46 Plutarch.

Plutarch's Lives Volume III online

. (page 5 of 55)
Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 5 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

surrounded them, they were put in alarm by the surprise, and fled, on
which the enemy took their camp. Many of the herdsmen and shepherds in
those parts also joined the gladiators, men ever ready for a quarrel,
and light of foot, some of whom the gladiators armed, and others they
employed as scouts and light troops. Publius Barinus[29] the prætor
was next sent against them, whose legatus, one Furius, at the head of
two thousand soldiers, the gladiators engaged and put to flight.
Cossinus was then despatched, with a large force, to advise with
Barinus, and to be associated in the command; but Spartacus, watching
his opportunity, while Cossinus was bathing at Salenæ,[30] was very
near seizing him. Cossinus made his escape with great difficulty, and
Spartacus, seizing the baggage, closely followed up the pursuit, with
great slaughter of the Romans, and he took the camp. Cossinus also
fell. Spartacus, after defeating the prætor himself in many other
battles, and at last seizing his lictors and his horse, now became
great and formidable: but still he formed a just judgment of the state
of affairs and, not expecting to get the advantage over the power of
the Romans, he designed to lead his forces to the Alps; thinking that
it was advisable for them to cross the mountains and to go to their
several homes, some to Thrace and some to Gaul. But the gladiators
being strong in numbers, and confident, would not listen to him, and
they went about ravaging Italy. The Senate were now no longer troubled
merely at the humiliation and disgrace that they suffered by the
revolt; but, moved by fear and the danger, they sent out both the
consuls[31] as to a war of the utmost difficulty and importance.
Gellius, suddenly falling on the Germans, who, by reason of their
arrogance and self-confidence, had separated from the troops of
Spartacus, destroyed the whole body; and after Lentulus had hemmed in
Spartacus with large armies, Spartacus, rushing upon them and joining
battle, defeated the legates and got all the baggage. Spartacus now
attempted to force his way towards the Alps; and Cassius[32] who "was
the governor of Gaul upon the Padus, met him with ten thousand men,
and a battle was fought, in which Cassius was defeated with great
lose, and with difficulty made his escape.

X. The Senate, on receiving this news, angrily bade the consuls keep
quiet, and they appointed Crassus to the command of the war, whose
reputation and popularity induced many of the nobles to serve under
him. Crassus took his station on the frontiers of Picenum, with the
view of waiting for Spartacus, who was moving in that direction; and
he sent Mummius, his legatus, at the head of two legions, to make a
circuit, and with orders to follow the enemy, but not to engage with
them, nor come to close quarters. But Mummius, as soon as he got what
he thought a favourable opportunity, fought a battle, and was
defeated; many of his men fell, and many, flying without their arms,
made their escape. Crassus received Mummius himself roughly, and
arming the soldiers again, he required of them security for their
arms, that they would keep them; and five hundred, who had been the
first to run, and had shown most cowardice, he distributed into fifty
decades,[33] and out of each decade he took one man, by lot, and put
him to death; thus inflicting on the soldiers this ancient mode of
punishment which had long fallen into disuse; for disgrace also is
added to the manner of death, and many things horrible and dreadful to
see accompany the punishment, in the presence of all the spectators.
After inflicting this punishment, he made his men again face about and
march against the enemy. Spartacus, however, avoided Crassus, and made
his way through Lucania to the sea, and, falling in with some Cilician
piratical vessels, in the Straits, he formed a design to seize Sicily,
and by throwing two thousand men into the island, to kindle again the
servile war there, the flames of which had not long since been
quenched, and required only a few sparks to set it again in a blaze.
The Cilicians[34] came to terms with Spartacus, and received his
presents; but they deceived him, and sailed off. Under these
circumstances, he marched back from the coast, and fixed his army in
the peninsula of the Rhegine territory. Crassus now came up, and
observing that the nature of the ground suggested what was to be done,
he resolved to build a wall across the isthmus, for the purpose of
keeping his soldiers employed, and cutting off the supplies of the
enemy. Though the undertaking was great and difficult, he accomplished
it, and completed the work, contrary to all expectation, in a short
time, by digging a ditch[35] from sea to sea, through the neck of
land, three hundred stadia in length, fifteen feet deep, and as many
wide; and above the ditch he raised a rampart of surprising height and
strength. At first Spartacus paid no attention to what was going on,
and treated it with contempt; but when forage began to fail, and he
wanted to advance further into the interior, he discovered the lines
of Crassus; and as there was nothing to be got in the peninsula,
taking advantage of a night when there was a fall of snow and a wintry
storm, he filled up a small part of the ditch with earth, and wood,
and the branches of trees, and so carried over a third part of his

XI. Now Crassus was afraid that Spartacus might form a design to march
against Rome; but he was encouraged by many of the followers of
Spartacus quitting their leader, in consequence of some disputes, and
encamping by themselves upon the banks of the lake Lucanis,[36] which
they say is subject to changes, at certain intervals becoming sweet,
and then again salt, and not potable. Crassus coming upon this band,
drove them from the lake; but he was prevented from cutting them to
pieces and pursuing them, by the sudden appearance of Spartacus, who
checked the flight. Crassus had, before this, written to the Senate,
to say that they ought to summon Lucullus[37] from Thrace, and
Pompeius from Iberia; but he now changed his mind, and made every
effort to put an end to the war before they arrived, knowing that the
success would be attributed to him who came last, and brought help,
and not to himself. Accordingly, he determined to attack first those
who had separated from the main body, and were carrying on the
campaign by themselves, under the command of Caius Cannicius and
Castus; and he dispatched six thousand men, with orders to occupy a
certain hill, and keep themselves concealed. The men of Crassus
endeavoured to escape notice by covering their helmets; but, being
seen by two women, who were sacrificing for the enemy, they would have
been in danger, if Crassus had not quickly appeared, and fought a
battle, the most severely contested of all in this war, in which he
destroyed twelve thousand three hundred men, of whom he found only two
wounded in the back: all the rest died in the ranks, fighting against
the Romans. After the defeat of this body, Spartacus retired to the
mountains of Petilia,[38] followed by Quintius,[39] one of the
generals of Crassus, and Scrofas, his quæstor, who hung close on his
rear. But, upon Spartacus facing about, the Romans were thrown into
disorderly flight, and made their escape, after having with difficulty
rescued their quæstor, who was wounded. This success was the ruin of
Spartacus, in consequence of the self-confidence which it infused into
the slaves: they would not now consent to avoid a battle, nor yet
would they obey their commanders, whom they surrounded, with arms in
their hands, on the march, and compelled to lead them back through
Lucania against the Romans, wherein they did the very thing that
Crassus desired; for it was reported that Pompeius was now
approaching, and there were not a few who openly said that the victory
in this war belonged to him; for he would fight as soon as he arrived,
and put an end to the campaign. While Crassus, therefore, who was
eager to decide the affair by a battle, and to fix his camp near the
enemy, was engaged in digging his trenches, the slaves came up to
them and attacked the men who were at work. As fresh men from both
sides kept coming up to help their comrades, Spartacus, seeing that he
must fight, arranged all his army in order of battle. When his horse
was brought to him, he drew his sword and said, that if he won the
battle he should have plenty of fine horses from the enemy, and if he
was defeated he should not want one; upon which he killed his horse,
and then he made his way towards Crassus himself, through many men,
and inflicting many wounds; but he did not succeed in reaching
Crassus, though he engaged with and killed two centurions. At last,
after those about him had fled, he kept his ground, and, being
surrounded by a great number, he fought till he was cut down. But,
though Crassus had been successful, and had displayed the skill of a
great general, and had exposed his person to danger, yet the credit of
the victory did not escape being appropriated to Pompeius; for those
who fled from the battle were destroyed by him, and Pompeius wrote to
the Senate that Crassus had defeated the slaves in the open field, but
he had cut up the war by the roots.[40] Now Pompeius had a splendid
triumph for his victory over Sertorius and his exploits in Iberia; but
Crassus did not venture to ask for the greater triumph; and even as to
the foot triumph called the ovation, which he did enjoy, it was
considered but a mean thing, and below his dignity that he had a
triumph for a servile war. But how the ovation differs from the other
triumph, and about the name, I have spoken in the 'Life of
Marcellus.'[41] XII. After these events, Pompeius was forthwith
invited to the consulship,[42] and, though Crassus had hopes of
becoming his colleague, still he did not hesitate to solicit the
assistance of Pompeius. Pompeius gladly listened to his proposal, for
he was desirous in any way always to have Crassus his debtor for some
obligation, and he actively exerted himself on behalf of Crassus; and
finally he said, in his address to the public assembly, that he should
feel no less grateful for the return of Crassus as his colleague than
for his own election. They did not, however, continue in this harmony
after entering on their office, but they differed on almost every
subject, and quarrelled about everything, and by their disputes
rendered their consulship unfruitful in all political measures, and
ineffectual: however, Crassus made a great festival in honour of
Hercules, and feasted the people at ten thousand tables, and gave them
an allowance of corn for three months. It was at the close of their
consulship, when Pompeius and Crassus happened to be addressing the
public assembly, that a man, not of any distinction, a Roman eques, a
rustic in his mode of life, and one who did not meddle with public
affairs, Onatius Aurelius,[43] got up on the rostra, and, coming
forward, told a dream which he had had. "Jupiter," he said, "appeared
to me, and bade me tell the citizens not to let the consuls lay down
their office before they have become friends." Upon the man saying
this, and the assembly bidding the consuls be reconciled, Pompeius
stood silent; but Crassus offering his right hand first, said,
"Citizens, I do not consider that I am humbling myself or doing
anything unworthy of me when I make the advance towards good-will and
friendship to Pompeius, to whom you gave the name of Magnus before he
had a beard, and voted a triumph before he was a senator."

XIII. These were the things worthy of commemoration in the consulship
of Crassus. But his censorship[44] passed over altogether without
results, and without any active measures; for he neither revised the
senate, nor inspected the equites, nor made a census of the citizens,
though he had for his colleague Lutatius Catulus, the mildest of the
Romans. But it is said that Crassus designed a shameful and violent
measure, to make Egypt tributary to the Romans, and that Catulus
opposed him vigorously, on which a difference arising between them,
they voluntarily laid down their office. In the affair of
Catiline,[45] which was a serious matter, and one that came near
overthrowing Rome, some suspicion, it is true, attached to Crassus,
and a man came forward to name him as implicated in the conspiracy,
but nobody believed him. However, Cicero, in one of his orations,
evidently imputed to Crassus and Cæsar participation in the plot; but
this oration was not published till after the death of both of them.
But in the oration on his consulship, Cicero says that Crassus came to
him by night and brought a letter[46] which contained information on
the affair of Catiline, as if his object was to establish the truth of
the conspiracy. Now Crassus always hated Cicero for this, but his son
stood in the way of his doing Cicero any open injury. For
Publius,[47] who was fond of oratory and of improving himself, was
much attached to Cicero, and went so far as to change his dress when
Cicero did at the time of his trial, and he induced the other young
men to do the same. At last he prevailed upon his father, and
reconciled him to Cicero.

XIV. When Cæsar returned from his province,[48] he made preparations
to be a candidate for the consulship; but, observing that Crassus and
Pompeius were again at enmity, he did not choose by applying to one of
them for his help to have the other for his enemy, and he did not
think that he could succeed if neither of them assisted him.
Accordingly, he set about reconciling them, by continually urging upon
them, and showing that by their attempts to ruin one another they
would increase the power of the Ciceros, and Catuli, and Catos, who
would lose all their influence if they would unite their friends and
adherents, and so direct the administration with combined strength,
and one purpose. By persuasion and effecting a reconciliation, he
brought them together, and he formed out of the union of all three an
irresistible power by which he put down the Roman senate and the
people, though he did not make Pompeius and Crassus more powerful, one
through the other, but by means of the two he made himself most
powerful; for immediately on being supported by Pompeius and Crassus,
he was elected consul by a great majority. While Cæsar was ably
discharging the business of the consulship, Crassus and Pompeius, by
procuring for him the command of armies, and by delivering Gaul into
his hands, fixed him in a kind of acropolis, thinking that they should
administer the rest of the State as they mutually agreed, after
securing to Cæsar the authority which the lot had given him. Now
Pompeius did all this through unbounded love of power; but to the old
vice of Crassus, his avarice, there was now added a new passion,
ambition for trophies and triumphs excited by the great exploits of
Cæsar, since it was in this alone that he was Cæsar's inferior; for he
had the superiority in everything else; and his passion remitted not
nor diminished till it resulted in an inglorious death and public
misfortunes. Cæsar had come down from Gaul to the city of Luca, and
many of the Romans went to him there, and Pompeius and Crassus had
private conferences with him, in which they agreed to take affairs in
hand more vigorously, and to hold the whole power of the State at
their disposal, to which end Cæsar was to remain in his military
command, and Pompeius and Crassus were to have other provinces and
armies. To this object there was only one road, which was to ask for a
second consulship, and Cæsar was to assist them in their canvass by
writing to his friends and sending many of his soldiers to support
them at the comitia.

XV. As soon as Crassus and Pompeius[49] returned to Rome, suspicion
was excited, and there was much talk through the whole city that their
meeting had been held for no good. In the Senate Marcellinus and
Domitius asked Pompeius if he intended to be a candidate for the
consulship, to which Pompeius replied that perhaps he should, and
perhaps he should not; being asked again, he said that he was a
candidate for the votes of the good citizens, but not a candidate for
the votes of the bad. It was considered that Pompeius had made a
haughty and arrogant answer; but Crassus said, in a more modest tone,
that he would be a candidate, if it was for the interest of the State;
if it was not, he would decline. This encouraged certain persons to
become candidates, among whom was Domitius. However, when Pompeius
and Crassus had openly declared themselves candidates, the rest were
afraid and withdrew; but Domitius was encouraged by Cato, who was his
kinsman and friend, and stimulated and urged him to stick to his
hopes, with the view of defending the common liberties; he said "it
was not the consulship that Pompeius and Crassus wanted, but a
tyranny; that their conduct showed they were not asking for the
consulship, but aiming to seize on the provinces and the armies." By
such arguments, which were also his real opinions, Cato, all but by
force, brought Domitius to the Forum, and many sided with them. And
those who were surprised at the canvassing of Pompeius and Crassus
were no small number. "Why then do they want a second consulship? And
why do they wish to be colleagues again? And why will they not have
the consulship with other colleagues? There are many men among us who
are surely not unworthy to be colleagues with Crassus and Pompeius."
This alarmed the partizans of Pompeius, who now abstained from no
proceeding, however disorderly and violent; but, in addition to all
the rest, they placed a body of men to lie in wait and attack Domitius
as he was going down to the Forum, while it was still dark, with his
partizans, and they killed the man that held the light, and wounded
many, among whom was Cato. After putting the party of Domitius to
flight, and driving them back to the house,[50] Pompeius and Crassus
were proclaimed consuls. Shortly after, they again surrounded the
Senate-house with armed men, and, after driving Cato out of the Forum,
and killing some persons who opposed them, they procured another five
years[51] of administration to be added to Cæsar's term, and the two
provinces of Syria and Iberia to be given to them. When the lots were
cast, Crassus got Syria, and Pompeius had Iberia.

XVI. The result of the lot was not universally disliked; for the
majority wished Pompeius not to be far from the city, and Pompeius,
who was much attached to his wife,[52] intended to spend his time
chiefly in Rome. Crassus showed by his joy, immediately on the falling
out of the lot, that he considered no greater good fortune had ever
befallen him, and he could scarcely keep quiet before strangers and in
public; to his friends he uttered many foolish and puerile expressions
quite inconsistent with his years and temper, for he had never before
shown himself in the least degree a braggart or arrogant. But now,
being mightily elated, and his head completely turned, he was not for
making Syria or Palestine the limit of his victories; but, designing
to make the exploits of Lucullus against Tigranes, and those of
Pompeius against Mithridates appear mere child's play, he extended his
hopes as far as to the Bactrians, and the Indians, and the external
sea. And yet there was no mention of a Parthian war in the law[53]
that was drawn up on this occasion. But everybody knew that Crassus
was passionately bent on a Parthian war, and Cæsar wrote to him from
Gaul, approving of his design, and urging him to it. When it was known
that Ateius,[54] the tribune, intended to offer some opposition to his
leaving the city, and many persons joined him who complained that
Crassus was going to make war upon a people who were doing the Romans
no wrong, and had a treaty with them, Crassus in alarm prayed Pompeius
to accompany him, and escort him out of the city. Now, the reputation
of Pompeius with the multitude was great, and, by showing himself in
front of Crassus, with cheerful looks and countenance, he
tranquillized a numerous body of people who were prepared to obstruct
Crassus, and to raise a shout against him, so that they made way and
let him pass through them quietly. But Ateius met Crassus, and, first
of all, endeavoured to stop him by words, and he protested against his
marching out: in the next place, he ordered his attendant to lay hold
of Crassus, and to detain him; but, as the rest of the tribunes would
not allow this, the attendant quitted his hold of Crassus, and Ateius
running to the gate, placed there a burning brazier, and, as soon as
Crassus arrived, he threw incense and poured libations upon it, and,
at the same time, he denounced against Crassus curses, in themselves
dreadful and terrific, and, in addition thereto, he uttered the names
of certain awful and inauspicious deities. The Romans say that these
mysterious and ancient curses have great efficacy, that no man can
escape upon whom they are laid, and that he who utters them also has
an unlucky end, and, accordingly, they are not denounced either on
ordinary occasions, or by many persons. Ateius was blamed for letting
loose such imprecations and religious fears upon a State, on behalf of
which he was hostile to Crassus.

XVII. When Crassus arrived at Brundisium, though the sea was still
rough owing to the wintry weather, he would not wait, but he set sail,
and so lost many of his vessels. After getting together the remnant of
his forces, he marched through Galatia.[55] Finding King Deiotarus,
who was now a very old man, founding a new city, Crassus said
sarcastically, "King, you are beginning to build at the twelfth hour."
The Galatian, with a smile, replied, "You, too, Imperator, I observe,
are not very early with your Parthian expedition." Now Crassus was
past sixty, and he looked older than he was. On his arrival, matters
at first turned out fully equal to his expectation; for he easily
threw a bridge over the Euphrates, and got his army across safely, and
he also obtained possession of many cities in Mesopotamia which
surrendered. Before one of them, of which Apollonius was tyrant, he
lost a hundred men, upon which he brought his force against the place,
and, having got possession of it, he made plunder of all the property,
and sold the people: the Greeks called the city Zenodotia.[56] On the
capture of the city, Crassus allowed his soldiers to proclaim him
Imperator, wherein he greatly disgraced himself, and showed the
meanness of his spirit, and that he had no good hopes of greater
things, as he was content with so slight a success. Having put
garrisons in the cities that had surrendered, to the amount of seven
thousand infantry and a thousand cavalry, he retired to winter in
Syria, and there to await his son,[57] who was coming from Cæsar in
Gaul, with the decorations that he had gained by his valour, and with
a thousand picked horsemen. This seemed to be the first blunder of
Crassus, or at least, it was the greatest blunder that he committed
next to the expedition itself; for he ought to have advanced and to
have secured Babylon and Seleukeia,[58] two cities which were always
hostile to the Parthians; instead of which, he gave his enemies time
to make preparation. The next thing the people blamed was his waste of
time in Syria, which was employed more for purposes of money profit
than for military purposes; for he did not occupy himself in reviewing
the numbers of his troops, nor establishing games to keep the soldiers
in exercise, but he busied himself about estimating the revenues of
cities, and he was for many days with weights and scales in his hands
among the treasures of the goddess in Hierapolis,[59] and, after
requiring from the towns and princes contingents of men, he would
remit his requisitions for a sum of money; by all which he lost his
reputation, and fell into contempt. The first sign that happened to
him proceeded from this goddess herself, whom some consider to be
Aphrodite (Venus); and others Hera (Juno); others again believe her to
be the cause that has supplied from moisture the seeds for all things,
and nature, and the power that has pointed out the source of all good
things for men; for, as they were going out of the temple, young
Crassus first stumbled at the gate, and then his father fell upon him.

XVIII. While Crassus was getting together his forces out of the winter
quarter, there came ambassadors from Arsakes[60] with a short message.
They said, if the army was sent by the Romans, there was nothing but
war without truce, and without any terms; but if Crassus, contrary to

Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 5 of 55)