« EelmineJätka »
SULLA STORMS ROME
out to them, they were but untrained rioters contending with disciplined soldiery. There was fierce fighting around the Esquiline market and the temple of Tellus, but it did not last for long. When Sulla brought forth torches, and told his men to burn out the enemy if they could not expel them in any other fashion, the Democrats gave way and fled.
The victors bivouacked that night in the squares and along the streets, ready to fight again next morning if necessary: but they soon discovered that the leaders of the enemy had left the city, and that the mob had dispersed. Sulla had broken up the dearest traditions of ancient Rome; he had brought armed legions into the Forum. To lovers of the constitution, whether Optimates or Democrats, it seemed that the abomination of desolation was in the Holy Place. But no thunderbolt descended from heaven to annihilate the impious consul. His luck was still with him, and he faced the situation, which would have appalled any one less cheerful and unscrupulous than himself, with perfect equanimity.
The Senate was assembled by the consuls, and informed that the “ tyrants” had been expelled from the city. It voted that the Sulpician laws had been passed without the
proper formalities and were null and void. It also passed a decree of outlawry, by which Sulpicius, Marius and his son, and ten other persons, were declared public enemies, and a price was set on their heads. The tribune was caught lurking in a villa at Laurentum. He was beheaded, and his head was set upon the rostra from which he had so often declaimed, a ghastly innovation in the etiquette of massacre which was to be regularly followed hereafter. But most of the other Democratic leaders escaped from Italy. Marius, after a long series of adventures, culminating in his celebrated mud-bath in the marshes of Minturnae, made his way to Africa, where he was ultimately joined by his son and several others of the outlaws.
It would now have been in Sulla's power to assume the permanent control of the state. He might have proclaimed himself dictator, or have renewed his consular authority, and have settled down to rule as an autocrat, with the swords of his legions propping up his throne. But he had no personal ambition. He was a Roman and an Optimate, who desired the triumph of his country and his party, and was determined to do his best for both. But there was nothing of the tyrant in him: his present duty, as he supposed, was to restore his party to power at Rome, and then to sally forth to save the Eastern provinces from Mithradates. These two ends he proceeded to carry out, with no concern for his own private profit.
The executions, as he supposed, had crushed the Democrats. Marius he despised, and considered a negligible quantity; there was no other surviving chief of any note to resuscitate the vanquished faction, and the Senate ought to be able to take care of itself for the present. Accordingly he contented himself with making some comparatively unobtrusive changes in the constitution before his departure. The chief of these was a law providing that the approval of the Senate--senatus auctoritas-had for the future to be granted to any bill brought forward by tribunes, or other magistrates, before it could be laid before the assembly. Another law restored the old order of things in the Comitia Centuriata, where the wealthier classes were replaced in the preponderant position which they had enjoyed under the early Republic. But it was not really by these slight alterations of existing custom that he imagined that the Senate could defend itself. He left behind for their protection two armies under Op mates of assured fidelity and ability-his late colleague in the consulship, Pompeius Rufus, and Q. Metellus Pius,
SULLA SAILS FOR GREECE
the son of the conqueror of Numidia. For the Mithradatic war he withdrew from Italy only five of his own veteran legions, which had served with him throughout the campaigns of B.C. 90–88, and had won so many successes over the Samnites. With this force he thought that he could master all the Asiatic hordes of Mithradates; nor, as the event showed, was he wrong.
The moment, however, that he set out for the East all went wrong in Italy. He had, as it seemed, taken his good fortune away with him. The Senate proved far too weak to maintain the position to which he had restored it, and the Democratic faction found a new leader in the consul for B.C. 87, L. Cornelius Cinna, a vain heady man, who seems to have been carried away by a sudden lust for establishing a personal domination in the style of Caius Gracchus, rather than by any true zeal for the popular cause. As an Optimate, no statesman could hope to be more than a member of the governing ring; as a Democrat, it was possible to exercise a quasi-monarchical power; hence came the temptation to men of vulgar and unscrupulous ambition to enlist on the Democratic side.
Even before Sulla left Italy, his colleague, Pompeius Rufus, on whose ability to keep order he most relied, had been murdered in a military riot in Picenum. Gn. Octavius, who was consul for B.C. 87 along with Cinna, proved too weak for the task of controlling his exuberant partner, when the latter openly took arms on behalf of the Democrats. A sporadic civil war began to spread all over Italy, which became really formidable when Cinna made an alliance with the Samnites, and called back Marius and the rest of the exiles. The Optimates lost ground; at last Octavius and his army were actually besieged in Rome, and, weakened by desertion and famine, the Senate capitulated. Cinna and Marius entered Rome in triumph, and celebrated their victory by a wholesale massacre, not a mere attack on a dozen leaders, such as Sulla had carried out in B.C. 88. Marius went about at the head of a band of slaves, slaying every man with whom he had ever had a personal quarrel, whether he was a prominent politician or not. Indeed, the old general acted more like a lunatic afflicted with homicidal mania than a responsible party leader. Every prominent man in Rome who had not taken sides with the exiles was doomed to death : not only was Octavius put to death, but a number of respectable ex-consuls were murdered, among them Lucius Cæsar, who had enfranchised the Italians in B.C. 90; Catulus, the colleague of Marius in his Cimbrian victory; Antonius, the orator; and P. Crassus, the father of the Triumvir. The Optimate wing of the Senate was almost exterminated; none escaped save a handful of fugitives, and the officers whom Sulla had taken with him to the East. Marius caused the head of every senator who had been slain to be hung up in the Forum, so that for many weeks it resembled the precinct of the king of Dahomey after the “Great Customs," rather than the meeting-place of a civilised people. The atrocities only ceased when Marius died, on January 13th, B.C. 86, just after he had caused himself to be elected consul for the seventh time. Cinna, glutted with blood, now turned from the work of massacre to the more practical task of taking measures for the suppression of Sulla, who had sailed for the East in the previous year to take up the war against Mithradates.
When Sulla had started from Brundisium for Greece in the spring of B.C. 87, he had taken with him no more than five of his own veteran legions—some 30,000 men at most—and a moderate supply of money. He had supposed that he might look for a regular supply of recruits and subsidies from the Optimate government which he had left behind him at Rome. He found the eastern pro
SULLA IN GREECE
vinces in a desperate condition; not only had the whole of Asia been lost, but the Pontic armies had crossed into Europe, and had overrun the greater part of Thrace and Macedon. The fleet of Mithradates had subdued the whole of the Cyclades, and had sacked the great central emporium at Delos, where 20,000 Italians are said to have been massacred. Athens had fallen into the hands of the tyrant Aristion, a humble imitator and admirer of the Pontic king. Nearly all the smaller states of Greece had hastened to do homage to the invaders. Sentius, the governor of Macedonia, and his legate, Bruttius Sura, with a handful of Roman troops, were holding out in Thessaly, but would certainly have been overwhelmed had not Sulla come to their aid.
The great proconsul had marched south from Epirus and recovered part of the western regions of Greece, as far as Delphi and the borders of Bæotia, when he received the appalling tidings of the outbreak of the new Democratic rising in Italy and of the treason of Cinna. Many men would have turned back to crush the rebels at home before grappling with the external enemies of the state. But Sulla thought even more of the danger to the Roman empire than of the danger of the Optimate party. Instead of returning to Italy, he pressed with all vigour the campaign against the generals of Mithradates. Without his help Octavius and the Senate were lost, and at midwinter in B.C. 87–86 he learnt that Rome was in the hands of the Democrats, that his friends had been massacred, and that he himself and his chief officers had been declared public enemies and outlawed. Decrees passed at Rome to that effect did not much injure him, for his army was thoroughly loyal, and not a man left him. But the dreadful part of the situation was that he had for the future to depend entirely on his own resources. He had no money and no fleet, the bulk of Greece was in the