla so much distinguished himself as to be
regarded as the rival of Marius, who had ruled Rome since the slaughter
of the Cimbrians and Teutones. Sulla, who had served under Marius in
Africa, dissolute like Antony, but cultivated like Caesar - a man full of
ambition and genius, and belonging to one of the oldest and proudest
patrician families, the Cornelian gens - was no mean rival of the old
tyrant and demagogue, and he was sent against Mithridates, the most
powerful of all the Oriental kings.

This Asiatic potentate had encouraged the insurgents in Italy, and was
also at war with the Romans. Marius viewed with envy and hatred the
preference shown to Sulla in the conduct of the Mithridatic War, and
succeeded, by his intrigues and influence with the people, in causing
Sulla to be superseded, and himself to be appointed in his place.

[Sidenote: Civil wars between Marius and Sulla.]

Hence that dreadful civil contest between these two generals, in which
Rome was alternately at the mercy of both, and in which the most
horrible butcheries took place that had ever befallen the city - a reign
of terror, a burst of savage passion, especially on the part of Marius,
who had lately abandoned himself to wine and riotous living. He died
B.C. 86, victor in the contest, in his seventh consulate, worn out by
labor and dissolute habits, nearly seventy years of age.

[Sidenote: Death of Marius.]

His opportune death relieved Rome of a tyrannical rule, and opened the
way for the splendid achievements of Sulla in the East. A great warrior
had arisen in a quarter least expected. In the mountainous region along
the north side of the Euxine, the kingdom of Pontus had grown from a
principality to a kingdom, and Mithridates, ruling over Cappadocia,
Papalagonia, and Phrygia, aspired for the sovereignty of the East. He
was an accomplished and enlightened prince, and could speak twenty-five-
languages, hardy, adventurous, and bold, like an ancient Persian. By
conquests and alliances he had made himself the most powerful sovereign
in Asia.

[Sidenote: Mithridates.]

Availing himself of the disturbance growing out of the Social War, he
fomented a rebellion of the provinces of Asia Minor, seized Bithynia,
and encouraged Athens to shake off the Roman yoke. Most of the Greek
communities joined the Athenian insurrection, and Asia rallied around
the man who hoped to cope successfully with Rome herself.

[Sidenote: Conquests of Sulla in Greece.]

At this juncture, Sulla was sent into Greece with fifty thousand men.
Athens fell before his conquering legions, B.C. 88, and the lieutenants
of Mithridates retreated before the Romans with one hundred thousand
foot and ten thousand horse, and one hundred armed chariots. On the
plains of Chaeronea, where Grecian liberties had been overthrown by
Philip of Macedon, two hundred and fifty years before, a desperate
conflict took place, and the Pontic army was signally defeated. Shortly
after, Sulla gained another great victory over the generals of the King
of Pontus, and compelled him to accept peace, the terms of which he
himself dictated, after exacting heavy contributions from the cities of
Greece and Asia Minor.

[Sidenote: Death of Sulla.]

The civil war between Sulla and the chiefs of the popular faction that
had been created by Marius, which ended in his complete ascendency in
Italy, stopped for a while the Roman conquests in the East. Sulla,
having undone the popular measures of the last half century, and reigned
supreme over all factions as dictator, died B.C. 78, after a most
successful career, and left his mantle to the most enterprising of his
lieutenants, Cnaeus Pompey, who was destined to complete the Mithridatic

[Sidenote: Character of Sulla.]

If Sulla had not been so inordinately fond of pleasure and luxurious
self-indulgence, he might have seized the sceptre of universal dominion,
and have made himself undisputed master of the empire. He was a man of
extraordinary genius, fond of literature, and a great diplomatist. But
he was not preeminently ambitious like Caesar, and was diverted by the
fascinations of elegant leisure; nor was he naturally cruel, though his
passions, when aroused, were fierce and vindictive. He lived in an age
of exceeding corruption, when it was evident to contemplative minds that
Roman liberties could not be much longer preserved. He had, for a time,
restored the ascendency of the senatorial families, but faction was at
work among the unprincipled chiefs of the republic.

[Sidenote: Lucullus marches against Mithridates.]

On the death of the great dictator, Mithridates broke the peace he had
concluded, and marched into Bithynia, which had been left by will to the
Roman people by Nicomedes, with the hope of its reconquest. He had an
army of one hundred and twenty thousand foot and fifteen thousand horse.
Lucullus, with thirty thousand foot and one thousand horse, advanced
against him, and the vast forces of Mithridates were defeated, and the
king was driven into Armenia, and sought the aid of Tigranes, his son-
in-law, king of that powerful country. He, too, was subdued by the Roman
legions, and all the nations from the Halys to the Euphrates
acknowledged the dominion of Rome.

[Sidenote: Rising greatness of Pompey.]

Still, Mithridates was not subdued, and Pompey, who had annihilated the
Mediterranean pirates, was the only person fit to finish the Mithridatic
war. His successes had been more brilliant than even those of Sulla, or
Lucullus, or Metellus. He was made Dictator of the East, with greater
powers than had ever before been intrusted to a Roman general. He had
success equal to his fame; drove Mithridates across the Caucasus;
reduced Pontus, and took possession of Syria, which had been subject to
Tigranes. The defeated King of Pontus, who had sought to unite all the
barbarous tribes of Eastern Europe against Rome, destroyed himself.
Pompey, after seven years' continued successes, returned to Italy to
claim his triumph, having subdued the East, and added the old monarchy
of the Seleucidae to the dominion of Rome, B.C. 61.

[Sidenote: The early career of Julius Caesar.]

[Sidenote: His victories in Spain.]

[Sidenote: Caesar sent into Gaul.]

But while Pompey was pursuing his victories over the effeminate people
of Asia, a still more brilliant career in the West marked the rising
fortunes of Julius Caesar. I need not dwell on the steps by which he
arose to become the formidable rival of the conqueror of the East. He
bears the most august name of antiquity. A patrician by birth, a
demagogue in his principles, popular in his manners, unscrupulous in his
means, he successively passed through the various great offices of
state, which he discharged with prodigious talent. As leader of the old
popular party of Marius, he sought the humiliation of the Senate, while
his ambition led him to favor every enterprise which promised to advance
his own interests. Leaving the province of Spain, after his praetorship,
before Pompey's return to Italy, his great career of conquest commenced.
He first availed himself of some disturbances in Lusitania to declare
war against its gallant people, overran their country, and then turned
his arms against the Gallicians. In two years he had obtained spoils
more than sufficient to pay his enormous debts, the result of his
prodigality, by which, however, he won the hearts of the thoughtless
citizens, and paved the way for honor. Conqueror of Spain, and idol of
the people, he returned to Rome, B.C. 60, when Pompey was quarreling
with the Senate, formed an alliance with him and Crassus, and by their
aid was elected consul. His measures in that high office all tended to
secure his popularity with the people, and supported by Pompey and
Crassus, he triumphed over the Senate. He then secured the government of
Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum, with two legions, for the extraordinary
term of five years. The Senate added the province of Transalpine Gaul,
then threatened by the Allobrogians, Suevi, Helvetians, and other
barbaric tribes, with the intention of confining him to a dangerous and
uncertain field of warfare.

[Sidenote: His great military genius.]

[Sidenote: His difficulties in the conquest of Gaul.]

[Sidenote: Results of the Gaulish wars.]

[Sidenote: Gaul becomes Latinized.]

That field, however, established his military fame, and paved the way
for his subsequent usurpations. The conquests of Caesar in Western Europe
are unique in the history of war, and furnish no parallel. Other
conquests may have been equally brilliant and more imposing, but none
were ever more difficult and arduous, requiring greater perseverance,
energy, promptness, and fertility of resources. The splendid successes
of Lucullus and Pompey in Asia resembled those of Alexander. We see
military discipline and bravery triumphing over the force of multitudes,
and a few thousand men routing vast armies of enervated or undisciplined
mercenaries. Such were the conquests of the English in India. They make
a great impression, but the fortunes of an empire are decided by a
single battle. It was not so with the conflicts of Caesar in Gaul. He had
to fight with successive waves of barbarians, inured to danger,
adventurous and hardy, holding life in little estimation, willing to die
in battle, intrepid in soul, and bent on ultimate victory. He had to
fight in hostile territories, unacquainted with the face of the country,
at a great distance from the base of his supplies, exposed to perpetual
perils, and surrounded with unknown difficulties. And these were
appreciated by his warlike countrymen, who gave him the credit he
deserved. The ten years he spent in Gaul were the years of his truest
glory, and the most momentous in their consequences on the future
civilization of the world, since it was not worn-out monarchies he added
to the empire, but a new territory, inhabited by brave and simple races,
who were to learn the arts and laws and literature of Rome, and supply
the government with powerful aid in the decline of its strength. It was
the conquered barbarians who, henceforth, were to furnish Rome with
soldiers, and even scholars and statesmen and generals. Among them the
old civilization was to take root, among them new states were to arise
on which the Romans could impress their own remarkable characteristics.
It was the western provinces of the empire that alone were vital with
energy and strength, and which were destined to perpetuate the spirit of
Roman institutions. The eastern provinces never lost the impress of the
Greek mind and manners. They remained Greek even when subdued by the
imperial legions. Syria, Asia Minor, Egypt, were filled with Grecian
cities, and Asiatic customs were modified by Grecian civilization. The
West was purely Roman, and the Latin language, laws, and arts were
continued, in a modified form, through the whole period of the Middle
Ages. Even Christianity had a different influence in the West from what
it had in the East. In other words, the West was completely Latinized,
while the East remained Grecian. Though the East was governed by Roman
proconsuls, they could not change the Graeco-Asiatic character of its
institutions and manners; but the barbarians were willing to learn new
lessons from their Roman masters.

[Sidenote: Greatness of Caesar.]

It would require a volume to describe the various campaigns of Caesar in
Gaul, in which a million of people were destroyed. But I only aim to
show results. Most people are familiar with the marvelous generalship
and enterprises of the Roman conqueror - the conquest and reconquest of
the brave barbarians, most of whom were Celts; the uprising of Germanic
tribes as well, and their fearful slaughter near Coblentz; the bloody
battles, the fearful massacres, the unscrupulous cruelties which he
directed; the formidable insurrection organized by Vercingetorix; the
spirit he infused into his army; the incessant hardships of the
soldiers, crossing rivers, mountains, and valleys, marching with their
heavy burdens - fighting amid every disadvantage, until all the
countries north of the Alps and west of the Rhine acknowledged his sway -
all these things are narrated by Caesar himself with matchless force and
simplicity of language.

[Sidenote: Rivalry between Caesar and Pompey.]

Caesar now probably aspired to the sovereignty of the empire, as Napoleon
did after the conquest of Italy. But he had a great rival in Pompey, who
had remained chiefly at Rome, during his Gaulish campaigns, virtually
dictator, certainly the strongest citizen. And Pompey had also his
ambitious schemes. One was the conqueror of the East; the other of the
West. One leaned to the aristocratic party, the other to the popular.
Pompey was proud, pompous, and self-sufficient. Caesar was politic,
patient, and intriguing. Both had an inordinate ambition, and both were
unscrupulous. Pompey had more prestige, Caesar more genius. Pompey was a
greater tactician, Caesar a greater strategist. The Senate rallied around
the former, the people around the latter. Cicero distrusted both, and
flattered each by turns, but inclined to the side of Pompey, as
belonging to the aristocratic party.

[Sidenote: Battle of Pharsalia.]

[Sidenote: Death of Pompey.]

Between such ambitious rivals coalition for any length of time could not
continue. Dissensions arose between them, and then war. The contest was
decided at Pharsalia. On the 6th of June, B.C. 48, "Greek met Greek,"
yet with forces by no means great on either side. Pompey had only forty
thousand, and Caesar less, but they were veterans, and the victory was
complete. Pompey fled to Egypt, without evincing his former greatness,
paralyzed, broken, and without hope. There he miserably died, by the
assassin's dagger, at the age of sixty, and the way was now prepared for
the absolute rule of Caesar.

[Sidenote: Dictatorship of Caesar.]

But the party of Pompey rallied, connected with which were some of the
noblest names of Rome. The battle of Thapsus proved as disastrous to
Cato as Pharsalia did to Pompey. Caesar was uniformly victorious, not
merely over the party which had sustained Pompey, but in Asia, Africa,
and Spain, which were in revolt. His presence was everywhere required,
and wherever he appeared his presence was enough. He was now dictator
for ten years. He had overturned the constitution of his country. He was
virtually the supreme ruler of the world. In the brief period which
passed from his last triumphs to his death, he was occupied in
legislative labors, in settling military colonies, in restoring the
wasted population of Italy, in improving the city, in reforming the
calendar, and other internal improvements, evincing an enlarged and
liberal mind.

[Sidenote: Death of Caesar. His character.]

But the nobles hated him, and had cause, in spite of his abilities, his
affability, magnanimity, and forbearance. He had usurped unlimited
authority, and was too strong to be removed except by assassination. I
need not dwell on the conspiracy under the leadership of Brutus, and his
tragic end in the senate-house, where he fell, pierced by twenty-two
wounds, at the base of Pompey's statue, the greatest man in Roman
history - great as an orator, a writer, a general, and a statesman; a man
without vanity, devoted to business, unseduced by pleasure, unscrupulous
of means to effect an end; profligate, but not more so than his times;
ambitious of power, but to rule, when power was once secured, for the
benefit of his country, like many other despots immortal on a bloody
catalogue. After his passage of the Rubicon his career can only be
compared with that of Napoleon.

[Sidenote: Character of his later wars.]

But Roman territories were not much enlarged by Caesar after the conquest
of Celtic Europe. His later wars were either against rivals or to settle
distracted provinces. Nor were they increased in the civil wars which
succeeded his death, between the various aspirants for the imperial
power and those who made one more stand for the old constitution. At the
fatal battle of Philippi, when the hopes of Roman patriots vanished
forever, double the number of soldiers were engaged on both sides than
at Pharsalia, but fortune had left the senatorial party, of which Brutus
was the avenger and the victim.

[Sidenote: Civil wars after the death of Caesar.]

[Sidenote: Ascendency of Octavian.]

Civil war was carried on most vigorously after the death of Julius. But
it was now plainly a matter between rival generals and statesmen for
supreme command. The chief contest was between Octavian and Antony, the
former young, artful, self-controlled, and with transcendent abilities
as a statesman; the latter bold, impetuous, luxurious, and the ablest of
all Caesar's lieutenants as a general. Had he not yielded to the
fascinations of Cleopatra, he would probably have been the master of the
world. But the sea-fight of Actium, one of the great decisive battles of
history, gave the empire of the world to Octavian B.C. 31, and two years
after the victor celebrated three magnificent triumphs, after the
example of his uncle, for Dalmatia, Actium, and Egypt. The kingdom of
the Ptolemies passed under the rule of Caesar. The Temple of Janus was
shut, for the first time for more than two hundred years; and the
imperial power was peaceably established over the civilized world.

[Sidenote: Necessity for the empire.]

The friends of liberty may justly mourn over the fall of republican
Rome, and the centralization of all power in the hands of Augustus. But
it was a calamity which could not be averted, and was a revolution which
was in accordance with the necessities of the times. Fifty years' civil
war taught the Romans the hopelessness of the struggle to maintain their
old institutions so long as the people were corrupt, and fortunate
generals would sacrifice the public welfare to their ambition. Order was
better than anarchy, even though a despot reigned supreme. When men are
worse than governments, they must submit to the despotism of tyrants. It
is idle to dream of liberty with a substratum of folly and vice. The
strongest man will rule, but whether he rule wisely or unwisely, there
is no remedy. Providence gave the world to the Romans, after continual
and protracted wars for seven hundred years; and when the people who had
conquered the world by their energy, prudence, and perseverance, were no
longer capable of governing themselves, then the state fell into the
possession of a single man.

[Sidenote: Change in the imperial policy.]

Under the emperors, the whole policy of the government was changed. They
no longer thought of further aggrandizement, but of retaining the
conquests which were already made. And if they occasionally embarked in
new wars, those wars were of necessity rather than of ambition, were
defensive rather than aggressive. New provinces were from time to time
added, but in consequence of wars which were waged in defense of the
empire. The conquest of Britain and Judea was completed, and various
conflicts took place with the Germanic nations, who, in the reign of
Antoninus, formed a general union for the invasion of the Roman world.
These barbarians were the future aggressors on the peace of the empire,
until it fell into their hands. The empire of Augustus may be said to
have reached the utmost limits it ever permanently retained, extending
from the Rhine and the Danube to the Euphrates and Mount Atlas,
embracing a population variously estimated from one hundred to one
hundred and thirty millions.

[Sidenote: Perfection of military art.]

When Augustus became the sovereign ruler of this vast empire, military
art had reached the highest perfection it ever attained among any of the
nations of antiquity. It required centuries to perfect this science, if
science it may be called, and the Romans doubtless borrowed from the
people whom they subdued. They learned to resist the impetuous assaults
of semi-barbarous warriors, the elephants of the East, and the phalanx
of the Greeks. Military discipline was carried to the severest extent by
Marius, Pompey, and Caesar.

[Sidenote: The spirit of the Roman soldier.]

The Roman soldier was trained to march twenty miles a day, under a
burden of eighty pounds; yea, to swim rivers, to climb mountains, to
penetrate forests, and to encounter every kind of danger. He was taught
that his destiny was to die in battle. He expected death. He was ready
to die. Death was his duty, and his glory. He enlisted in the armies
with little hope of revisiting his home. He crossed seas and deserts and
forests with the idea of spending his life in the service of his
country. His pay was only a denarius daily, equal to about sixteen cents
of our money. Marriage was discouraged or forbidden. He belonged to the
state, and the state was exacting and hard. He was reduced to abject
obedience, yet he held in his hand the destinies of the empire. And
however insignificant was the legionary as a man, he gained importance
from the great body with which he was identified. He was the servant and
the master of the state. He had an intense _esprit de corps_. He
was bound up in the glory of his legion. Both religion and honor bound
him to his standards. The golden eagle which glittered in his front was
the object of his fondest devotion. Nor was it possible to escape the
penalty of cowardice or treachery, or disobedience. He could be
chastised with blows by his centurion; his general could doom him to
death. Never was the severity of military discipline relaxed. Military
exercises were incessant, in winter as in summer. In the midst of peace
the Roman troops were familiarized with the practice of war.

[Sidenote: Military genius of the Romans.]

[Sidenote: The perfection of military art.]

It was the spirit which animated the Roman legions, and the discipline
to which they were inured, which gave them their irresistible strength.
When we remember that they had not our fire-arms, we are surprised at
their efficiency, especially in taking strongly fortified cities.
Jerusalem was defended by a triple wall, and the most elaborate
fortifications, and twenty-four thousand soldiers, beside the aid
received from the citizens; and yet it fell in little more than four
months before an army of eighty thousand under Titus. How great the
science to reduce a place of such strength, in so short a time, without
the aid of other artillery than the ancient catapult and battering-ram!
Whether the military science of the Romans was superior or inferior to
our own, no one can question that it was carried to utmost perfection
before the invention of gunpowder. We are only superior in the
application of this great invention, especially in artillery. There can
be no doubt that a Roman army was superior to a feudal army in the
brightest days of chivalry. The world has produced no generals superior
to Caesar, Pompey, Sulla, and Marius. No armies ever won greater
victories over superior numbers than the Roman, and no armies of their
size, ever retained in submission so great an empire, and for so long a
time. At no period in the history of the empire were the armies so large
as those sustained by France in time of peace. Two hundred thousand
legionaries, and as many more auxiliaries, controlled diverse nations
and powerful monarchies. The single province of Syria once boasted of a
military force equal in the number of soldiers to that wielded by
Tiberius. Twenty-five legions made the conquest of the world, and
retained that conquest for five hundred years. The self-sustained energy
of Caesar in Gaul puts to the blush the efforts of all modern generals,
except Frederic II., Marlborough, Napoleon, Wellington, Grant, Sherman,
and a few other great geniuses which a warlike age developed; nor is
there a better text-book on the art of war than that furnished by Caesar

Online LibraryJohn LordThe Old Roman World, : the Grandeur and Failure of Its Civilization → online text (page 4 of 50)