« EelmineJätka »
THE INSURRECTION OF LEPIDUS 165
When Lepidus led his horde against the city, the Senate hastily fitted out an army against him under Oatulus. These raw levies were just ready when the ex-consul reached the Tiber, and actually crossed it at the Mulvian Bridge and entered the Campus Martius. Here, among the monuments and polling booths, Catulus and his legions met him and gave him a severe defeat. He retreated into Etruria, took ship to escape his pursuers, and died immediately after in Sardinia, whither he had fled. The strongest body of his followers that held together was defeated by Pompey in Cisalpine Gaul, and its leader, M. Brutus, was captured and executed at Mutina. Only a small part of Lepidus's insurrectionary host, headed by the Praetor Perpenna, escaped by sea, and went to join Sertorius in Spain. There the insurgents were making marked progress; they carried all before them, and were not even checked when Pompey in the next year led a considerable army of reinforcements from Italy against them.
While the revolt of Sertorius was taxing all the energies of Rome, there were two other important struggles in progress. The first was the renewed war with Mithradates, an ill-managed and interminable struggle, in which the king of Pontus, whom Sulla had beaten with such ease and rapidity, baffled all the Roman generals for ten years, so that even the very capable L. Lucullus, the best general of really loyal mind whom the Senate possessed, could not entirely subdue him, though he beat him in battle often enough.
The third, and the most difficult and disgraceful of the three military problems with which the oligarchy had to deal in these troublous years, was the great slave-rising in Italy under the Thracian Spartacus, who beat ten Roman armies, and equipped forty thousand men from their spoils, though he had started as the leader of no ft
more than seventy-eight runaway gladiators. Scandalous as it appeared, the Senate could not prevent the untrained hordes of Spartacus from ranging over the whole of Italy, from the Po to the straits of Rhegium. For several years he marched and countermarched among the Apennines like a second Hannibal, and won battles over the incapable Optimate generals that were in their way hardly less notable than Trebia or Trasimene.
The government whose weakness provoked, and whose incapacity protracted, the three disastrous wars with Sertorius, Mithradates, and Spartacus, deserved to fall. It only needed some one more able than the vain Lepidus to lead the attack on the Sullan state-system, and it was bound to crumble down. But the blow was to be given not by one man but by two. Pompey was returning from Spain on the one side, on the other Crassus was about to come to the front. Of him we have now to speak in detail; hitherto we have barely mentioned his name.
M. Licinus Crassus had been born in or about the year B.C. 107. We have already had occasion to tell how his father, Crassus the ex-consul, and his elder brother, Publius, fell in the great massacre of B.C. 87, hunted down by the gangs of Marius. But Marcus, the younger son, escaped through untold perils to Spain, where he lay hid for many months in a cave by the sea-shore. When he emerged from his lurking-place, it was to become a freebooter on the high seas. At last he heard that Sulla had returned to Italy, and sailed to join him at the head of his band of outlaws. He applied to the proconsul for a military command and a detachment of troops. "I can only," said Sulla, " give you as helpers the ghosts of your murdered father and brother." Crassus quite understood his chiefs meaning; the Optimate army was so small that there was not a man to spare: the spur of revenge must serve him instead of regular resources. With no more than his CHARACTER OF CRASSUS 167
original band of outlaws, he made a dash into thef Marsian territory, and there succeeded in raising a considerable body of troops. When Sulla advanced into Central Italy, Crassus guarded his flank; after Rome fell, he was sent up into Btruria, where he did good service against Carbo and his crew. But his most striking exploit was that he saved the fortune of the day at the battle of the Colline gate; his wing, it will be remembered, was successful, while that of Sulla was broken and pushed back to the walls. It was only delivered in the end by the help of Crassus, who used his own victorious legions to save his leader from destruction.
At the end of the civil war, then, Crassus had achieved a brilliant military reputation. Of all the Optimate generals, there were none who were more esteemed, save Pompey and the ambitious and ill-fated Lucretius Ofella. The latter was soon cut off, but with the former Crassus had already started that rivalry which was to endure throughout both their lives. As the elder man, he bitterly resented the fact that Sulla always gave the higher place to Pompey, and honoured him with a distinction and a confidence that he accorded to no other of his subordinates.
Nevertheless Crassus might have gone far, and have been reckoned among the leading lights of his party, if he had not managed to offend the dictator, and to get himself marked down as a man who was not to be trusted. Hitherto his career reads like that of an adventurous soldier, but in his last campaign he was beginning to show the traits which were to be so prominent in his later life—that unscrupulous greed for money and that indifference as to the means by which it was to be got, which were to be alike his strength and his weakness during the rest of his life. Sulla's anger with Crassus arose from two sinister incidents. At the siege of Tuder in Umbria, Crassus had captured the military chest of the Democratic consuls; instead of handing over its contents to the treasury, he embezzled the whole for his private profit. Later in the war, being in command in Lucania and Bruttium, he committed the unpardonable offence of slaying some local magnates, whose names had never appeared in the proscription list, and seized their wealth for himself. Now Sulla, though he was ruthless in blood-shedding, had a system in all that he did, and objected to seeing his plans for weakening the Democratic party turned to the use of private greed. He was deeply incensed at Crassus for slaying men uncondemned by himself, and when his command ran out, sent him into private life with a bad mark against his name. He did not prosecute him, or drive him out of the Senate, but simply noted him down as a man not to be trusted or employed.
Having lost his military career, and being barred out of political'advancement, Crassus turned his energies into money-making, and laid the foundation of the vast fortune which he was to accumulate by lucky speculations in the property of the proscribed. The Italian money-market was glutted with lands, houses, and investments belonging to the fallen Democrats. The man who had a little spare money to invest could, at this moment, buy up great masses of property, which would recover their value in a few years, when the glut and the panic was over, and Italy had settled down into quiet. Crassus had not very great paternal wealth; his own moderate fortune reached the competent but not startling total of three hundred talents —some £75,000 of our money—but he had amassed great sums by plunder during the war, and he boldly sunk every sesterce that he could scrape together in buying up depreciated lands and houses in and about Rome. He had his reward within a short time. When public confidence had been restored, and prices had risen to CRASSUS AND HIS INVESTMENTS 169
their old Wei, he found himself a millionaire. What his wealth was at this period we cannot say, but at a later time it amounted—after a year of exceptional expense in all sorts of political corruption—to no less than seven thousand one hundred talents—one million seven hundred and seventy thousand pounds of our money.
While Sulla still lived, and while the oligarchy still hung together after his death, Crassus, excluded from public life, went on conquering and to conquer in the world of finance. Plutarch gives us most extraordinary details as to his ingenious and often undignified methods of money-making. Not only did he lend money at high rates of interest both to Roman senators and to provincial municipalities, but he invented strange devices of his own. One of them was his school for the education of slaves. He used to buy the raw material, and have them trained as readers, book-keepers, stewards, and cooks. It is said that he not only supervised the school, but often gave lectures himself—in the cooking of accounts, rather than of entrees, it is to be presumed. The slaves who had been through this academy sold at much enhanced prices. Still more astonishing was his amateur firebrigade and the way in which he used it. He got together a body of five hundred workmen—carpenters, masons, and the like—provided them with ropes, buckets, ladders, and tools. Whenever there was a fire (and fires were as common as they were dangerous in the crowded city), he went down at the head of his gang and called on householders whose property was in the immediate neighbourhood of the conflagration. He then offered to buy their houses, as they stood, at a very low figure. If the terrified owner consented, the fire-brigade was turned on and the mansion generally preserved. If he refused, Crassus went away with his men and let the fire do its worst. Hence in time, says Plutarch, he became master