Theodor Mommsen.

The History of Rome (Volumes 1-5) online

. (page 135 of 216)
Online LibraryTheodor MommsenThe History of Rome (Volumes 1-5) → online text (page 135 of 216)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


attempted to break through the lines of Ofella, in vain the
relieving army attempted to dislodge Sulla; both remained
immoveable in their strong positions, even after Damasippus,
sent by Carbo, had reinforced the relieving army with two legions.

Successes of the Sullans in Upper Italy
Etruria Occupied by the Sullans

But while the war stood still in Etruria and in Latium, matters
came to a decision in the valley of the Po. There the general of
the democracy, Gaius Norbanus, had hitherto maintained the upper
hand, had attacked Marcus Lucullus the legate of Metellus with
superior force and compelled him to shut himself up in Placentia,
and had at length turned against Metellus in person. He encountered
the latter at Faventia, and immediately made his attack late in
the afternoon with his troops fatigued by their march; the consequence
was a complete defeat and the total breaking up of his corps, of which
only about 1000 men returned to Etruria. On the news of this battle
Lucullus sallied from Placentia, and defeated the division left behind
to oppose him at Fidentia (between Piacenza and Parma). The Lucanian
troops of Albinovanus deserted in a body: their leader made up
for his hesitation at first by inviting the chief officers of
the revolutionary army to banquet with him and causing them to be
put to death; in general every one, who at all could, now concluded
his peace. Ariminum with all its stores and treasures fell into the
power of Metellus; Norbanus embarked for Rhodes; the whole land between
the Alps and Apennines acknowledged the government of the Optimates.
The troops hitherto employed there were enabled to turn to the attack
of Etruria, the last province where their antagonists still kept
the field. When Carbo received this news in the camp at Clusium,
he lost his self-command; although he had still a considerable body
of troops under his orders, he secretly escaped from his headquarters
and embarked for Africa. Part of his abandoned troops followed the
example which their general had set, and went home; part of them were
destroyed by Pompeius: Carrinas gathered together the remainder and
led them to Latium to join the army of Praeneste. There no change
had in the meanwhile taken place; and the final decision drew nigh.
The troops of Carrinas were not numerous enough to shake Sulla's
position; the vanguard of the army of the oligarchic party,
hitherto employed in Etruria, was approaching under Pompeius;
in a few days the net would be drawn tight around the army of
the democrats and the Samnites.

The Samnites and Democrats Attack Rome
Battle at the Colline Gate
Slaughter of the Prisoners

Its leaders then determined to desist from the relief of Praeneste
and to throw themselves with all their united strength on Rome,
which was only a good day's march distant. By so doing they were,
in a military point of view, ruined; their line of retreat, the
Latin road, would by such a movement fall into Sulla's hands;
and even if they got possession of Rome, they would be infallibly
crushed there, enclosed within a city by no means fitted for
defence, and wedged in between the far superior armies of Metellus
and Sulla. Safety, however, was no longer thought of; revenge
alone dictated this march to Rome, the last outbreak of fury in
the passionate revolutionists and especially in the despairing
Sabellian nation. Pontius of Telesia was in earnest, when he
called out to his followers that, in order to get rid of the wolves
which had robbed Italy of freedom, the forest in which they
harboured must be destroyed. Never was Rome in a more fearful
peril than on the 1st November 672, when Pontius, Lamponius,
Carrinas, Damasippus advanced along the Latin road towards Rome,
and encamped about a mile from the Colline gate. It was threatened
with a day like the 20th July 365 u. c. or the 15th June 455 a. d. -
the days of the Celts and the Vandals. The time was gone by when
a coup de main against Rome was a foolish enterprise, and the
assailants could have no want of connections in the capital.
The band of volunteers which sallied from the city, mostly youths
of quality, was scattered like chaff before the immense superiority
of force. The only hope of safety rested on Sulla. The latter,
on receiving accounts of the departure of the Samnite army in
the direction of Rome, had likewise set out in all haste to the
assistance of the capital. The appearance of his foremost horsemen
under Balbus in the course of the morning revived the sinking
courage of the citizens; about midday he appeared in person with
his main force, and immediately drew up his ranks for battle at
the temple of the Erycine Aphrodite before the Colline gate (not
far from Porta Pia). His lieutenants adjured him not to send the
troops exhausted by the forced march at once into action; but Sulla
took into consideration what the night might bring on Rome, and,
late as it was in the afternoon, ordered the attack. The battle
was obstinately contested and bloody. The left wing of Sulla,
which he led in person, gave way as far as the city wall, so that
it became necessary to close the city gates; stragglers even
brought accounts to Ofella that the battle was lost. But on the
right wing Marcus Crassus overthrew the enemy and pursued him as
far as Antemnae; this somewhat relieved the left wing also, and an
hour after sunset it in turn began to advance. The fight continued
the whole night and even on the following morning; it was only the
defection of a division of 3000 men, who immediately turned their
arms against their former comrades, that put an end to the
struggle. Rome was saved. The army of the insurgents, for which
there was no retreat, was completely extirpated. The prisoners
taken in the battle - between 3000 and 4000 in number, including the
generals Damasippus, Carrinas, and the severely-wounded Pontius -
were by Sulla's orders on the third day after the battle brought to
the Villa Publica in the Campus Martius and there massacred to the
last man, so that the clatter of arms and the groans of the dying
were distinctly heard in the neighbouring temple of Bellona, where
Sulla was just holding a meeting of the senate. It was a ghastly
execution, and it ought not to be excused; but it is not right to
forget that those very men who perished there had fallen like a
band of robbers on the capital and the burgesses, and, had they
found time, would have destroyed them as far as fire and sword
can destroy a city and its citizens.

Sieges
Praeneste
Norba
Nola

With this battle the war was, in the main, at an end. The garrison
of Praeneste surrendered, when it learned the issue of the battle
of Rome from the heads of Carrinas and other officers thrown over
the walls. The leaders, the consul Gaius Marius and the son of
Pontius, after having failed in an attempt to escape, fell on each
other's swords. The multitude cherished the hope, in which it
was confirmed by Cethegus, that the victor would even now have
mercy upon them. But the times of mercy were past. The more
unconditionally Sulla had up to the last moment granted full pardon
to those who came over to him, the more inexorable he showed
himself toward the leaders and communities that had held out to
the end. Of the Praenestine prisoners, 12,000 in number, most
of the Romans and individual Praenestines as well as the women
and children were released, but the Roman senators, almost all
the Praenestines and the whole of the Samnites, were disarmed and
cut to pieces; and the rich city was given up to pillage. It was
natural that, after such an occurrence, the cities of new burgesses
which had not yet passed over should continue their resistance with
the utmost obstinacy. In the Latin town of Norba for instance,
when Aemilius Lepidus got into it by treason, the citizens killed
each other and set fire themselves to their town, solely in order
to deprive their executioners of vengeance and of booty. In Lower
Italy Neapolis had already been taken by assault, and Capua had,
as it would seem, been voluntarily surrendered; but Nola was only
evacuated by the Samnites in 674. On his flight from Nola the last
surviving leader of note among the Italians, the consul of the
insurgents in the hopeful year 664, Gaius Papius Mutilus, disowned
by his wife to whom he had stolen in disguise and with whom he had
hoped to find an asylum, fell on his sword in Teanum before the
door of his own house. As to the Samnites, the dictator declared
that Rome would have no rest so long as Samnium existed, and that
the Samnite name must therefore be extirpated from the earth; and,
as he verified these words in terrible fashion on the prisoners
taken before Rome and in Praeneste, so he appears to have also
undertaken a raid for the purpose of laying waste the country,
to have captured Aesernia(16) (674?), and to have converted that
hitherto flourishing and populous region into the desert which it
has since remained. In the same manner Tuder in Umbria was stormed
by Marcus Crassus. A longer resistance was offered in Etruria
by Populonium and above all by the impregnable Volaterrae, which
gathered out of the remains of the beaten party an army of four
legions, and stood a two years' siege conducted first by Sulla
in person and then by the former praetor Gaius Carbo, the brother
of the democratic consul, till at length in the third year after
the battle at the Colline gate (675) the garrison capitulated on
condition of free departure. But in this terrible time neither
military law nor military discipline was regarded; the soldiers
raised a cry of treason and stoned their too compliant general; a
troop of horse sent by the Roman government cut down the garrison
as it withdrew in terms of the capitulation. The victorious army
was distributed throughout Italy, and all the insecure townships
were furnished with strong garrisons: under the iron hand of the
Sullan officers the last palpitations of the revolutionary and
national opposition slowly died away.

The Provinces

There was still work to be done in the provinces. Sardinia had
been speedily wrested by Lucius Philippus from the governor of the
revolutionary government Quintus Antonius (672), and Transalpine
Gaul offered little or no resistance; but in Sicily, Spain, and
Africa the cause of the party defeated in Italy seemed still by
no means lost. Sicily was held for them by the trustworthy governor
Marcus Perpenna. Quintus Sertorius had the skill to attach to
himself the provincials in Hither Spain, and to form from among the
Romans settled in that quarter a not inconsiderable army, which in
the first instance closed the passes of the Pyrenees: in this he
had given fresh proof that, wherever he was stationed, he was in
his place, and amidst all the incapables of the revolution was the
only man practically useful. In Africa the governor Hadrianus, who
followed out the work of revolutionizing too thoroughly and began
to give liberty to the slaves, had been, on occasion of a tumult
instigated by the Roman merchants of Utica, attacked in his
official residence and burnt with his attendants (672); nevertheless
the province adhered to the revolutionary government, and Cinna's
son-in-law, the young and able Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus,
was invested with the supreme command there. Propagandism had
even been carried from thence into the client-states, Numidia
and Mauretania. Their legitimate rulers, Hiempsal II son of Gauda,
and Bogud son of Bocchus, adhered doubtless to Sulla; but with the
aid of the Cinnans the former had been dethroned by the democratic
pretender Hiarbas, and similar feuds agitated the Mauretanian
kingdom. The consul Carbo who had fled from Italy tarried on the
island Cossyra (Pantellaria) between Africa and Sicily, at a loss,
apparently, whether he should flee to Egypt or should attempt to
renew the struggle in one of the faithful provinces.

Spain
Sertorius Embarks

Sulla sent to Spain Gaius Annius and Gaius Valerius Flaccus,
the former as governor of Further Spain, the latter as governor
of the province of the Ebro. They were spared the difficult task
of opening up the passes of the Pyrenees by force, in consequence
of the general who was sent thither by Sertorius having been killed
by one of his officers and his troops having thereafter melted away.
Sertorius, much too weak to maintain an equal struggle, hastily
collected the nearest divisions and embarked at New Carthage - for
what destination he knew not himself, perhaps for the coast of
Africa, or for the Canary Islands - it mattered little whither,
provided only Sulla's arm did not reach him. Spain then willingly
submitted to the Sullan magistrates (about 673) and Flaccus fought
successfully with the Celts, through whose territory he marched,
and with the Spanish Celtiberians (674).

Sicily

Gnaeus Pompeius was sent as propraetor to Sicily, and, when he
appeared on the coast with 120 sail and six legions, the island was
evacuated by Perpenna without resistance. Pompeius sent a squadron
thence to Cossyra, which captured the Marian officers sojourning
there. Marcus Brutus and the others were immediately executed;
but Pompeius had enjoined that the consul Carbo should be brought
before himself at Lilybaeum in order that, unmindful of the
protection accorded to him in a season of peril by that very
man,(17) he might personally hand him over to the executioner (672).

Africa

Having been ordered to go on to Africa, Pompeius with his
army which was certainly far more numerous, defeated the not
inconsiderable forces collected by Ahenobarbus and Hiarbas, and,
declining for the time to be saluted as -imperator-, he at once
gave the signal for assault on the hostile camp. He thus became
master of the enemy in one day; Ahenobarbus was among the fallen:
with the aid of king Bogud, Hiarbas was seized and slain at Bulla,
and Hiempsal was reinstated in his hereditary kingdom; a great
razzia against the inhabitants of the desert, among whom a number
of Gaetulian tribes recognized as free by Marius were made subject
to Hiempsal, revived in Africa also the fallen repute of the Roman
name: in forty days after the landing of Pompeius in Africa all was
at an end (674?). The senate instructed him to break up his army -
an implied hint that he was not to be allowed a triumph, to which
as an extraordinary magistrate he could according to precedent make
no claim. The general murmured secretly, the soldiers loudly; it
seemed for a moment as if the African army would revolt against the
senate and Sulla would have to take the field against his son-in-
law. But Sulla yielded, and allowed the young man to boast of
being the only Roman who had become a triumphator before he was
a senator (12 March 675); in fact the "Fortunate," not perhaps
without a touch of irony, saluted the youth on his return from
these easy exploits as the "Great."

Fresh Difficulties with Mithradates

In the east also, after the embarkation of Sulla in the spring of
671, there had been no cessation of warfare. The restoration of
the old state of things and the subjugation of individual towns
cost in Asia as in Italy various bloody struggles. Against the
free city of Mytilene in particular Lucius Lucullus was obliged
at length to bring up troops, after having exhausted all gentler
measures; and even a victory in the open field did not put an end
to the obstinate resistance of the citizens.

Meanwhile the Roman governor of Asia, Lucius Murena, had fallen
into fresh difficulties with king Mithradates. The latter had
since the peace busied himself in strengthening anew his rule,
which was shaken even in the northern provinces; he had pacified
the Colchians by appointing his able son Mithradates as their
governor; he had then made away with that son, and was now preparing
for an expedition into his Bosporan kingdom. The assurances of
Archelaus who had meanwhile been obliged to seek an asylum with
Murena,(18) that these preparations were directed against Rome,
induced Murena, under the pretext that Mithradates still kept
possession of Cappadocian frontier districts, to move his troops
towards the Cappadocian Comana and thus to violate the Pontic
frontier (671). Mithradates contented himself with complaining
to Murena and, when this was in vain, to the Roman government.
In fact commissioners from Sulla made their appearance to dissuade
the governor, but he did not submit; on the contrary he crossed
the Halys and entered on the undisputed territory of Pontus,
whereupon Mithradates resolved to repel force by force. His general
Gordius had to detain the Roman army till the king came up with
far superior forces and compelled battle; Murena was vanquished
and with great loss driven back over the Roman frontier to Phrygia,
and the Roman garrisons were expelled from all Cappadocia. Murena
had the effrontery, no doubt, to call himself the victor and to
assume the title of -imperator- on account of these events (672);
but the sharp lesson and a second admonition from Sulla induced
him at last to push the matter no farther; the peace between
Rome and Mithradates was renewed (673).

Second Peace
Capture of Mytilene

This foolish feud, while it lasted, had postponed the reduction
of the Mytilenaeans; it was only after a long siege by land and
by sea, in which the Bithynian fleet rendered good service, that
Murena's successor succeeded in taking the city by storm (675).

General Peace

The ten years' revolution and insurrection were at an end in the
west and in the east; the state had once more unity of government
and peace without and within. After the terrible convulsions of
the last years even this rest was a relief. Whether it was to
furnish more than a mere relief; whether the remarkable man, who
had succeeded in the difficult task of vanquishing the public foe
and in the more difficult work of subduing the revolution, would
be able to meet satisfactorily the most difficult task of all -
the re-establishing of social and political order shaken to its
very foundations - could not but be speedily decided




CHAPTER X

The Sullan Constitution

The Restoration

About the time when the first pitched battle was fought between
Romans and Romans, in the night of the 6th July 671, the venerable
temple, which had been erected by the kings, dedicated by the
youthful republic, and spared by the storms of five hundred years -
the temple of the Roman Jupiter in the Capitol - perished in the flames.
It was no augury, but it was an image of the state of the Roman
constitution. This, too, lay in ruins and needed reconstruction.
The revolution was no doubt vanquished, but the victory was far
from implying as a matter of course the restoration of the old
government. The mass of the aristocracy certainly was of opinion
that now, after the death of the two revolutionary consuls, it would
be sufficient to make arrangements for the ordinary supplemental
election and to leave it to the senate to take such steps as should
seem farther requisite for the rewarding of the victorious army, for
the punishment of the most guilty revolutionists, and possibly also
for the prevention of similar outbreaks. But Sulla, in whose hands
the victory had concentrated for the moment all power, formed a
more correct judgment of affairs and of men. The aristocracy of
Rome in its best epoch had not risen above an adherence - partly
noble and partly narrow - to traditional forms; how should the clumsy
collegiate government of this period be in a position to carry out
with energy and thoroughness a comprehensive reform of the state?
And at the present moment, when the last crisis had swept away
almost all the leading men of the senate, the vigour and intelligence
requisite for such an enterprise were less than ever to be found there.
How thoroughly useless was the pure aristocratic blood, and how little
doubt Sulla had as to its worthlessness, is shown by the fact that,
with the exception of Quintus Metellus who was related to him by marriage,
he selected all his instruments out of what was previously the middle
party and the deserters from the democratic camp - such as Lucius
Flaccus, Lucius Philippus, Quintus Ofella, Gnaeus Pompeius.
Sulla was as much in earnest about the re-establishment of the old
constitution as the most vehement aristocratic emigrant; he understood
however, not perhaps to the full extent - for how in that case could
he have put hand to the work at all? - but better at any rate than
his party, the enormous difficulties which attended this work of
restoration. Comprehensive concessions so far as concession was
possible without affecting the essence of oligarchy, and the
establishment of an energetic system of repression and prevention,
were regarded by him as unavoidable; and he saw clearly that the senate
as it stood would refuse or mutilate every concession, and would
parliamentarily ruin every systematic reconstruction. If Sulla had
already after the Sulpician revolution carried out what he deemed
necessary in both respects without asking much of their advice, he
was now determined, under circumstances of far more severe and intense
excitement, to restore the oligarchy - not with the aid, but in spite,
of the oligarchs - by his own hand.

Sulla Regent of Rome

Sulla, however, was not now consul as he had been then, but was
furnished merely with proconsular, that is to say, purely military
power: he needed an authority keeping as near as possible to
constitutional forms, but yet extraordinary, in order to impose his
reform on friends and foes. In a letter to the senate he announced
to them that it seemed to him indispensable that they should place
the regulation of the state in the hands of a single man equipped
with unlimited plenitude of power, and that he deemed himself qualified
to fulfil this difficult task. This proposal, disagreeable as it was
to many, was under the existing circumstances a command. By direction
of the senate its chief, the interrex Lucius Valerius Flaccus the
father, as interim holder of the supreme power, submitted to the
burgesses the proposal that the proconsul Lucius Cornelius Sulla
should receive for the past a supplementary approval of all the
official acts performed by him as consul and proconsul, and should
for the future be empowered to adjudicate without appeal on the life
and property of the burgesses, to deal at his pleasure with the
state-domains, to shift at discretion the boundaries of Rome, of
Italy, and of the state, to dissolve or establish urban communities
in Italy, to dispose of the provinces and dependent states, to confer
the supreme -imperium- instead of the people and to nominate proconsuls
and propraetors, and lastly to regulate the state for the future by
means of new laws; that it should be left to his own judgment to
determine when he had fulfilled his task and might deem it time to
resign this extraordinary magistracy; and, in fine, that during its
continuance it should depend on his pleasure whether the ordinary
supreme magistracy should subsist side by side with his own or should
remain in abeyance. As a matter of course, the proposal was adopted
without opposition (Nov. 672); and now the new master of the state,
who hitherto had as proconsul avoided entering the capital, appeared
for the first time within the walls of Rome. This new office derived
its name from the dictatorship, which had been practically abolished
since the Hannibalic war;(1) but, as besides his armed retinue he was
preceded by twice as many lictors as the dictator of earlier times,
this new "dictatorship for the making of laws and the regulation of
the commonwealth," as its official title ran, was in fact altogether
different from the earlier magistracy which had been limited in point
of duration and of powers, had not excluded appeal to the burgesses,
and had not annulled the ordinary magistracy. It much more resembled
that of the -decemviri legibus scribundis-, who likewise came forward
as an extraordinary government with unlimited fulness of powers
superseding the ordinary magistracy, and practically at least
administered their office as one which was unlimited in point of
time. Or, we should rather say, this new office, with its absolute
power based on a decree of the people and restrained by no set term
or colleague, was no other than the old monarchy, which in fact just
rested on the free engagement of the burgesses to obey one of their
number as absolute lord. It was urged even by contemporaries in
vindication of Sulla that a king is better than a bad constitution,(2)



Online LibraryTheodor MommsenThe History of Rome (Volumes 1-5) → online text (page 135 of 216)