Theodor Mommsen.

The History of Rome, Book V The Establishment of the Military Monarchy online

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In the Hither province, after the victories of Hirtuleius,
there no longer existed a Roman army. Emissaries of Sertorius
roamed through the whole territory of Gaul; there, too,
the tribes began to stir, and bands gathering together began
to make the Alpine passes insecure. Lastly the sea too belonged
quite as much to the insurgents as to the legitimate government,
since the allies of the former - the pirates - were almost as powerful
in the Spanish waters as the Roman ships of war. At the promontory
of Diana (now Denia, between Valencia and Alicante) Sertorius established
for the corsairs a fixed station, where they partly lay in wait
for such Roman ships as were conveying supplies to the Roman
maritime towns and the army, partly carried away or delivered goods
for the insurgents, and partly formed their medium of intercourse
with Italy and Asia Minor. The constant readiness of these men moving
to and fro to carry everywhere sparks from the scene of conflagration
tended in a high degree to excite apprehension, especially at a time
when so much combustible matter was everywhere accumulated
in the Roman empire.

Death of Sulla and Its Consequences

Amidst this state of matters the sudden death of Sulla took place
(676). So long as the man lived, at whose voice a trained
and trustworthy army of veterans was ready any moment to rise,
the oligarchy might tolerate the almost (as it seemed)
definite abandonment of the Spanish provinces to the emigrants,
and the election of the leader of the opposition at home to be supreme
magistrate, at all events as transient misfortunes; and in their
shortsighted way, yet not wholly without reason, might cherish
confidence either that the opposition would not venture to proceed
to open conflict, or that, if it did venture, he who had twice
saved the oligarchy would set it up a third time. Now the state
of things was changed. The democratic Hotspurs in the capital,
long impatient of the endless delay and inflamed by the brilliant news
from Spain, urged that a blow should be struck; and Lepidus,
with whom the decision for the moment lay, entered into the proposal
with all the zeal of a renegade and with his own characteristic
frivolity. For a moment it seemed as if the torch which kindled
the funeral pile of the regent would also kindle civil war;
but the influence of Pompeius and the temper of the Sullan veterans
induced the opposition to let the obsequies of the regent
pass over in peace.

Insurrection of Lepidus

Yet all the more openly were arrangements thenceforth made
to introduce a fresh revolution. Daily the Forum resounded
with accusations against the "mock Romulus" and his executioners.
Even before the great potentate had closed his eyes, the overthrow
of the Sullan constitution, the re-establishment of the distributions
of grain, the reinstating of the tribunes of the people in their
former position, the recall of those who were banished contrary
to law, the restoration of the confiscated lands, were openly indicated
by Lepidus and his adherents as the objects at which they aimed.
Now communications were entered into with the proscribed;
Marcus Perpenna, governor of Sicily in the days of Cinna,(17)
arrived in the capital. The sons of those whom Sulla had declared
guilty of treason - on whom the laws of the restoration bore
with intolerable severity - and generally the more noted men of Marian
views were invited to give their accession. Not a few, such as
the young Lucius Cinna, joined the movement; others, however,
followed the example of Gaius Caesar, who had returned home from Asia
on receiving the accounts of the death of Sulla and of the plans
of Lepidus, but after becoming more accurately acquainted
with the character of the leader and of the movement prudently withdrew.
Carousing and recruiting went on in behalf of Lepidus
in the taverns and brothels of the capital. At length a conspiracy
against the new order of things was concocted among the Etruscan

All this took place under the eyes of the government The consul
Catulus as well as the more judicious Optimates urged an immediate
decisive interference and suppression of the revolt in the bud;
the indolent majority, however, could not make up their minds to begin
the struggle, but tried to deceive themselves as long as possible
by a system of compromises and concessions. Lepidus also on his
part at first entered into it. The suggestion, which proposed
a restoration of the prerogatives taken away from the tribunes
of the people, he as well as his colleague Catulus repelled.
On the other hand, the Gracchan distribution of grain
was to a limited extent re-established. According to it not all
(as according to the Sempronian law) but only a definite number -
presumably 40,000 - of the poorer burgesses appear to have received
the earlier largesses, as Gracchus had fixed them, of five -modii-
monthly at the price of 6 1/3 -asses- (3 pence) - a regulation
which occasioned to the treasury an annual net loss of at least
40,000 pounds.(19) The opposition, naturally as little satisfied
as it was decidedly emboldened by this partial concession, displayed
all the more rudeness and violence in the capital; and in Etruria,
the true centre of all insurrections of the Italian proletariate,
civil war already broke out, the dispossessed Faesulans resumed
possession of their lost estates by force of arms, and several
of the veterans settled there by Sulla perished in the tumult.
The senate on learning what had occurred resolved to send the two consuls
thither, in order to raise troops and suppress the insurrection.(20)
It was impossible to adopt a more irrational course. The senate,
in presence of the insurrection, evinced its pusillanimity
and its fears by the re-establishment of the corn-law; in order
to be relieved from a street-riot, it furnished the notorious
head of the insurrection with an army; and, when the two consuls
were bound by the most solemn oath which could be contrived not to turn
the arms entrusted to them against each other, it must have required
the superhuman obduracy of oligarchic consciences to think of erecting
such a bulwark against the impending insurrection. Of course Lepidus
armed in Etruria not for the senate, but for the insurrection -
sarcastically declaring that the oath which he had taken bound him
only for the current year. The senate put the oracular machinery
in motion to induce him to return, and committed to him the conduct
of the impending consular elections; but Lepidus evaded compliance,
and, while messengers passed to and fro and the official year drew
to an end amidst proposals of accommodation, his force swelled to an army.
When at length, in the beginning of the following year (677),
the definite order of the senate was issued to Lepidus to return
without delay, the proconsul haughtily refused obedience,
and demanded in his turn the renewal of the former tribunician power,
the reinstatement of those who had been forcibly ejected
from their civic rights and their property, and, besides this,
his own re-election as consul for the current year or, in other words,
the -tyrannis- in legal form.

Outbreak of the War
Lepidus Defeated
Death of Lepidus

Thus war was declared. The senatorial party could reckon, in addition to
the Sullan veterans whose civil existence was threatened by Lepidus,
upon the army assembled by the proconsul Catulus; and so, in compliance
with the urgent warnings of the more sagacious, particularly of Philippus,
Catulus was entrusted by the senate with the defence of the capital
and the repelling of the main force of the democratic party stationed
in Etruria. At the same time Gnaeus Pompeius was despatched with another
corps to wrest from his former protege the valley of the Po, which was held
by Lepidus' lieutenant, Marcus Brutus. While Pompeius speedily
accomplished his commission and shut up the enemy's general closely
in Mutina, Lepidus appeared before the capital in order to conquer
it for the revolution as Marius had formerly done by storm.
The right bank of the Tiber fell wholly into his power, and he was able
even to cross the river. The decisive battle was fought
on the Campus Martius, close under the walls of the city.
But Catulus conquered; and Lepidus was compelled to retreat to Etruria,
while another division, under his son Scipio, threw itself
into the fortress of Alba. Thereupon the rising was substantially
atan end. Mutina surrendered to Pompeius; and Brutus was,
notwithstanding the safe-conduct promised to him, subsequently
put to death by order of that general. Alba too was, after a long siege,
reduced by famine, and the leader there was likewise executed.
Lepidus, pressed on two sides by Catulus and Pompeius, fought another
engagement on the coast of Etruria in order merely to procure
the means of retreat, and then embarked at the port of Cosa for Sardinia
from which point he hoped to cut off the supplies of the capital,
and to obtain communication with the Spanish insurgents.
But the governor of the island opposed to him a vigorous resistance;
and he himself died, not long after his landing, of consumption (677),
whereupon the war in Sardinia came to an end. A part of his soldiers
dispersed; with the flower of the insurrectionary army
and with a well-filled chest the late praetor, Marcus Perpenna,
proceeded to Liguria, and thence to Spain to join the Sertorians.

Pompeius Extorts the Command in Spain

The oligarchy was thus victorious over Lepidus; but it found itself
compelled by the dangerous turn of the Sertorian war to concessions,
which violated the letter as well as the spirit of the Sullan
constitution. It was absolutely necessary to send a strong
army and an able general to Spain; and Pompeius indicated,
very plainly, that he desired, or rather demanded, this commission.
The pretension was bold. It was already bad enough that they
had allowed this secret opponent again to attain an extraordinary
command in the pressure of the Lepidian revolution; but it was far
more hazardous, in disregard of all the rules instituted by Sulla
for the magisterial hierarchy, to invest a man who had hitherto
filled no civil office with one of the most important ordinary
provincial governorships, under circumstances in which the observance
of the legal term of a year was not to be thought of.
The oligarchy had thus, even apart from the respect due to their
general Metellus, good reason to oppose with all earnestness
this new attempt of the ambitious youth to perpetuate his exceptional
position. But this was not easy. In the first place, they had
not a single man fitted for the difficult post of general in Spain.
Neither of the consuls of the year showed any desire to measure
himself against Sertorius; and what Lucius Philippus said in a full
meeting of the senate had to be admitted as too true - that, among
all the senators of note, not one was able and willing to command
in a serious war. Yet they might, perhaps, have got over this,
and after the manner of oligarchs, when they had no capable candidate,
have filled the place with some sort of makeshift, if Pompeius had
merely desired the command and had not demanded it at the head
of an army. He had already lent a deaf ear to the injunctions
of Catulus that he should dismiss the army; it was at least doubtful
whether those of the senate would find a better reception,
and the consequences of a breach no one could calculate -
the scale of aristocracy might very easily mount up, if the sword
of a well-known general were thrown into the opposite scale.
So the majority resolved on concession. Not from the people,
which constitutionally ought to have been consulted in a case
where a private man was to be invested with the supreme magisterial
power, but from the senate, Pompeius received proconsular authority
and the chief command in Hither Spain; and, forty days after he had
received it, crossed the Alps in the summer of 677.

Pompeius in Gaul

First of all the new general found employment in Gaul,
where no formal insurrection had broken out, but serious disturbances
of the peace had occurred at several places; in consequence
of which Pompeius deprived the cantons of the Volcae-Arecomici
and the Helvii of their independence, and placed them under Massilia.
He also laid out a new road over the Cottian Alps (Mont Genevre,(21)),
and so established a shorter communication between the valley
of the Po and Gaul. Amidst this work the best season of the year
passed away; it was not till late in autumn that Pompeius crossed
the Pyrenees.

Appearance of Pompeius in Spain

Sertorius had meanwhile not been idle. He had despatched
Hirtuleius into the Further province to keep Metellus in check,
and had himself endeavoured to follow up his complete victory
in the Hither province, and to prepare for the reception of Pompeius.
The isolated Celtiberian towns there, which still adhered to Rome,
were attacked and reduced one after another; at last, in the very
middle of winter, the strong Contrebia (south-east of Saragossa)
had fallen. In vain the hard-pressed towns had sent message
after message to Pompeius; he would not be induced by any entreaties
to depart from his wonted rut of slowly advancing. With the exception
of the maritime towns, which were defended by the Roman fleet,
and the districts of the Indigetes and Laletani in the north-east
corner of Spain, where Pompeius established himself after he had
at length crossed the Pyrenees, and made his raw troops bivouac
throughout the winter to inure them to hardships, the whole
of Hither Spain had at the end of 677 become by treaty or force
dependent on Sertorius, and the district on the upper and middle
Ebro thenceforth continued the main stay of his power. Even
the apprehension, which the fresh Roman force and the celebrated name
of the general excited in the army of the insurgents, had a salutary
effect on it. Marcus Perpenna, who hitherto as the equal
of Sertorius in rank had claimed an independent command over the force
which he had brought with him from Liguria, was, on the news
of the arrival of Pompeius in Spain, compelled by his soldiers
to place himself under the orders of his abler colleague.

For the campaign of 678 Sertorius again employed the corps
of Hirtuleius against Metellus, while Perpenna with a strong army
took up his position along the lower course of the Ebro to prevent
Pompeius from crossing the river, if he should march, as was
to be expected, in a southerly direction with the view of effecting
a junction with Metellus, and along the coast for the sake
of procuring supplies for his troops. The corps of Gaius Herennius
was destined to the immediate support of Perpenna; farther inland
on the upper Ebro, Sertorius in person prosecuted meanwhile
the subjugation of several districts friendly to Rome, and held himself
at the same time ready to hasten according to circumstances
to the aid of Perpenna or Hirtuleius. It was still his intention
to avoid any pitched battle, and to annoy the enemy by petty
conflicts and cutting off supplies.

Pompeius Defeated

Pompeius, however, forced the passage of the Ebro against Perpenna
and took up a position on the river Pallantias, near Saguntum,
whence, as we have already said, the Sertorians maintained their
communications with Italy and the east. It was time that Sertorius
should appear in person, and throw the superiority of his numbers
and of his genius into the scale against the greater excellence
of the soldiers of his opponent. For a considerable time the struggle
was concentrated around the town of Lauro (on the Xucar, south
of Valencia), which had declared for Pompeius and was on that account
besieged by Sertorius. Pompeius exerted himself to the utmost
to relieve it; but, after several of his divisions had already been
assailed separately and cut to pieces, the great warrior found
himself - just when he thought that he had surrounded the Sertorians,
and when he had already invited the besieged to be spectators
of the capture of the besieging army - all of a sudden completely
outmanoeuvred; and in order that he might not be himself
surrounded, he had to look on from his camp at the capture
and reduction to ashes of the allied town and at the carrying off
of its inhabitants to Lusitania - an event which induced a number
of towns that had been wavering in middle and eastern Spain
to adhere anew to Sertorius.

Victories of Metellus

Meanwhile Metellus fought with better fortune. In a sharp
engagement at Italica (not far from Seville), which Hirtuleius had
imprudently risked, and in which both generals fought hand to hand
and Hirtuleius was wounded, Metellus defeated him and compelled him
to evacuate the Roman territory proper, and to throw himself
into Lusitania. This victory permitted Metellus to unite with Pompeius.
The two generals took up their winter-quarters in 678-79
at the Pyrenees, and in the next campaign in 679 they resolved
to make a joint attack on the enemy in his position near Valentia.
But while Metellus was advancing, Pompeius offered battle beforehand
to the main army of the enemy, with a view to wipe out the stain
of Lauro and to gain the expected laurels, if possible, alone.
With joy Sertorius embraced the opportunity of fighting with Pompeius
before Metellus arrived.

Battle on the Sucro

The armies met on the river Sucro (Xucar): after a sharp conflict
Pompeius was beaten on the right wing, and was himself carried
from the field severely wounded. Afranius no doubt conquered
with the left and took the camp of the Sertorians, but during its pillage
he was suddenly assailed by Sertorius and compelled also to give way.
Had Sertorius been able to renew the battle on the following
day, the army of Pompeius would perhaps have been annihilated.
But meanwhile Metellus had come up, had overthrown the corps
of Perpenna ranged against him, and taken his camp: it was not
possible to resume the battle against the two armies united. The
successes of Metellus, the junction of the hostile forces, the
sudden stagnation after the victory, diffused terror among the
Sertorians; and, as not unfrequently happened with Spanish armies,
in consequence of this turn of things the greater portion
of the Sertorian soldiers dispersed. But the despondency passed away
as quickly as it had come; the white fawn, which represented
in the eyes of the multitude the military plans of the general,
was soon more popular than ever; in a short time Sertorius appeared
with a new army confronting the Romans in the level country
to the south of Saguntum (Murviedro), which firmly adhered to Rome,
while the Sertorian privateers impeded the Roman supplies by sea,
and scarcity was already making itself felt in the Roman camp.
Another battle took place in the plains of the river Turia
(Guadalaviar), and the struggle was long undecided. Pompeius
with the cavalry was defeated by Sertorius, and his brother-in-law
and quaestor, the brave Lucius Memmius, was slain; on the other hand
Metellus vanquished Perpenna, and victoriously repelled the attack
of the enemy's main army directed against him, receiving himself
a wound in the conflict. Once more the Sertorian army dispersed.
Valentia, which Gaius Herennius held for Sertorius, was taken
and razed to the ground. The Romans, probably for a moment,
cherished a hope that they were done with their tough antagonist.
The Sertorian army had disappeared; the Roman troops, penetrating
far into the interior, besieged the general himself in the fortress
Clunia on the upper Douro. But while they vainly invested
this rocky stronghold, the contingents of the insurgent communities
assembled elsewhere; Sertorius stole out of the fortress and even
before the expiry of the year stood once more as general
at the head of an army.

Again the Roman generals had to take up their winter quarters
with the cheerless prospect of an inevitable renewal of their Sisyphean
war-toils. It was not even possible to choose quarters in the region
of Valentia, so important on account of the communication with Italy
and the east, but fearfully devastated by friend and foe;
Pompeius led his troops first into the territory of the Vascones(22)
(Biscay) and then spent the winter in the territory of the Vaccaei
(about Valladolid), and Metellus even in Gaul.

Indefinite and Perilous Character of the Sertorian War

For five years the Sertorian war thus continued, and still
there seemed no prospect of its termination. The state suffered
from it beyond description. The flower of the Italian youth perished
amid the exhausting fatigues of these campaigns. The public treasury
was not only deprived of the Spanish revenues, but had annually
to send to Spain for the pay and maintenance of the Spanish armies
very considerable sums, which the government hardly knew how
to raise. Spain was devastated and impoverished, and the Roman
civilization, which unfolded so fair a promise there, received
a severe shock; as was naturally to be expected in the case
ofan insurrectionary war waged with so much bitterness,
and but too often occasioning the destruction of whole communities.
Even the towns which adhered to the dominant party in Rome had countless
hardships to endure; those situated on the coast had to be provided
with necessaries by the Roman fleet, and the situation of the faithful
communities in the interior was almost desperate. Gaul suffered
hardly less, partly from the requisitions for contingents
of infantry and cavalry, for grain and money, partly
from the oppressive burden of the winter-quarters, which rose
to an intolerable degree in consequence of the bad harvest of 680;
almost all the local treasuries were compelled to betake themselves
to the Roman bankers, and to burden themselves with a crushing load
of debt. Generals and soldiers carried on the war with reluctance.
The generals had encountered an opponent far superior in talent,
a tough and protracted resistance, a warfare of very serious perils
and of successes difficult to be attained and far from brilliant;
it was asserted that Pompeius was scheming to get himself recalled
from Spain and entrusted with a more desirable command somewhere
else. The soldiers, too, found little satisfaction in a campaign
in which not only was there nothing to be got save hard blows
and worthless booty, but their very pay was doled out to them
with extreme irregularity. Pompeius reported to the senate, at the end
of 679, that the pay was two years in arrear, and that the army
was threatening to break up. The Roman government might certainly
have obviated a considerable portion of these evils, if they could have
prevailed on themselves to carry on the Spanish war with less
remissness, to say nothing of better will. In the main, however,
it was neither their fault nor the fault of their generals
that a genius so superior as that of Sertorius was able to carry on
this petty warfare year after year, despite of all numerical
and military superiority, on ground so thoroughly favourable
to insurrectionary and piratical warfare. So little could its end
be foreseen, that the Sertorian insurrection seemed rather
as if it would become intermingled with other contemporary revolts
and thereby add to its dangerous character. Just at that time
the Romans were contending on every sea with piratical fleets,
in Italy with the revolted slaves, in Macedonia with the tribes
on the lower Danube; and in the east Mithradates, partly induced
by the successes of the Spanish insurrection, resolved once more
to try the fortune of arms. That Sertorius had formed connections
with the Italian and Macedonian enemies of Rome, cannot be distinctly
affirmed, although he certainly was in constant intercourse
with the Marians in Italy. With the pirates, on the other hand,
he had previously formed an avowed league, and with the Pontic king -
with whom he had long maintained relations through the medium
of the Roman emigrants staying at his court - he now concluded
a formal treaty of alliance, in which Sertorius ceded to the king
the client-states of Asia Minor, but not the Roman province of Asia,
and promised, moreover, to send him an officer qualified to lead
his troops, and a number of soldiers, while the king, in turn,
bound himself to transmit to Sertorius forty ships and 3000 talents
(720,000 pounds). The wise politicians in the capital were already
recalling the time when Italy found itself threatened by Philip
from the east and by Hannibal from the west; they conceived
that the new Hannibal, just like his predecessor, after having

Online LibraryTheodor MommsenThe History of Rome, Book V The Establishment of the Military Monarchy → online text (page 3 of 65)