« EelmineJätka »
trying to annex Cappadocia; he restored the rightful king of that country, and protected him against an Armenian invasion. First of all Romans he came in touch with the formidable Parthian power, which was just advancing to the line of the Upper Eaphrates. He met the ambassador of King Arsaces IX., and not only cajoled him into a friendly agreement, but induced him to allow the Roman to have the place of honour over the Parthian name in their negotiations. The great king executed his envoy, when he returned, for permitting this humiliation of his majesty, but the peace between the two powers stood firm. In short, Sulla had pacified South-Eastern Asia Minor, and strengthened the boundaries of his province, with no other resources than his ready wit, his capacity for “ bluffing ” Orientals, and a handful of untrustworthy native auxiliaries. His self-confidence, never weak, is said to have been confirmed by the prophecies of Eastern wizards. The chief soothsayer of the Parthian ambassador was struck by his invariable good fortune, cast his horoscope, and told him “that he was destined to be the greatest of men, and that it was strange that he could endure to be anything less at the present moment.
When Sulla returned to Rome, it was natural that he should take a high place among the Optimate party: he was the only man among them who had built up a reputation for unvarying success.
Hence he was naturally entrusted with high command in the Italian war. He fully justified his promotion, won battles over the Samnites and the Lucanians which far surpassed the successes of any other Roman general in these campaigns, Marius not excepted, and gained such a reputation that he was elected as consul for B.C. 88. It was natural that when the Italian war died down he should be chosen to march against Mithradates, for he was the only living general who knew the East, and had already made a name in that
SULLA MARCHES ON ROME
quarter of the world. Sulla was quite satisfied with the commission; he believed that he was competent to save Asia, and he had been deeply grieved by the humiliation which the Roman arms had been suffering in the Mithradatic war.
Hence it was that he was moved to ungovernable wrath when he was informed that Sulpicius had passed a law to remove him from command, and to make over his army to Marius. He had already been in violent collision with the demagogue, who—as it is said—had tried to get him assassinated in broad daylight during the meeting of the Comitia. But there is no reason to suppose that he would have interfered with the sword in domestic politics if he had not been deprived of his Eastern commission. He believed that the turning back of Mithradates was a far more important duty than the quelling of demagogues. Sulpicius had had many predecessors who had all come to a bad end: if sufficient rope was given to a turbulent tribune, he was certain to end by hanging himself. But it was a different matter when he intervened between Sulla and his cherished project of reconquering Asia and Greece from the Pontic king. When the news reached the consul he behaved in the most unexpected fashion. He began by drawing off the greater part of his army from the siege of Nola and bringing it up to Capua. There he harangued the soldiers, told them that he was the victim of the intrigues of bad citizens, and asked them whether they were prepared to follow him. The men were devoted to the general who had led them so well during the Italian war: they cared little for the difference between Optimate and Democrat, but they remembered that Sulla had always been the most indulgent and good-humoured of chiefs, that he had kept their stomachs full and their pockets well lined. They believed, like himself, in his luck, and they had been looking forward to easy victory and endless
plunder in Asia. The legions shouted that they would follow him anywhere, even if he marched against Rome itself—which was precisely what he was intending to do. When the praetors Brutus and Servilius met him, forbidding him to advance further, the soldiers fell upon them, tore their robes, broke their fasces, and stoned them out of the camp, glad to escape with their lives. This violence frightened many of Sulla's chief officers, who slunk away from him lest they should find themselves involved in high treason. But the rank and file stuck firmly to him, and with 30,000 men at his back he began a rapid march on Rome. To those who were appalled at his project, he merely said that all the omens were favourable. The Asiatic Moon-Goddess, who had been so friendly to him in Cappadocia, had appeared to him in a dream, had promised him victory, placed a thunderbolt in his hand, and bade him use it to annihilate his enemies.
When this wholly unexpected news reached Rome, Marius and Sulpicius sent out several embassies one after another to endeavour to stop Sulla. But he deceived them by fair words, inviting them to induce the Senate and the Democratic leaders to meet him in a conference, while he continued to advance at full speed towards the city. As he was approaching it he was joined by his colleague, Pompeius Rufus, a very determined Optimate, whose presence was invaluable to him, for when the two consuls acted together it gave a false air of legality to their proceedings.
Marius and Sulpicius had barely time to barricade the streets and to arm their followers from the state arsenal, when the arrival of the Sullan army in the suburbs was reported. Without the least hesitation the legions crossed the sacred Pomoerium and pushed into the city. The Democrats, surprised as they were, made a desperate resistance; but though swords and pikes had been served
1. Denarius with representation of Jugurtha surrendered by Bocchus to Sulla. II. Denarius with representation of Sulla's Vision in B.C. 88.
to him and presents to him Victory armed with thunderbolts. III. Denarius struck by the restored Oligarchy in B.c. 80-70. Obv. Head of the
Genius of the Roman People. Rev. Emblems of Empire by sea and
land (globe, rudder, and caduccus). IV. Denarius of Crassus. The rev. a knight leading his horse, commemorales