Caesar: A Sketch
James Anthony Froude

Part 2 out of 8

statement that Caesar was fifty-six when he was killed, the date of
his death being March, B.C. 44. Mommsen, however, argues plausibly
for adding another two years to the beginning of Caesar's life, and
brings him into the world at the time of the battle at Aix.


Barbarian kings, who found Roman senators ready to take bribes from them,
believed, not unnaturally, that the days of Roman dominion were numbered.
When the news of the Social war reached Mithridates, he thought it
needless to temporize longer, and he stretched out his hand to seize the
prize of the dominion of the East. The Armenians, who were at his
disposition, broke into Cappadocia and again overthrew the government,
which was in dependence upon Rome. Mithridates himself invaded Bithynia,
and replied to the remonstrances of the Roman authorities by a declaration
of open war. He called under arms the whole force of which he could
dispose; frightened rumor spoke of it as amounting to three hundred
thousand men. His corsair fleets poured down through the Dardanelles into
the archipelago; and so detested had the Roman governors made themselves
by their extortion and injustice that not only all the islands, but the
provinces on the continent, Ionia, Lydia, and Caria, rose in revolt. The
rebellion was preconcerted and simultaneous. The Roman residents,
merchants, bankers, farmers of the taxes, they and all their families,
were set upon and murdered; a hundred and fifty thousand men, women, and
children were said to have been destroyed in a single day. If we divide by
ten, as it is generally safe to do with historical round numbers, still
beyond doubt the signal had been given in an appalling massacre to abolish
out of Asia the Roman name and power. Swift as a thunderbolt Mithridates
himself crossed the Bosphorus, and the next news that reached Rome was
that northern Greece had risen also and was throwing itself into the arms
of its deliverers.

The defeat at Cannae had been received with dignified calm. Patricians and
plebeians forgot their quarrels and thought only how to meet their common
foe. The massacre in Asia and the invasion of Mithridates let loose a
tempest of political frenzy. Never was indignation more deserved. The
Senate had made no preparation. Such resources as they could command had
been wasted in the wars with the Italians. They had no fleet, they had no
armies available; nor, while the civil war was raging, could they raise an
army. The garrisons in Greece were scattered or shut in within their lines
and unable to move. The treasury was empty. Individuals were enormously
rich and the State was bankrupt. Thousands of families had lost brothers,
cousins, or friends in the massacre, and the manifest cause of the
disaster was the inefficiency and worthlessness of the ruling classes. In
Africa, in Gaul, in Italy, and now in Asia it had been the same story. The
interests of the Commonwealth had been sacrificed to fill the purses of
the few. Dominion, wealth, honors, all that had been won by the hardy
virtues of earlier generations, seemed about to be engulfed forever.

In their panic the Senate turned to Sylla, whom they had made consul. An
imperfect peace was patched up with the Italians. Sylla was bidden to save
the Republic and to prepare in haste for Greece. But Sylla was a bitter
aristocrat, the very incarnation of the oligarchy, who were responsible
for every disaster which had happened. The Senate had taken bribes from
Jugurtha. The Senate had chosen the commanders whose blunders had thrown
open the Alps to the Germans; and it was only because the people had
snatched the power out of their hands and had trusted it to one of
themselves that Italy had not been in flames. Again the oligarchy had
recovered the administration, and again by following the old courses they
had brought on this new catastrophe. They might have checked Mithridates
while there was time. They had preferred to accept his money and look on.
The people naturally thought that no successes could be looked for under
such guidance, and that even were Sylla to be victorious, nothing was to
be expected but the continuance of the same accursed system. Marius was
the man. Marius after his sixth consulship had travelled in the East, and
understood it as well as Sylla. Not Sylla but Marius must now go against
Mithridates. Too late the democratic leaders repented of their folly in
encouraging the Senate to refuse the franchise to the Italians. The
Italians, they began to perceive, would be their surest political allies.
Caius Gracchus had been right after all. The Roman democracy must make
haste to offer the Italians more than all which the Senate was ready to
concede to them. Together they could make an end of misrule and place
Marius once more at their head.

Much of this was perhaps the scheming passion of revolution; much of it
was legitimate indignation, penitent for its errors and anxious to atone
for them. Marius had his personal grievances. The aristocrats were
stealing from him even his military reputation, and claiming for Sylla the
capture of Jugurtha. He was willing, perhaps anxious, to take the Eastern
command. Sulpicius Rufus, once a champion of the Senate and the most
brilliant orator in Rome, went over to the people in the excitement. Rufus
was chosen tribune, and at once proposed to enfranchise the remainder of
Italy. He denounced the oligarchy. He insisted that the Senate must be
purged of its corrupt members and better men be introduced, that the
people must depose Sylla, and that Marius must take his place. The Empire
was tottering, and the mob and its leaders were choosing an ill moment for
a revolution. The tribune carried the assembly along with him. There were
fights again in the Forum, the young nobles with their gangs once more
breaking up the Comitia and driving the people from the voting-places. The
voting, notwithstanding, was got through as Sulpicius Rufus recommended,
and Sylla, so far as the assembly could do it, was superseded. But Sylla
was not so easily got rid of. It was no time for nice considerations. He
had formed an army in Campania out of the legions which had served against
the Italians. He had made his soldiers devoted to him. They were ready to
go anywhere and do anything which Sylla bade them. After so many murders
and so many commotions, the constitution had lost its sacred character; a
popular assembly was, of all conceivable bodies, the least fit to govern
an empire; and in Sylla's eyes the Senate, whatever its deficiencies, was
the only possible sovereign of Rome. The people were a rabble, and their
voices the clamor of fools, who must be taught to know their masters. His
reply to Sulpicius and to the vote for his recall was to march on the
city. He led his troops within the circle which no legionary in arms was
allowed to enter, and he lighted his watch-fires in the Forum itself. The
people resisted; Sulpicius was killed; Marius, the saviour of his country,
had to fly for his life, pursued by assassins, with a price set upon his
head. Twelve of the prominent popular leaders were immediately executed
without trial, and in hot haste swift decisive measures were taken which
permanently, as Sylla hoped, or if not permanently at least for the
moment, would lame the limbs of the democracy. The Senate, being below its
numbers, was hastily filled up from the patrician families. The
arrangements of the Comitia were readjusted to restore to wealth a
decisive preponderance in the election of the magistrates. The tribunes of
the people were stripped of half their power. Their veto was left to them,
but the right of initiation was taken away, and no law or measure of any
kind was thenceforth to be submitted to the popular assembly till it had
been considered in the Curia and had received the Senate's sanction.

Thus the snake was scotched, and it might be hoped would die of its
wounds. Sulpicius and his brother demagogues were dead. Marius was exiled.
Time pressed, and Sylla could not wait to see his reforms in operation.
Signs became visible before he went that the crisis would not pass off so
easily. Fresh consuls had to be elected. The changes in the method of
voting were intended to secure the return of the Senate's candidates, and
one of the consuls chosen, Cnaeus Octavius, was a man on whom Sylla could
rely. His colleague, Lucius Cinna, though elected under the pressure of
the legions, was of more doubtful temper. But Cinna was a patrician,
though given to popular sentiments. Sylla was impatient to be gone; more
important work was waiting for him than composing factions in Rome. He
contented himself with obliging the new consuls to take an oath to
maintain the constitution in the shape in which he left it, and he sailed
from Brindisi in the winter of B.C. 88.

The campaign of Sylla in the East does not fall to be described in this
place. He was a second Coriolanus, a proud, imperious aristocrat,
contemptuous, above all men living, of popular rights; but he was the
first soldier of his age; he was himself, though he did not know it, an
impersonation of the change which was passing over the Roman character. He
took with him at most 30,000 men. He had no fleet. Had the corsair
squadrons of Mithridates been on the alert, they might have destroyed him
on his passage. Events at Rome left him almost immediately without support
from Italy. He was impeached; he was summoned back. His troops were
forbidden to obey him, and a democratic commander was sent out to
supersede him. The army stood by their favorite commander. Sylla
disregarded his orders from home. He found men and money as he could. He
supported himself out of the countries which he occupied, without
resources save in his own skill and in the fidelity and excellence of his
legions. He defeated Mithridates, he drove him back out of Greece and
pursued him into Asia. The interests of his party demanded his presence at
Rome; the interests of the State required that he should not leave his
work in the East unfinished, and he stood to it through four hard years
till he brought Mithridates to sue for peace upon his knees. He had not
the means to complete the conquest or completely to avenge the massacre
with which the Prince of Pontus had commenced the war. He left Mithridates
still in possession of his hereditary kingdom, but he left him bound, so
far as treaties could bind so ambitious a spirit, to remain thenceforward
within his own frontiers. He recovered Greece and the islands, and the
Roman provinces in Asia Minor. He extorted an indemnity of five millions,
and executed many of the wretches who had been active in the murders. He
raised a fleet in Egypt, with which he drove the pirates out of the
archipelago back into their own waters. He restored the shattered prestige
of Roman authority, and he won for himself a reputation which his later
cruelties might stain but could not efface.

The merit of Sylla shows in more striking colors when we look to what was
passing, during these four years of his absence, in the heart of the
Empire. He was no sooner out of Italy than the democratic party rose, with
Cinna at their head, to demand the restoration of the old constitution.
Cinna had been sworn to maintain Sylla's reforms, but no oath could be
held binding which was extorted at the sword's point. A fresh Sulpicius
was found in Carbo, a popular tribune. A more valuable supporter was found
in Quintus Sertorius, a soldier of fortune, but a man of real gifts, and
even of genius. Disregarding the new obligation to obtain the previous
consent of the Senate, Cinna called the assembly together to repeal the
acts which Sylla had forced on them. Sylla, it is to be remembered, had as
yet won no victories, nor was expected to win victories. He was the
favorite of the Senate, and the Senate had become a byword for incapacity
and failure. Again, as so many times before, the supremacy of the
aristocrats had been accompanied with dishonor abroad and the lawless
murder of political adversaries at home. No true lover of his country
could be expected, in Cinna's opinion, to sit quiet under a tyranny which
had robbed the people of their hereditary liberties.

The patricians took up the challenge. Octavius, the other consul, came
with an armed force into the Forum, and ordered the assembly to disperse.
The crowd was unusually great. The country voters had come in large
numbers to stand up for their rights. They did not obey, They were not
called on to obey. But because they refused to disperse they were set upon
with deliberate fury, and were hewn down in heaps where they stood. No
accurate register was, of course, taken of the numbers killed; but the
intention of the patricians was to make a bloody example, and such a scene
of slaughter had never been witnessed in Rome since the first stone of the
city was laid. It was an act of savage, ruthless ferocity, certain to be
followed with a retribution as sharp and as indiscriminating. Men are not
permitted to deal with their fellow-creatures in these methods. Cinna and
the tribunes fled, but fled only to be received with open arms by the
Italians. The wounds of the Social war were scarcely cicatrized, and the
peace had left the allies imperfectly satisfied. Their dispersed armies
gathered again about Cinna and Sertorius. Old Marius, who had been hunted
through marsh and forest, and had been hiding with difficulty in Africa,
came back at the news that Italy had risen again; and six thousand of his
veterans flocked to him at the sound of his name. The Senate issued
proclamations. The limitations on the Italian franchise left by Sylla were
abandoned. Every privilege which had been asked for was conceded. It was
too late. Concessions made in fear might be withdrawn on the return of
safety. Marius and Cinna joined their forces. The few troops in the pay of
the Senate deserted to them. They appeared together at the gate's of the
city, and Rome capitulated.

There was a bloody score to be wiped out. There would have been neither
cruelty nor injustice in the most severe inquiry into the massacre in the
Forum, and the most exemplary punishment of Octavius and his companions.
But the blood of the people was up, and they had suffered too deeply to
wait for the tardy processes of law. They had not been the aggressors.
They had assembled lawfully, to assert their constitutional rights; they
had been cut in pieces as if they had been insurgent slaves, and the
assassins were not individuals, but a political party in the State.

Marius bears the chief blame for the scenes which followed. Undoubtedly he
was in no pleasant humor. A price had been set on his head, his house had
been destroyed, his property had been confiscated, he himself had been
chased like a wild beast, and he had not deserved such treatment. He had
saved Italy when but for him it would have been wasted by the swords of
the Germans. His power had afterward been absolute, but he had not abused
it for party purposes. The Senate had no reason to complain of him. He had
touched none of their privileges, incapable and dishonest as he knew them
to be. His crime in their eyes had been his eminence. They had now shown
themselves as cruel as they were worthless; and if public justice was
disposed to make an end of them, he saw no cause for interference.

Thus the familiar story repeated itself; wrong was punished by wrong, and
another item was entered on the bloody account which was being scored up
year after year. The noble lords and their friends had killed the people
in the Forum. They were killed in turn by the soldiers of Marius. Fifty
senators perished; not those who were specially guilty, but those who were
most politically marked as patrician leaders. With them fell a thousand
equites, commoners of fortune, who had thrown in their lot with the
aristocracy. From retaliatory political revenge the transition was easy to
pillage and wholesale murder, and for many days the wretched city was made
a prey to robbers and cutthroats.

So ended the year 87, the darkest and bloodiest which the guilty city had
yet experienced. Marius and Cinna were chosen consuls for the year
ensuing, and a witch's prophecy was fulfilled that Marius should have a
seventh consulate. But the glory had departed from him. His sun was
already setting, redly, among crimson clouds. He lived but a fortnight
after his inauguration, and he died in his bed on the 13th of January, at
the age of seventy-one.

"The mother of the Gracchi," said Mirabeau, "cast the dust of her murdered
sons into the air, and out of it sprang Caius Marius." The Gracchi were
perhaps not forgotten in the retribution; but the crime which had been
revenged by Marius was the massacre in the Forum by Octavius and his
friends. The aristocracy found no mercy, because they had shown no mercy.
They had been guilty of the most wantonly wicked cruelty which the Roman
annals had yet recorded. They were not defending their country against a
national danger. They were engaged in what has been called in later years
"saving society;" that is to say, in saving their own privileges, their
opportunities for plunder, their palaces, their estates, and their
game-preserves. They had treated the people as if they were so many cattle
grown troublesome to their masters, and the cattle were human beings with
rights as real as their own.

The democratic party were now masters of the situation, and so continued
for almost four years. Cinna succeeded to the consulship term after term,
nominating himself and his colleagues. The franchise was given to the
Italians without reserve or qualification. Northern Italy was still
excluded, being not called Italy, but Cisalpine Gaul. South of the Po
distinctions of citizenship ceased to exist. The constitution became a
rehearsal of the Empire, a democracy controlled and guided by a popular
dictator. The aristocrats who had escaped massacre fled to Sylla in Asia,
and for a brief interval Rome drew its breath in peace.


Revolutionary periods are painted in history in colors so dark that the
reader wonders how, amidst such scenes, peaceful human beings could
continue to exist. He forgets that the historian describes only the
abnormal incidents which broke the current of ordinary life, and that
between the spasms of violence there were long quiet intervals when the
ordinary occupations of men went on as usual. Cinna's continuous
consulship was uncomfortable to the upper classes, but the daily business
of a great city pursued its beaten way. Tradesmen and merchants made
money, and lawyers pleaded, and priests prayed in the temples, and
"celebrated" on festival and holy day. And now for the first time we catch
a personal view of young Julius Caesar. He was growing up, in his father's
house, a tall, slight, handsome youth, with dark piercing eyes,[1] a
sallow complexion, large nose, lips full, features refined and
intellectual, neck sinewy and thick beyond what might have been expected
from the generally slender figure. He was particular about his appearance,
used the bath frequently, and attended carefully to his hair. His dress
was arranged with studied negligence, and he had a loose mode of fastening
his girdle so peculiar as to catch the eye.

It may be supposed that he had witnessed Sylla's coming to Rome, the camp-
fires in the Forum, the Octavian massacre, the return of his uncle and
Cinna, and the bloody triumph of the party to which his father belonged.
He was just at the age when such scenes make an indelible impression; and
the connection of his family with Marius suggests easily the persons whom
he must have most often seen, and the conversation to which he must have
listened at his father's table. His most intimate companions were the
younger Marius, the adopted son of his uncle; and, singularly enough, the
two Ciceros, Marcus and his brother Quintus, who had been sent by their
father to be educated at Rome. The connection of Marius with Arpinum was
perhaps the origin of the intimacy. The great man may have heard of his
fellow-townsman's children being in the city, and have taken notice of
them. Certain, at any rate, it is that these boys grew up together on
terms of close familiarity.[2]

Marius had observed his nephew, and had marked him for promotion. During
the brief fortnight of his seventh consulship he gave him an appointment
which reminds us of the boy-bishops of the middle ages. He made him
_flamen dialis_, or priest of Jupiter, and a member of the Sacred
College, with a handsome income, when he was no more than fourteen. Two
years later, during the rule of Cinna, his father arranged a marriage for
him with a lady of fortune named Cossutia. But the young Caesar had more
ambitious views for himself. His father died suddenly at Pisa, in B.C. 84;
he used his freedom to break off his engagement, and instead of Cossutia
he married Cornelia, the daughter of no less a person than the all-
powerful Cinna himself. If the date commonly received for Caesar's birth
is correct, he was still only in his seventeenth year. Such connections
were rarely formed at an age so premature; and the doubt is increased by
the birth of his daughter, Julia, in the year following. Be this as it
may, a marriage into Cinna's family connected Caesar more closely than
ever with the popular party. Thus early and thus definitively he committed
himself to the politics of his uncle and his father-in-law; and the
comparative quiet which Rome and Italy enjoyed under Cinna's
administration may have left a permanent impression upon him.

The quiet was not destined to be of long endurance. The time was come when
Sylla was to demand a reckoning for all which had been done in his
absence. No Roman general had deserved better of his country than Sylla.
He had driven Mithridates out of Greece, and had restored Roman authority
in Asia under conditions peculiarly difficult. He had clung resolutely to
his work, while his friends at home were being trampled upon by the
populace whom he despised. He perhaps knew that in subduing the enemies of
the State by his own individual energy he was taking the surest road to
regain his ascendency. His task was finished. Mithridates was once more a
petty Asiatic prince existing upon sufferance, and Sylla announced his
approaching return to Italy. By his victories he had restored confidence
to the aristocracy, and had won the respect of millions of his countrymen.
But the party in power knew well that if he gained a footing in Italy
their day was over, and the danger to be expected from him was aggravated
by his transcendent services. The Italians feared naturally that they
would lose the liberties which they had won. The popular faction at Rome
was combined and strong, and was led by men of weight and practical
ability. No reconciliation was possible between Cinna and Sylla. They were
the respective chiefs of heaven and hell, and which of the two represented
the higher power and which the lower could be determined only when the
sword had decided between them. In Cinna lay the presumed lawful
authority. He represented the people as organized in the Comitia, and his
colleague in the consulship when the crisis came was the popular tribune
Carbo. Italy was ready with armies; and as leaders there were young
Marius, already with a promise of greatness in him, and Sertorius, gifted,
brilliant, unstained by crime, adored by his troops as passionately as
Sylla himself, and destined to win a place for himself elsewhere in the
Pantheon of Rome's most distinguished men.

Sylla had measured the difficulty of the task which lay before him. But he
had an army behind him accustomed to victory, and recruited by thousands
of exiles who had fled from the rule of the democracy. He had now a fleet
to cover his passage; and he was watching the movements of his enemies
before deciding upon his own, when accident came suddenly to his help.
Cinna had gone down to Brindisi, intending himself to carry his army into
Greece, and to spare Italy the miseries of another civil war, by fighting
it out elsewhere. The expedition was unpopular with the soldiers, and
Cinna was killed in a mutiny. The democracy was thus left without a head,
and the moderate party in the city who desired peace and compromise used
the opportunity to elect two neutral consuls, Scipio and Norbanus. Sylla,
perhaps supposing the change of feeling to be more complete than it really
was, at once opened communications with them. But his terms were such as
he might have dictated if the popular party were already under his feet.
He intended to re-enter Rome with the glory of his conquests about him,
for revenge and a counter-revolution. The consuls replied with refusing to
treat with a rebel in arms, and with a command to disband his troops.

Sylla had lingered at Athens, collecting paintings and statues and
manuscripts, the rarest treasures on which he could lay his hands, to
decorate his Roman palace. On receiving the consuls' answer, he sailed for
Brindisi in the spring of 83, with forty thousand legionaries and a large
fleet. The south of Italy made no resistance, and he secured a standing-
ground where his friends could rally to him. They came in rapidly, some
for the cause which he represented, some for private hopes or animosities,
some as aspiring military adventurers, seeking the patronage of the
greatest soldier of the age. Among these last came Cnaeus Pompey,
afterward Pompey the Great, son of Pompey, surnamed Strabo, or the squint-
eyed, either from some personal deformity or because he had trimmed
between the two factions and was distrusted and hated by them both.

Cnaeus Pompey had been born in the same year with Cicero, and was now
twenty-three. He was a high--spirited ornamental youth, with soft melting
eyes, as good as he was beautiful, and so delightful to women that it was
said they all longed to bite him. The Pompeys had been hardly treated by
Cinna. The father had been charged with embezzlement. The family house in
Rome had been confiscated; the old Strabo had been killed; the son had
retired to his family estate in Picenum,[3] where he was living when Sylla
landed. To the young Roman chivalry Sylla was a hero of romance. Pompey
raised a legion out of his friends and tenants, scattered the few
companies that tried to stop him, and rushed to the side of the deliverer.
Others came, like Sergius Catiline or Oppianicus of Larino,[4] men steeped
in crime, stained with murder, incest, adultery, forgery, and meaning to
secure the fruits of their villanies by well-timed service. They were all
welcome, and Sylla was not particular. His progress was less rapid than it
promised to be at the outset. He easily defeated Norbanus; and Scipio's
troops, having an aristocratic leaven in them, deserted to him. But the
Italians, especially the Samnites, fought most desperately. The war lasted
for more than a year, Sylla slowly advancing. The Roman mob became
furious. They believed their cause betrayed, and were savage from fear and
disappointment. Suspected patricians were murdered: among them fell the
Pontifex Maximus, the venerable Scaevola. At length the contest ended in a
desperate fight under the walls of Rome itself on the 1st of November,
B.C. 82. The battle began at four in the afternoon, and lasted through the
night to the dawn of the following day. The popular army was at last cut
to pieces; a few thousand prisoners were taken, but they were murdered
afterward in cold blood. Young Marius killed himself, Sertorius fled to
Spain, and Sylla and the aristocracy were masters of Rome and Italy. Such
provincial towns as continued to resist were stormed and given up to
pillage, every male inhabitant being put to the sword. At Norba, in
Latium, the desperate citizens fired their own houses and perished by each
other's hands.

Sylla was under no illusions. He understood the problem which he had in
hand. He knew that the aristocracy were detested by nine tenths of the
people; he knew that they deserved to be detested; but they were at least
gentlemen by birth and breeding. The democrats, on the other hand, were
insolent upstarts, who, instead of being grateful for being allowed to
live and work and pay taxes and serve in the army, had dared to claim a
share in the government, had turned against their masters, and had set
their feet upon their necks. The miserable multitude were least to blame.
They were ignorant, and without leaders could be controlled easily. The
guilt and the danger lay with the men of wealth and intellect, the country
gentlemen, the minority of knights and patricians like Cinna, who had
taken the popular side and had deserted their own order. Their motives
mattered not; some might have acted from foolish enthusiasm, some from
personal ambition; but such traitors, from the Gracchi onward, had caused
all the mischief which had happened to the State. They were determined,
they were persevering. No concessions had satisfied them, and one demand
had been a prelude to another. There was no hope for an end of agitation
till every one of these men had been rooted out, their estates taken from
them, and their families destroyed.

To this remarkable work Sylla addressed himself, unconscious that he was
attempting an impossibility, that opinion could not be controlled by the
sword, and that for every enemy to the oligarchy that he killed he would
create twenty by his cruelty. Like Marius after the Octavian massacre, he
did not attempt to distinguish between degrees of culpability. Guilt was
not the question with him. His object was less to punish the past than to
prevent a recurrence of it, and moderate opposition was as objectionable
as fanaticism and frenzy. He had no intention of keeping power in his own
hands. Personal supremacy might end with himself, and he intended to
create institutions which would endure, in the form of a close senatorial
monopoly. But for his purpose it would be necessary to remove out of the
way every single person either in Rome or in the provinces who was in a
position to offer active resistance, and therefore for the moment he
required complete freedom of action. The Senate at his direction appointed
him dictator, and in this capacity he became absolute master of the life
and property of every man and woman in Italy. He might be impeached
afterward and his policy reversed, but while his office lasted he could do
what he pleased.

He at once outlawed every magistrate, every public servant of any kind,
civil or municipal, who had held office under the rule of Cinna. Lists
were drawn for him of the persons of wealth and consequence all over Italy
who belonged to the liberal party. He selected agents whom he could trust,
or supposed he could trust, to enter the names for each district. He
selected, for instance, Oppianicus of Larino, who inscribed individuals
whom he had already murdered, and their relations whose prosecution he
feared. It mattered little to Sylla who were included, if none escaped who
were really dangerous to him; and an order was issued for the slaughter of
the entire number, the confiscation of their property, and the division of
it between the informers and Sylla's friends and soldiers. Private
interest was thus called in to assist political animosity, and to
stimulate the zeal for assassination a reward of L500 was offered for the
head of any person whose name was in the schedule.

It was one of those deliberate acts, carried out with method and order,
which are possible only in countries in an advanced stage of civilization,
and which show how thin is the film spread over human ferocity by what is
called progress and culture. We read in every page of history of invasions
of hostile armies, of towns and villages destroyed and countries wasted
and populations perishing of misery; the simplest war brings a train of
horrors behind it; but we bear them with comparative equanimity. Personal
hatreds are not called out on such occasions. The actors in them are
neither necessarily nor generally fiends. The grass grows again on the
trampled fields. Peace returns, and we forget and forgive. The coldly
ordered massacres of selected victims in political and spiritual struggles
rise in a different order of feelings, and are remembered through all ages
with indignation and shame. The victims perish as the champions of
principles which survive through the changes of time. They are marked for
the sacrifice on account of their advocacy of a cause which to half
mankind is the cause of humanity. They are the martyrs of history, and the
record of atrocity rises again in immortal witness against the opinions
out of which it rose.

Patricians and plebeians, aristocrats and democrats, have alike stained
their hands with blood in the working out of the problem of politics. But
impartial history declares also that the crimes of the popular party have
in all ages been the lighter in degree, while in themselves they have more
to excuse them; and if the violent acts of revolutionists have been held
up more conspicuously for condemnation, it has been only because the fate
of noblemen and gentlemen has been more impressive to the imagination than
the fate of the peasant or the artisan. But the endurance of the
inequalities of life by the poor is the marvel of human society. When the
people complain, said Mirabeau, the people are always right. The popular
cause has been the cause of the laborer struggling for a right to live and
breathe and think as a man. Aristocracies fight for wealth and power,
wealth which they waste upon luxury, and power which they abuse for
their own interests. Yet the cruelties of Marius were as far exceeded by
the cruelties of Sylla as the insurrection of the beggars of Holland was
exceeded by the bloody tribunal of the Duke of Alva, or as "the horrors of
the French Revolution" were exceeded by the massacre of the Huguenots two
hundred years before, for which the Revolution was the expiatory

Four thousand seven hundred persons fell in the proscription of Sylla, all
men of education and fortune. The real crime of many of them was the
possession of an estate or a wife which a relative or a neighbor coveted.
The crime alleged against all was the opinion that the people of Rome and
Italy had rights which deserved consideration as well as the senators and
nobles. The liberal party were extinguished in their own blood. Their
estates were partitioned into a hundred and twenty thousand allotments,
which were distributed among Sylla's friends, or soldiers, or freedmen.
The land reform of the Gracchi was mockingly adopted to create a permanent
aristocratic garrison. There were no trials, there were no pardons. Common
report or private information was at once indictment and evidence, and
accusation was in itself condemnation.

The ground being thus cleared, the Dictator took up again his measures of
political reform. He did not attempt a second time to take the franchise
from the Italians. Romans and Italians he was ready to leave on the same
level, but it was to be a level of impotence. Rome was to be ruled by the
Senate, and as a first step, and to protect the Senate's dignity, he
enfranchised ten thousand slaves who had belonged to the proscribed
gentlemen, and formed them into a senatorial guard. Before departing for
the East he had doubled the Senate's numbers out of the patrician order.
Under Cinna the new members had not claimed their privilege, and had
probably been absent from Italy. They were now installed in their places,
and the power of the censors to revise the list and remove those who had
proved unworthy was taken away. The senators were thus peers for life,
peers in a single chamber which Sylla meant to make omnipotent. Vacancies
were to be supplied as before from the retiring consuls, praetors,
aediles, and quaestors. The form of a popular constitution would remain,
since the road into the council of State lay through the popular
elections. But to guard against popular favorites finding access to the
consulship, a provision was made that no person who had been a tribune of
the people could be chosen afterward to any other office.

The Senate's power depended on the withdrawal from the assembly of
citizens of the right of original legislation. So long as the citizens
could act immediately at the invitation of either consul or tribune, they
could repeal at their pleasure any arrangement which Sylla might
prescribe. As a matter of course, therefore, he re-enacted the condition
which restricted the initiation of laws to the Senate. The tribunes still
retained their veto, but a penalty was attached to the abuse of the veto,
the Senate being the judge in its own cause, and possessing a right to
depose a tribune.

In the Senate so reconstituted was thus centred a complete restrictive
control over the legislation and the administration. And this was not all.
The senators had been so corrupt in the use of their judicial functions
that Gracchus had disabled them from sitting in the law courts, and had
provided that the judges should be chosen in future from the equites. The
knights had been exceptionally pure in their office. Cicero challenged his
opponents on the trial of Verres[5] to find a single instance in which an
equestrian court could be found to have given a corrupt verdict during the
forty years for which their privilege survived. But their purity did not
save them, nor, alas! those who were to suffer by a reversion to the old
order. The equestrian courts were abolished: the senatorial courts were
reinstated. It might be hoped that the senators had profited by their
lesson, and for the future would be careful of their reputation.

Changes were made also in the modes of election to office. The College of
Priests had been originally a close corporation, which filled up its own
numbers. Democracy had thrown it open to competition, and given the choice
to the people. Sylla reverted to the old rule. Consuls like Marius and
Cinna, who had the confidence of the people, had been re-elected year
after year, and had been virtual kings. Sylla provided that ten years must
elapse between a first consulship and a second. Nor was any one to be a
consul who was not forty-three years old and had not passed already
through the lower senatorial offices of praetor or quaestor.

The assembly of the people had been shorn of its legislative powers. There
was no longer, therefore, any excuse for its meeting, save on special
occasions. To leave the tribunes power to call the citizens to the Forum
was to leave them the means of creating inconvenient agitation. It was
ordered, therefore, that the assembly should only come together at the
Senate's invitation. The free grants of corn, which filled the city with
idle vagrants, were abolished. Sylla never courted popularity, and never
shrank from fear of clamor.

The Senate was thus made omnipotent and irresponsible. It had the
appointment of all the governors of the provinces. It was surrounded by
its own body-guard. It had the administration completely in hand. The
members could be tried only by their peers, and were themselves judges of
every other order. No legal force was left anywhere to interfere with what
it might please them to command. A senator was not necessarily a
patrician, nor a patrician a senator. The Senate was,[6] or was to be as
time wore on, a body composed of men of any order who had secured the
suffrages of the people. But as the value of the prize became so vast, the
way to the possession of it was open practically to those only who had
wealth or interest. The elections came to be worked by organized
committees, and except in extraordinary circumstances no candidate could
expect success who had not the Senate's support, or who had not bought the
services of the managers, at a cost within the reach only of the reckless
spendthrift or the speculating millionaire.

What human foresight could do to prevent democracy from regaining the
ascendency, Sylla had thus accomplished. He had destroyed the opposition;
he had reorganized the constitution on the most strictly conservative
lines. He had built the fortress, as he said; it was now the Senate's part
to provide a garrison; and here it was, as Caesar said afterward, that
Sylla had made his great mistake. His arrangements were ingenious, and
many of them excellent; but the narrower the body to whose care the
government was entrusted, the more important became the question of the
composition of this body. The theory of election implied that they would
be the best that the Republic possessed; but Sylla must have been himself
conscious that fact and theory might be very far from corresponding.

The key of the situation was the army. As before, no troops were to be
maintained in Italy; but beyond the frontiers the provinces were held by
military force, and the only power which could rule the Empire was the
power which the army would obey. It was not for the Senate's sake that
Sylla's troops had followed him from Greece. It was from their personal
devotion to himself. What charm was there in this new constructed
aristocratic oligarchy, that distant legions should defer to it--more than
Sylla's legions had deferred to orders from Cinna and Carbo? Symptoms of
the danger from this quarter were already growing even under the
Dictator's own eyes, and at the height of his authority. Sertorius had
escaped the proscription. After wandering in Africa he made his way into
Spain, where, by his genius as a statesman and a soldier, he rose into a
position to defy the Senate and assert his independence. He organized the
peninsula after the Roman model; he raised armies, and defeated commander
after commander who was sent to reduce him. He revived in the Spaniards a
national enthusiasm for freedom. The Roman legionaries had their own
opinions, and those whose friends Sylla had murdered preferred Sertorius
and liberty to Rome and an aristocratic Senate. Unconquerable by honorable
means, Sertorius was poisoned at last. But his singular history suggests a
doubt whether, if the Syllan constitution had survived, other Sertoriuses
might not have sprung up in every province, and the Empire of Rome have
gone to pieces like the Macedonian. The one condition of the continuance
of the Roman dominion was the existence of a central authority which the
army as a profession could respect, and the traditionary reverence which
attached to the Roman Senate would scarcely have secured their
disinterested attachment to five hundred elderly rich men who had bought
their way into pre-eminence.

Sylla did not live to see the significance of the Sertorian revolt. He
experienced, however, himself, in a milder form, an explosion of military
sauciness. Young Pompey had been sent, after the occupation of Rome, to
settle Sicily and Africa. He did his work well and rapidly, and when it
was over he received orders from the Senate to dismiss his troops. An
order from Sylla Pompey would have obeyed; but what was the Senate, that
an ambitious brilliant youth with arms in his hands should send away an
army devoted to him and step back into common life? Sylla himself had to
smooth the ruffled plumes of his aspiring follower. He liked Pompey, he
was under obligations to him, and Pompey had not acted after all in a
manner so very unlike his own. He summoned him home, but he gave him a
triumph for his African conquests, and allowed him to call himself by the
title of "_Magnus_," or "_The Great_." Pompey was a promising
soldier, without political ambition, and was worth an effort to secure. To
prevent the risk of a second act of insubordination, Sylla made personal
arrangements to attach Pompey directly to himself. He had a step-daughter,
named Aemilia. She was already married, and was pregnant. Pompey too was
married to Antistia, a lady of good family; but domestic ties were not
allowed to stand in the way of higher objects. Nor did it matter that
Antistia's father had been murdered by the Roman populace for taking
Sylla's side, or that her mother had gone mad and destroyed herself, on
her husband's horrible death. Late Republican Rome was not troubled with
sentiment. Sylla invited Pompey to divorce Antistia and marry Aemilia.
Pompey complied. Antistia was sent away. Aemilia was divorced from her
husband, and was brought into Pompey's house, where she immediately died.

In another young man of high rank, whom Sylla attempted to attach to
himself by similar means, he found less complaisance. Caesar was now
eighteen, his daughter Julia having been lately born. He had seen his
party ruined, his father-in-law and young Marius killed, and his nearest
friends dispersed or murdered. He had himself for a time escaped
proscription; but the Dictator had his eye on him, and Sylla had seen
something in "the youth with the loose girdle" which struck him as
remarkable. Closely connected though Caesar was both with Cinna and
Marius, Sylla did not wish to kill him if he could help it. There was a
cool calculation in his cruelties. The existing generation of democrats
was incurable, but he knew that the stability of the new constitution must
depend on his being able to conciliate the intellect and energy of the
next. Making a favor perhaps of his clemency, he proposed to Caesar to
break with his liberal associates, divorce Cinna's daughter, and take such
a wife as he would himself provide. If Pompey had complied, who had made a
position of his own, much more might it be expected that Caesar would
comply. Yet Caesar answered with a distinct and unhesitating refusal. The
terrible Sylla, in the fulness of his strength, after desolating half the
homes in Italy, after revolutionizing all Roman society, from the
peasant's cottage in the Apennines to the senate-house itself, was defied
by a mere boy! Throughout his career Caesar displayed always a singular
indifference to life. He had no sentimental passion about him, no Byronic
mock-heroics. He had not much belief either in God or the gods. On all
such questions he observed from first to last a profound silence. But one
conviction he had. He intended, if he was to live at all, to live master
of himself in matters which belonged to himself. Sylla might kill him if
he so pleased. It was better to die than to put away a wife who was the
mother of his child, and to marry some other woman at a dictator's
bidding. Life on such terms was not worth keeping.

So proud a bearing may have commanded Sylla's admiration, but it taught
him, also, that a young man capable of assuming an attitude so bold might
be dangerous to the rickety institutions which he had constructed so
carefully. He tried coercion. He deprived Caesar of his priesthood. He
took his wife's dowry from him, and confiscated the estate which he had
inherited from his father. When this produced no effect, the rebellious
youth was made over to the assassins, and a price was set upon his head.
He fled into concealment. He was discovered once, and escaped only by
bribing Sylla's satellites. His fate would soon have overtaken him, but he
had powerful relations, whom Sylla did not care to offend. Aurelius Cotta,
who was perhaps his mother's brother, Mamercus Aemilius, a distinguished
patrician, and singularly also the College of the Vestal Virgins,
interceded for his pardon. The Dictator consented at last, but with
prophetic reluctance. "Take him," he said at length, "since you will have
it so--but I would have you know that the youth for whom you are so
earnest will one day overthrow the aristocracy, for whom you and I have
fought so hardly; in this young Caesar there are many Mariuses." [7]
Caesar, not trusting too much to Sylla's forbearance, at once left Italy,
and joined the army in Asia. The little party of young men who had grown
up together now separated, to meet in the future on altered terms. Caesar
held to his inherited convictions, remaining constant through good and
evil to the cause of his uncle Marius. His companion Cicero, now ripening
into manhood, chose the other side. With his talents for his inheritance,
and confident in the consciousness of power, but with weak health and a
neck as thin as a woman's, Cicero felt that he had a future before him,
but that his successes must be won by other weapons than arms. He chose
the bar for his profession; he resolved to make his way into popularity as
a pleader before the Senate courts and in the Forum. He looked to the
Senate itself as the ultimate object of his ambition. There alone he could
hope to be distinguished, if distinguished he was to be.

Cicero, however, was no more inclined than Caesar to be subservient to
Sylla, as he took an early opportunity of showing. It was to the cause of
the constitution, and not to the person of the Dictator, that Cicero had
attached himself, and he, too, ventured to give free expression to his
thoughts when free speech was still dangerous.

Sylla's career was drawing to its close, and the end was not the least
remarkable feature of it. On him had fallen the odium of the proscription
and the stain of the massacres. The sooner the senators could be detached
from the soldier who had saved them from destruction, the better chance
they would have of conciliating quiet people on whose support they must
eventually rely. Sylla himself felt the position; and having completed
what he had undertaken, with a half-pitying, half-contemptuous self-
abandonment he executed what from the first he had intended--he resigned
the dictatorship, and became a private citizen again, amusing the leisure
of his age, as he had abused the leisure of his youth, with theatres and
actresses and dinner-parties. He too, like so many of the great Romans,
was indifferent to life; of power for the sake of power he was entirely
careless; and if his retirement had been more dangerous to him than it
really was, he probably would not have postponed it. He was a person of
singular character, and not without many qualities which were really
admirable. He was free from any touch of charlatanry. He was true, simple,
and unaffected, and even without ambition in the mean and personal sense.
His fault, which he would have denied to be a fault, was that he had a
patrician disdain of mobs and suffrages and the cant of popular liberty.
The type repeats itself era after era. Sylla was but Graham of Claverhouse
in a Roman dress and with an ampler stage. His courage in laying down his
authority has been often commented on, but the risk which he incurred was
insignificant. There was in Rome neither soldier nor statesman who could
for a moment be placed in competition with Sylla, and he was so
passionately loved by the army, he was so sure of the support of his
comrades, whom he had quartered on the proscribed lands, and who, for
their own interest's sake, would resist attempts at counter-revolution,
that he knew that if an emergency arose he had but to lift his finger to
reinstate himself in command. Of assassination he was in no greater danger
than when dictator, while the temptation to assassinate him was less. His
influence was practically undiminished, and as long as he lived he
remained, and could not but remain, the first person in the Republic.

Some license of speech he was, of course, prepared for, but it required no
small courage to make a public attack either on himself or his dependants,
and it was therefore most creditable to Cicero that his first speech of
importance was directed against the Dictator's immediate friends, and was
an exposure of the iniquities of the proscription. Cicero no doubt knew
that there would be no surer road to favor with the Roman multitude than
by denouncing Sylla's followers, and that, young and unknown as he was,
his insignificance might protect him, however far he ventured. But he had
taken the Senate's side. From first to last he had approved of the
reactionary constitution, and had only condemned the ruthless methods by
which it had been established. He never sought the popularity of a
demagogue, or appealed to popular passions, or attempted to create a
prejudice against the aristocracy, into whose ranks he intended to make
his way. He expressed the opinions of the respectable middle classes, who
had no sympathy with revolutionists, but who dreaded soldiers and military
rule and confiscations of property.

The occasion on which Cicero came forward was characteristic of the time.
Sextus Roscius was a country gentleman of good position, residing near
Ameria, in Umbria. He had been assassinated when on a visit to Rome by two
of his relations, who wished to get possession of his estate. The
proscription was over, and the list had been closed; but Roscius's name
was surreptitiously entered upon it, with the help of Sylla's favorite
freedman, Chrysogonus. The assassins obtained an acknowledgment of their
claims, and they and Chrysogonus divided the spoils. Sextus Roscius was
entirely innocent. He had taken no part in politics at all. He had left a
son who was his natural heir, and the township of Ameria sent up a
petition to Sylla remonstrating against so iniquitous a robbery. The
conspirators, finding themselves in danger of losing the reward of their
crime, shifted their ground. They denied that they had themselves killed
Sextus Roscius. They said that the son had done it, and they charged him
with parricide. Witnesses were easily provided. No influential pleader, it
was justly supposed, would venture into antagonism with Sylla's favorite
and appear for the defence. Cicero heard of the case, however, and used
the opportunity to bring himself into notice. He advocated young Roscius's
cause with skill and courage. He told the whole story in court without
disguise. He did not blame Sylla. He compared Sylla to Jupiter Optimus
Maximus, who was sovereign of the universe, and on the whole a good
sovereign, but with so much business on his hands that he had not time to
look into details. But Cicero denounced Chrysogonus as an accomplice in an
act of atrocious villainy. The court took the same view, and the rising
orator had the honor of clearing the reputation of the injured youth, and
of recovering his property for him.

Sylla showed no resentment, and probably felt none. He lived for a year
after his retirement, and died 78 B.C., being occupied at the moment in
writing his memoirs, which have been unfortunately lost. He was buried
gorgeously in the Campus Martius, among the old kings of Rome. The
aristocrats breathed freely when delivered from his overpowering presence,
and the constitution which he had set upon its feet was now to be tried.

[1] "Nigris vegetisque oculis."--Suetonius.

[2] "Ac primum illud tempus familiaritatis et consuetudinis, quae mihi cum
illo, quae fratri meo, quae Caio Varroni, consobrino nostro, ab omnium
nostrum adolescentia fuit, praetermitto."--Cicero, _De Provinciis
Consularibus_, 17. Cicero was certainly speaking of a time which
preceded Sylla's dictatorship, for Caesar left Rome immediately after
it, and when he came back he attached himself to the political party
to which Cicero was most opposed.

[3] On the Adriatic, between Anconia and Pescara.

[4] See, for the story of Oppianicus, the remarkable speech of Cicero,
_Pro Cluentio_.

[5] Appian, on the other hand, says that the courts of the equites had
been more corrupt than the senatorial courts.--_De Bello Civili,
i_. 22. Cicero was perhaps prejudiced in favor of his own order,
but a contemporary statement thus publicly made is far more likely to
be trustworthy.

[6] Sylla had himself nominated a large number of senators.

[7] So says Suetonius, reporting the traditions of the following century;
but the authority is doubtful, and the story, like so many others, is
perhaps apocryphal.


The able men of the democracy had fallen in the proscription. Sertorius,
the only eminent surviving soldier belonging to them, was away, making
himself independent in Spain. The rest were all killed. But the Senate,
too, had lost in Sylla the single statesman that they possessed. They were
a body of mediocrities, left with absolute power in their hands, secure as
they supposed from further interference, and able to return to those
pleasant occupations which for a time had been so rudely interrupted.
Sertorius was an awkward problem with which Pompey might perhaps be
entrusted to deal. No one knew as yet what stuff might be in Pompey. He
was for the present sunning himself in his military splendors; too young
to come forward as a politician, and destitute, so far as appeared, of
political ambition. If Pompey promised to be docile, he might be turned to
use at a proper time; but the aristocracy had seen too much of successful
military commanders, and were in no hurry to give opportunities of
distinction to a youth who had so saucily defied them. Sertorius was far
off, and could be dealt with at leisure.

In his defence of Roscius, Cicero had given an admonition to the noble
lords that unless they mended their ways they could not look for any long
continuance.[1] They regarded Cicero perhaps, if they heard what he
said of them, as an inexperienced young man, who would understand better
by and by of what materials the world was made. There had been excitement
and anxiety enough. Conservatism was in power again. Fine gentlemen could
once more lounge in their clubs, amuse themselves with their fish-ponds
and horses and mistresses, devise new and ever new means of getting money
and spending it, and leave the Roman Empire for the present to govern

The leading public men belonging to the party in power had all served in
some capacity or other with Sylla or under him. Of those whose names
deserve particular mention there were at most five.

Licinius Lucullus had been a special favorite of Sylla. The Dictator left
him his executor, with the charge of his manuscripts. Lucullus was a
commoner, but of consular family, and a thorough-bred aristocrat. He had
endeared himself to Sylla by a languid talent which could rouse itself
when necessary into brilliant activity, by the easy culture of a polished
man of rank, and by a genius for luxury which his admirers followed at a
distance, imitating their master but hopeless of overtaking him.

Caecilius Metellus, son of the Metellus whom Marius had superseded in
Africa, had been consul with Sylla in 80 B.C. He was now serving in Spain
against Sertorius, and was being gradually driven out of the peninsula.

Lutatius Catulus was a proud but honest patrician, with the conceit of his
order, but without their vices. His father, who had been Marius's
colleague, and had been defeated by the Cimbri, had killed himself during
the Marian revolution. The son had escaped, and was one of the consuls at
the time of Sylla's death.

More noticeable than either of these was Marcus Crassus, a figure
singularly representative, of plebeian family, but a family long adopted
into the closest circle of the aristocracy, the leader and impersonation
of the great moneyed classes in Rome. Wealth had for several generations
been the characteristic of the Crassi. They had the instinct and the
temperament which in civilized ages take to money-making as a natural
occupation. In politics they aimed at being on the successful side; but
living as they did in an era of revolutions, they were surprised
occasionally in unpleasant situations. Crassus the rich, father of Marcus,
had committed himself against Marius, and had been allowed the privilege
of being his own executioner. Marcus himself, who was a little older than
Cicero, took refuge in Sylla's camp. He made himself useful to the
Dictator by his genius for finance, and in return he was enabled to amass
an enormous fortune for himself out of the proscriptions. His eye for
business reached over the whole Roman Empire. He was banker, speculator,
contractor, merchant. He lent money to the spendthrift young lords, but
with sound securities and at usurious interest. He had an army of slaves,
but these slaves were not ignorant field-hands; they were skilled workmen
in all arts and trades, whose labors he turned to profit in building
streets and palaces. Thus all that he touched turned to gold. He was the
wealthiest single individual in the whole Empire, the acknowledged head of
the business world of Rome.

The last person who need be noted was Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, the father
of the future colleague of Augustus and Antony. Lepidus, too, had been an
officer of Sylla's. He had been rewarded for his services by the
government of Sicily, and when Sylla died was the second consul with
Catulus. It was said against him that, like so many other governors, he
had enriched himself by tyrannizing over his Sicilian subjects. His
extortions had been notorious; he was threatened with prosecution as soon
as his consulship should expire; and the adventure to which he was about
to commit himself was undertaken, so the aristocrats afterward maintained,
in despair of an acquittal. Lepidus's side of the story was never told,
but another side it certainly had. Though one of Sylla's generals, he had
married the daughter of the tribune Saturninus. He had been elected consul
by a very large majority against the wishes of the Senate, and was
suspected of holding popular opinions. It may be that the prosecution was
an after-thought of revenge, and that Lepidus was to have been tried
before a senatorial jury already determined to find him guilty.

Among these men lay the fortunes of Rome when the departure of their chief
left the aristocrats masters of their own destiny.

During this time Caesar had been serving his apprenticeship as a soldier.
The motley forces which Mithridates had commanded had not all submitted on
the king's surrender to Sylla. Squadrons of pirates hung yet about the
smaller islands in the Aegean. Lesbos was occupied by adventurers who were
fighting for their own hand, and the praetor Minucius Thermus had been
sent to clear the seas and extirpate these nests of brigands. To Thermus
Caesar had attached himself. The praetor, finding that his fleet was not
strong enough for the work, found it necessary to apply to Nicomedes, the
allied sovereign of the adjoining kingdom of Bithynia, to supply him with
a few additional vessels; and Caesar, soon after his arrival, was
despatched on this commission to the Bithynian court.

Long afterward, when Roman cultivated society had come to hate Caesar, and
any scandal was welcome to them which would make him odious, it was
reported that on this occasion he entered into certain relations with
Nicomedes of a kind indisputably common at the time in the highest
patrician circles. The value of such a charge in political controversy was
considerable, for whether true or false it was certain to be believed; and
similar accusations were flung indiscriminately, so Cicero says, at the
reputation of every eminent person whom it was desirable to stain, if his
personal appearance gave the story any air of probability.[2]

The disposition to believe evil of men who have risen a few degrees above
their contemporaries is a feature of human nature as common as it is base;
and when to envy there are added fear and hatred, malicious anecdotes
spring like mushrooms in a forcing-pit. But gossip is not evidence, nor
does it become evidence because it is in Latin and has been repeated
through many generations. The strength of a chain is no greater than the
strength of its first link, and the adhesive character of calumny proves
only that the inclination of average men to believe the worst of great men
is the same in all ages. This particular accusation against Caesar gains,
perhaps, a certain credibility from the admission that it was the only
occasion on which anything of the kind could be alleged against him. On
the other hand, it was unheard of for near a quarter of a century. It was
produced in Rome in the midst of a furious political contest. No witnesses
were forthcoming; no one who had been at Bithynia at the time; no one who
ever pretended to have original knowledge of the truth of the story.
Caesar himself passed it by with disdain, or alluded to it, if forced upon
his notice, with contemptuous disgust.

The Bithynian mission was otherwise successful. He brought the ships to
Thermus. He distinguished himself personally in the storming of Mitylene,
and won the oak-wreath, the Victoria Cross of the Roman army. Still
pursuing the same career, Caesar next accompanied Servilius Isauricus in a
campaign against the horde of pirates, afterwards so famous, that was
forming itself among the creeks and river-mouths of Cilicia. The
advantages which Servilius obtained over them were considerable enough to
deserve a triumph, but were barren of result. The news that Sylla was dead
reached the army while still in the field; and the danger of appearing in
Rome being over, Caesar at once left Cilicia and went back to his family.
Other causes are said to have contributed to hasten his return. A plot had
been formed, with the consul Lepidus at its head, to undo Sylla's laws and
restore the constitution of the Gracchi. Caesar had been urged by letter
to take part in the movement, and he may have hurried home either to
examine the prospects of success or perhaps to prevent an attempt which,
under the circumstances, he might think criminal and useless. Lepidus was
not a wise man, though he may have been an honest one. The aristocracy had
not yet proved that they were incapable of reform. It might be that they
would digest their lesson after all, and that for a generation to come no
more revolutions would be necessary.

[Sidenote: B.C. 77. Caesar aet. 23.]
Caesar at all events declined to connect himself with this new adventure.
He came to Rome, looked at what was going on, and refused to have anything
to do with it. The experiment was tried without him. Young Cinna, his
brother-in-law, joined Lepidus. Together they raised a force in Etruria,
and marched on Rome. They made their way into the city, but were met in
the Campus Martius by Pompey and other consul, Catulus, at the head of
some of Sylla's old troops; and an abortive enterprise, which, if it had
succeeded, would probably have been mischievous, was ended almost as soon
as it began. The two leaders escaped. Cinna joined Sertorius in Spain.
Lepidus made his way to Sardinia, where in the next year he died, leaving
a son to play the game of democracy under more brilliant auspices.

[Sidenote: Caesar aet. 24.]
Caesar meanwhile felt his way, as Cicero was doing in the law-courts,
attacking the practical abuses which the Roman administration was
generating everywhere. Cornelius Dolabella had been placed by Sylla in
command of Macedonia. His father had been a friend of Saturninus, and had
fallen at his side. The son had gone over to the aristocracy, and for this
reason was perhaps an object of aversion to the younger liberals. The
Macedonians pursued him, when his government had expired, with a list of
grievances of the usual kind. Young Caesar took up their cause, and
prosecuted him. Dolabella was a favorite of the Senate; he had been
allowed a triumph for his services, and the aristocracy adopted his cause
as their own. The unpractised orator was opposed at the trial by his
kinsman Aurelius Cotta and the most celebrated pleaders in Rome. To have
crossed swords with such opponents was a dangerous honor for him; success
against them was not to be expected, and Caesar was not yet master of his
art. Dolabella was acquitted. Party feeling had perhaps entered into the
accusation. Caesar found it prudent to retire again from the scene. There
were but two roads to eminence in Rome--oratory and service in the army.
He had no prospect of public employment from the present administration,
and the platform alone was open to him. Plain words with a plain meaning
in them no longer carried weight with a people who expected an orator to
delight as well as instruct them. The use of the tongue had become a
special branch of a statesman's education, and Caesar, feeling his
deficiency, used his leisure to put himself in training and to go to
school at Rhodes with the then celebrated Apollonius Molo. He had
recovered his property and his priesthood, and was evidently in no want of
money. He travelled with the retinue of a man of rank, and on his way to
Rhodes he fell in with an adventure which may be something more than
legend. When he was crossing the Aegean his vessel is said to have been
taken by pirates. They carried him to Pharmacusa,[3] an island off the
Carian coast, which was then in their possession, and there he was
detained for six weeks with three of his attendants, while the rest of his
servants were sent to the nearest Roman station to raise his ransom. The
pirates treated him with politeness. He joined in their sports, played
games with them, looked into their habits, and amused himself with them as
well as he could, frankly telling them at the same time that they would
all be hanged.

The ransom, a very large one, about L10,000, was brought and paid. Caesar
was set upon the mainland near Miletus, where, without a moment's delay,
he collected some armed vessels, returned to the island, seized the whole
crew while they were dividing their plunder, and took them away to
Pergamus, the seat of government in the Asiatic province, where they were
convicted and crucified. Clemency was not a Roman characteristic. It was
therefore noted with some surprise that Caesar interceded to mitigate the
severity of the punishment. The poor wretches were strangled before they
were stretched on their crosses, and were spared the prolongation of their
torture. The pirate business being disposed of, he resumed his journey to
Rhodes, and there he continued for two years practising gesture and
expression under the tuition of the great master.

[Sidenote: B.C. 78-72]
During this time the government of Rome was making progress in again
demonstrating its unfitness for the duties which were laid upon it, and
sowing the seeds which in a few years were to ripen into a harvest so
remarkable. Two alternatives only lay before the Roman dominion--either
disruption or the abolition of the constitution. If the aristocracy could
not govern, still less could the mob govern. The Latin race was scattered
over the basin of the Mediterranean, no longer bound by any special ties
to Rome or Italy, each man of it individually vigorous and energetic, and
bent before all things on making his own fortune. If no tolerable
administration was provided from home, their obvious course could only be
to identify themselves with local interests and nationalities and make
themselves severally independent, as Sertorius was doing in Spain.
Sertorius was at last disposed of, but by methods promising ill for the
future. He beat Metellus till Metellus could do no more against him. The
all-victorious Pompey was sent at last to win victories and gain nothing
by them. Six campaigns led to no result and the difficulty was only
removed at last by treachery and assassination.

A more extraordinary and more disgraceful phenomenon was the growth of
piracy, with the skirts of which Caesar had come in contact at Pharmacusa.
The Romans had become masters of the world, only that the sea from one end
of their dominions to the other should be patrolled by organized rovers.
For many years, as Roman commerce extended, the Mediterranean had become a
profitable field of enterprise for those gentry. From every country which
they had overrun or occupied the conquests of the Romans had let loose
swarms of restless patriots who, if they could not save the liberties of
their own countries, could prey upon the oppressor. Illyrians from the
Adriatic, Greeks from the islands and the Asiatic ports, Syrians,
Egyptians, Africans, Spaniards, Gauls, and disaffected Italians, trained
many of them to the sea from their childhood, took to the water in their
light galleys with all the world before them. Under most circumstances
society is protected against thieves by their inability to combine. But
the pirates of the Mediterranean had learnt from the Romans the advantage
of union, and had drifted into a vast confederation. Cilicia was their
head-quarters. Servilius had checked them for a time, but the Roman Senate
was too eager for a revenue, and the Roman governors and farmers of the
taxes were too bent upon filling their private purses, to allow fleets to
be maintained in the provincial harbors adequate to keep the peace. When
Servilius retired, the pirates reoccupied their old haunts. The Cilician
forests furnished them with ship timber. The mountain gorges provided
inaccessible storehouses for plunder. Crete was completely in their hands
also, and they had secret friends along the entire Mediterranean shores.
They grew at last into a thousand sail, divided into squadrons under
separate commanders. They were admirably armed. They roved over the waters
at their pleasure, attacking islands or commercial ports, plundering
temples and warehouses, arresting every trading vessel they encountered,
till at last no Roman could go abroad on business save during the winter
storms, when the sea was comparatively clear. They flaunted their sails in
front of Ostia itself; they landed in their boats at the villas on the
Italian coast, carrying off lords and ladies, and holding them to ransom.
They levied black-mail at their pleasure. The wretched provincials had
paid their taxes to Rome in exchange for promised defence, and no defence
was provided.[4] The revenue which ought to have been spent on the
protection of the Empire a few patricians were dividing among themselves.
The pirates had even marts in different islands, where their prisoners
were sold to the slave-dealers; and for fifteen years nothing was done or
even attempted to put an end to so preposterous an enormity. The ease with
which these buccaneers of the old world were eventually suppressed proved
conclusively that they existed by connivance. It was discovered at last
that large sums had been sent regularly from Crete to some of the most
distinguished members of the aristocracy. The Senate was again the same
body which it was found by Jugurtha, and the present generation were
happier than their fathers in that larger and richer fields were now open
to their operation.

While the pirates were at work on the extremities, the senators in the
provinces were working systematically, squeezing the people as one might
squeeze a sponge of all the wealth that could be drained out of them.
After the failure of Lepidus the elections in Rome were wholely in the
Senate's hands. Such independence as had not been crushed was corrupted.
The aristocracy divided the consulships, praetorships, and quaestorships
among themselves, and after the year of office the provincial prizes were
then distributed. Of the nature of their government a picture has been
left by Cicero, himself one of the senatorial party, and certainly not to
be suspected of having represented it as worse than it was in the famous
prosecution of Verres. There is nothing to show that Verres was worse than
the rest of his order. Piso, Gabinius, and many others equalled or perhaps
excelled him in villainy. But historical fate required a victim, and the
unfortunate wretch has been selected out of the crowd individually to
illustrate his class.

By family he was connected with Sylla. His father was noted as an election
manager at the Comitia. The son had been attached to Carbo when the
democrats were in power, but he had deserted them on Sylla's return. He
had made himself useful in the proscriptions, and had scraped together a
considerable fortune. He was employed afterward in Greece and Asia, where
he distinguished himself by fresh rapacity and by the gross brutality with
which he abused an innocent lady. With the wealth which he had extorted or
stolen he bought his way into the praetorship, probably with his father's
help; he then became a senator, and was sent to govern Sicily--a place
which had already suffered, so the Senate said, from the malpractices of
Lepidus, and needing, therefore, to be generously dealt with.

Verres held his province for three years. He was supreme judge in all
civil and criminal cases. He negotiated with the parties to every suit
which was brought before him, and then sold his decisions. He confiscated
estates on fictitious accusations. The island was rich in works of art.
Verres had a taste for such things, and seized without scruple the finest
productions of Praxiteles or Zeuxis. If those who were wronged dared to
complain, they were sent to forced labor at the quarries, or, as dead men
tell no tales, were put out of the world. He had an understanding with the
pirates, which throws light upon the secret of their impunity. A shipful
of them were brought into Messina as prisoners, and were sentenced to be
executed. A handsome bribe was paid to Verres, and a number of Sicilians
whom he wished out of the way were brought out, veiled and gagged that
they might not be recognized, and were hanged as the pirates' substitutes.
By these methods Verres was accused of having gathered out of Sicily three
quarters of a million of our money. Two thirds he calculated on having to
spend in corrupting the consuls and the court before which he might be
prosecuted. The rest he would be able to save, and with the help of it to
follow his career of greatness through the highest offices of state. Thus
he had gone on upon his way, secure, as he supposed, of impunity. One of
the consuls for the year and the consuls for the year which was to come
next were pledged to support him. The judges would be exclusively
senators, each of whom might require assistance in a similar situation.
The chance of justice on these occasions was so desperate that the
provincials preferred usually to bear their wrongs in silence rather than
expose themselves to expense and danger for almost certain failure. But,
as Cicero said, the whole world inside the ocean was ringing with the
infamy of the Roman senatorial tribunals.

Cicero, whose honest wish was to save the Senate from itself, determined
to make use of Verres's conduct to shame the courts into honesty. Every
difficulty was thrown in his way. He went in person to Sicily to procure
evidence. He was browbeaten and threatened with violence. The witnesses
were intimidated, and in some instances were murdered. The technical
ingenuities of Roman law were exhausted to shield the culprit. The
accident that the second consul had a conscience alone enabled Cicero to
force the criminal to the bar. But the picture which Cicero drew and laid
before the people, proved as it was to every detail, and admitting of no
answer save that other governors had been equally iniquitous and had
escaped unpunished, created a storm which the Senate dared not encounter.
Verres dropped his defence and fled, and part of his spoils was recovered.
There was no shame in the aristocracy to prevent them from committing
crimes: there was enough to make them abandon a comrade who was so
unfortunate as to be detected and brought to justice.

This was the state of the Roman dominion under the constitution as
reformed by Sylla: the Spanish Peninsula recovered by murder to temporary
submission; the sea abandoned to buccaneers; decent industrious people in
the provinces given over to have their fortunes stolen from them, their
daughters dishonored, and themselves beaten or killed if they complained,
by a set of wolves calling themselves Roman senators--and these scenes not
localized to any one unhappy district, but extending through the entire
civilized part of mankind. There was no hope for these unhappy people, for
they were under the tyranny of a dead hand. A bad king is like a bad
season. The next may bring improvement, or if his rule is wholly
intolerable he can be deposed. Under a bad constitution no such change is
possible. It can be ended only by a revolution. Republican Rome had become
an Imperial State--she had taken upon herself the guardianship of every
country in the world where the human race was industrious and prosperous,
and she was discharging her great trust by sacrificing them to the luxury
and ambition of a few hundred scandalous politicians.

[Sidenote: B.C. 74.]
The nature of man is so constructed that a constitution so administered
must collapse. It generates faction within, it invites enemies from
without. While Sertorius was defying the Senate in Spain and the pirates
were buying its connivance in the Mediterranean, Mithridates started into
life again in Pontus. Sylla had beaten him into submission; but Sylla was
gone, and no one was left to take Sylla's place. The watchful barbarian
had his correspondents in Rome, and knew everything that was passing
there. He saw that he had little to fear by trying the issue with the
Romans once more. He made himself master of Armenia. In the corsair fleet
he had an ally ready made. The Roman province in Asia Minor, driven to
despair by the villainy of its governors, was ripe for revolt. Mithridates
rose, and but for the young Caesar would a second time have driven the
Romans out of Asia. Caesar, in the midst of his rhetorical studies at
Rhodes, heard the mutterings of the coming storm. Deserting Apollonius's
lecture-room, he crossed over to the continent, raised a corps of
volunteers, and held Caria to its allegiance; but Mithridates possessed
himself easily of the interior kingdoms and of the whole valley of the
Euphrates to the Persian Gulf. The Black Sea was again covered with his
ships. He defeated Cotta in a naval battle, drove him through the
Bosphorus, and destroyed the Roman squadron. The Senate exerted itself at
last. Lucullus, Sylla's friend, the only moderately able man that the
aristocracy had among them, was sent to encounter him. Lucullus had been
trained in a good school, and the superiority of the drilled Roman legions
when tolerably led again easily asserted itself. Mithridates was forced
back into the Armenian hills. The Black Sea was swept clear, and eight
thousand of the buccaneers were killed at Sinope. Lucullus pursued the
retreating prince across the Euphrates, won victories, took cities and
pillaged them. He reached Lake Van, he marched round Mount Ararat and
advanced to Artaxata. But Asia was a scene of dangerous temptation for a
Roman commander. Cicero, though he did not name Lucullus, was
transparently alluding to him when he told the assembly in the Forum that
Rome had made herself abhorred throughout the world by the violence and
avarice of her generals. No temple had been so sacred, no city so
venerable, no houses so well protected, as to be secure from their
voracity. Occasions of war had been caught at with rich communities where
plunder was the only object. The proconsuls could win battles, but they
could not keep their hands from off the treasures of their allies and

Lucullus was splendid in his rapacity, and amidst his victories he had
amassed the largest fortune which had yet belonged to patrician or
commoner, except Crassus. Nothing came amiss to him. He had sold the
commissions in his army. He had taken money out of the treasury for the
expenses of the campaign. Part he had spent in bribing the administration
to prolong his command beyond the usual time; the rest he had left in the
city to accumulate for himself at interest.[6] He lived on the plunder
of friend and foe, and the defeat of Mithridates was never more than a
second object to him. The one steady purpose in which he never varied was
to pile up gold and jewels.

An army so organized and so employed soon loses efficiency and coherence.
The legions, perhaps considering that they were not allowed a fair share
of the spoil, mutinied. The disaffection was headed by young Publius
Clodius, whose sister Lucullus had married. The campaign which had opened
brilliantly ended ignominiously. The Romans had to fall back behind
Pontus, closely pursued by Mithridates. Lucullus stood on the defensive
till he was recalled, and he then returned to Rome to lounge away the
remainder of his days in voluptuous magnificence.

While Lucullus was making his fortune in the East, a spurt of
insurrectionary fire had broken out in Italy. The agrarian laws and
Sylla's proscriptions and confiscations had restored the numbers of the
small proprietors, but the statesmen who had been so eager for their
reinstatement were fighting against tendencies too strong for them. Life
on the farm, like life in the city, was growing yearly more extravagant.
[7] The small peasants fell into debt. Sylla's soldiers were expensive,
and became embarrassed. Thus the small properties artificially
re-established were falling rapidly again into the market. The great
landowners bought them up, and Italy was once more lapsing to territorial
magnates cultivating their estates by slaves.

Vast gangs of slave laborers were thus still dispersed over the peninsula,
while others in large numbers were purchased and trained for the amusement
of the metropolis. Society in Rome, enervated as it was by vicious
pleasures, craved continually for new excitements. Sensuality is a near
relation of cruelty; and the more savage the entertainments, the more
delightful they were to the curled and scented patricians who had lost the
taste for finer enjoyments. Combats of wild beasts were at first
sufficient for them, but to see men kill each other gave a keener delight;
and out of the thousands of youths who were sent over annually by the
provincial governors, or were purchased from the pirates by the
slave-dealers, the most promising were selected for the arena. Each great
noble had his training establishment of gladiators, and was as vain of
their prowess as of his race-horses. The schools of Capua were the most
celebrated; and nothing so recommended a candidate for the consulship to
the electors as the production of a few pairs of Capuan swords-men in the

[Sidenote: B.C. 72-70.]
These young men had hitherto performed their duties with more
submissiveness than might have been expected, and had slaughtered one
another in the most approved methods. But the horse knows by the hand on
his rein whether he has a fool for his rider. The gladiators in the
schools and the slaves on the plantations could not be kept wholly
ignorant of the character of their rulers. They were aware that the seas
were held by their friends the pirates, and that their masters were again
being beaten out of Asia, from which many of themselves had been carried
off. They began to ask themselves why men who could use their swords
should be slaves when their comrades and kindred were up and fighting for
freedom. They found a leader in a young Thracian robber chief, named
Spartacus, who was destined for the amphitheatre, and who preferred
meeting his masters in the field to killing his friends to make a Roman
holiday. Spartacus, with two hundred of his companions, burst out from the
Capuan "stable," seized their arms, and made their way into the crater of
Vesuvius, which was then, after the long sleep of the volcano, a dense
jungle of wild vines. The slaves from the adjoining plantations deserted
and joined them. The fire spread, Spartacus proclaimed universal
emancipation, and in a few weeks was at the head of an army with which he
overran Italy to the foot of the Alps, defeated consuls and praetors,
captured the eagles of the legions, wasted the farms of the noble lords,
and for two years held his ground against all that Rome could do.

Of all the illustrations of the Senate's incapacity, the slave
insurrection was perhaps the worst. It was put down at last after
desperate exertions by Crassus and Pompey. Spartacus was killed, and six
thousand of his followers were impaled at various points on the sides of
the high-roads, that the slaves might have before their eyes examples of
the effect of disobedience. The immediate peril was over; but another
symptom had appeared of the social disease which would soon end in death
unless some remedy could be found. The nation was still strong. There was
power and worth in the undegenerate Italian race, which needed only to be
organized and ruled. But what remedy was possible? The practical choice of
politicians lay between the Senate and the democracy. Both were alike
bloody and unscrupulous; and the rule of the Senate meant corruption and
imbecility, and the rule of the democracy meant anarchy.

[1] "Unum hoc dico: nostri isti nobiles, nisi vigilantes et boni et fortes
et misericordes erunt, iis hominibus in quibus haec erunt, ornamenta
sua concedant necesse est."--_Pro Roscio Amerino_, sec. 48.

[2] "Sunt enim ista maledicta pervulgata in omnes, quorum in adolescentia
forma et species fuit liberalis."--_Oratio pro Marca Caelio_.

[3] Now Fermaco.

[4] "Videbat enim populum Romanum non locupletari quotannis pecunia
publica praeter paucos: neque eos quidquam aliud assequi classium
nomine, nisi ut, detrimentis accipiendis majore affici turpitudine
videremur."--Cicero, _Pro Lege Manilia_, 23.

[5] "Difficile est dictu, Quirites, quanto in odio simus apud exteras
nationes, propter eorum, quos ad eas per hos annos cum imperio
misimus, injurias ac libidines. Quod enim fanum putatis in illis
terris nostris magistratibus religiosum, quam civitatem sanctam, quam
domum satis clausam ac munitam fuisse? Urbes jam locupletes ac
copiosae requiruntur, quibus causa belli propter diripiendi
cupiditatem inferatur.... Quare etiamsi quem habetis, qui collatis
signis exercitus regios superare posse videatur, tamen, nisi erit
idem, qui se a pecuniis sociorum, qui ab eorum conjugibus ac liberis,
qui ab ornamentis fanorum atque oppidorum, qui ab auro gazaque regia
manus, oculos, animum cohibere possit, non erit idoneus, qui ad
bellum Asiaticum regiumque mittatur."--_Pro Lege Manilia_, 22,

[6] "Quem possumus imperatorem aliquo in numero putare, cujus in exercitu
veneant centuriatus atque venierint? Quid hunc hominem magnum aut
amplum de republica cogitare, qui pecuniam ex aerario depromtam ad
bellum administrandum, aut propter cupiditatem provinciae
magistratibus diviserit aut propter avaritiam Romae in quaestu
reliquerit? Vestra admurmuratio facit, Quirites, ut agnoscere
videamini qui haec fecerint: ego autem neminem nomino."--_Pro Lege
Manilia_, 13.

[7] Varro mentions curious instances of the change in country manners. He
makes an old man say that when he was a boy, a farmer's wife used to
be content with a jaunt in a cart once or twice a year, the farmer not
taking out the covered wagon (the more luxurious vehicle) at all
unless he pleased. The farmer used to shave only once a week,
etc.--_M. Ter. Varronis Reliquiae_, ed. Alexander Riese, pp. 139,


Caesar, having done his small piece of independent service in Caria, and
having finished his course with Apollonius, now came again to Rome and
re-entered practical life. He lived with his wife and his mother Aurelia
in a modest house, attracting no particular notice. But his defiance of
Sylla, his prosecution of Dolabella, and his known political sympathies
made him early a favorite with the people. The growing disorders at home
and abroad, with the exposures on the trial of Verres, were weakening
daily the influence of the Senate. Caesar was elected military tribune as
a reward for his services in Asia, and he assisted in recovering part of
the privileges so dear to the citizens which Sylla had taken from the
tribunes of the people. They were again enabled to call the assembly
together, and though they were still unable to propose laws without the
Senate's sanction, yet they regained the privilege of consulting directly
with the nation on public affairs. Caesar now spoke well enough to command
the admiration of even Cicero--without ornament, but directly to the
purpose. Among the first uses to which he addressed his influence was to
obtain the pardon of his brother-in-law, the younger Cinna, who had been
exiled since the failure of the attempt of Lepidus. In B.C. 68, being then
thirty-two, he gained his first step on the ladder of high office. He was
made quaestor, which gave him a place in the Senate.

Soon after his election, his aunt Julia, the widow of Marius, died. It was
usual on the death of eminent persons for a near relation to make an
oration at the funeral. Caesar spoke on this occasion. It was observed
that he dwelt with some pride on the lady's ancestry, descending on one
side from the gods, on another from the kings of Rome. More noticeably he
introduced into the burial procession the insignia and images of Marius
himself, whose name for some years it had been unsafe to mention.[1]

Pompey, after Sertorius's death, had pacified Spain. He had assisted
Crassus in extinguishing Spartacus. The Senate had employed him, but had
never liked him or trusted him. The Senate, however, was no longer
omnipotent, and in the year 70 he and Crassus had been consuls. Pompey was
no politician, but he was honorable and straightforward. Like every true
Roman, he was awake to the dangers and disgrace of the existing
mal-administration, and he and Caesar began to know each other, and to
find their interest in working together. Pompey was the elder of the two
by six years. He was already a great man, covered with distinctions, and
perhaps he supposed that he was finding in Caesar a useful subordinate.
Caesar naturally liked Pompey, as a really distinguished soldier and an
upright disinterested man. They became connected by marriage. Cornelia
dying, Caesar took for his second wife Pompey's cousin, Pompeia; and, no
doubt at Pompey's instance, he was sent into Spain to complete Pompey's
work and settle the finances of that distracted country. His reputation as
belonging to the party of Marius and Sertorius secured him the confidence
of Sertorius's friends. He accomplished his mission completely and easily.
On his way back he passed through northern Italy, and took occasion to say
there that he considered the time to have come for the franchise, which
now stopped at the Po, to be extended to the foot of the Alps.

The consulship of Pompey and Crassus had brought many changes with it, all
tending in the same direction. The tribunes were restored to their old
functions, the censorship was re-established, and the Senate was at once
weeded of many of its disreputable members. Cicero, conservative as he
was, had looked upon these measures if not approvingly yet without active
opposition. To another change he had himself contributed by his speeches
on the Verres prosecution. The exclusive judicial powers which the Senate
had abused so scandalously were again taken from them. The courts of the
equites were remembered in contrast, and a law was passed that for the
future the courts were to be composed two thirds of knights and one third
only of senators. Cicero's hope of resisting democracy lay in the fusion
of the great commoners with the Senate. It was no longer possible for the
aristocracy to rule alone. The few equites who, since Sylla's time, had
made their way into the Senate had yielded to patrician ascendency. Cicero
aimed at a reunion of the orders; and the consulship of Crassus, little as
Cicero liked Crassus personally, was a sign of a growing tendency in this
direction. At all costs the knights must be prevented from identifying
themselves with the democrats, and therefore all possible compliments and
all possible concessions to their interests were made to them.

They recovered their position in the law-courts; and, which was of more
importance to them, the system of farming the taxes, in which so many of
them had made their fortunes, and which Sylla had abolished, was once
again reverted to. It was not a good system, but it was better than a
state of things in which little of the revenue had reached the public
treasury at all, but had been intercepted and parcelled out among the

[Sidenote: B.C. 67.]
With recovered vitality a keener apprehension began to be felt of the
pirate scandal. The buccaneers, encouraged by the Senate's connivance,
were more daring than ever. They had become a sea community, led by
high-born adventurers, who maintained out of their plunder a show of wild
magnificence. The oars of the galleys of their commanders were plated with
silver; their cabins were hung with gorgeous tapestry. They had bands of
music to play at their triumphs. They had a religion of their own, an
oriental medley called the Mysteries of Mithras. They had captured and
pillaged four hundred considerable towns, and had spoiled the temples of
the Grecian gods. They had maintained and extended their depots where they
disposed of their prisoners to the slave-dealers. Roman citizens who could
not ransom themselves, and could not conveniently be sold, were informed
that they might go where they pleased; they were led to a plank projecting
over some vessel's side, and were bidden depart--into the sea. Not
contented with insulting Ostia by their presence outside, they had
ventured into the harbor itself, and had burnt the ships there. They held
complete possession of the Italian waters. Rome, depending on Sicily and
Sardinia and Africa for her supplies of corn, was starving for want of
food, and the foreign trade on which so many of the middle classes were
engaged was totally destroyed. The return of the commoners to power was a
signal for an active movement to put an end to the disgrace. No one
questioned that it could be done if there was a will to do it. But the
work could be accomplished only by persons who would be proof against
corruption. There was but one man in high position who could be trusted,
and that was Pompey. The general to be selected must have unrestricted and
therefore unconstitutional authority. But Pompey was at once capable and
honest. Pompey could not be bribed by the pirates, and Pompey could be
depended on not to abuse his opportunities to the prejudice of the

[Sidenote: B.C. 67.]
The natural course, therefore, would have been to declare Pompey dictator;
but Sylla had made the name unpopular; the right to appoint a dictator lay
with the Senate, with whom Pompey had never been a favorite, and the
aristocracy had disliked and feared him more than ever since his
consulship. From that quarter no help was to be looked for, and a method
was devised to give him the reality of power without the title. Unity of
command was the one essential--command untrammelled by orders from
committees of weak and treacherous noblemen, who cared only for the
interest of their class. The established forms were scrupulously observed,
and the plan designed was brought forward first, according to rule, in the
Senate. A tribune, Aulus Gabinius, introduced a proposition there that one
person of consular rank should have absolute jurisdiction during three
years over the whole Mediterranean, and over all Roman territory for fifty
miles inland from the coast; that the money in the treasury should be
at his disposition; that he should have power to raise 500 ships of war
and to collect and organize 130,000 men. No such command for such a time
had ever been committed to any one man since the abolition of the
monarchy. It was equivalent to a suspension of the Senate itself, and of
all constitutional government. The proposal was received with a burst of
fury. Every one knew that the person intended was Pompey. The decorum of
the old days was forgotten. The noble lords started from their seats, flew
at Gabinius, and almost strangled him: but he had friends outside the
house ready to defend their champion; the country people had flocked in
for the occasion; the city was thronged with multitudes such as had not
been seen there since the days of the Gracchi. The tribune freed himself
from the hands that were at his throat; he rushed out into the Forum,
closely pursued by the consul Piso, who would have been torn in pieces in
turn had not Gabinius interposed to save him. Senate or no Senate, it was
decided that Gabinius's proposition should be submitted to the assembly,
and the aristocrats were driven to their old remedy of bribing other
members of the college of tribunes to interfere. Two renegades were thus
secured, and when the voting-day came, Trebellius, who was one of them,
put in a veto; the other, Roscius, said that the power intended for Pompey
was too considerable to be trusted to a single person, and proposed two
commanders instead of one. The mob was packed so thick that the house-tops
were covered. A yell rose from tens of thousands of throats so piercing
that it was said a crow flying over the Forum dropped dead at the sound of
it. The old patrician Catulus tried to speak, but the people would not
hear him. The vote passed by acclamation, and Pompey was for three years
sovereign of the Roman world.

It now appeared how strong the Romans were when a fair chance was allowed
them. Pompey had no extraordinary talents, but not in three years, but in
three months, the pirates were extinguished. He divided the Mediterranean
into thirteen districts, and allotted a squadron to each, under officers
on whom he could thoroughly rely. Ships and seamen were found in abundance
lying idle from the suspension of trade. In forty days he had cleared the
seas between Gibraltar and Italy. He had captured entire corsair fleets,
and had sent the rest flying into the Cilician creeks. There, in defence
of their plunder and their families, they fought one desperate engagement,
and when defeated, they surrendered without a further blow. Of real
strength they had possessed none from the first. They had subsisted only
through the guilty complicity of the Roman authorities, and they fell at
the first stroke which was aimed at them in earnest. Thirteen hundred
pirate ships were burnt. Their docks and arsenals were destroyed, and
their fortresses were razed. Twenty-two thousand prisoners fell into the
hands of Pompey. To the astonishment of mankind, Pompey neither impaled
them, as the Senate had impaled the followers of Spartacus, nor even sold
them for slaves. He was contented to scatter them among inland colonies,
where they could no longer be dangerous.

The suppression of the buccaneers was really a brilliant piece of work,
and the ease with which it was accomplished brought fresh disgrace on the
Senate and fresh glory on the hero of the hour. Cicero, with his thoughts
fixed on saving the constitution, considered that Pompey might be the man
to save it; or, at all events, that it would be unsafe to leave him to the
democrats who had given him power and were triumphing in his success. On
political grounds Cicero thought that Pompey ought to be recognized by the
moderate party which he intended to form; and a person like himself who
hoped to rise by the popular votes could not otherwise afford to seem cold
amidst the universal enthusiasm. The pirates were abolished. Mithridates
was still undisposed of. Lucullus, the hope of the aristocracy, was lying
helpless within the Roman frontier, with a disorganized and mutinous army.
His victories were forgotten. He was regarded as the impersonation of
every fault which had made the rule of the Senate so hateful. Pompey, the
people's general, after a splendid success, had come home with clean
hands; Lucullus had sacrificed his country to his avarice. The contrast
set off his failures in colors perhaps darker than really belonged to
them, and the cry naturally rose that Lucullus must be called back, and
the all-victorious Pompey must be sent for the reconquest of Asia. Another
tribune, Manilius, brought the question forward, this time directly before
the assembly, the Senate's consent not being any more asked for. Caesar
again brought his influence to bear on Pompey's side; but Caesar found
support in a quarter where it might not have been looked for. The Senate
was furious as before, but by far the most gifted person in the
conservative party now openly turned against them. Cicero was praetor this
year, and was thus himself a senator. A seat in the Senate had been the
supreme object of his ambition. He was vain of the honor which he had won,
and delighted with the high company into which he had been received; but
he was too shrewd to go along with them upon a road which could lead only
to their overthrow; and for their own sake, and for the sake of the
institution itself of which he meant to be an illustrious ornament, he not
only supported the Manilian proposition, but supported it in a speech more
effective than the wildest outpourings of democratic rhetoric.

Asia Minor, he said, was of all the Roman provinces the most important,
because it was the most wealthy.[2] So rich it was and fertile that, for
the productiveness of its soil, the variety of its fruits, the extent of
its pastures, and the multitude of its exports, there was no country in
the world to be compared with it; yet Asia was in danger of being utterly
lost through the worthlessnesss of the governors and military commanders
charged with the care of it. "Who does not know," Cicero asked, "that the
avarice of our generals has been the cause of the misfortunes of our
armies? You can see for yourselves how they act here at home in Italy; and
what will they not venture far away in distant countries? Officers who
cannot restrain their own appetites can never maintain discipline in their
troops. Pompey has been victorious because he does not loiter about the
towns for plunder or pleasure, or making collections of statues and
pictures. Asia is a land of temptations. Send no one thither who cannot
resist gold and jewels and shrines and pretty women. Pompey is upright and
pure-sighted. Pompey knows that the State has been impoverished because
the revenue flows into the coffers of a few individuals. Our fleets and
armies have availed only to bring the more disgrace upon us through our
defeats and losses." [3]

After passing a deserved panegyric on the suppression of the pirates,
Cicero urged with all the power of his oratory that Manilius's measures
should be adopted, and that the same general who had done so well already
should be sent against Mithridates.

This was perhaps the only occasion on which Cicero ever addressed the
assembly in favor of the proposals of a popular tribune. Well would it
have been for him and well for Rome if he could have held on upon a course
into which he had been led by real patriotism. He was now in his proper
place, where his better mind must have told him that he ought to have
continued, working by the side of Caesar and Pompey. It was observed that
more than once in his speech he mentioned with high honor the name of
Marius. He appeared to have seen clearly that the Senate was bringing the
State to perdition; and that unless the Republic was to end in
dissolution, or in mob rule and despotism, the wise course was to
recognize the legitimate tendencies of popular sentiment, and to lend the
constant weight of his authority to those who were acting in harmony with
it. But Cicero could never wholly forget his own consequence, or bring
himself to persist in any policy where he could play but a secondary part.

[Sidenote: B.C. 66-63.]
The Manilian law was carried. In addition to his present extraordinary
command, Pompey was entrusted with the conduct of the war in Asia, and he
was left unfettered to act at his own discretion. He crossed the Bosphorus
with fifty thousand men; he invaded Pontus; he inflicted a decisive defeat
on Mithridates, and broke up his army; he drove the Armenians back into
their own mountains, and extorted out of them a heavy war indemnity. The
barbarian king who had so long defied the Roman power was beaten down at
last, and fled across the Black Sea to Kertch, where his sons turned
against him. He was sixty-eight years old, and could not wait till the
wheel should make another turn. Broken down at last, he took leave of a
world in which for him there was no longer a place. His women poisoned
themselves successfully. He, too fortified by antidotes to end as they
ended, sought a surer death, and fell like Saul by the sword of a slave.
Rome had put out her real strength, and at once, as before, all opposition
went down before her. Asia was completely conquered up to the line of the
Euphrates. The Black Sea was held securely by a Roman fleet. Pompey passed
down into Syria. Antioch surrendered without resistance. Tyre and Damascus
followed. Jerusalem was taken by storm, and the Roman general entered the
Holy of Holies. Of all the countries bordering on the Mediterranean Egypt
only was left independent, and of all the islands only Cyprus. A triumphal
inscription in Rome declared that Pompey, the people's general, had in
three years captured fifteen hundred cities, and had slain, taken, or
reduced to submission twelve million human beings. He justified what
Cicero had foretold of his moral uprightness. In the midst of
opportunities such as had fallen to no commander since Alexander, he
outraged no woman's honor, and he kept his hands clean from "the accursed
thing." When he returned to Rome, he returned, as he went, personally
poor, but he filled the treasury to overflowing. His campaign was not a
marauding raid, like the march of Lucullus on Artaxata. His conquests were
permanent. The East, which was then thickly inhabited by an industrious
civilized Graeco-Oriental race, became incorporated in the Roman dominion,
and the annual revenue of the State rose to twice what it had been.
Pompey's success had been dazzlingly rapid. Envy and hatred, as he well
knew, were waiting for him at home, and he was in no haste to present
himself there. He lingered in Asia, organizing the administration and
consolidating his work, while at Rome the constitution was rushing on upon
its old courses among the broken waters, with the roar of the not distant
cataract growing every moment louder.

[1] The name of Marius, it is to be observed, remained so popular in Rome
that Cicero after this always spoke of him with respect.

[2] "Asia vero tam opima est et fertilis, ut et ubertate agrorum et
varietate fructuum et magnitudine pastionis, et multitudine earum
rerum, quae exportentur, facile omnibus terris antecellat."--_Pro
Lege Manilia_. Cicero's expressions are worth notice at a time when
Asia Minor has become of importance to England.

[3] _Pro Lege Manilia_. abridged.


[Sidenote: B.C. 64.]
Among the patricians who were rising through the lower magistracies and
were aspiring to the consulship was Lucius Sergius Catiline. Catiline, now
in middle life, had when young been a fervent admirer of Sylla, and, as
has been already said, had been an active agent in the proscription. He
had murdered his brother-in-law, and perhaps his brother, under political
pretences. In an age when licentiousness of the grossest kind was too
common to attract attention, Catiline had achieved a notoriety for infamy.
Ho had intrigued with a Vestal virgin, the sister of Cicero's wife,
Terentia. If Cicero is to be believed, he had made away with his own wife,
that he might marry Aurelia Orestilla, a woman as wicked as she was
beautiful, and he had killed his child also because Aurelia had objected
to be encumbered with a step-son. But this, too, was common in high
society in those days. Adultery and incest had become familiar
excitements. Boys of ten years old had learnt the art of poisoning their
fathers,[1] and the story of Aurelia Orestilla and Catiline had been
rehearsed a few years before by Sassia and Oppianicus at Larino.[2]
Other enormities Catiline had been guilty of which Cicero declined to
mention, lest he should show too openly what crimes might go unpunished
under the senatorial administration. But villainy, however notorious, did
not interfere with advancement in the public service. Catiline was adroit,
bold, and even captivating. He made his way into high office along the
usual gradations. He was praetor in B.C. 68. He went as governor to Africa
in the year following, and he returned with money enough, as he reasonably
hoped, to purchase the last step to the consulship. He was impeached when
he came back for extortion and oppression, under one of the many laws
which were made to be laughed at. Till his trial was over he was
disqualified from presenting himself as a candidate, and the election for
the year 65 was carried by Autronius Paetus and Cornelius Sylla. Two other
patricians, Aurelius Cotta and Manlius Torquatus, had stood against them.
The successful competitors were unseated for bribery; Cotta and Torquatus
took their places, and, apparently as a natural resource in the existing
contempt into which the constitution had fallen, the disappointed
candidates formed a plot to kill their rivals and their rivals' friends in
the Senate, and to make a revolution. Cneius Piso, a young nobleman of the
bluest blood, joined in the conspiracy. Catiline threw himself into it as
his natural element, and aristocratic tradition said in later years that
Caesar and Crassus were implicated also. Some desperate scheme there
certainly was, but the accounts of it are confused: one authority says
that it failed because Catiline gave the signal prematurely; others that
Caesar was to have given the signal, and did not do it; others that
Crassus's heart failed him; others that the consuls had secret notice
given to them and took precautions. Cicero, who was in Rome at the time,
declares that he never heard of the conspiracy.[3] When evidence is
inconclusive, probability becomes argument. Nothing can be less likely
than that a cautious capitalist of vast wealth like Crassus should have
connected himself with a party of dissolute adventurers. Had Caesar
committed himself, jealously watched as he was by the aristocrats, some
proofs of his complicity would have been forthcoming. The aristocracy
under the empire revenged themselves for their ruin by charging Caesar
with a share in every combination that had been formed against them, from
Sylla's time downwards. Be the truth what it may, nothing came of this
project. Piso went to Spain, where he was killed. The prosecution of
Catiline for his African misgovernment was continued, and, strange to say,
Cicero undertook his defence. He was under no uncertainty as to Catiline's
general character, or his particular guilt in the charge brought against
him. It was plain as the sun at midday.[4] But Cicero was about to stand
himself for the consulship, the object of his most passionate desire. He
had several competitors; and as he thought well of Catiline's prospects,
he intended to coalesce with him.[5] Catiline was acquitted, apparently
through a special selection of the judges, with the connivance of the
prosecutor. The canvass was violent, and the corruption flagrant.
[6]Cicero did not bribe himself, but if Catiline's voters would give him
a help, he was not so scrupulous as to be above taking advantage of it.
Catiline's humor or the circumstances of the time provided him with a more
honorable support. He required a more manageable colleague than he could
have found in Cicero. Among the candidates was one of Sylla's officers,
Caius Antonius, the uncle of Marc Antony, the triumvir. This Antonius had
been prosecuted by Caesar for ill-usage of the Macedonians. He had been
expelled by the censors from the Senate for general worthlessness; but
public disgrace seems to have had no effect whatever on the chances of a
candidate for the consulship in this singular age. Antonius was weak and
vicious, and Catiline could mould him as he pleased. He had made himself
popular by his profusion when aedile in providing shows for the mob. The
feeling against the Senate was so bitter that the aristocracy had no
chance of carrying a candidate of their own, and the competition was
reduced at last to Catiline, Antonius and Cicero. Antonius was certain of
his election, and the contest lay between Catiline and Cicero. Each of
them tried to gain the support of Antonius and his friends. Catiline
promised Antonius a revolution, in which they were to share the world
between them. Cicero promised his influence to obtain some lucrative
province for Antonius to misgovern. Catiline would probably have
succeeded, when the aristocracy, knowing what to expect if so scandalous a
pair came into office, threw their weight on Cicero's side and turned the
scale. Cicero was liked among the people for his prosecution of Verres,
for his support of the Manilian law, and for the boldness with which he
had exposed patrician delinquencies. With the Senate for him also, he was
returned at the head of the poll. The proud Roman nobility had selected a
self-made lawyer as their representative. Cicero was consul, and Antonius
with him. Catiline had failed. It was the turning-point of Cicero's life.
Before his consulship he had not irrevocably taken a side. No public
speaker had more eloquently shown the necessity for reform; no one had
denounced with keener sarcasm the infamies and follies of senatorial
favorites. Conscience and patriotism should have alike held him to the
reforming party; and political instinct, if vanity had left him the use of
his perception, would have led him in the same direction. Possibly before
he received the votes of the patricians and their clients he had bound
himself with certain engagements to them. Possibly he held the Senate's
intellect cheap, and saw the position which he could arrive at among the
aristocracy if he offered them his services. The strongest intellect was
with the reformers, and first on that side he could never be. First among
the Conservatives[7] he could easily be; and he might prefer being at
the head of a party which at heart he despised, to working at the side of
persons who must stand inevitably above him. We may regret that gifted men
should be influenced by personal considerations, but under party
government it is a fact that they are so influenced, and will be as long
as it continues. Caesar and Pompey were soldiers. The army was democratic,
and the triumph of the democracy meant the rule of a popular general.
Cicero was a civilian, and a man of speech. In the forum and in the Curia
he knew that he could reign supreme.

Cicero had thus reached the highest step in the scale of promotion by
trimming between the rival factions. Caesar was rising simultaneously
behind him on lines of his own. In the year B.C. 65 he had been aedile,
having for his colleague Bibulus, his future companion on the successive
grades of ascent. Bibulus was a rich plebeian, whose delight in office was
the introduction which it gave him into the society of the great; and in
his politics he outdid his aristocratic patrons. The aediles had charge of
the public buildings and the games and exhibitions in the capital. The
aedileship was a magistracy through which it was ordinarily necessary to
pass in order to reach the consulship; and as the aediles were expected to
bear their own expenses, the consulship was thus restricted to those who
could afford an extravagant outlay. They were expected to decorate the
city with new ornaments, and to entertain the people with magnificent
spectacles. If they fell short of public expectation, they need look no
further for the suffrages of their many-headed master. Cicero had slipped
through the aedileship, without ruin to himself. He was a self-raised man,
known to be dependent upon his own exertions, and liked from the
willingness with which he gave his help to accused persons on their
trials. Thus no great demands had been made upon him. Caesar, either more
ambitious or less confident in his services, raised a new and costly row
of columns in front of the Capitol. He built a temple to the Dioscuri, and
he charmed the populace with a show of gladiators unusually extensive.
Personally he cared nothing for these sanguinary exhibitions, and he
displayed his indifference ostentatiously by reading or writing while the
butchery was going forward.[8] But he required the favor of the
multitude, and then, as always, took the road which led most directly to
his end. The noble lords watched him suspiciously, and their uneasiness
was not diminished when, not content with having produced the insignia of
Marius at his aunt's funeral, he restored the trophies for the victories
over the Cimbri and Teutons, which had been removed by Sylla. The name of
Marius was growing every day more dear to the popular party. They forgave,
if they had ever resented, his credulities. His veterans who had fought
with him through his campaigns came forward in tears to salute the honored
relics of their once glorious commander.

As he felt the ground stronger under his feet, Caesar now began to assume
an attitude more peremptorily marked. He had won a reputation in the
Forum; he had spoken in the Senate; he had warmly advocated the
appointment of Pompey to his high commands; and he was regarded as a
prominent democratic leader. But he had not aspired to the tribunate; he
had not thrown himself into politics with any absorbing passion. His
exertions had been intermittent, and he was chiefly known as a brilliant
member of fashionable society, a peculiar favorite with women, and
remarkable for his abstinence from the coarse debauchery which disgraced
his patrician contemporaries. He was now playing for a higher stake, and
the oligarchy had occasion to be reminded of Sylla's prophecy. In carrying
out the proscription, Sylla had employed professional assassins, and
payments had been made out of the treasury to wretches who came to him
with bloody trophies in their hands to demand the promised fees. The time
had come when these doings were to be looked into; hundreds of men had
been murdered, their estates confiscated, and their families ruined, who
had not been even ostensibly guilty of any public crime. At Caesar's
instance an inquiry was ordered. He himself was appointed Judex
Quaestionis, or chairman of a committee of investigation; and Catiline,
among others, was called to answer for himself--a curious commentary on
Caesar's supposed connection with him.

[Sidenote: B.C. 63.]
Nor did the inquisition stop with Sylla. Titus Labienus, afterward so
famous and so infamous, was then tribune of the people. His father had
been killed at the side of Saturninus and Glaucia thirty-seven years
before, when the young lords of Rome had unroofed the senate-house, and
had pelted them and their companions to death with tiles. One of the
actors in the scene, Caius Rabirius, now a very old man, was still alive.
Labienus prosecuted him before Caesar. Rabirius was condemned, and
appealed to the people; and Cicero, who had just been made consul, spoke
in his defence. On this occasion Cicero for the first time came actively
in collision with Caesar. His language contrasted remarkably with the tone
of his speeches against Verres and for the Manilian law. It was adroit,
for he charged Marius with having shared the guilt, if guilt there had
been, in the death of those men; but the burden of what he said was to
defend enthusiastically the conservative aristocracy, and to censure with
all his bitterness the democratic reformers. Rabirius was acquitted,
perhaps justly. It was a hard thing to revive the memory of a political
crime which had been shared by the whole patrician order after so long an
interval. But Cicero had shown his new colors; no help, it was evident,
was thenceforward to be expected from him in the direction of reform. The
popular party replied in a singular manner. The office of Pontifex Maximus
was the most coveted of all the honors to which a Roman citizen could
aspire. It was held for life, it was splendidly endowed, and there still
hung about the pontificate the traditionary dignity attaching to the chief
of the once sincerely believed Roman religion. Like other objects of
ambition, the nomination had fallen, with the growth of democracy, to the
people, but the position had always been held by some member of the old
aristocracy; and Sylla, to secure them in the possession of it, had
reverted to the ancient constitution, and had restored to the Sacred
College the privilege of choosing their head. Under the impulse which the
popular party had received from Pompey's successes, Labienus carried a
vote in the assembly, by which the people resumed the nomination to the
pontificate themselves. In the same year it fell vacant by the death of
the aged Metullus Pius. Two patricians, Quintus Catulus and Caesar's old
general Servilius Isauricus, were the Senate's candidates, and vast sums
were subscribed and spent to secure the success of one or other of the
two. Caesar came forward to oppose them. Caesar aspired to be Pontifex
Maximus--Pope of Rome--he who of all men living was the least given to
illusion; he who was the most frank in his confession of entire disbelief
in the legends which, though few credited them any more, yet almost all
thought it decent to pretend to credit. Among the phenomena of the time
this was surely the most singular. Yet Caesar had been a priest from his
boyhood, and why should he not be Pope? He offered himself to the Comitia.
Committed as he was to a contest with the richest men in Rome, he spent
money freely. He was in debt already for his expenses as aedile. He
engaged his credit still deeper for this new competition. The story ran
that when his mother kissed him as he was leaving his home for the Forum
on the morning of the election, he told her that he would return as
pontiff, or she would never see him more. He was chosen by an overwhelming
majority, the votes given for him being larger than the collective numbers
of the votes entered for his opponents.

[Sidenote: B.C. 63.]
The election for the pontificate was on the 6th of March, and soon after
Caesar received a further evidence of popular favor on being chosen
praetor for the next year. As the liberal party was growing in courage and
definiteness, Cicero showed himself more decidedly on the other side. Now
was the time for him, highly placed as he was, to prevent a repetition of
the scandals which he had so eloquently denounced, to pass laws which no
future Verres or Lucullus could dare to defy. Now was his opportunity to
take the wind out of the reformers' sails, and to grapple himself with the
thousand forms of patrician villainy which he well knew to be destroying
the Commonwealth. Not one such measure, save an ineffectual attempt to
check election bribery, distinguished the consulship of Cicero. His entire
efforts were directed to the combination in a solid phalanx of the
equestrian and patrician orders. The danger to society, he had come to
think, was an approaching war against property, and his hope was to unite
the rich of both classes in defence against the landless and moneyless
multitudes.[9] The land question had become again as pressing as in the
time of the Gracchi. The peasant proprietors were melting away as fast as
ever, and Rome was becoming choked with impoverished citizens, who ought
to have been farmers and fathers of families, but were degenerating into a
rabble fed upon the corn grants, and occupied with nothing but spectacles
and politics. The agrarian laws in the past had been violent, and might
reasonably be complained of; but a remedy could now be found for this
fast-increasing mischief without injury to anyone. Pompey's victories had
filled the public treasury. Vast territories abroad had lapsed to the
possession of the State; and Rullus, one of the tribunes, proposed that
part of these territories should be sold, and that out of the proceeds,
and out of the money which Pompey had sent home, farms should be purchased
in Italy and poor citizens settled upon them. Rullus's scheme might have
been crude, and the details of it objectionable; but to attempt the
problem was better than to sit still and let the evil go unchecked. If the
bill was impracticable in its existing form, it might have been amended;
and so far as the immediate effect of such a law was concerned, it was
against the interests of the democrats. The popular vote depended for its
strength on the masses of poor who were crowded into Rome; and the tribune
was proposing to weaken his own army. But the very name of an agrarian law
set patrician households in a flutter, and Cicero stooped to be their
advocate. He attacked Rullus with brutal sarcasm. He insulted his
appearance; he ridiculed his dress, his hair, and his beard. He mocked at
his bad enunciation and bad grammar. No one more despised the mob than
Cicero; but because Rullus had said that the city rabble was dangerously
powerful, and ought to be "drawn off" to some wholesome employment, the
eloquent consul condescended to quote the words, to score a point against
his opponent; and he told the crowd that their tribune had described a
number of excellent citizens to the Senate as no better than the contents
of a cesspool.[10]

By these methods Cicero caught the people's voices. The plan came to
nothing, and his consulship would have waned away, undistinguished by any
act which his country would have cared to remember, but for an accident
which raised him for a moment into a position of real consequence, and
impressed on his own mind a conviction that he was a second Romulus.

Revolutionary conspiracies are only formidable when the government against
which they are directed is already despised and detested. As long as an
administration is endurable the majority of citizens prefer to bear with
it, and will assist in repressing violent attempts at its overthrow. Their
patience, however, may be exhausted, and the disgust may rise to a point
when any change may seem an improvement. Authority is no longer shielded
by the majesty with which it ought to be surrounded. It has made public
its own degradation; and the most worthless adventurer knows that he has
no moral indignation to fear if he tries to snatch the reins out of hands
which are at least no more pure than his own. If he can dress his
endeavors in the livery of patriotism, if he can put himself forward as


Back to Full Books