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Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

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Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David





The Revolt Of Italy And The Social War








Great discontent had long existed among the Italian subjects of Rome. They
were not only oppressed, but they enjoyed no political privileges. They
did not belong to the class of burgesses.

With the view of extending the Roman franchise, a movement was made by the
tribune, M. Livius Drusus, an aristocrat of great wealth and popular
sympathies. He had, also, projected other reforms, which made him
obnoxious to all parties; but this was peculiarly offensive to the order
to which he belonged, and he lost his life while attempting to effect the
same reforms which were fatal to Gracchus.

On his assassination, the allies, who outnumbered the Roman burgesses, and
who had vainly been seeking citizenship, found that they must continue
without political rights, or fight, and they made accordingly vast
preparations for war. Had all the Italian States been united, they would,
probably, have obtained their desire without a conflict in the field, but
in those parts where the moneyed classes preponderated, the people
remained loyal to Rome. But the insurgents embraced most of the people in
Central and Southern Italy, who were chiefly farmers.

The insurrection broke out in Asculum in Picenum, and spread
rapidly through Samnium, Apulia, and Lucania. All Southern and Central
Italy was soon in arms against Rome. The Etruscans and Umbrians remained
in allegiance as they had before taken part with the equestrians, now a
most powerful body, against Drusus. Italy was divided into two great
military camps. The insurgents sent envoys to Rome, with the proposal to
lay down their arms if citizenship were granted them, but this was
refused. Both sides now made extensive preparations, and the forces were
nearly balanced. One hundred thousand men were in arms, in two divisions,
on either side, the Romans commanded by the consul, Publius Rutilius
Lupus, and the Italians by Quintus Silo and Gaius Papius Mutilus. Gaius
Marius served as a lieutenant-commander. The war was carried on with
various successes, for "Greek met Greek." The first campaign proved, on
the whole, to the disadvantage of the Romans, who suffered several
defeats. In a political point of view, also, the insurgents were the
gainers. Great despondency reigned in the capital, for the war had become
serious. At length, it was resolved to grant the political franchise to
such Italians as had remained faithful, or who had submitted. This
concession, great as it was, did not include the actual insurgents, but it
operated in strengthening wavering communities on the side of Rome.
Etruria and Umbria were tranquilized.

The second campaign, B.C. 89, was opened in Bicenum. Marius was not
in the field. His conduct in the previous campaign was not satisfactory,
and the conqueror of the Cimbri, at sixty-six, was thought to be in his
dotage. Asculum was besieged and taken by the Romans, who had seventy-five
thousand troops under the walls. The Sabellians and Marsians were next
subjugated, and all Campania was lost to the insurgents, as far as Nola.
The Southern army was under the command of the consul, Lucius Sulla, whose
great career had commenced in Africa, under Marius. Sulla advanced into
the Samnite country and took its capital, Bovianum. Under his able
generalship, the position of affairs greatly changed. At the close of the
campaign, most of the insurgent regions were subdued. The Samnites were
almost the only people which held out.

It was fortunate for Rome that the rebellion was so far suppressed
when the flames of war were rekindled in the East. A great reaction
against the Roman domination had taken place, and the eastern nations
seemed determined to rally once more for independent dominion. This was
the last great Asiatic rising till the fall of the Roman empire. The
potentate under whom the Oriental forces rallied, was Mithridates, king of
Pontus.

The army of Sulla, in Campania, was destined to embark for Asia as
soon as the state of things in Southern Italy should allow his departure.
So the third campaign of the Social war, as it is called, began favorably
for Rome, when events transpired in the capital which gave fresh life to
the almost extinguished insurrection. The attack of Drusus on the
equestrian courts, and his sudden downfall, had sown the bitterest discord
between the aristocracy and the burgess class. The Italian communities,
received into Roman citizenship, were fettered by restrictions which had
an odious stigma, which led to great irritation, for the aristocracy had
conferred the franchise grudgingly. And this franchise was moreover
withheld from the insurgent communities which had again submitted. A deep
indignation also settled in the breast of Marius, on his return from the
first campaign, to find himself neglected and forgotten. To these
discontents were added the distress of debtors, who, amid the financial
troubles of the war, were unable to pay the interest on their debts, and
were yet inexorably pressed by creditors.

It was then, in this state of fermentation and demoralization, that
the tribune Publius Sulpicius Rufus proposed that every senator who owed
more than two thousand denarii (L82) should forfeit his seat in the
Senate; that burgesses condemned by non-free jury courts should have
liberty to return home; and that the new burgesses should be distributed
among all the tribes, in which the freed men should also have the
privilege of voting. These proposals, although made by a patrician, met
with the greatest opposition from the Senate, but were passed amid riots
and tumults. Sulla was on the best terms with the Senate, and Sulpicius
feared that he might return from his camp at Nola, and take vengeance for
these popular measures. The tribune, therefore, conceived the plan of
taking the command from Sulla, who was then consul, and transfer it upon
Marius, who was also to conduct the war against Mithridates, in Asia.

Sulla disobeyed the mandate, and marched to Rome with his
army--little more than a body of mercenaries devoted to him. In his eyes,
the sovereign Roman citizens were a rabble, and Rome itself a city without
a garrison. Sulla had an army of thirty-five thousand men, and before the
Romans could organize resistance he appeared at the gate, and crossed the
sacred boundary which the law had forbidden war to enter. In a few hours
Sulla was the absolute master of Rome. Marius and Sulpicius fled. It was
the conservative party which exchanged the bludgeon for the sword. Sulla
at once made null the Sulpician laws, punished their author and his
adherents, as Sulpicius had feared. The gray-haired conqueror of the
Cimbri fled, and found his way to the coast and embarked on a
trading-vessel, but the timid mariners put him ashore, and Marius stole
along the beach with his pursuers in the rear. He was found in a marsh
concealed in reeds and mud, seized and imprisoned by the people of
Minturnae, and a Cimbrian slave was sent to put him to death, The ax,
however, fell from his hands when the old hero demanded in a stern voice
if he dared to kill Gaius Marius. The magistrates of the town, ashamed,
then loosed his fetters, gave him a vessel, and sent him to AEnaria
(Ischia). There, in those waters, the proscribed met, and escaped to
Numidia, and Sulla was spared the odium of putting to death his old
commander, who had delivered Rome from the Cimbrians.

Sulla, master of Rome, did not destroy her liberties. He suggested
a new series of legislative enactments in the interests of the
aristocracy. He created three hundred new senators, and brought back the
old Servian rule of voting in the Comitia Centuriata. The poorer classes
were thus virtually again disfranchised. He also abolished the power of
the tribune to propose laws to the people, and the initiatory of
legislation was submitted to the Senate. The absurd custom by which a
consul, praetor, or tribune, could propose to the burgesses any measure he
pleased, and carry it without debate, was in itself enough to overturn any
constitution.

Having settled these difficulties, and made way with his enemies, Sulla,
still consul, embarked with his legion for the East, where the presence of
a Roman army was imperatively needed. But before he left, he extorted a
solemn oath from Cinna, consul elect, that he would attempt no alteration
in the recent changes which had been made. Cinna took the oath, but Sulla
had scarcely left before he created new disturbances.





Next: The Mithridatic And Civil Wars

Previous: The Wars With Jugurtha And The Cimbri



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