Julius Caesar




Early Career of Julius Caesar

Sertorius in Spain.--Warning of Cicero to the Patricians.--Leading Aristocrats.--Caesar with the Army in the East.--Nicomedes of Bithynia.-- The Bithynian Scandal.--Conspiracy of Lepidus.--Caesar returns to Rome.-- Defeat of Lepidus.--Prosecution of Dolabella.--Caesar taken by Pirates.-- Senatorial Corruption.--Universal Disorder.--Civil War in Spain.--Growth of Mediterranean Piracy.--Connivance of the Senate.--Provincial Administration.--Verres in Sicily.--Prosecuted by Cicero.--Second War with Mithridates.--First Success of Lucullus.--Failure of Lucullus, and the Cause of it.--Avarice of Roman Commanders.--The Gladiators.--The Servile War.--Results of the Change in the Constitution introduced by Sylla

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CHAPTER IX.

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.

Early Career of Julius Caesar

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 itself.

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.

[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.

[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 £10,000, 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.

[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.

[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 subjects. 5

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 circus.

[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 adolescenti‚ forma et species fuit liberalis."--Oratio pro Marca Caelio.

[3] Now Fermaco.

[4] "Videbat enim populum Romanum non locupletari quotannis pecuni‚ public‚ praeter paucos: neque eos quidquam aliud assequi classium nomine, nisi ut, detrimentis accipiendis majore affici turpitudine videremur."--Cicero, Pro Lege Manili‚, 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 gaz‚que regi‚ manus, oculos, animum cohibere possit, non erit idoneus, qui ad bellum Asiaticum regiumque mittatur."--Pro Lege Manili‚, 22, 23.

[6] "Quem possumus imperatorem aliquo in numero putare, cujus in exercitu veneant centuriatus atque venierint? Quid hunc hominem magnum aut amplum de republic‚ 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 Manili‚, 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, 140.


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