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turned, gave the wider vent to their indignation, because the Publicans were of the order of the Knights, their nearest and most perilous adversaries; and the edict was rapidly put forth, that no freeman of an allied state should thereafter be reduced to slavery, and that the governors of the various provinces should at once set all such as could be found in servitude within their jurisdiction at liberty
Licinius Nerva was then the Prætor of Sicily. On receiving the edict, he began so zealously to put it into execution, that a few days witnessed the liberation of above eight hundred slaves. But here the good work — too good, indeed, for the Senate of Rome to have been aware of ordering, or for a magistrate of Rome, awares or unawares, to execute — ceased. The rich proprietors, principally, of course, Romans, throughout the island, were alarmed ; not merely because the emancipation of the slaves, kidnapped from free or allied countries, would prove a serious loss, but especially on account of their other slaves, born or captured into servitude, who might again be excited, by the prospect of liberty, to renew the horrors of a servile war by which Sicily had been long tormented some thirty years before. Nerva, easily persuaded or bribed, desisted from the undertaking to which he had been commanded; and instead of liberating the slaves who thronged about his tribunal, he ordered them back with contumely to their chains.
2 Diod. Sic., Relig., XXXVI. 3.
3 Ibid., 3 - 10.
Sicily, whose native people had wellnigh become extinct, was at this time a mere territory of plantations, cultivated by slaves under the eyes and the cruel blows of superintending speculators, their actual proprietors being either collected in the few remaining cities of the island, or else still more remotely domiciled at Rome. The vengeance of the unhappy beings, freemen and allies by birth, as must be recollected, whom the unfaithfulness of their Prætor to the act of the Senate maddened beyond all control, was awful and prolonged. Houses ran with blood; fields parched with flame and desolation ; while the fury of the slaves rose higher at every murder of a master, and higher still at every defeat of the armies sent against them. Nor was it until they had held out under various leaders for full five years, that Manius Aquillius, one of Marius's numerous colleagues, and then Proconsul, succeeded in crushing their last forces and in transporting the survivors to Rome, where they were set to slay one another in the public amphitheatre. The misery of Sicily was none the less, but the entertainment of the Roman people was something greater, for this immolation.
Italy was not yet the same scene of woe or devastation as Sicily and Bithynia; though forty years had passed since Tiberius Gracchus was first struck by the paucity of its free inhabitants, and twenty-five since his brother Caius had promised citizenship and
4 A. C. 104 - 99. 5 Diod. Sic., Reliq., XXXVI. 3 - 11.
restoration to those who still remained. At a certain stage of decline, a single day, as it were, or generation, may bear away more regularity and vigor from a people than has been lost in the course of years, or even centuries, preceding; and the disorders of one kind or another prevailing amongst the Italians had so rapidly spread, it seems, as to leave them bereft of comfort and contentment, if not of hope.
The institutions, colonial or municipal, Latin or allied, of a former period, were no longer tolerable to men who forgot that their fathers had been conquered, and remembered only that they themselves had enlisted in the same armies and borne the same toils as their superior countrymen at Rome. Nearly as wealthy, besides, and full as cultivated, in general, as those who lived upon the seven hills, they were kept under restraint as though they had been menials to whom the service of the Commonwealth was a sufficient piece of good-fortune, without their presuming to seat themselves at its boards or lay their heads upon its pillows. On the other hand, the privileges of their humbler homes were never secure against the citizens who, starting in multitudes from Rome, spread wide their settlements upon the Italian soil, and sometimes lived within call of an Italian family or an Italian state beneath another government and almost beneath another sun. Such an inferiority was sure to be felt, and in the end to be rejected, by the Italians, however great their own superiority might be to any other nation under the same overarching dominion.
Imagine the return of one of the Italian officers from the campaigns of Marius against the barbarians, dizzy with the praises of his general, proud in the consciousness of his so-called heroism, and elated by the acclamations of the people. Follow him home to the stately house an officer of rank would naturally own, in the midst of a town or upon his own broad fields, — in either case, however, the dwelling of a rich man surrounded by retainers, but scarcely by neighbours of his own position, in any number. Even supposing him so wealthy, and adding to his fortune the resources of intellect and valor, there was nothing within his reach to take the place of the authority he had exercised or the admiration he had gained in the army. He sank at once to the situation of a dependant; he was, again, the son of the vanquished ; and his laurels withered beneath the blight, apparently eternal, of his fathers' overthrow. Yet, notwithstanding discomfiture and shame, the heart of such a man was warmer towards the living energies or emoluments of Rome than towards the ghostly memories of the nation from which he was descended; and small appears the condescension on the part of his countrymen that would have satisfied his claims. So others lived obscure and fretful, though the fame they acquired in war, and the riches they enjoyed at home, might have been less vividly contrasted with the political subordination to which they were doomed. The poor Italian, whose life itself would have ebbed away, had he waited for food or employment by the stagnant pool which covered,
as it were, the fields and houses of his forgotten ancestors, longed rather for the relief imparted to the needy citizen, and wished his place in the Tribes only because it would secure him his share in the public bounties and his corner at the public games. The great desire of the whole race, alike the rich and the poor, the peasant and the noble, was to be made equal with the people whose citizenship appeared, in one or another light, to be the most inestimable blessing of the earth.
These details will not appear misplaced to the reader who reflects that the extension of citizenship to the Italians was equivalent to the transformation of the city, or, to use its own name, the Commonwealth, to the nation, truly speaking, of Rome. The success of this great achievement, mortally judged, would have delayed the fall of heathen liberty, perhaps for centuries; but it was waylaid by doubts and difficulties from the very moment of its beginning. Had the contest which we are now approaching occurred some ten or fifteen years earlier, when the barbarian invaders were hurrying from the North, and the sword of every Italian, as well as of every Roman, was needed to repel the annihilation of their common independence, there would appear at first sight to have been little uncertainty about its issue. Now, on the contrary, there was scarce an enemy