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Pompey received the offer which changed the whole face of affairs. Crassus and Caesar and the whole Democratic party were still under a cloud, with a strong suspicion of complicity in the Catilinarian plot hanging about them. It would mean everything to them if Pompey, his respectability, and his veterans were placed on their side. Accordingly they offered him their assistance to secure the ratification of his Asiatic treaties and the grant of land for his legionaries, if he would join them against the Senate. It must have been a bitter moment for him when he was told that his desires might be gained, at the price of a second alliance with his old enemy Crassus, the man who had intrigued against him with such malevolent persistence all through the last ten years. But rather than break his word to his soldiers (whose interests he had promised to protect), and rather than endure more bullying from the Senate, he accepted the offer. The famous "First Triumvirate " was formed, Pompey contributing his great name, his respectability, and the potential aid of forty thousand veterans; Crassus, his inexhaustible money-bags and his power of intrigue; Caesar, his unrivalled talent for mob-management and his cool and level brain. At the moment most men thought him little more than the agent and tool of the two elder triumvirs; the revelation of his greatness was yet to come.
When the triumvirate had been formed, and (in spite of the opposition of Cato and a few more irreconcilables) had shown that it could sweep the streets and clear the Forum, it remained to be seen how the victorious three would use their power. The first thing that strikes the observer is that while Pompey got something out of his bargain, and Caesar a great deal, we can hardly trace any positive and tangible gain received by Crassus from his alliance with his old enemy. Pompey got his Asiatic THE FIRST TRIUMVIRATE
doings confirmed; he was also enabled to give his veterans the land that he had promised them. Caesar obtained his consulship, passed all the laws that he chose to bring forward, and had the pleasure (which to a man with his sense of humour must have been considerable) of seeing his colleague Bibulus shut up in his mansion and "inspecting the heavens" day by day without any effect. Moreover, at the end of his year of office Caesar received the all-important provinces of Cisalpine and Transalpine Gaul, the district from which legions could best overawe Rome and all Italy.
But Crassus got neither consulship nor province, neither land nor ratified treaties. It is true that his position in politics was re-established; the slur that had been left upon him after the Catilinarian business was removed, and he could feel that he had pulled the strings of the whole intrigue. But of more definite profit we see nothing. The only satisfactory explanation of this curious fact is to remember that Crassus, all through his career, seems to have desired power as an end in itself rather than as a means to other objects. He was, to use a modern phrase, a man without a programme. He wanted to pull the wires of politics, rather than to carry out some definite policy when he had collected all the wires in his hand. If we must seek a modern parallel for him, we may think of that wonderful old Whig, the Duke of Newcastle, who allied himself with the elder Pitt on the terms that the latter should manage the whole imperial policy of Britain, while he himself should be permitted to conduct the parliamentary jobbery and intrigue. In short, when the opportunity came to him, Crassus had no particular set of measures that he wished to advocate. He was neither a true Democrat nor a true Oligarch. He had become the leader of the populares not because he had popular sympathies, but because he wanted at all costs to be the leader of some party. So the weakness of his position was, that having achieved his wish to obtain a share of supreme power, he had little that was definite to ask for. He merely wanted to be able to assert himself when he chose, to have his share in portioning out consulships and praetorships, to make money when and how he chose, and to use it by keeping dozens of minor political personages in dependence on him.
Hence it is that in the doings of the triumvirs during their day of power, it is hard to point out very much that can be ascribed to the personal initiative of Crassus. His main aim was to keep in check his ally Pompey, whom he hated no less than of old. That thereby he was helping a much more able man—Caesar —on the road to supreme power he certainly did not realise. We may make a shrewd guess also that it was Crassus who really set upon Cicero and drove him into exile, Clodius being merely his tool, and not the originator of the orator's woes. We know from Sallust and Plutarch how bitter was the enmity that Crassus bore to the consul of B.C. 63, despite the flattery which he lavished on him when he was set on estranging him from Pompey. It is probable that the banishment of Cicero was his underhand revenge for seeing his old schemes frustrated; for both in the rejection of the law of Rullus and in the suppression of Catiline the orator had been the main cause of his defeat. On the other hand, it is hard to see that Clodius had really any adequate cause for the malignant persecution to which he subjected Cicero. The usual tale, that he had been angered by the way in which his ingenious alibi had been disproved, while he was being tried for the violation of the mysteries of the Bona Dea, does not seem to give a sufficient reason for his vindictive attacks on Cicero. If we imagine that he was spurred on by Crassus, the causes of whose enmity are CRASSUS AND CICERO
so much more obvious, the matter becomes far more intelligible. If the triumvir simply delivered the blow at second-hand, it is quite in keeping with what we read concerning his feelings at this time. Plutarch tells us that he had conceived such a mortal hatred for the orator that he would have shown it by some act of personal violence, had he not been dissuaded by his son Publius, who chanced to be an old pupil and an admirer of Cicero.
Crassus was certainly closely connected with Clodius, whose acquittal at his trial for the violation of the Mysteries he had secured by his lavish bribery. He was the only one of the triumvirs who did not try to save Cicero from the worst extreme of exile, by pressing on him an honourable excuse for absence from Rome, in the shape of a legateship or a "free commission" to travel. That the orator himself suspected him of being at the bottom of his troubles may be judged from the fact that when writing from Thessalonica during his banishment, and estimating his chances of return, he speaks of Pompey as certain to be favourable—" Crassum tamen metuo." He had a fear that Crassus might not prove so accommodating. However, having learnt the lesson that it was not wise to cross the triumvirs, Cicero was ultimately allowed to return, and soon after was formally reconciled to the millionaire by means of the young Publius, his faithful friend.
We have, on the whole, extraordinarily little recorded of the doings of Crassus between B.C. 59 and B.C. 56, a time when he ought to have been able to ask and obtain whatever he chose from his colleagues. He had his share, no doubt, in the management of affairs by the triumvirs in that rather chaotic time, when, to the outward eye, Clodius rather than any one else seemed to be the real ruler of Rome. But apparently he was, as usual,
more set on checking Pompey than on anything else. It is only in B.C. 56 that he again conies to the front.
By that time he had at last learnt, from the study of Caesar's doings in Gaul, that any man who aspired to take his share in dominating Roman politics must have an army at his back. Hence it was that at the conference of Lucca he claimed not only the consulship for B.C. 55, but the command of the army of the East. He too must raise his legions, win his victories, and be in a position to meet Caesar and Pompey on equal terms, if troubles should ever again break out. Those superficial writers who think that he chose the rich Eastern provinces out of mere greed and avarice are clearly wrong. All through his life money-making was to him the means and not the end. What he really wanted to secure was a loyal army, not a few more millions to add to his hoards. That military glory had turned his brain, and that he desired to emulate Alexander the Great, and " to penetrate to the Bactrians, the Indians, and the Erythraean Sea, so that in his hopes he swallowed up the whole East," we cannot readily believe. Clearly he wished to win a strong military position, such as could be secured by great conquests beyond the Euphrates, but it was needed mainly to help him to sway the balance between Caesar and Pompey in the domestic affairs of Rome.
Nevertheless, when he had once been granted his desire and placed in command of an army, his spirits seem to have risen; his mind harked back to his old campaigns of 82 and 71 B.C., and he appears to have cast from him the memories of twenty years of finance and intrigue, and to have tried to become once more the enterprising soldier that he had been in Sulla's day. He showed a buoyancy of spirit that surprised every one, "indulging in vain boasts most inconsistent with his wonted demeanour, and most unsuitable to his age