Julius Caesar




The Young Caesar

The Young Caesar The Young Caesar.--Connection with Marius.--Intimacy with the Ciceros.-- Marriage of Caesar with the Daughter of Cinna.--Sertorius.--Death of Cinna.--Consulships of Norbanus and Scipio.--Sylla's Return.--First Appearance of Pompey.--Civil War.--Victory of Sylla.--The Dictatorship and the Proscription.--Destruction of the Popular Party and Murder of the Popular Leaders.--General Character of Aristocratic Revolutions.--The Constitution remodelled.--Concentration of Power in the Senate.--Sylla's General Policy.--The Army.--Flight of Sertorius to Spain.--Pompey and Sylla.--Caesar refuses to divorce his Wife at Sylla's Order.--Danger of Caesar.--His Pardon.--Growing Consequence of Cicero.--Defence of Roscius.--Sylla's Abdication and Death

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CHAPTER VIII.

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 lst 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 £500 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 atonement.

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 adolescenti‚ 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.


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