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THE OUTER BARBARIANS
Punic War. They could not see things in the same light when there was a call for troops to keep back Pæonian or Illyrian raids on Upper Macedon, or Lusitanian raids on Baetica. They grumbled and rioted every time that a new legion had to be raised. This made the Senate chary of calling out conscripts, or keeping them long on foreign service. But finally, the crisis always grew so dangerous that the hated levy had at last to be raised. Nothing can better illustrate the dislike of the Roman populace for the lingering and bloody wars of Spain, than the fact that twice in the middle years of the century (in 151 and in 138 B.C.) tribunes actually arrested and imprisoned consuls who persisted in enforcing the conscription, when public opinion was adverse to a new Spanish campaign. Yet the condition of the Roman borders in the Iberian peninsula was undoubtedly such that these levies were necessary. The Celtiberian and Lusitanian tribes were so warlike and turbulent that the frontier could never stand still. Raids had to be punished by retaliatory expeditions. The tribe that had been chastised would not remain quiet till it had been actually annexed; and so the process went on, for beyond each marauding clan lay another and a fiercer robber tribe. The whole peninsula was like the Afridi and Waziri frontier of North-Western India at the present day, and by advancing their boundary-marks the Romans only changed the names of their enemies. There was no finality till the Atlantic was reached, and the last Galician and Cantabrian mountaineers maintained their ferocious independence till the days of Julius Cæsar and Augustus. In the Balkan peninsula the state of affairs was much the same under the later Republic, though the Triballi and Scordisci and Pæonians were not such formidable foes as the Spaniards. Macedon was never really free from northern inroads till the days of the empire. And in the East, when annexations had once begun in Asia, similar troubles, first with Galatians and Isaurians, and later with the formidable horse-bowmen of Parthia, came pouring in upon the perplexed senatorial oligarchy, which tried to govern an empire without an imperial outfit of army, navy, and civil service.
The Roman world, in short, was badly governed and badly defended : the provinces were steadily decreasing in wealth and resources from the moment that they were annexed. And since Italy and Rome herself were—as we shall see—tending to internal decay, though certain individual Romans and Italians were drawing huge profits from the newly acquired empire, the whole Mediterranean world seemed doomed to retrogression and collapse. It is possible that the Republic might have been demolished, if there had arisen against it any really formidable and well-equipped enemy. But the outer world was singularly destitute of strong men at this period. Jugurtha and Mithradates, in spite of all the trouble that they gave, were very third-rate personalities. And the one truly dangerous foe that marched against Rome during the last century of the Republic—the Cimbri and Teutons—represented mere brute force unguided by brains and strategy. At the last moment, when they had actually passed the Alps, they were annihilated by a general who possessed the art of improvising and handling a great army.
It is curious to speculate what might have happened if not Marius, but some imbecile Optimate of the type of his predecessors Mallius and Caepio, had been in command at Aquae Sextiae or on the Raudian Plain. But Europe escaped the premature coming of the Dark Ages, and the black cloud of barbarism from the north having passed away, the men of the later Republic were left free to work out their own problems in their own unhappy way, in sedition, conspiracy, civil war, and proscription, till the
THE SUCCESSION OF STATESMEN
coming of that great personality who showed the way—a bad way at the best-out of the hopeless deadlock into which Rome had fallen.
But ere Julius Cæsar appeared there were not one but many Romans who saw well enough that the Roman world was out of joint, and tried, each in his more or less futile fashion, to set it right. With some of these statesmen it is our task to deal. Their successive biographies show well enough the course of the whole history of the later Republic; there is no gap between man and man; Sulla as a boy may have witnessed the violent end of Caius Gracchus: Julius Cæsar as a boy did certainly witness and well-nigh suffer in the proscriptions of Sulla. The seven lives between them completely cover the last century of Rome's ancien régime.
By the third quarter of the second century before Christ, the contradiction between the new conditions of Roman life and the old forms of Roman government had grown so glaring, that even the conservative Roman mind saw that the present state of things could not enduro much longer. The two problems which had forced themselves to the front needed solution. What was to be done to adapt the constitution to the new needs of empire ?Was the Senate or the Public Assembly to rule the world, and by what machinery? And, secondly, how was the
state to deal with the unfortunate fact that the new commercial conditions of the Mediterranean countries,
brought about by the Roman conquests, were beginning to ruin Italian agriculture and to thin out the farmers who formed the backbone of the old Roman race.
A single man was fated to bring forward both these questions, to formulate them in the most contentious shapes possible, to confuse their issues in the most inextricable fashion, and to leave a heritage of strife behind him for the next three generations of Romans.
Tiberius Gracchus is one of the most striking instances in history of the amount of evil that can be brought about by a thoroughly honest and well-meaning man, who is so entirely convinced of the righteousness of his own intentions and the wisdom of his own measures, that he is driven to regard any one who strives to hinder him as not only foolish but morally wicked. The type of exalted
THE YOUTH OF TIBERIUS
doctrinaire who exclaims that any constitutional check that hinders his plans must be swept away without further inquiry, that every political opponent is a bad man who must be crushed, has been known in many lands and many ages, from ancient Greece down to the France of the Revolution. But in Rome such a figure was an exception ; the stolid conservatism, the reverence for mos majorum, the dislike for abstract political speculation which marked the race, were against the development of such a frame of mind. The reformers of the past had been content to work slowly, to introduce changes by adding small rags and patches to the constitution, or by inventing transparent legal fictions, which gained the practical point, while leaving the theory of the law that they were attacking apparently untouched. The earnest doctrinaire, all in a hurry and perfectly regardless of ancestral landmarks, was as incomprehensible as he was distasteful to the average Roman mind. It is well to remember the delightful comment of the elder Cato, who having been induced in his old age to read some of Plato's political dialogues, gravely remarked "that this Socrates seems to have been a prating seditious fellow, who suffered, rightly enough, for having tried to undermine the ancient customs of the state, and to teach young men to hold opinions at variance with the laws."
Tiberius Gracchus was one of those unfortunate persons who are from their earliest years held up as models, and serve to point the moral and adorn the tale for their young contemporaries, till they are led on to entertain the strongest views as to their own impeccability and infallibility. The cluster of stories which Plutarch gives us to illustrate the youth of the Gracchi are almost enough by themselves to explain Tiberius's after career. He was born with every advantage of rank and wealth; he had a quick intelligence and a handsome face. But