Page images

young Optimate, the quaestor Q. Caepio, collected a band of his clients and supporters, girt up his toga and stormed the rostra, upsetting Saturninus and those about him. The assailants were but a handful, and the demagogue, rallying his forces and putting Marian veterans in his front rank, charged back, drove off Caepio and his gang, and completed the formalities of passing the bill among desperate noise, confusion, and tumult.

It was farcical to call such a mere riot a legal meeting of the Comitia, or to hold that bills which had been vetoed by half-a-dozen tribunes had any binding force. But it was for refusing to swear obedience to them that Quintus Metellus, the haughty but honest and capable predecessor of Marius in Numidia, was driven into exile.

There seemed to be no length to which Saturninus and Glaucia would not go. But their triumphant violence defeated their own ends : Marius was prepared to wink at a good deal of ruffianism on the part of his supporters, but he drew the line at the systematic murder of respectable opponents, and would have preferred to see the opposite party in the assembly overawed by threats rather than driven out with sticks and stones. Clearly he began to fear his own lieutenants, and to doubt whether they might not turn against him instead of merely carrying out his plans. He suddenly dropped his support of them, secretly informed the Optimates that he would not be responsible for their acts, and passed the word round among his veterans that they were to remain neutral.

Exasperated at being disavowed by their employer, Saturninus and Glaucia tried to continue their wild career on their own behalf, and in December B.C. 100 brought matters to a head by seizing the Capitol with the object of carrying through a regular coup d'état. What exactly they intended to accomplish we cannot guess ; certainly it can hardly have been (as their enemies asserted) to proclaim DEATH OF SATURNINUS


Saturninus king, or even dictator. But deprived of the aid of the veterans of Marius, they proved no more able to defend themselves than Caius Gracchus and Fulvius had been in B.C. 121. The Optimates easily shut them in and held them beleaguered, while the Senate proclaimed martial law. Marius, much against his will, was forced to lend his sanction as consul to their proceedings. When the besiegers had succeeded in cutting off the supply of water from the Capitol, Saturninus and his crew were forced to surrender. They were placed under a guard in the Senate-house by the orders of Marius; but the Optimate mob tore off the roof, and pelted the prisoners to death with tiles before the consul could interfere.

Thus ended the third attempt of the Democratic party to seize the conduct of affairs, and to make an end of the Senate as a governing body. It failed mainly from the incapacity of Marius either to conduct a political campaign himself, or to select agents who would be competent to do so in his behalf. If he had known how to secure men of tact and discretion instead of reckless incendiaries, he might have done what he pleased : for the strength of his reputation would have carried everything before it in B.C. 101, and the arms of his veterans were at his disposal. But Saturninus, in spite of a certain ability and energy, was frankly impossible either as leader or lieutenant. He would have wrecked any cause by his insolence and recklessness.

Marius, much disappointed by the failure of his schemes, and more or less conscious of the ridiculous figure which he had cut, retired from Rome when his consulship was over, and went for a long tour in Asia, under the pretext of fulfilling a vow which he had made during the Cimbrian war to the gods of the East. When he returned, he found that he had been half-forgotten, and that the Senate was more powerful than it had been at any time since the fall of the Gracchi.

There was a gap of more than eight years before any serious political strife again arose at Rome; but the unsatisfactory economic and constitutional position of the Republic once more produced its inevitable result, and a new reformer arose.

Marcus Livius Drusus differed from his predecessors in that he was in no sense a legitimate descendant of the Gracchi. He was what in modern phraseology we should call a “Tory-Democrat.” He believed that the Senate was far more fitted than the assembly to administer the empire. He had taken part against Saturninus in B.C. 100, and his views, as to what were the main dangers of the state and how these dangers should be met, differed from those which were held by the Democratic party. In personal character he was as unlike Saturninus and Glaucia as can well be imagined, being a man of very staid and even haughty carriage, extremely strict in his morals, and selfconscious beyond the limit of priggishness. He was so well aware of his own virtues that his dying words are recorded to have been that "he wondered how many years would elapse before the state would get another citizen as good as himself."

After having studied for several years the unsatisfactory condition of the Republic, Drusus had come to the conclusion that its main dangers were the ever-growing power and insolence of the Equestrian Order, the corpora

1 That Drusus was a well-developed specimen of the prig is indubitably shown by the delightful story concerning his interview with the architect. Part of the tribune's house was much overlooked by his neighbour's windows. The architect who was rebuilding it came to him with a plan showing how, by judicious alterations, he could prevent his don stic doings from being witnessed. Drusus rejected the idea with scorn, saying “ Nay, use your skill to build so that all that I do may be visible to all my neighbours !” If they would study his acts they would see exactly how the life of a Roman citizen ought to be managed.



tion of financiers to whom Caius Gracchus had sacrificed the state, and the discontent of the Italian allies. He also thought that something might still be done to reestablish the yeoman class by providing new colonies at Capua (an old idea of C. Gracchus) and in Sicily. There was nothing in these views which might not be held by a sincere Optimate, and Drusus found that he might look for support from all the more enlightened members of the Senate. For the first time a reformer was backed by a large proportion of the most important men in the state. The better sort of senators had long been chafing at the corruption of the equestrian law-courts, and of late the condemnation of the virtuous Rutilius Rufus for his blameless government in Asia had provoked them beyond endurance. As to the question of giving the franchise to the allies, any sensible Optimate could see that the existing constituency in the Comitia was as bad from his point of view as any other body that could be created. It could do no harm if the urban multitude were diluted, or even swamped, by the sturdy farmers of those parts of Central Italy to which agricultural depression had not yet penetrated. The Agrarian Law, too, which Drusus proposed had not the confiscatory character of that of Tiberius Gracchus. The Campanian state-domains and the other small remnants of public land in Italy were being held on lease; they had not practically passed into private possession, as had the estates which had been resumed by the Gracchan law of B.C. 133; and to colonies in Sicily no one could have any rational objection. The fertile island had been so wasted by the slave war of B.C. 104-101 that it could afford to take in a very large body of new settlers.

It is impossible to deny that the reforms of Drusus were less objectionable, and had a more respectable and influential set of supporters, than any other of the programmes which were laid before the Roman people during the last century of the Republic. Unfortunately their author did not introduce them in the best or wisest fashion. The bills had to pass the Comitia, and that corrupt constituency had to be conciliated. Thinking that the Agrarian Law would not suffice to buy it over, Drusus linked to his other proposals one of a most openly immoral sort. He offered to increase the pernicious corndole, by adding to the amount of state grain which each citizen was allowed to purchase every month. It was represented to him that the treasury could not stand the expense, wherefore he enacted that the coinage should be debased in order to find the extra money. Of every ten denarii issued by the mint, one was to be of copper plated with silver, and to refuse the base coin was to be a high offence. Evidently Drusus was no economist; but even though the ancient world had not discovered “Gresham's Law," that the bad money drives out the good, he must have known that his bill would cause grave financial troubles. It was clearly a case of doing evil that good might come.

Drusus found himself at the head of a very heterogeneous body of partisans. His proposals had caused a cleavage in both of the old factions. He was backed by the better half of the Senate, by the Italians, and at first by that blind and greedy majority in the assembly which would vote anything that was sweetened by a corn-dole. Against him were the Equites and that section of the Senate which was simply reactionary, and opposed to all manner of change merely because it was change. He had also to reckon with that part of the urban multitude which regarded the extension of the franchise to the Italians with such distaste that they feared and shunned any one who might propose it.

Quite conscious of the existence of this latter body,

« EelmineJätka »