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of Manlius demanded.

All these pieces of evidence speak clearly enough; but, even were
it not so, the desperate position of the democracy in presence
of the military power - which since the Gabinio-Manilian laws assumed
by its side an attitude more threatening than ever - renders it
almost a certainty that, as usually happens in such cases,
it sought a last resource in secret plots and in alliance
with anarchy. The circumstances were very similar to those
of the Cinnan times. While in the east Pompeius occupied a position
nearly such as Sulla then did, Crassus and Caesar sought to raise
over against him a power in Italy like that which Marius and Cinna
had possessed, with the view of employing it if possible better
than they had done. The way to this result lay once more through
terrorism and anarchy, and to pave that way Catilina was certainly
the fitting man. Naturally the more reputable leaders
of the democracy kept themselves as far as possible in the background,
and left to their unclean associates the execution of the unclean
work, the political results of which they hoped afterwards
to appropriate. Still more naturally, when the enterprise had failed,
the partners of higher position applied every effort to conceal
their participation in it. And at a later period, when the former
conspirator had himself become the target of political plots,
the veil was for that very reason drawn only the more closely
over those darker years in the life of the great man, and even
special apologies for him were written with that very object.(21)

Total Destruction of the Democratic Party

For five years Pompeius stood at the head of his armies and fleets
in the east; for five years the democracy at home conspired
to overthrow him. The result was discouraging. With unspeakable
exertions they had not merely attained nothing, but had suffered
morally as well as materially enormous loss. Even the coalition
of 683 could not but be for democrats of pure water a scandal,
although the democracy at that time only coalesced with two
distinguished men of the opposite party and bound these
to its programme.

But now the democratic party had made common cause with a band
of murderers and bankrupts, who were almost all likewise deserters
from the camp of the aristocracy; and had at least for the time
being accepted their programme, that is to say, the terrorism
of Cinna. The party of material interests, one of the chief elements
of the coalition of 683, was thereby estranged from the democracy,
and driven into the arms of the Optimates in the first instance,
or of any power at all which would and could give protection against
anarchy. Even the multitude of the capital, who, although having
no objection to a street-riot, found it inconvenient to have
their houses set on fire over their heads, became in some measure
alarmed. It is remarkable that in this very year (691) the full
re-establishment of the Sempronian corn-largesses took place,
and was effected by the senate on the proposal of Cato. The league
of the democratic leaders with anarchy had obviously created a breach
between the former and the burgesses of the city; and the oligarchy
sought, not without at least momentary success, to enlarge
this chasm and to draw over the masses to their side. Lastly,
Gnaeus Pompeius had been partly warned, partly exasperated,
by all these cabals; after all that had occurred, and after the democracy
had itself virtually torn asunder the ties which connected it
with Pompeius, it could no longer with propriety make the request -
which in 684 had had a certain amount of reason on its side -
that he should not himself destroy with the sword the democratic power
which he had raised, and which had raised him.

Thus the democracy was disgraced and weakened; but above all it had
become ridiculous through the merciless exposure of its perplexity
and weakness. Where the humiliation of the overthrown government
and similar matters of little moment were concerned, it was great
and potent; but every one of its attempts to attain a real
political success had proved a downright failure. Its relation
to Pompeius was as false as pitiful. While it was loading him
with panegyrics and demonstrations of homage, it was concocting
against him one intrigue after another; and one after another,
like soap-bubbles, they burst of themselves. The general of the east
and of the seas, far from standing on his defence against them,
appeared not even to observe all the busy agitation, and to obtain
his victories over the democracy as Herakles gained his over
the Pygmies, without being himself aware of it. The attempt to kindle
civil war had miserably failed; if the anarchist section
had at least displayed some energy, the pure democracy, while knowing
doubtless how to hire conspirators, had not known how to lead
them or to save them or to die with them. Even the old languid
oligarchy, strengthened by the masses passing over to it
from the ranks of the democracy and above all by the - in this affair
unmistakeable - identity of its interests and those of Pompeius,
had been enabled to suppress this attempt at revolution and thereby
to achieve yet a last victory over the democracy. Meanwhile king
Mithradates was dead, Asia Minor and Syria were regulated,
and the return of Pompeius to Italy might be every moment expected.
The decision was not far off; but was there in fact still room
to speak of a decision between the general who returned more famous
and mightier than ever, and the democracy humbled beyond parallel
and utterly powerless? Crassus prepared to embark his family
and his gold and to seek an asylum somewhere in the east;
and even so elastic and so energetic a nature as that of Caesar seemed
on the point of giving up the game as lost. In this year (691)
occurred his candidature for the place of -pontifex maximus-;(22)
when he left his dwelling on the morning of the election,
he declared that, if he should fail in this also, he would
never again cross the threshold of his house.




CHAPTER VI

Retirement of Pompeius and Coalition of the Pretenders

Pompeius in the East

When Pompeius, after having transacted the affairs committed
to his charge, again turned his eyes homeward, he found for the second
time the diadem at his feet. For long the development of the Roman
commonwealth had been tending towards such a catastrophe;
it was evident to every unbiassed observer, and had been remarked
a thousand times, that, if the rule of the aristocracy
should be brought to an end, monarchy was inevitable. The senate
had now been overthrown at once by the civic liberal opposition
and by the power of the soldiery; the only question remaining
was to settle the persons, names, and forms for the new order of things;
and these were already clearly enough indicated in the partly democratic,
partly military elements of the revolution. The events of the last
five years had set, as it were, the final seal on this impending
transformation of the commonwealth. In the newly-erected
Asiatic provinces, which gave regal honours to their organizer
as the successor of Alexander the Great, and already received
his favoured freedmen like princes, Pompeius had laid the foundations
of his dominion, and found at once the treasures, the army, and the halo
of glory which the future prince of the Roman state required.
The anarchist conspiracy, moreover, in the capital, and the civil
war connected with it, had made it palpably clear to every one
who studied political or even merely material interests,
that a government without authority and without military power,
such as that of the senate, exposed the state to the equally ludicrous
and formidable tyranny of political sharpers, and that a change
of constitution, which should connect the military power more closely
with the government, was an indispensable necessity if social order
was to be maintained. So the ruler had arisen in the east,
the throne had been erected in Italy; to all appearance the year 692
was the last of the republic, the first of monarchy.

The Opponents of the Future Monarchy

This goal, it is true, was not to be reached without a struggle.
The constitution, which had endured for five hundred years,
and under which the insignificant town on the Tiber had risen
to unprecedented greatness and glory, had sunk its roots into the soil
to a depth beyond human ken, and no one could at all calculate
to what extent the attempt to overthrow it would penetrate
and convulse civil society. Several rivals had been outrun by Pompeius
in the race towards the great goal, but had not been wholly set
aside. It was not at all beyond reach of calculation that all
these elements might combine to overthrow the new holder of power,
and that Pompeius might find Quintus Catulus and Marcus Cato united
in opposition to him with Marcus Crassus, Gaius Caesar, and Titus
Labienus. But the inevitable and undoubtedly serious struggle
could not well be undertaken under circumstances more favourable.
It was in a high degree probable that, under the fresh impression
of the Catilinarian revolt, a rule which promised order
and security, although at the price of freedom, would receive
the submission of the whole middle party - embracing especially
the merchants who concerned themselves only about their material
interests, but including also a great part of the aristocracy,
which, disorganized in itself and politically hopeless, had to rest
content with securing for itself riches, rank, and influence
by a timely compromise with the prince; perhaps even a portion
of the democracy, so sorely smitten by the recent blows, might submit
to hope for the realization of a portion of its demands
from a military chief raised to power by itself. But, whatever might be
the position of party-relations, of what importance, in the first
instance at least, were the parties in Italy at all in presence
of Pompeius and his victorious army? Twenty years previously Sulla,
after having concluded a temporary peace with Mithradates,
had with his five legions been able to carry a restoration
runningcounter to the natural development of things in the face
of the whole liberal party, which had been arming en masse for years,
from the moderate aristocrats and the liberal mercantile class down
to the anarchists. The task of Pompeius was far less difficult.
He returned, after having fully and conscientiously performed
his different functions by sea and land. He might expect to encounter
no other serious opposition save that of the various extreme
parties, each of which by itself could do nothing, and which even
when leagued together were no more than a coalition of factions
still vehemently hostile to each other and inwardly at thorough
variance. Completely unarmed, they were without a military force
and without a head, without organization in Italy, without support
in the provinces, above all, without a general; there was in their
ranks hardly a soldier of note - to say nothing of an officer - who
could have ventured to call forth the burgesses to a conflict
with Pompeius. The circumstance might further be taken into account,
that the volcano of revolution, which had been now incessantly
blazing for seventy years and feeding on its own flame, was visibly
burning out and verging of itself to extinction. It was very doubtful
whether the attempt to arm the Italians for party interests
would now succeed, as it had succeeded with Cinna and Carbo.
If Pompeius exerted himself, how could he fail to effect
a revolution of the state, which was chalked out by a certain
necessity of nature in the organic development
of the Roman commonwealth?

Mission of Nepos to Rome

Pompeius had seized the right moment, when he undertook his mission
to the east; he seemed desirous to go forward. In the autumn
of 691, Quintus Metellus Nepos arrived from the camp of Pompeius
in the capital, and came forward as a candidate for the tribuneship,
with the express design of employing that position to procure
for Pompeius the consulship for the year 693 and more immediately,
by special decree of the people, the conduct of the war against
Catilina. The excitement in Rome was great. It was not
to be doubted that Nepos was acting under the direct or indirect
commission of Pompeius; the desire of Pompeius to appear in Italy
as general at the head of his Asiatic legions, and to administer
simultaneously the supreme military and the supreme civil power
there, was conceived to be a farther step on the way to the throne,
and the mission of Nepos a semi-official proclamation of the monarchy.

Pompeius in Relation to the Parties

Everything turned on the attitude which the two great political parties
should assume towards these overtures; their future position
and the future of the nation depended on this. But the reception
which Nepos met with was itself in its turn determined
by the then existing relation of the parties to Pompeius, which was
of a very peculiar kind. Pompeius had gone to the east as general
of the democracy. He had reason enough to be discontented
with Caesar and his adherents, but no open rupture had taken place.
It is probable that Pompeius, who was at a great distance and occupied
with other things, and who besides was wholly destitute of the gift
of calculating his political bearings, by no means saw through,
at least at that time, the extent and mutual connection
of the democratic intrigues contrived against him; perhaps even
in his haughty and shortsighted manner he had a certain pride
in ignoring these underground proceedings. Then there came the fact,
which with a character of the type of Pompeius had much weight,
that the democracy never lost sight of outward respect for the great man,
and even now (691) unsolicited (as he preferred it so) had granted
to him by a special decree of the people unprecedented honours
and decorations.(1) But, even if all this had not been the case,
it lay in Pompeius' own well-understood interest to continue
his adherence, at least outwardly, to the popular party; democracy
and monarchy stand so closely related that Pompeius, in aspiring
to the crown, could scarcely do otherwise than call himself, as hitherto,
the champion of popular rights. While personal and political
reasons, therefore, co-operated to keep Pompeius and the leaders
of the democracy, despite of all that had taken place, in their
previous connection, nothing was done on the opposite side to fill
up the chasm which separated him since his desertion to the camp
of the democracy from his Sullan partisans. His personal quarrel
with Metellus and Lucullus transferred itself to their extensive
and influential coteries. A paltry opposition of the senate -
but, to a character of so paltry a mould, all the more exasperating
by reason of its very paltriness - had attended him through his whole
career as a general. He felt it keenly, that the senate had not taken
the smallest step to honour the extraordinary man according to
his desert, that is, by extraordinary means. Lastly, it is not
to be forgotten, that the aristocracy was just then intoxicated
by its recent victory and the democracy deeply humbled,
and that the aristocracy was led by the pedantically stiff
and half-witless Cato, and the democracy by the supple master
of intrigue, Caesar.

Rupture between Pompeius and the Aristocracy

Such was the state of parties amidst which the emissary sent
by Pompeius appeared. The aristocracy not only regarded the proposals
which he announced in favour of Pompeius as a declaration of war
against the existing constitution, but treated them openly as such,
and took not the slightest pains to conceal their alarm and their
indignation. With the express design of combating these proposals,
Marcus Cato had himself elected as tribune of the people
along with Nepos, and abruptly repelled the repeated attempts of Pompeius
to approach him personally. Nepos naturally after this found himself
under no inducement to spare the aristocracy, but attached himself
the more readily to the democrats, when these, pliant as ever,
submitted to what was inevitable and chose freely to concede
the office of general in Italy as well as the consulate
rather than let the concession be wrung from them by force of arms.
The cordial understanding soon showed itself. Nepos publicly accepted
(Dec. 691) the democratic view of the executions recently decreed
by the majority of the senate, as unconstitutional judicial murders;
and that his lord and master looked on them in no other light,
was shown by his significant silence respecting the voluminous
vindication of them which Cicero had sent to him. On the other
hand, the first act with which Caesar began his praetorship
was to call Quintus Catulus to account for the moneys alleged
to have been embezzled by him at the rebuilding of the Capitoline temple,
and to transfer the completion of the temple to Pompeius. This was
a masterstroke. Catulus had already been building at the temple
for fifteen years, and seemed very much disposed to die as he had lived
superintendent of the Capitoline buildings; an attack on this abuse
of a public commission - an abuse covered only by the reputation
of the noble commissioner - was in reality entirely justified
and in a high degree popular. But when the prospect was simultaneously
opened up to Pompeius of being allowed to delete the name of Catulus
and engrave his own on this proudest spot of the first city
of the globe, there was offered to him the very thing which most
of all delighted him and did no harm to the democracy - abundant
but empty honour; while at the same time the aristocracy, which could
not possibly allow its best man to fall, was brought into the most
disagreeable collision with Pompeius.

Meanwhile Nepos had brought his proposals concerning Pompeius
before the burgesses. On the day of voting Cato and his friend
and colleague, Quintus Minucius, interposed their veto. When Nepos
did not regard this and continued the reading out, a formal conflict
took place; Cato and Minucius threw themselves on their colleague
and forced him to stop; an armed band liberated him, and drove
the aristocratic section from the Forum; but Cato and Minucius
returned, now supported likewise by armed bands, and ultimately
maintained the field of battle for the government. Encouraged
by this victory of their bands over those of their antagonist,
the senate suspended the tribune Nepos as well as the praetor Caesar,
who had vigorously supported him in the bringing in of the law,
from their offices; their deposition, which was proposed in the senate,
was prevented by Cato, more, doubtless, because it was
unconstitutional than because it was injudicious. Caesar did
not regard the decree, and continued his official functions till
the senate used violence against him. As soon as this was known,
the multitude appeared before his house and placed itself at his
disposal; it was to depend solely on him whether the struggle
in the streets should begin, or whether at least the proposals made
by Metellus should now be resumed and the military command in Italy
desired by Pompeius should be procured for him; but this was not
in Caesar's interest, and so he induced the crowds to disperse,
whereupon the senate recalled the penalty decreed against him.
Nepos himself had, immediately after his suspension, left
the city and embarked for Asia, in order to report to Pompeius
the result of his mission.

Retirement of Pompeius

Pompeius had every reason to be content with the turn which things
had taken. The way to the throne now lay necessarily through civil
war; and he owed it to Cato's incorrigible perversity that he could
begin this war with good reason. After the illegal condemnation
of the adherents of Catilina, after the unparalleled acts of violence
against the tribune of the people Metellus, Pompeius might wage war
at once as defender of the two palladia of Roman public freedom -
the right of appeal and the inviolability of the tribunate
of the people - against the aristocracy, and as champion of the party
of order against the Catilinarian band. It seemed almost impossible
that Pompeius should neglect this opportunity and with his eyes
open put himself a second time into the painful position, in which
the dismissal of his army in 684 had placed him, and from which
only the Gabinian law had released him. But near as seemed
the opportunity of placing the white chaplet around his brow,
and much as his own soul longed after it, when the question of action
presented itself, his heart and his hand once more failed him.
This man, altogether ordinary in every respect excepting only
his pretensions, would doubtless gladly have placed himself beyond
the law, if only he could have done so without forsaking legal ground.
His very lingering in Asia betrayed a misgiving of this sort.
He might, had he wished, have very well arrived in January 692
with his fleet and army at the port of Brundisium, and have received
Nepos there. His tarrying the whole winter of 691-692 in Asia had
proximately the injurious consequence, that the aristocracy,
which of course accelerated the campaign against Catilina as it best
could, had meanwhile got rid of his bands, and had thus set aside
the most feasible pretext for keeping together the Asiatic legions
in Italy. For a man of the type of Pompeius, who for want of faith
in himself and in his star timidly clung in public life to formal
right, and with whom the pretext was nearly of as much importance
as the motive, this circumstance was of serious weight. He probably
said to himself, moreover, that, even if he dismissed his army,
he did not let it wholly out of his hand, and could in case
of need still raise a force ready for battle sooner at any rate
than any other party-chief; that the democracy was waiting
in submissive attitude for his signal, and that he could deal
with the refractory senate even without soldiers; and such further
considerations as suggested themselves, in which there was exactly
enough of truth to make them appear plausible to one who wished
to deceive himself. Once more the very peculiar temperament
of Pompeius naturally turned the scale. He was one of those men
who are capable it may be of a crime, but not of insubordination;
in a good as in a bad sense, he was thoroughly a soldier. Men of mark
respect the law as a moral necessity, ordinary men as a traditional
everyday rule; for this very reason military discipline, in which
more than anywhere else law takes the form of habit, fetters every
man not entirely self-reliant as with a magic spell. It has often
been observed that the soldier, even where he has determined
to refuse obedience to those set over him, involuntarily
when that obedience is demanded resumes his place in the ranks.
It was this feeling that made Lafayette and Dumouriez hesitate
at the last moment before the breach of faith and break down;
and to this too Pompeius succumbed.

In the autumn of 692 Pompeius embarked for Italy. While in the capital
all was being prepared for receiving the new monarch, news came
that Pompeius, when barely landed at Brundisium, had broken up
his legions and with a small escort had entered on his journey
to the capital. If it is a piece of good fortune to gain a crown
without trouble, fortune never did more for mortal than it did
for Pompeius; but on those who lack courage the gods lavish every
favour and every gift in vain.

Pompeius without Influence

The parties breathed freely. For the second time Pompeius had
abdicated; his already-vanquished competitors might once more begin
the race - in which doubtless the strangest thing was, that Pompeius
was again a rival runner. In January 693 he came to Rome.
His position was an awkward one and vacillated with so much uncertainty
between the parties, that people gave him the nickname of Gnaeus
Cicero. He had in fact lost favour with all. The anarchists saw
in him an adversary, the democrats an inconvenient friend, Marcus
Crassus a rival, the wealthy class an untrustworthy protector,
the aristocracy a declared foe.(2) He was still indeed the most
powerful man in the state; his military adherents scattered through
all Italy, his influence in the provinces, particularly those
of the east, his military fame, his enormous riches gave him a weight
such as no other possessed; but instead of the enthusiastic
reception on which he had counted, the reception which he met
with was more than cool, and still cooler was the treatment given



Online LibraryTheodor MommsenThe History of Rome (Volumes 1-5) → online text (page 170 of 216)