« EelmineJätka »
could live as he pleased. His powers of enjoyment do not seem to have been the least impaired by advancing years : he had still to make up for that youth spent in involuntary frugality. Just before he laid down the dictatorship he had married a young wife: the story of their first meeting, as told by Plutarch, gives an amazing picture of the light-heartedness of the man who had just waded through all the blood of the Proscription.
“The dictator was one day presenting the people with a show of gladiators, and it chanced that a lady of great beauty and good family sat close behind Sulla. Her name was Valeria, the daughter of Messala, and the sister of Hortensius the orator: she had lately divorced her first husband. This lady, coming gently behind Sulla, pinched off a thread from the edge of his toga, and then passed back to her seat. But he, much amazed at the familiarity, looked round at her, whereupon she said, 'Do not wonder, sir, at what I have done; I had only a mind to get a shred of your good luck.' Sulla was far from being displeased : on the contrary, it appeared that he was agreeably flattered, for he sent to ask her name, and to inquire into her family. Then followed, all through the games, an exchange of side looks and smiles, which ended ultimately in a contract of marriage. Now it seems to me that Sulla, though he got a wife of great beauty and accomplishments, came into the match on wrong principles, for, like a boy, he was caught with soft looks and languishing airs."
Sulla's last year was spent in his villa in Campania, near Puteoli, whither he retired and dwelt amid a court of clever and dissolute companions who kept him amused. He devoted his time partly to writing his memoirs—he finished the twenty-second book of them two days before he died-partly to pleasures (reputable and disreputable) of all sorts. The tale that his last months were vexed
DEATH OF SULLA
161 with a loathsome disease, which rendered life insupportable, is probably an invention of his enemies. It has been attributed to half-a-dozen well-hated tyrants, the last of whom was Philip II. of Spain. But it is certain that Sulla died from breaking a blood-vessel rather than from any lingering ailment. In the leisure of his last year he found time for business : he kept a keen eye on Roman affairs, and drafted a constitution for the neighbouring town of Puteoli at the request of its inhabitants. His last recorded act was a strange and violent interference in politics, which much recalls the story of Ofella. The Quaestor Granius was making himself notorious by embezzlements, and openly said that he should escape punishment because the ex-dictator was dying. Sulla lured him to his bedside by a polite message, and then had him seized and strangled in his very presence by his slaves. The excitement of the scene caused him to rupture a blood-vessel, and he died of exhaustion next day.
His party being still in power, he received the most magnificent funeral that Rome had ever seen. His monument was erected in the most conspicuous part of the Campus Martius, and two centuries later was still visible. Plutarch says that it bore a curious and characteristic epitaph, composed by the dictator himself, in which he said that “No friend ever did him so much good, or enemy so much harm, but that he had repaid him with full interest.”
CRASSUS NAPOLEON, in one of his cynical moods, once asked his courtiers how the world would take the news of his sudden death, supposing that some chance bullet cut him off before his time. They hastened to give him all sorts of flattering versions of the dismay and regret that would fill all Europe. “No," said the Emperor, “ that is not the sort of thing that would happen. All that would occur would be that every one would draw a long breath, and say with a sigh of relief, · Well, that's all over.'” And so, it may be surmised, did things go at Sulla's death. When men knew that his iron hand would never interfere again in politics, they felt as if a long nightmare was over, and abandoning the assumed characters that they had enacted during his lifetime, dropped back into their real selves. Instead of the majestic and united Optimate party which seemed to stand so firm under his protection, there was now only a mass of slack senators, who wished to take life quietly, with the maximum of enjoyment, and a few ambitious men who felt at last that they could display their ambition without risking their necks. The Senate still contained some men of real ability who were loyal to the oligarchic constitution, such as the Epicurean general Lucullus, Quintus Metellus, who had made a good military reputation, the orator Hortensius, and Catulus, the son of that Catulus who had fought so well against the Cimbri—a somewhat duller reflection of his father's virtues. But the great majority were apathetic
UNREST AFTER SULLA'S DEATH
nobodies, while the two persons who were most important and influential among Sulla's lieutenants were men who disliked the Sullan constitution, simply because it gave them no scope for the display of the considerable abilities which they possessed, and for the satisfaction of their ambition. It is mainly on the doings of these two, Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gn. Pompeius, that the politics of the next twenty years were to turn. No two men could have been more unlike in character, but fate was always hurling them together, first as young soldiers in Sulla's camp with fathers to avenge, then later as consuls in the same year, lastly as members of the famous “First Triumvirate.” Of the idiosyncrasies of each of them we must endeavour to gain a firm grasp.
At first, however, there were circumstances which kept the ambition and the rivalry of Crassus and Pompey from assuming the importance which they afterwards attained. In 78 B.C. men's attention was mainly occupied by certain evils, which, as long as Sulla lived, had given the government little concern, because they knew that, if things grew serious, one nod of Sulla's head would suffice to set them right. When he was removed, these problems suddenly began to cause alarm. First, there was suppressed unrest in Italy; the children of the Proscribed, deprived of all political rights; the citizens of the Etruscan towns, who had escaped massacre but had not escaped confiscation; the numerous population in the valley of the Po, who had obtained Latin rights from Pompeius Strabo, but wanted to become full citizens—were all discontented. The wrecks of the bands of Carbo and the younger Marius were not entirely dispersed: some were pirates on the high seas, others freebooters in Mauretania. In Spain their strongest man, the ex-praetor Sertorius, had raised a really dangerous insurrection—a peril to the state, not so much because it was a lingering remnant of the civil war between Roman and Roman, as because Sertorius was gradually de-Romanising himself, and becoming a Spanish national leader rather than a representative of the old party of the populares. Of him we shall have more to say when we deal with the life of Pompey. As long as Sulla lived, the Optimates talked of him as a tiresome survivor of a long-lost cause, much as we talk of Botha or De Wet. After the dictator's death it became clear that his insurrection, far from dying down, was distinctly spreading over a wider area, and threatening to tear away the whole of Spain from the Roman Empire. It had already been the death of several incapable Optimate generals, and the ruin of several small armies. The outlook in the West was gloomy.
But in the year that followed Sulla's decease it was not Sertorius who seemed the most dangerous foe of the senatorial government. Their main trouble was caused at home, by the vain and heady consul, M. Æmilius Lepidus, who tried in the most reckless fashion to pull down the whole of the new constitution almost before its founder's ashes were cold. Lepidus was "a rash, intruding fool,” whose motive was nothing more than the ill-regulated ambition of a man who does not know his own mediocrity, and thirsts to be something great. He draped himself in the torn and soiled mantle of Saturninus and Cinna, and appeared in the character of a Democratic saviour of society. Now, the large majority of the people of Rome and of Italy disliked the senatorial régime, but disliked still more the idea of the recommencement of the civil war and all its horrors. The consul found little support, but contrived to gather in Etruria an army of political refugees, discontented politicians, liberated slaves, and even bankrupt Sullan veterans. The whole of this rising bears an astonishing resemblance to the doings of Catiline in thesame district fifteen years later, It failed in much the same way.