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Chapter 18

SECTION I.

FROM THE SEDITION OF GRACCHUS TO THE PERPETUAL DICTATORSHIP OF SYLLA, WHICH WAS THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS THE RUIN OF THE COMMONWEALTH.--U.C. 634.

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By brutal Marius, and keen Sylla, first Effused the deluge dire of civil blood, Unceasing woes began.--Thomson.

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1. While the Romans were in this state of deplorable corruption at home, they nevertheless were very successful in their transactions with foreign powers.

2. Among other victories, a signal one was gained over Jugur'tha, king of Numid'ia. He was grandson to Massinis'sa, who sided with Rome against Hannibal, and educated with the two young princes, who were left to inherit the kingdom. 3. Being superior in abilities to both, and greatly in favour with the people, he murdered Hiemp'sal, the eldest son, but Adher'bal, the younger, escaped, and fled to the Romans for succour. 4. Jugur'tha, sensible how much avarice and injustice had crept into the senate, sent his ambassadors to Rome with large presents, which so successfully prevailed, that the senate decreed him half the kingdom thus acquired by murder and usurpation, and sent ten commissioners to divide it between him and Adher'bal. 5. The commissioners, of whom Opim'ius, the enemy of Gracchus, was one, willing to follow the example which the senate had set them, were also bribed to bestow the richest and most populous parts of that kingdom upon the usurper. 6. But Jugur'tha resolved to possess himself of the whole: and willing to give a colour to his ambition, he only made, in the beginning, incursions in order to provoke reprisals, which he knew how to convert into seeming aggression. 7. This scheme failing, he resolved to throw off the mask, and besieging Adher'bal in Cirta, his capital, he at length got him into his power, and murdered him. 8. The Roman people, who had still some generosity remaining, unanimously complained of this treachery, and procured a decree that Jugur'tha should be summoned in person before them, to give an account of all such as had accepted bribes. 9. Jugur'tha made no difficulty of throwing himself upon the clemency of Rome; but not giving the people satisfaction, he had orders to depart the city.[1] 10. In the meantime, Alba'nus, the consul, was sent with an army to follow him, who giving up the direction of it to Au'lus, his brother; a person who was every way unqualified for the command, the Romans were compelled to hazard a battle upon disadvantageous terms; and the whole army, to avoid being cut to pieces, was obliged to pass under the yoke.

11. In this condition Metel'lus, the succeeding consul, found affairs upon his arrival in Numid'ia; officers in whom the soldiers had no confidence, an army without discipline, and an enemy ever watchful and intriguing. 12. However, by his great attention to business, and by integrity that shuddered at corruption, he soon began to retrieve the affairs of Rome, and the credit of the army. In the space of two years, Jugur'tha was overthrown in several battles, forced out of his own dominions, and constrained to beg a peace. 13. Thus all things promised Metel'lus a happy termination of the war; but he was frustrated in his expectations by the intrigues of Ca'ius Ma'rius, his lieutenant, who came in to reap that harvest of glory which the other's industry had sown. 14. Ca'ius Ma'rius was born in a village near Apin'ium, of poor parents, who gained their living by their labour. As he had been bred up in a participation of their toils, his manners were as rude as his countenance was frightful. He was a man of extraordinary stature, incomparable strength, and undaunted bravery.

15. When Metel'lus was obliged to solicit at Rome for a continuance of his command, Ma'rius, whose ambition knew no bounds, was resolved to obtain it for himself, and thus gain all the glory of putting an end to the war. 16. To that end he privately inveighed against Metel'lus by his emissaries at Rome, and having excited a spirit of discontent against him, he had leave granted him to go there to stand for the consulship, which he obtained, contrary to the expectation and interest of the nobles.

17. Marius, being thus invested with the supreme power of managing the war, showed himself every way fit for the commission. His vigilance was equal to his valour, and he quickly made himself master of the cities which Jugur'tha had yet remaining in Numid'ia.[2] 18. This unfortunate prince, finding himself unable to make opposition singly was obliged to have recourse for assistance to Bocchus, king of Maurita'nia, to whose daughter he was married. A battle soon after ensued, in which the Numid'ians surprised the Roman camp by night, and gained a temporary advantage. However, it was but of short continuance, for Ma'rius soon after overthrew them in two signal engagements, in one of which not less than ninety thousand of the African army were slain. 19. Bocchus now finding the Romans too powerful to be resisted, did not think it expedient to hazard his own crown, to protect that of his ally; he, therefore, determined to make peace, upon whatever conditions he might obtain it; and accordingly sent to Rome, imploring protection. 20. The senate received the ambassadors with their usual haughtiness, and without complying with their request, granted the suppliant, not their friendship, but their pardon. Notwithstanding, after some time, he was given to understand, that the delivering up of Jugur'tha to the Romans would, in some measure, conciliate their favour, and soften their resentment. 21. At first the pride of Bocchus struggled against such a proposal; but a few interviews with Sylla reconciled him to this treacherous measure, and Jugur'tha was given up, being drawn into an ambuscade by the specious pretences of his ally, who deluded him by desiring a conference; and being made a prisoner, he was loaded with chains, and carried by Ma'rius to Rome, a deplorable instance of blighted ambition. 22. He did not long survive his overthrow, being condemned by the senate to be starved to death in prison, a short time after he had been made to adorn the triumph of the conqueror.[3]

23. Ma'rius, by this and two succeeding victories over the Gauls, having become very formidable to distant nations in war, became soon after much more dangerous to his fellow-citizens in peace. 24. The strength which he had given to the popular party every day grew more conspicuous, and the Italians, being frustrated by the intrigues of the senate in their aims of gaining the freedom of Rome, resolved upon obtaining by force, what was refused them as a favour. This gave rise to the Social War, in which most of the states of Italy entered into a confederacy against Rome, in order to obtain a redress of their grievances.

25. After a lapse of two years, this war having continued to rage with doubtful success, the senate began to reflect that, whether conquered or conquerors, the power of the Romans was in danger of being destroyed. 26. To soften, therefore, their compliance by degrees, they began by giving the freedom of the city to such of the Italian states as had not revolted. They then offered it to such as would lay down their arms. 27. This unexpected bounty had its effect; the allies, with mutual distrust, offered each a separate treaty; the senate took them one by one into favour, but gave the freedom of the city in such a manner, that, not being empowered to vote until all the other tribes had given their suffrages, they had very little weight in the constitution.

28. This destructive war being concluded, the senate began to think of turning their arms against Mithrida'tes, the most powerful and warlike monarch of the east.[4] 29. For this expedition Ma'rius had long been preparing, but Sylla had interest enough to get himself appointed to the expedition. Ma'rius, however, tried all his arts with the people to get his appointment reversed; and the command of the army, intended to oppose Mithrida'tes, was ordered to be transferred from Sylla to Ma'rius. 30. In consequence of this, Ma'rius immediately sent officers from Rome, to take the command in his name. But instead of being obeyed, the officers were slain, and Sylla was entreated by the army to lead them directly to take signal vengeance upon all his enemies at Rome.

31. Accordingly, his soldiers entered the city sword in hand, as a place taken by storm. Ma'rius and Sulpi'cius, at the head of a tumultuary body of their partisans, attempted to oppose their entrance; and the citizens themselves, who feared the sackage of the place, threw down stones and tiles from the houses upon the intruders. 32. So unequal a conflict lasted longer than could have been expected; at length Ma'rius and his party were obliged to seek safety by flight, after having vainly offered liberty to the slaves who would assist them.

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Questions for Examination.

1. Was this internal degeneracy of the Roman people accompanied by ill success abroad?

2. What signal victory did they obtain, and who was Jugurtha?

3. By what means did he obtain the crown?

4. How did he propitiate the Romans?

5. How did these commissoners? discharge their trust?

6. Was Jugurtha satisfied with this allotment?

7. Did this answer his purpose?

8. Did the Romans suffer this treachery to pass unpunished?

9. Did Jugurtha obey this summons?

10. Were hostilities commenced against him, and what was the result?

11. What was the condition of the army when Metellus assumed the command?

12. Did this deplorable state continue?

13. Did Metellus enjoy the fruits of his victories?

14. Who was Caius Marius?

15. What resolution did he adopt?

16. By what artifices did he succeed in his design?

17. What was the conduct of Marius in his new command?

18. To whom did Jugurtha have recourse in his extremity?

19. Did Bocchus continue to befriend Jugurtha?

20. Was his request complied with?

21. Did Bocchus submit to this condition?

22. What became of Jugurtha after this?

23. How did Marius conduct himself after his victories?

24. What was the consequence of his attempts at popularity?

25. Was this war of long continuance?

26. What measure did the senate adopt to end it?

27. What was the consequence of this measure?

28. Against whom did the senate next turn their arms?

29. Who was appointed to command this expedition?

30. What was the consequence of this order?

31. Did Sylla comply with their request?

32. What was the issue of the contest?

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SECTION II.

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It is a vain attempt To bind th' ambitious and unjust by treaties.--Thomson.

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1. Sylla, now finding himself master of the city, began by modelling the laws so as to favour his outrages; while Ma'rius, driven out of Rome and declared a public enemy at the age of seventy, was obliged to save himself, unattended and on foot, from the pursuit of those who sought his life. 2. After having wandered for some time in this deplorable condition, he found every day his dangers increase, and his pursuers making nearer advances. In this distress he concealed himself in the marshes of Mintur'næ, where he continued a night up to the chin in a quagmire. 3. At break of day he left this dismal place, and made towards the seaside, in hopes of finding a ship to facilitate his escape; but being known and discovered by some of the inhabitants, he was conducted to a neighbouring town, with a halter round his neck, without clothes, and covered with mud; and in this condition was sent to prison. 4. The governor of the place, willing to conform to the orders of the senate, soon after sent a Cim'brian slave to despatch him; but the barbarian no sooner entered the dungeon for this purpose than he stopped short, intimidated by the dreadful visage and awful voice of the fallen general, who sternly demanded if he had the presumption to kill Ca'ius Ma'rius? The slave, unable to reply, threw down his sword, and rushing back from the prison, cried out, that he found it impossible to kill him! 5. The governor, considering the fear of the slave as an omen in the unhappy exile's favour, gave him his freedom; and, commending him to his fortune, provided him with a ship to convey him from Italy. 6. He was forced by a tempest on the coast of Sicily. A Roman quæstor, who happened to be there, resolved to seize him; and he lost sixteen of his crew, who were killed in their endeavours to cover his retreat to the ship. He afterwards landed in Africa, near Carthage, and, overwhelmed with melancholy, sat himself down amongst the ruins of that desolate place. He soon, however had orders from the prætor to retire. 7. Marius, who remembered his having once served this very man in necessity, could not suppress his indignation at finding ingratitude every where: and, preparing to obey, bid the messenger tell his master, that he had seen Ma'rius sitting among the ruins of Carthage; intimating the greatness of his fall, by the desolation that was around him. 8. He once more embarked, and not knowing where to land without encountering an enemy, he spent the winter at sea, expecting every hour the return of a messenger from his son, whom he had sent to solicit protection from the African prince, Mandras'tal. 9. After long expectation, instead of the messenger, his son himself arrived, having escaped from the inhospitable court of that monarch, where he had been kept, not as a friend, but as a prisoner, and had returned just time enough to prevent his father from sharing the same fate. 10. In this situation they were informed that Cinna, one of their party who had remained at Rome, had put himself at the head of a large army, collected out of the Italian states, who had espoused his cause. Nor was it long before they joined their forces at the gates of Rome. Sylla was at that time absent in his command against Mithri'dates. 11. Cinna marched into the city; but Ma'rius stopped, and refused to enter, alleging, that having been banished by a public decree, it was necessary to have another to authorise his return. It was thus that he desired to give his meditated cruelties the appearance of justice; and while he was about to destroy thousands, to pretend an implicit veneration for the laws. 12. An assembly of the people being called, they began to reverse his banishment; but they had scarcely gone through three of the tribes, when, incapable of restraining his desire of revenge, he entered the city at the head of his guards, and massacred all who had been obnoxious to him, without remorse or pity. 13. Several who sought to propitiate the tyrant's rage, were murdered by his command in his presence; many even of those who had never offended him were put to death; and, at last, even his own officers never approached him but with terror. 14. Having in this manner satiated his revenge, he next abrogated all the laws which were enacted by his rival, and then made himself consul with Cinna. 15. Thus gratified in his two favourite passions, vengeance and ambition, having once saved his country, and now deluged it with blood, at last, as if willing to crown the pile of slaughter which he had made, with his own body, he died the month after, not without suspicion of having hastened his end. 16. In the mean time these accounts were brought to Sylla, who had been sent against Mithrida'tes, and who was performing many signal exploits against him; hastily concluding a peace, therefore, he returned home to take vengeance on his enemies at Rome. 17. Nothing could intimidate Cinna from attempting to repel his opponent. Being joined by Car'bo, (now elected in the room of Vale'rius, who had been slain) together with young Ma'rius, who inherited all the abilities and the ambition of his father, he determined to send over part of the forces he had raised in Dalma'tia to oppose Sylla before he entered Italy. Some troops were accordingly embarked; but being dispersed by a storm, the others that had not yet put to sea, absolutely refused to go. 18. Upon this, Cinna, quite furious at their disobedience, rushed forward to persuade them to their duty. In the mean time one of the most mutinous of the soldiers being struck by an officer, returned the blow, and was apprehended for his crime. This ill-timed severity produced a tumult and a mutiny through the whole army; and, while Cinna did all he could to appease it, he was run through the body by one of the crowd. 19. Scip'io, the consul, who commanded against Sylla, was soon after allured by proposals for a treaty; but a suspension of arms being agreed upon, Sylla's soldiers went into the opposite camp, displaying those riches which they had acquired in their expeditions, and offering to participate with their fellow-citizens, in case they changed their party. 20. In consequence of this the whole army declared unanimously for Sylla; and Scip'io scarcely knew that he was forsaken and deposed, till he was informed of it by a party of the enemy, who, entering his tent, made him and his son prisoners.

21. In this manner both factions, exasperated to the highest degree, and expecting no mercy on either part, gave vent to their fury in several engagements. The forces on the side of young Ma'rius, who now succeeded his father in command, were the most numerous, but those of Sylla better united, and more under subordination. 22. Carbo, who commanded for Ma'rius in the field, sent eight legions to Prænes'te, to relieve his colleague, but they were met by Pompey, afterwards surnamed the Great, in a defile, who slew many of them, and dispersed the rest. Carbo soon after engaged Metel'lus, but was overcome, with the loss of ten thousand slain, and six thousand taken prisoners. 23. In consequence, Urba'nus, one of the consuls, killed himself, and Carbo fled to Africa, where, after wandering a long time, he was at last delivered up to Pompey, who, to please Sylla, ordered him to be beheaded. 24. Sylla, now become undisputed master of his country, entered Rome at the head of his army. Happy, had he supported in peace the glory which he had acquired in war; or, had he ceased to live when he ceased to conquer!

25. Eight thousand men, who had escaped the general carnage, surrendered themselves to the conqueror; he ordered them to be put into the Villa Pub'lica, a large house in the Campus Mar'tius; and, at the same time, convoked the senate: there, without discovering the least emotion, he spoke with great fluency of his own exploits, and, in the mean time, gave private directions that all those wretches whom he had confined, should be slain. 26. The senate, amazed at the horrid outcries of the sufferers, at first thought that the city was given up to plunder; but Sylla, with an unembarrassed air, informed them, that it was only some criminals who were punished by his order, and that the senate ought not to make themselves uneasy at their fate. 27. The day after he proscribed forty senators, and sixteen hundred knights; and after an intermission of two days, forty senators more, with an infinite number of the richest citizens. 28. He next resolved to invest himself with the dictatorship, and that for a perpetuity; and thus uniting all civil as well as military power in his own person, he thought he might thence give an air of justice to every oppression. 29. Thus he continued to govern with capricious tyranny, none daring to resist his power, until, contrary to the expectation of all mankind, he laid down the dictatorship, after having held it not quite three years.

30 After this, he retired into the country, and abandoned himself to debauchery; but he did not long survive his abdication; he was seized with a horrible distemper, and died a loathsome and mortifying object, and a melancholy proof of the futility of human ambition.[5]

The character of Sylla exhibits a singular compound of great and mean qualities. Superstition was one of its features. It is said that having suffered a defeat in the course of the Social War, in Italy, he drew from his bosom a little image of Apollo, which he had stolen from the temple of Delphi, and had ever since carried about him when engaged in war. Kissing it with great devotion, he expostulated with the god, for having brought him to perish dishonourably, with his countrymen, at the gates of his native city, after having raised him by many victories to such a height of glory and greatness.

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Questions for Examination.

1. What were the first acts of Sylla?

2. What became of Marius?

3. To what dangers was he exposed?

4. Was an attempt made on his life?

5. How did the governor treat the fugitive general?

6. What ingratitude was shown to Marius?

7. What was his reply?

8. From what African prince did he ask aid?

9. Was it granted?

10. What opportunity was taken by the Marian party to renew the struggle?

11. To what scruple did Marius pretend?

12. What proves it a pretence?

13. What cruelties were practised by Marius?

14. What laws did he change? 15. How did Marius die?

16. How did Sylla act when he learned the news of the change?

17. What caused a tumult in Cinna's army?

18. How did it end?

19. What artifice was practised on Scipio?

20. What was the result?

21. Describe the relative condition of the rival forces?

22. Did Pompey obtain any victory?

23. What was the consequence?

24. Which faction finally prevailed?

25. What massacre was perpetrated by Sylla?

26. How did he excuse it? 27. Were these his only cruelties?

28. What magistracy did Sylla usurp?

29. How did he govern?

30. In what manner did the tyranny of Sylla terminate?

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] So astonished was Jugur'tha at the mercenary disposition discovered by the Romans, that he is said to have exclaimed, on leaving the city, "Oh, Rome! thou wouldst thyself be sold, could a chapman be found to purchase thee."

[2] It has been said with great truth, that "the wicked have no friends." Jugur'tha experienced this. Bomil'car, who professed the warmest attachment to Jugur'tha, was gained over by the proconsul Metel'lus to persuade his master, that submission to the Romans was absolutely necessary. Jugur'tha accordingly sent an embassy to the proconsul, professing his readiness to submit to any terms. Upon this he was required to send to the Romans 200,000 pounds weight of silver, all his elephants, a certain number of horses and arms, and all deserters. The king complied exactly with these hard conditions; but after thus weakening his resources, he found himself still obliged to continue the war, or submit to such farther impositions as would have endangered, not only his crown, but his life.

[3] Never did any one more deservedly suffer than this treacherous and cruel man.

[4] This king incurred the resentment of the Romans by making war on some of their allies, and by putting Op'pius and Aquil'ius to death. Upbraiding the Romans with their avarice and corruption, he caused melted gold to be poured down the throat of the latter.

[5] Two events, important in the history of Rome, occurred about this time. Serto'rius, a Roman general, in Spain, had rebelled against the government of Syl'la, and defeated every army sent against him, till Pompey took the command; and even then the result appeared doubtful, till Serto'rius, being assassinated by his own officers put an end to the war. Spar'tacus, a gladiator, having escaped from confinement, and assembled a number of his followers, commenced what is called the second Servile War. His army gradually increasing, he became a formidable enemy to the Roman state; overthrew the prætors and consuls sent against him; but was at length defeated by Crassus, and the remains of his army cut in pieces by Pompey, who met them on his return from Spain.

Oliver Goldsmith