Зображення сторінки

wise restrained in the long-prevailing custom” of sending sumptuous embassies to the Senate, charged with merited or unmerited praises of their retiring governors. There may have been other precautions of the same nature, not now, however, of any importance, except as they seem to prove that the government of all the Roman world was then appointed by one man, upon the principles he had learned through his own extortion and ambition. The part of Sulla in Roman history has been commonly represented as that of a conqueror and a legislator whose resolution was confined to the purification of the constitution and the elevation of the aristocracy of his country. It would rather appear, and without a single extravagant rendering of our authorities, that his aim, from first to last, was to secure his individual sway and his personal safety. For mere title or form, either in his own possession or in that of other men, he cared nothing, so long as they were really submissive, and he was really powerful. Their love or hatred was the same to him, if it did not interfere with their obedience; and the friend or the enemy who had escaped his wrath was still obliged to bend before a whisper of his will. He allowed two of his adherents to be chosen Consuls, soon after he became Dictator;” but when another of his train, Lucretius Ofella, who had deserted the faction of Marius and had since done great service to Sulla, presented himself as a candidate for the consulship, in defiance of the law concerning the preliminary steps to that office, it was soon proved that the triumph of the master gave the followers no claim to independence. The Dictator ordered Ofella to desist from further canvassing; but seeing, as he sat in state before a temple commanding a view of the Forum, that his direction was slighted, he sent down a Centurion to slay the presuming candidate before his eyes. The partisans of the murdered man, ignorant, perhaps of what had passed, dragged the murderer up to the Dictator's tribunal, assured of his instant desire to avenge the assassination of so favorite a general. Sulla rose, and coldly bade them loose the Centurion. “I commanded,” he said, “and I tell it you, the death of Lucretius for having disregarded my behests.” And raising his voice, undoubtedly, while they stood motionless and alarmed, he continued:—“A certain ploughman, troubled by fleas, twice let go the plough to shake his frock; but being still tormented, he burned the frock that he might not be stopped again. And I tell you,” he concluded, “who have twice been conquered, to beware of fire brought upon you for the third time.” ”

86 Cic., Ad Div., III. 10. 87 App., Bell. Civ., I. 100.

The effort of a boisterous partisan to pull his master's plumes was not the only resistance to the dictatorship, in which the history of Roman liberty at first appears to have reached its conclusion. On the contrary, as at all other periods of depression in any country or in any age, the declining years of the Commonwealth will still be gilded, as with the Gracchi, by some few signs of truer spirit than would otherwise have been believed of possible appearance in skies at almost all times so dark as those of Rome. One of the last places which held out against the dominion of Sulla was Volaterrae, a strong and picturesque city in Etruria. A number of its inhabitants, joined by fugitives from other districts, bore up with such manfulness against a siege, that, after its continuance for two years,” they were still in arms, when the Dictator proposed the confiscation of their lands and the forfeiture of their citizenship. He does not, indeed, appear to have signified his pleasure very directly or earnestly;” but the refusal” of the Centuries, on whom, according to his new system, devolved the question of the fate of Volaterrae, to violate the rights of their fellow-countrymen, for being brave in heart, is one grain, at least, of promise in the midst of the wilderness through which we have lately passed. An instance of more selfish independence occurred on the return of the young Pompey from Sicily and Africa, where he had crowned his service to Sulla”

* Plut., Sull., 33. Liv., Epit. aid, in his Opusculum de Bellis LXXXIX. Civilibus, when he said of Sulla,

* App., Bell. Civ., I. 101. The “Et rempublicam vindicatam non

old writer, Julius Exsuperantius, hit reddidit legibus, sed ipse possedit.” the truth, perhaps with Sallust's Cap. W.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

by destroying the last remains of the party of Cinna and Marius. The reception he met without the gates of Rome from the Dictator himself, and the multitude who thronged to meet him, was the moment of inspiration to many of the qualities and the aims we shall observe in him hereafter. Sulla had no envy of the “still unbearded” general, whom he received with every expression of applause, even to the point of hailing him Magnus,” or the Great, as though he would have encouraged rather than repressed his reputation. But the claim of Pompey to celebrate a triumph was met by the denial of the Dictator, whose will it was that the laws granting the highest honor of a Roman life to a Praetor or to a Consul alone should be obeyed, at least in this case, on account of the vaingloriousness already manifested by the youthful hero. Pompey might have been vain; but he did not fear to tell the Dictator openly,” that the rising would have more worshippers than the setting sun. or to repeat his demand. Either admiring the spirit of the stripling, or perhaps desirous to soothe, instead of provoking, such audacity, Sulla bade Pompey triumph, if he pleased. Yet, had the Dictator been actually jealous" of a hero so much his junior, Pompey would have soon been sacrificed. More spirited, more generous, and in every way more admirable was the behaviour of Marcus Tullius Cicero, whose career will often present the same contrast to that of Pompey, than whom he was a few months older in years.” Cicero, now in his twentyseventh year, was still unknown amongst the people, his public services consisting in a single campaign, to which we have before alluded,” unless his patient and successful pursuits in seclusion be counted, as, indeed, they should, in consideration of the achievements for which they were his preparation. A few friends and fellow-students were alone aware of the gifted mind and the humane heart with which they were brought into communion; but even their admiration was tinged with anxiety lest the affections and the endowments of his nature should be suffered to stray. On coming forward, however, in the year of Pompey's triumph, to take his place amongst the Roman orators,” Cicero found many to trust in him and to encourage his trust in himself, the want, as it then seemed, he most required to have supplied. Within some months after his appearance in public, a young man from Ameria in Umbria, named Sextus Roscius, was accused of parricide by Cornelius Chrysogonus, the most notorious of Sulla's ten thousand freedmen, who had obtained possession of the father's estate by shamefaced villany, and who now desired to anticipate the son's demands by perfidious prosecution. The only advocate to be found to sustain the obscure defendant against the charge of the Dictator's well-known fa

94 Plut., Pomp., 13. 96 Ibid., 15. This was at the 95 Ibid., 14. close of A. C. 81.

97 Cicero was born, near Arpi- years later, on the twelfth of July, num, on the third of January, A. C. 100. 106; Pompey, on the thirtieth of 98 In the last chapter, p. 330. September in the same year. The 99 A. C. 81; though the oration birth of their great contemporary Pro P. Quintio (see cap. 1) was not and conqueror, Caesar, occurred six his first.

« НазадПродовжити »