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Crassus began to despair of accomplishing his task and demanded
that the senate should for his support recall to Italy the armies
stationed in Macedonia under Marcus Lucullus and in Hither Spain
under Gnaeus Pompeius.

Disruption of the Rebels and Their Subjugation

This extreme step however was not needed; the disunion and the arrogance
of the robber-bands sufficed again to frustrate their successes.
Once more the Celts and Germans broke off from the league of which
the Thracian was the head and soul, in order that, under leaders
of their own nation Gannicus and Castus, they might separately
fall victims to the sword of the Romans. Once, at the Lucanian
lake the opportune appearance of Spartacus saved them,
and thereupon they pitched their camp near to his; nevertheless
Crassus succeeded in giving employment to Spartacus by means
of the cavalry, and meanwhile surrounded the Celtic bands and compelled
them to a separate engagement, in which the whole body - numbering
it is said 12,300 combatants - fell fighting bravely all on the spot
and with their wounds in front. Spartacus then attempted to throw
himself with his division into the mountains round Petelia (near
Strongoli in Calabria), and signally defeated the Roman vanguard,
which followed his retreat But this victory proved more injurious
to the victor than to the vanquished. Intoxicated by success,
the robbers refused to retreat farther, and compelled their general
to lead them through Lucania towards Apulia to face the last decisive
struggle. Before the battle Spartacus stabbed his horse:
as in prosperity and adversity he had faithfully kept by his men,
he now by that act showed them that the issue for him and for all
was victory or death. In the battle also he fought with the courage
of a lion; two centurions fell by his hand; wounded and on his knees
he still wielded his spear against the advancing foes.
Thus the great robber-captain and with him the best of his comrades
died the death of free men and of honourable soldiers (683).
After the dearly-bought victory the troops who had achieved it,
and those of Pompeius that had meanwhile after conquering the Sertorians
arrived from Spain, instituted throughout Apulia and Lucania a manhunt,
such as there had never been before, to crush out the last sparks
of the mighty conflagration. Although in the southern districts,
where for instance the little town of Tempsa was seized in 683
by a gang of robbers, and in Etruria, which was severely affected
by Sulla's evictions, there was by no means as yet a real public
tranquillity, peace was officially considered as re-established
in Italy. At least the disgracefully lost eagles were recovered -
after the victory over the Celts alone five of them were brought
in; and along the road from Capua to Rome the six thousand crosses
bearing captured slaves testified to the re-establishment of order,
and to the renewed victory of acknowledged law over its living
property that had rebelled.

The Government of the Restoration as a Whole

Let us look back on the events which fill up the ten years
of the Sullan restoration. No one of the movements, external
or internal, which occurred during this period - neither the insurrection
of Lepidus, nor the enterprises of the Spanish emigrants, nor the wars
in Thrace and Macedonia and in Asia Minor, nor the risings
of the pirates and the slaves - constituted of itself a mighty danger
necessarily affecting the vital sinews of the nation; and yet
the state had in all these struggles well-nigh fought for its
very existence. The reason was that the tasks were everywhere
left unperformed, so long as they might still have been performed
with ease; the neglect of the simplest precautionary measures produced
the most dreadful mischiefs and misfortunes, and transformed
dependent classes and impotent kings into antagonists on a footing
of equality. The democracy and the servile insurrection
were doubtless subdued; but such as the victories were, the victor
was neither inwardly elevated nor outwardly strengthened by them.
It was no credit to Rome, that the two most celebrated generals
of the government party had during a struggle of eight years marked
by more defeats than victories failed to master the insurgent chief
Sertorius and his Spanish guerillas, and that it was only
the dagger of his friends that decided the Sertorian war in favour
of the legitimate government. As to the slaves, it was far less
an honour to have conquered them than a disgrace to have confronted
them in equal strife for years. Little more than a century had
elapsed since the Hannibalic war; it must have brought a blush
to the cheek of the honourable Roman, when he reflected
on the fearfully rapid decline of the nation since that great age.
Then the Italian slaves stood like a wall against the veterans
of Hannibal; now the Italian militia were scattered like chaff before
the bludgeons of their runaway serfs. Then every plain captain
acted in case of need as general, and fought often without success,
but always with honour; now it was difficult to find among
all the officers of rank a leader of even ordinary efficiency.
Then the government preferred to take the last farmer from the plough
rather than forgo the acquisition of Spain and Greece; now they were
on the eve of again abandoning both regions long since acquired,
merely that they might be able to defend themselves against
the insurgent slaves at home. Spartacus too as well as Hannibal
had traversed Italy with an army from the Po to the Sicilian straits,
beaten both consuls, and threatened Rome with blockade;
the enterprise which had needed the greatest general of antiquity
to conduct it against the Rome of former days could be undertaken
against the Rome of the present by a daring captain of banditti.
Was there any wonder that no fresh life sprang out of such victories
over insurgents and robber-chiefs?

The external wars, however, had produced a result still less
gratifying. It is true that the Thraco-Macedonian war had yielded
a result not directly unfavourable, although far from corresponding
to the considerable expenditure of men and money. In the wars
in Asia Minor and with the pirates on the other hand, the government
had exhibited utter failure. The former ended with the loss
of the whole conquests made in eight bloody campaigns, the latter
with the total driving of the Romans from "their own sea." Once Rome,
fully conscious of the irresistibleness of her power by land,
had transferred her superiority also to the other element;
now the mighty state was powerless at sea and, as it seemed,
on the point of also losing its dominion at least over the Asiatic
continent. The material benefits which a state exists to confer -
security of frontier, undisturbed peaceful intercourse, legal protection,
and regulated administration - began all of them to vanish for the whole
of the nations united in the Roman state; the gods of blessing
seemed all to have mounted up to Olympus and to have left
the miserable earth at the mercy of the officially called or volunteer
plunderers and tormentors. Nor was this decay of the state felt
as a public misfortune merely perhaps by such as had political rights
and public spirit; the insurrection of the proletariate,
and the brigandage and piracy which remind us of the times
of the Neapolitan Ferdinands, carried the sense of this decay
into the remotest valley and the humblest hut of Italy, and made
every one who pursued trade and commerce, or who bought
even a bushel of wheat, feel it as a personal calamity.

If inquiry was made as to the authors of this dreadful and unexampled
misery, it was not difficult to lay the blame of it with good
reason on many. The slaveholders whose heart was in their
money-bags, the insubordinate soldiers, the generals cowardly,
incapable, or foolhardy, the demagogues of the market-place mostly
pursuing a mistaken aim, bore their share of the blame; or,
to speak more truly, who was there that did not share in it?
It was instinctively felt that this misery, this disgrace, this disorder
were too colossal to be the work of any one man. As the greatness
of the Roman commonwealth was the work not of prominent individuals,
but rather of a soundly-organized burgess-body, so the decay
of this mighty structure was the result not of the destructive genius
of individuals, but of a general disorganization. The great majority
of the burgesses were good for nothing, and every rotten stone
in the building helped to bring about the ruin of the whole; the whole
nation suffered for what was the whole nation's fault. It was unjust
to hold the government, as the ultimate tangible organ of the state,
responsible for all its curable and incurable diseases; but it certainly
was true that the government contributed after a very grave fashion
to the general culpability. In the Asiatic war, for example,
where no individual of the ruling lords conspicuously failed,
and Lucullus, in a military point of view at least, behaved with ability
and even glory, it was all the more clear that the blame of failure lay
in the system and in the government as such - primarily, so far
as that war was concerned, in the remissness with which Cappadocia
and Syria were at first abandoned, and in the awkward position
of the able general with reference to a governing college incapable
of any energetic resolution. In maritime police likewise
the true idea which the senate had taken up as to a general hunting
out of the pirates was first spoilt by it in the execution
and then totally dropped, in order to revert to the old foolish system
of sending legions against the coursers of the sea. The expeditions
of Servilius and Marcius to Cilicia, and of Metellus to Crete,
were undertaken on this system; and in accordance with it Triarius
had the island of Delos surrounded by a wall for protection against
the pirates. Such attempts to secure the dominion of the seas remind
us of that Persian great-king, who ordered the sea to be scourged
with rods to make it subject to him. Doubtless therefore
the nation had good reason for laying the blame of its failure
primarily on the government of the restoration. A similar misrule
had indeed always come along with the re-establishment
of the oligarchy, after the fall of the Gracchi as after that
of Marius and Saturninus; yet never before had it shown such violence
and at the same time such laxity, never had it previously emerged
so corrupt and pernicious. But, when a government cannot govern,
it ceases to be legitimate, and whoever has the power has also
the right to overthrow it. It is, no doubt, unhappily true
that an incapable and flagitious government may for a long period trample
under foot the welfare and honour of the land, before the men are
found who are able and willing to wield against that government
the formidable weapons of its own forging, and to evoke out of
the moral revolt of the good and the distress of the many the revolution
which is in such a case legitimate. But if the game attempted
with the fortunes of nations may be a merry one and may be played
perhaps for a long time without molestation, it is a treacherous
game, which in its own time entraps the players; and no one then
blames the axe, if it is laid to the root of the tree that bears
such fruits. For the Roman oligarchy this time had now come.
The Pontic-Armenian war and the affair of the pirates became
the proximate causes of the overthrow of the Sullan constitution
and of the establishment of a revolutionary military dictatorship.

Chapter III

The Fall of the Oligarchy and the Rule of Pompeius

Continued Subsistence of the Sullan Constitution

The Sullan constitution still stood unshaken. The assault,
which Lepidus and Sertorius had ventured to make on it,
had been repulsed with little loss. The government had neglected,
it is true, to finish the half-completed building in the energetic
spirit of its author. It is characteristic of the government,
that it neither distributed the lands which Sulla had destined
for allotment but had not yet parcelled out, nor directly abandoned
the claim to them, but tolerated the former owners in provisional
possession without regulating their title, and indeed even allowed
various still undistributed tracts of Sullan domain-land to be
arbitrarily taken possession of by individuals according
to the old system of occupation, which was de jure and de facto
set aside by the Gracchan reforms.(1) Whatever in the Sullan enactments
was indifferent or inconvenient for the Optimates, was without scruple
ignored or cancelled; for instance, the sentences under which whole
communities were deprived of the right of citizenship, the prohibition
against conjoining the new farms, and several of the privileges
conferred by Sulla on particular communities - of course, without
giving back to the communities the sums paid for these exemptions.
But though these violations of the ordinances of Sulla by the government
itself contributed to shake the foundations of his structure,
the Sempronian laws were substantially abolished and remained so.

Attacks of the Democracy
Attempts to Restore the Tribunician Power

There was no lack, indeed, of men who had in view the re-establishment
of the Gracchan constitution, or of projects to attain piecemeal
in the way of constitutional reform what Lepidus and Sertorius
had attempted by the path of revolution. The government
had already under the pressure of the agitation of Lepidus
immediately after the death of Sulla consented to a limited revival
of the largesses of grain (676); and it did, moreover,
what it could to satisfy the proletariate of the capital in regard
to this vital question. When, notwithstanding those distributions,
the high price of grain occasioned chiefly by piracy produced
so oppressive a dearth in Rome as to lead to a violent tumult
in the streets in 679, extraordinary purchases of Sicilian grain
on account of the government relieved for the time the most severe
distress; and a corn-law brought in by the consuls of 681 regulated
for the future the purchases of Sicilian grain and furnished
the government, although at the expense of the provincials,
with better means of obviating similar evils. But the less material
points of difference also - the restoration of the tribunician power
in its old compass, and the setting aside of the senatorial tribunals -
ceased not to form subjects of popular agitation; and in their
case the government offered more decided resistance. The dispute
regarding the tribunician magistracy was opened as early as 678,
immediately after the defeat of Lepidus, by the tribune of the people
Lucius Sicinius, perhaps a descendant of the man of the same
name who had first filled this office more than four hundred years
before; but it failed before the resistance offered to it
by the active consul Gaius Curio. In 680 Lucius Quinctius resumed
the agitation, but was induced by the authority of the consul Lucius
Lucullus to desist from his purpose. The matter was taken up
in the following year with greater zeal by Gaius Licinius Macer, who -
in a way characteristic of the period - carried his literary studies
into public life, and, just as he had read in the Annals,
counselled the burgesses to refuse the conscription.

Attacks on the Senatorial Tribunals

Complaints also, only too well founded, prevailed respecting
the bad administration of justice by the senatorial jurymen.
The condemnation of a man of any influence could hardly be obtained.
Not only did colleague feel reasonable compassion for colleague,
those who had been or were likely to be accused for the poor sinner
under accusation at the moment; the sale also of the votes
of jurymen was hardly any longer exceptional. Several senators
had been judicially convicted of this crime: men pointed
with the finger at others equally guilty; the most respected Optimates,
such as Quintus Catulus, granted in an open sitting of the senate
that the complaints were quite well founded; individual specially
striking cases compelled the senate on several occasions, e. g. in 680,
to deliberate on measures to check the venality of juries,
but only of course till the first outcry had subsided and the matter
could be allowed to slip out of sight. The consequences
of this wretched administration of justice appeared especially
in a system of plundering and torturing the provincials, compared
with which even previous outrages seemed tolerable and moderate.
Stealing and robbing had been in some measure legitimized by custom;
the commission on extortions might be regarded as an institution
for taxing the senators returning from the provinces for the benefit
of their colleagues that remained at home. But when an esteemed
Siceliot, because he had not been ready to help the governor
in a crime, was by the latter condemned to death in his absence
and unheard; when even Roman burgesses, if they were not equites
or senators, were in the provinces no longer safe from the rods
and axes of the Roman magistrate, and the oldest acquisition
of the Roman democracy - security of life and person - began to be
trodden under foot by the ruling oligarchy; then even the public
in the Forum at Rome had an ear for the complaints regarding
its magistrates in the provinces, and regarding the unjust judges
who morally shared the responsibility of such misdeeds. The opposition
of course did not omit to assail its opponents in - what was almost
the only ground left to it - the tribunals. The young Gaius Caesar,
who also, so far as his age allowed, took zealous part
in the agitation for the re-establishment of the tribunician power,
brought to trial in 677 one of the most respected partisans
of Sulla the consular Gnaeus Dolabella, and in the following year
another Sullan officer Gaius Antonius; and Marcus Cicero in 684
called to account Gaius Verres, one of the most wretched
of the creatures of Sulla, and one of the worst scourges
of the provincials. Again and again were the pictures
of that dark period of the proscriptions, the fearful sufferings
of the provincials, the disgraceful state of Roman criminal justice,
unfolded before the assembled multitude with all the pomp
of Italian rhetoric, and with all the bitterness of Italian sarcasm,
and the mighty dead as well as his living instruments were unrelentingly
exposed to their wrath and scorn. The re-establishment of the full
tribunician power, with the continuance of which the freedom,
might, and prosperity of the republic seemed bound up as by a charm
of primeval sacredness, the reintroduction of the "stern" equestrian
tribunals, the renewal of the censorship, which Sulla had set
aside, for the purifying of the supreme governing board
from its corrupt and pernicious elements, were daily demanded
with a loud voice by the orators of the popular party.

Want of Results from the Democratic Agitation

But with all this no progress was made. There was scandal
and outcry enough, but no real result was attained by this exposure
of the government according to and beyond its deserts. The material
power still lay, so long as there was no military interference,
in the hands of the burgesses of the capital; and the "people"
that thronged the streets of Rome and made magistrates and laws
in the Forum, was in fact nowise better than the governing senate.
The government no doubt had to come to terms with the multitude,
where its own immediate interest was at stake; this was the reason
for the renewal of the Sempronian corn-law. But it was not
to be imagined that this populace would have displayed earnestness
on behalf of an idea or even of a judicious reform. What Demosthenes
said of his Athenians was justly applied to the Romans
of this period - the people were very zealous for action, so long
as they stood round the platform and listened to proposals of reforms;
but when they went home, no one thought further of what he had
heard in the market-place. However those democratic agitators might
stir the fire, it was to no purpose, for the inflammable material
was wanting. The government knew this, and allowed no sort
of concession to be wrung from it on important questions
of principle; at the utmost it consented (about 682) to grant
amnesty to a portion of those who had become exiles with Lepidus.
Any concessions that did take place, came not so much from the pressure
of the democracy as from the attempts at mediation of the moderate
aristocracy. But of the two laws which the single still surviving
leader of this section Gaius Cotta carried in his consulate of 679,
that which concerned the tribunals was again set aside
in the very next year; and the second, which abolished the Sullan
enactment that those who had held the tribunate should be disqualified
for undertaking other magistracies, but allowed the other limitations
to continue, merely - like every half-measure - excited the displeasure
of both parties.

The party of conservatives friendly to reform which lost
its most notable head by the early death of Cotta occurring soon
after (about 681) dwindled away more and more - crushed between
the extremes, which were becoming daily more marked. But of these
the party of the government, wretched and remiss as it was,
necessarily retained the advantage in presence of the equally
wretched and equally remiss opposition.

Quarrel between the Government and Their General Pompeius

But this state of matters so favourable to the government
was altered, when the differences became more distinctly developed
which subsisted between it and those of its partisans, whose hopes
aspired to higher objects than the seat of honour in the senate
and the aristocratic villa. In the first rank of these stood Gnaeus
Pompeius. He was doubtless a Sullan; but we have already shown(2)
how little he was at home among his own party, how his lineage,
his past history, his hopes separated him withal from the nobility
as whose protector and champion he was officially regarded.
The breach already apparent had been widened irreparably during
the Spanish campaigns of the general (677-683). With reluctance
and semi-compulsion the government had associated him as colleague
with their true representative Quintus Metellus; and in turn he accused
the senate, probably not without ground, of having by its careless
or malicious neglect of the Spanish armies brought about their
defeats and placed the fortunes of the expedition in jeopardy.
Now he returned as victor over his open and his secret foes,
at the head of an army inured to war and wholly devoted to him,
desiring assignments of land for his soldiers, a triumph
and the consulship for himself. The latter demands came into
collision with the law. Pompeius, although several times invested
in an extraordinary way with supreme official authority, had not yet
administered any ordinary magistracy, not even the quaestorship,
and was still not a member of the senate; and none but one
who had passed through the round of lesser ordinary magistracies
could become consul, none but one who had been invested
with the ordinary supreme power could triumph. The senate
was legally entitled, if he became a candidate for the consulship,
to bid him begin with the quaestorship; if he requested a triumph,
to remind him of the great Scipio, who under like circumstances
had renounced his triumph over conquered Spain. Nor was Pompeius
less dependent constitutionally on the good will of the senate
as respected the lands promised to his soldiers. But, although
the senate - as with its feebleness even in animosity
was very conceivable - should yield those points and concede
to the victorious general, in return for his executioner's service
against the democratic chiefs, the triumph, the consulate,
and the assignations of land, an honourable annihilation
in senatorial indolence among the long series of peaceful
senatorial Imperators was the most favourable lot which the oligarchy
was able to hold in readiness for the general of thirty-six.
That which his heart really longed for - the command
in the Mithradatic war - he could never expect to obtain
from the voluntary bestowal of the senate: in their own well-understood
interest the oligarchy could not permit him to add to his Africa
and European trophies those of a third continent; the laurels
which were to be plucked copiously and easily in the east were reserved
at all events for the pure aristocracy. But if the celebrated general
did not find his account in the ruling oligarchy, there remained -

Online LibraryTheodor MommsenThe History of Rome, Book V The Establishment of the Military Monarchy → online text (page 9 of 65)