Page images
PDF
EPUB

best way to keep Sulla out of Italy would be to attack him in Greece. He collected an army at Ancona, with the intention of crossing over into Epirus. The first cohorts sailed, but when the main body was ordered to embark in very stormy weather, the men mutinied. Cinna came hurrying down to appease them, but was received by a volley of stones and beaten to death. The control of his party fell into the hands of men even less capable than himself, the chief of whom were his colleague, the consul Papirius Carbo, Marius, the son of the great general, and L. Junius Brutus Damasippus. The Democratic party had no longer a single autocratic leader—Cinna's three consulships had been styled a dominatio and almost a tyranny—but was ruled by a council of war destitute of any commanding personality.

In the spring of B.c. 83 Sulla landed in safety at Brundisium, which opened its gates without opposition— an event of evil augury for the Democrats. It was his object to show from the first that he came as the friend of Italy, and the enemy only of those who had proscribed him. All through his first campaign he was fighting with his brains as much as with his sword, by proclamations no less than by battles. He began by granting the Brundisians immunity from all taxation as a reward for their surrender. As he marched through Apulia he kept his army in such order that neither man nor beast, cottage nor cornfield, was harmed: yet it must have been hard to hold in veterans accustomed to the plunder of the East. Wherever he came, he announced that there was full amnesty and pardon for every one who did not actually appear in arms against him. This conduct had the most marked effect on the hostile army: from the very first the Democratic legions showed great Iukewarmness in the cause of their commanders. The two consuls for the new year, C. Norbanus and L. Cornelius SULLA DEFEATS THE CONSULS 141

Scipio, were entrusted with the opening of the campaign against the invader. They were both very incompetent officers, and foolishly separated their armies by such a wide gap that Sulla was able to deal with them in detail. Norbanus was defeated near Canusium, in Apulia; he hastily fell back across the Apennines, but received a second beating at Mount Tifata, after which he shut himself up in Capua. His colleague Scipio marched to his aid, but his army was dispersed more by intrigue than by fighting. For Sulla proposed an armistice, and took advantage of it to tamper with the consul's men, who, when the resumption of hostilities was proclaimed, refused to fight. Part of them dispersed, part went over to Sulla, and Scipio fell into the hands of his enemy. Still maintaining his ostentatious affectation of magnanimity, the latter sent him away unharmed, giving him an escort as far as the nearest Democratic camp. He then returned to blockade the army of Norbanus. The Democrats complained, as Plutarch tells us, that "in contending with Sulla they had to fight at once with a lion and a fox, and the fox gave the more trouble of the two."

Sulla's first successes emboldened the surviving members of the Optimate party, who had escaped the sword of Marius, and had been lurking ever since in obscure hiding-places, to take arms. The senior in rank was the proconsul Q. Metellus Pius, but by far the most able were two young men, Gn. Pompeius and Marcus Crassus, each of whom had to avenge a father slain in the civil war, the one in a mutiny, the other in the great massacre of B.c. 87. Both were active, enterprising, and fortunate. Pompeius gathered in Picenum, where his family was popular, a tumultuary force that gradually swelled to three legions. Crassus levied a small army in the Marsian territory. These insurrections distracted the attention of the Democrats, who were forced to turn against them a considerable portion of their new levies, and had in consequence less men to oppose to Sulla.

It thus came to pass that the proconsul found himself strong enough to march on Rome when the spring of B.C. 82 came round. He planned a diversion on the east side of Italy, where Metellus and Pompey made such a bold advance that Carbo, with the main army of the Democrats, went off to hold them in check, leaving the younger Marius, with 40,000 men, to guard Latium and the Appian Way. When Sulla started for a sudden rush on Rome, he found only this latter army in his path. At Sacriportus, near Signia, he inflicted a crushing defeat on the young general, who was a brave soldier but no tactician. The Optimates were much outnumbered, but the slackness of the rank and file among their enemies gave them every advantage. In the thick of the fight five cohorts threw down their standards and went over to Sulla: this broke the line, the enemy fled, and Marius only succeeded in saving a fraction of his host within the walls of the fortress of Praeneste. The road to Rome was open, and Sulla marched hastily on the city: he occupied it without having to strike a blow, but found to his disgust that he was too late to prevent a fresh massacre. On getting news of the defeat at Sacriportus, the praetor L. Brutus Damasippus had laid violent hands on every person in the city who was suspected of sympathising with the Optimates. Mucius Scaevola, the Pontifex Maximus, and many other respectable men, perished in this disgraceful slaughter.

After the fall of Bome Sulla's star was manifestly in the ascendant, and he possessed the obvious advantage of appearing to be the legal representative of the people, since he could compel the Senate and the Comitia to vote whatever he pleased. The war assumed a very confused and chaotic aspect, for fighting was now going on all BATTLE OF THE COLLINE GATE 143

over Italy, and each side had dispersed its main force, in the endeavour to seize or to hold as many important districts as was possible. But the whole business came to a head on November 1, B.C. 82 : while Sulla was facing Carbo in Etruria, and young Marius was still being besieged in Praeneste, the enemy made a vigorous attempt to seize Bome. A division detached by Carbo made a junction, behind Sulla's back, with the national levy of the Samnites, who were helping the Democrats more in the character of independent allies than in that of Roman citizens. Caius Pontius of Telesia, a namesake of the ancient hero of the Caudine Porks, led his countrymen to join Damasippus and Carrinas. The whole mass came rushing down from the Apennines upon the city, which the Samnites intended to sack rather than to save. Sulla received news of this concentration in his rear so late that he almost despaired of arriving in time. Rome was within an ace of destruction, for the vanguard of the Optimate cavalry arrived when the enemy were only two miles from the gates. If their generals had pushed forward a little farther on the preceding night (October 31st), instead of encamping close to the city, they would have found no one to oppose them. As it was, Sulla's legions had to be placed in line directly they arrived, after a fatiguing night march, and without being granted time to take a proper meal.

The battle, that followed was far the fiercest of the whole civil war, for Sulla had to deal not with the lukewarm levies of Carbo, but with the sturdy Samnites. Pontius rode round his army crying, asVelleius tells us, that "Rome's last day had come; that the tyrant city must be destroyed to her foundations; that the Roman wolves, the bane of Italian liberty, would never be got rid of until their lair was laid waste." The armies met outside the Colline gate, on the northern side of the city, the Optimate legions being ranged with their back to the walls, and only a few hundred yards from them. Sulla had the left wing, his lieutenant, M. Crassus, the right. For some hours the fortune of the day was hardly contested: Crassus gained ground, but Sulla's own division was pressed backward, till some of the cohorts were crushed against the walls, and others vainly tried to re-enter the gates, which were closed against them by the citizens. The general himself was in imminent danger of death: those who were near him saw him draw from his breast the little golden figure of Apollo which he always wore, kiss it, and mutter to the god that it would be a scurvy trick if he allowed Sulla the lucky to fall at last on his own threshold by the hands of traitors.

Apollo was not unpropitious: the wreck of Sulla's wing held out at the foot of the walls till the night fell: soon after the news came that Crassus had completely routed the troops opposed to him, who seem to have been mainly composed of the Democratic levies of Damasippus and Carrinas, not of Samnites. This caused the enemy to draw off from Sulla; their general, Pontius, had been mortally wounded, and it seems that there was no capable man to take his place. At dawn the two Optimate divisions joined and swept away the dislocated forces of their opponents: one Democratic legion came over to Sulla's side; the rest dispersed, but not so quickly but that 8000 of them were captured in their flight. The generals Damasippus, Marcius, and Carrinas suffered the same fate on the next day. Sulla cut off their heads and sent them to Praeneste, to be exhibited to young Marius and his famishing garrison. The dreadful sight had its effect: Marius committed suicide and Praeneste surrendered. The victor sorted out the Romans from among the prisoners, beheaded those of senatorial rank, but let the rest go free. The Italians were all put to death to the

« EelmineJätka »