Caesar: A Sketch by James Anthony Froude

Produced by Eric Eldred, Robert Connal and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. CAESAR _A SKETCH_ BY JAMES ANTHONY FROUDE, M.A. FORMERLY FELLOW OF EXETER COLLEGE, OXFORD _”Pardon, gentles all The flat unraised spirit that hath dared On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth So great an object.”_ –SHAKESPEARE, Henry V. PREFACE. I have called this
This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

Produced by Eric Eldred, Robert Connal and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.

[Illustration: Julius Caesar]






_”Pardon, gentles all
The flat unraised spirit that hath dared On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth So great an object.”_



I have called this work a “sketch” because the materials do not exist for a portrait which shall be at once authentic and complete. The original authorities which are now extant for the life of Caesar are his own writings, the speeches and letters of Cicero, the eighth book of the “Commentaries” on the wars in Gaul and the history of the Alexandrian war, by Aulus Hirtius, the accounts of the African war and of the war in Spain, composed by persons who were unquestionably present in those two campaigns. To these must be added the “Leges Juliae” which are preserved in the Corpus Juris Civilis. Sallust contributes a speech, and Catullus a poem. A few hints can be gathered from the Epitome of Livy and the fragments of Varro; and here the contemporary sources which can be entirely depended upon are brought to an end.

The secondary group of authorities from which the popular histories of the time have been chiefly taken are Appian, Plutarch, Suetonius, and Dion Cassius. Of these the first three were divided from the period which they describe by nearly a century and a half, Dion Cassius by more than two centuries. They had means of knowledge which no longer exist–the writings, for instance, of Asinius Pollio, who was one of Caesar’s officers. But Asinius Pollio’s accounts of Caesar’s actions, as reported by Appian, cannot always be reconciled with the Commentaries; and all these four writers relate incidents as facts which are sometimes demonstrably false. Suetonius is apparently the most trustworthy. His narrative, like those of his contemporaries, was colored by tradition. His biographies of the earlier Caesars betray the same spirit of animosity against them which taints the credibility of Tacitus, and prevailed for so many years in aristocratic Roman society. But Suetonius shows nevertheless an effort at veracity, an antiquarian curiosity and diligence, and a serious anxiety to tell his story impartially. Suetonius, in the absence of evidence direct or presumptive to the contrary, I have felt myself able to follow. The other three writers I have trusted only when I have found them partially confirmed by evidence which is better to be relied upon.

The picture which I have drawn will thus be found deficient in many details which have passed into general acceptance, and I have been unable to claim for it a higher title than that of an outline drawing.



Free Constitutions and Imperial Tendencies.–Instructiveness of Roman History.–Character of Historical Epochs.–The Age of Caesar.–Spiritual State of Rome.–Contrasts between Ancient and Modern Civilization.


The Roman Constitution.–Moral Character of the Romans.–Roman Religion.– Morality and Intellect.–Expansion of Roman Power.–The Senate.–Roman Slavery.–Effects of Intercourse with Greece.–Patrician Degeneracy.–The Roman Noble.–Influence of Wealth.–Beginnings of Discontent.


Tiberius Gracchus.–Decay of the Italian Yeomanry.–Agrarian Law.–Success and Murder of Gracchus.–Land Commission.–Caius Gracchus.–Transfer of Judicial Functions from the Senate to the Equites.–Sempronian Laws.–Free Grants of Corn.–Plans for Extension of the Franchise.–New Colonies.– Reaction.–Murder of Caius Gracchus


Victory of the Optimates.–The Moors.–History of Jugurtha.–The Senate corrupted.–Jugurthine War.–Defeat of the Romans.–Jugurtha comes to Rome.–Popular Agitation.–The War renewed.–Roman Defeats in Africa and Gaul.–Caecilius Metellus and Caius Marius.–Marriage of Marius.–The Caesars.–Marius Consul.–First Notice of Sylla.–Capture and Death of Jugurtha


Birth of Cicero.–The Cimbri and Teutons.–German Immigration into Gaul.– Great Defeat of the Romans on the Rhone.–Wanderings of the Cimbri.– Attempted Invasion of Italy.–Battle of Aix.–Destruction of the Teutons.–Defeat of the Cimbri on the Po.–Reform in the Roman Army.– Popular Disturbances in Rome.–Murder of Memmius.–Murder of Saturninus and Glaucia


Birth and Childhood of Julius Caesar.–Italian Franchise.–Discontent of the Italians.–Action of the Land Laws.–The Social War.–Partial Concessions.–Sylla and Marius.–Mithridates of Pontus.–First Mission of Sylla into Asia.


War with Mithridates.–Massacre of Italians in Asia.–Invasion of Greece.–Impotence and Corruption of the Senate.–End of the Social War.– Sylla appointed to the Asiatic Command.–The Assembly transfer the Command to Marius.–Sylla marches on Rome.–Flight of Marius.–Change of the Constitution.–Sylla sails for the East.–Four Years’ Absence.–Defeat of Mithridates.–Contemporary Incidents at Rome.–Counter Revolution.– Consulship of Cinna.–Return of Marius.–Capitulation of Rome.–Massacre of Patricians and Equites.–Triumph of Democracy.


The Young Caesar.–Connection with Marius.–Intimacy with the Ciceros.– Marriage of Caesar with the Daughter of Cinna.–Sertorius.–Death of Cinna.–Consulships of Norbanus and Scipio.–Sylla’s Return.–First Appearance of Pompey.–Civil War.–Victory of Sylla.–The Dictatorship and the Proscription.–Destruction of the Popular Party and Murder of the Popular Leaders.–General Character of Aristocratic Revolutions.–The Constitution remodelled.–Concentration of Power in the Senate.–Sylla’s General Policy.–The Army.–Flight of Sertorius to Spain.–Pompey and Sylla.–Caesar refuses to divorce his Wife at Sylla’s Order.–Danger of Caesar.–His Pardon.–Growing Consequence of Cicero.–Defence of Roscius.–Sylla’s Abdication and Death


Sertorius in Spain.–Warning of Cicero to the Patricians.–Leading Aristocrats.–Caesar with the Army in the East.–Nicomedes of Bithynia.– The Bithynian Scandal.–Conspiracy of Lepidus.–Caesar returns to Rome.– Defeat of Lepidus.–Prosecution of Dolabella.–Caesar taken by Pirates.– Senatorial Corruption.–Universal Disorder.–Civil War in Spain.–Growth of Mediterranean Piracy.–Connivance of the Senate.–Provincial Administration.–Verres in Sicily.–Prosecuted by Cicero.–Second War with Mithridates.–First Success of Lucullus.–Failure of Lucullus, and the Cause of it.–Avarice of Roman Commanders.–The Gladiators.–The Servile War.–Results of the Change in the Constitution introduced by Sylla


Caesar Military Tribune.–Becomes known as a Speaker.–Is made Quaestor.– Speech at his Aunt’s Funeral.–Consulship of Pompey and Crassus.–Caesar marries Pompey’s Cousin.–Mission to Spain.–Restoration of the Powers of the Tribunes.–The Equites and the Senate.–The Pirates.–Food Supplies cut off from Rome.–The Gabinian Law.–Resistance of the Patricians.– Suppression of the Pirates by Pompey.–The Manilian Law.–Speech of Cicero.–Recall of Lucullus.–Pompey sent to command in Asia.–Defeat and Death of Mithridates.–Conquest of Asia by Pompey


History of Catiline.–A Candidate for the Consulship.–Catiline and Cicero.–Cicero chosen Consul.–Attaches Himself to the Senatorial Party.–Caesar elected Aedile.–Conducts an Inquiry into the Syllan Proscriptions.–Prosecution of Rabirius.–Caesar becomes Pontifex Maximus–and Praetor.–Cicero’s Conduct as Consul.–Proposed Agrarian Law.–Resisted by Cicero.–Catiline again stands for the Consulship.– Violent Language in the Senate.–Threatened Revolution.–Catiline again defeated.–The Conspiracy.–Warnings sent to Cicero.–Meeting at Catiline’s House.–Speech of Cicero in the Senate.–Cataline joins an Army of Insurrection in Etruria.–His Fellow-conspirators.–Correspondence with the Allobroges.–Letters read in the Senate.–The Conspirators seized.– Debate upon their Fate.–Speech of Caesar.–Caesar on a Future State.– Speech of Cato–and of Cicero.–The Conspirators executed untried.–Death of Catiline.


Preparations for the Return of Pompey.–Scene in the Forum.–Cato and Metellus.–Caesar suspended from the Praetorship.–Caesar supports Pompey.–Scandals against Caesar’s Private Life.–General Character of them.–Festival of the Bona Dea.–Publius Clodius enters Caesar’s House dressed as a Woman.–Prosecution and Trial of Clodius.–His Acquittal, and the Reason of it.–Successes of Caesar as Propraetor in Spain.–Conquest of Lusitania.–Return of Pompey to Italy.–First Speech in the Senate.– Precarious Position of Cicero.–Cato and the Equites.–Caesar elected Consul.–Revival of the Democratic Party.–Anticipated Agrarian Law.– Uneasiness of Cicero.


The Consulship of Caesar.–Character of his Intended Legislation.–The Land Act first proposed in the Senate.–Violent Opposition.–Caesar appeals to the Assembly.–Interference of the Second Consul Bibulus.–The Land Act submitted to the People.–Pompey and Crassus support it.–Bibulus interposes, but without Success.–The Act carried–and other Laws.–The Senate no longer being Consulted.–General Purpose of the Leges Juliae.– Caesar appointed to Command in Gaul for Five Years.–His Object in accepting that Province.–Condition of Gaul, and the Dangers to be apprehended from it.–Alliance of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus.–The Dynasts.–Indignation of the Aristocracy.–Threats to repeal Caesar’s Laws.–Necessity of Controlling Cicero and Cato.–Clodius is made Tribune.–Prosecution of Cicero for Illegal Acts when Consul.–Cicero’s Friends forsake him.–He flies, and is banished.


Caesar’s Military Narrative.–Divisions of Gaul.–Distribution of Population.–The Celts.–Degree of Civilization.–Tribal System.–The Druids.–The AEdui and the Sequani.–Roman and German Parties.–Intended Migration of the Helvetii.–Composition of Caesar’s Army.–He goes to Gaul.–Checks the Helvetii.–Returns to Italy for Larger Forces.–The Helvetii on the Saone.–Defeated, and sent back to Switzerland.–Invasion of Gaul by Ariovistus.–Caesar invites him to a Conference.–He refuses.– Alarm in the Roman Army.–Caesar marches against Ariovistus.–Interview between them.–Treachery of the Roman Senate.–Great Battle at Colmar.– Defeat and Annihilation of the Germans.–End of the First Campaign.– Confederacy among the Belgae.–Battle on the Aisne.–War with the Nervii.–Battle of Maubeuge.–Capture of Namur.–The Belgae conquered.– Submission of Brittany.–End of the Second Campaign.


Cicero and Clodius.–Position and Character of Clodius.–Cato sent to Cyprus.–Attempted Recall of Cicero defeated by Clodius.–Fight in the Forum.–Pardon and Return of Cicero.–Moderate Speech to the People.– Violence in the Senate.–Abuse of Piso and Gabinius.–Coldness of the Senate toward Cicero.–Restoration of Cicero’s House.–Interfered with by Clodius.–Factions of Clodius and Milo.–Ptolemy Auletes expelled by his Subjects.–Appeals to Rome for Help.–Alexandrian Envoys assassinated.– Clodius elected aedile.–Fight in the Forum.–Parties in Rome.–Situation of Cicero.–Rally of the Aristocracy.–Attempt to repeal the Leges Juliae.–Conference at Lucca.–Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus.–Cicero deserts the Senate.–Explains his Motives.–Confirmation of the Ordinances of Lucca.–Pompey and Crassus Consuls.–Caesar’s Command prolonged for Five Additional Years.–Rejoicings in Rome.–Spectacle in the Amphitheater.


Revolt of the Veneti.–Fleet prepared in the Loire.–Sea-fight at Quiberon.–Reduction of Normandy and of Aquitaine.–Complete Conquest of Gaul.–Fresh Arrival of Germans over the Lower Rhine.–Caesar orders them to retire, and promises them Lands elsewhere.–They refuse to go–and are destroyed.–Bridge over the Rhine.–Caesar invades Germany.–Returns after a Short Inroad.–First Expedition into Britain.–Caesar lands at Deal, or Walmer.–Storm and Injury to the Fleet.–Approach of the Equinox.– Further Prosecution of the Enterprise postponed till the following Year.– Caesar goes to Italy for the Winter.–Large Naval Preparations.–Return of Spring.–Alarm on the Moselle.–Fleet collects at Boulogne.–Caesar sails for Britain a Second Time.–Lands at Deal.–Second and more Destructive Storm.–Ships repaired, and placed out of Danger.–Caesar marches through Kent.–Crosses the Thames, and reaches St. Albans.–Goes no further, and returns to Gaul.–Object of the Invasion of Britain.–Description of the Country and People.


Distribution of the Legions after the Return from Britain.–Conspiracy among the Gallic Chiefs.–Rising of the Eburones.–Destruction of Sabinus, and a Division of the Roman Army.–Danger of Quintus Cicero.–Relieved by Caesar in Person.–General Disturbance.–Labienus attacked at Lavacherie.–Defeats and kills Induciomarus.–Second Conquest of the Belgae.–Caesar again crosses the Rhine.–Quintus Cicero in Danger a Second Time.–Courage of a Roman Officer.–Punishment of the Revolted Chiefs.–Execution of Acco.


Correspondence of Cicero with Caesar.–Intimacy with Pompey and Crassus.– Attacks on Piso and Gabinius.—Cicero compelled to defend Gabinius–and Vatinius.–Dissatisfaction with his Position.–Corruption at the Consular Elections.–Public Scandal.–Caesar and Pompey.–Deaths of Aurelia and Julia.–Catastrophe in the East.–Overthrow and Death of Crassus.– Intrigue to detach Pompey from Caesar.—Milo a Candidate for the Consulship.–Murder of Clodius.–Burning of the Senate-house.–Trial and Exile of Milo.–Fresh Engagements with Caesar.–Promise of the Consulship at the End of his Term in Gaul.


Last Revolt of Gaul.–Massacre of Romans at Gien.–Vercingetorix.–Effect on the Celts of the Disturbances at Rome.–Caesar crosses the Cevennes.– Defeats the Arverni.–Joins his Army on the Seine.–Takes Gien, Nevers, and Bourges.–Fails at Gergovia.–Rapid March to Sens.–Labienus at Paris.–Battle of the Vingeanne.–Siege of Alesia.–Caesar’s Double Lines.–Arrival of the Relieving Army of Gauls.–First Battle on the Plain.–Second Battle.–Great Defeat of the Gauls.–Surrender of Alesia.–Campaign against the Carnutes and the Bellovaci.–Rising on the Dordogne.–Capture of Uxellodunum.–Caesar at Arras.–Completion of the Conquest.


Bibulus in Syria.–Approaching Term of Caesar’s Government.–Threats of Impeachment.–Caesar to be Consul or not to be Consul?–Caesar’s Political Ambition.–Hatred felt toward him by the Aristocracy.–Two Legions taken from him on Pretense of Service against the Parthians.–Caesar to be recalled before the Expiration of his Government.–Senatorial Intrigues.– Curio deserts the Senate.–Labienus deserts Caesar.–Cicero in Cilicia.– Returns to Rome.–Pompey determined on War.–Cicero’s Uncertainties.– Resolution of the Senate and Consuls.–Caesar recalled.–Alarm in Rome.– Alternative Schemes.–Letters of Cicero.–Caesar’s Crime in the Eyes of the Optimates.


Caesar appeals to his Army.–The Tribunes join him at Rimini.–Panic and Flight of the Senate.–Incapacity of Pompey.–Fresh Negotiations.– Advance of Caesar.–The Country Districts refuse to arm against him.– Capture of Corfinium.–Release of the Prisoners.–Offers of Caesar.– Continued Hesitation of Cicero.–Advises Pompey to make Peace.–Pompey, with the Senate and Consuls, flies to Greece.–Cicero’s Reflections.– Pompey to be another Sylla.–Caesar Mortal, and may die by more Means than one.


Pompey’s Army in Spain.–Caesar at Rome.–Departure for Spain.–Marseilles refuses to receive him.–Siege of Marseilles.–Defeat of Pompey’s Lieutenants at Lerida.–The whole Army made Prisoners.–Surrender of Varro.–Marseilles taken.–Defeat of Curio by King Juba in Africa.– Caesar named Dictator.–Confusion in Rome.–Caesar at Brindisi.–Crosses to Greece in Midwinter.–Again offers Peace.–Pompey’s Fleet in the Adriatic.–Death of Bibulus.–Failure of Negotiations.–Caelius and Milo killed.–Arrival of Antony in Greece with the Second Division of Caesar’s Army.–Siege of Durazzo.–Defeat and Retreat of Caesar.–The Senate and Pompey.–Pursuit of Caesar.–Battle of Pharsalia.–Flight of Pompey.–The Camp taken.–Complete Overthrow of the Senatorial Faction.–Cicero on the Situation once more.


Pompey flies to Egypt.–State of Parties in Egypt.–Murder of Pompey.–His Character.–Caesar follows him to Alexandria.–Rising in the City.– Caesar besieged in the Palace.–Desperate Fighting.–Arrival of Mithridates of Pergamus.–Battle near Cairo, and Death of the Young Ptolemy.–Cleopatra.–The Detention of Caesar enables the Optimates to rally.–Ill Conduct of Caesar’s Officers in Spain.–War with Pharnaces.– Battle of Zela, and Settlement of Asia Minor.


The Aristocracy raise an Army in Africa.–Supported by Juba.–Pharsalia not to end the War.–Caesar again in Rome.–Restores Order.–Mutiny in Caesar’s Army.–The Mutineers submit.–Caesar lands in Africa.– Difficulties of the Campaign.–Battle of Thapsus.–No more Pardons.– Afranius and Faustus Sylla put to Death.–Cato kills himself at Utica.– Scipio killed.–Juba and Petreius die on each other’s Swords.–A Scene in Caesar’s Camp.


Rejoicings in Rome.–Caesar Dictator for the Year.–Reforms the Constitution.–Reforms the Calendar–and the Criminal Law.– Dissatisfaction of Cicero.–Last Efforts in Spain of Labienus and the Young Pompeys.–Caesar goes thither in Person, accompanied by Octavius.– Caesar’s Last Battle at Munda.–Death of Labienus.–Capture of Cordova.– Close of the Civil War.–General Reflections.


Caesar once more in Rome.–General Amnesty.–The Surviving Optimates pretend to submit.–Increase in the Number of Senators.–Introduction of Foreigners.–New Colonies.–Carthage.–Corinth.–Sumptuary Regulations.– Digest of the Law.–Intended Parthian War.–Honors heaped on Caesar.–The Object of them.–Caesar’s Indifference.–Some Consolations.–Hears of Conspiracies, but disregards them.–Speculations of Cicero in the Last Stage of the War.–Speech in the Senate.–A Contrast, and the Meaning of it.–The Kingship.–Antony offers Caesar the Crown, which Caesar refuses.–The Assassins.–Who they were.–Brutus and Cassius.–Two Officers of Caesar’s among them.–Warnings.–Meeting of the Conspirators.–Caesar’s Last Evening.–The Ides of March.–The Senate-house.–Caesar killed.


Consternation in Rome.–The Conspirators in the Capitol.–Unforeseen Difficulties.–Speech of Cicero.–Caesar’s Funeral.–Speech of Antony.– Fury of the People.–The Funeral Pile in the Forum.–The King is dead, but the Monarchy survives.–Fruitlessness of the Murder.–Octavius and Antony.–Union of Octavius, Antony, and Lepidus.–Proscription of the Assassins.–Philippi, and the end of Brutus and Cassius.–Death of Cicero.–His Character.


General Remarks on Caesar.–Mythological Tendencies.–Supposed Profligacy of Caesar.–Nature of the Evidence.–Servilia.–Cleopatra.–Personal Appearance of Caesar.–His Manners in Private Life.–Considerations upon him as a Politician, a Soldier, and a Man of Letters.–Practical Justice his Chief Aim as a Politician.–Universality of Military Genius.–Devotion of his Army to him, how deserved.–Art of reconciling Conquered Peoples.–General Scrupulousness and Leniency.–Oratorical and Literary Style.–Cicero’s Description of it.–His Lost Works.–Cato’s Judgment on the Civil War.–How Caesar should be estimated.–Legend of Charles V.– Spiritual Condition of the Age in which Caesar lived.–His Work on Earth to establish Order and Good Government, to make possible the Introduction of Christianity.–A Parallel.



To the student of political history, and to the English student above all others, the conversion of the Roman Republic into a military empire commands a peculiar interest. Notwithstanding many differences, the English and the Romans essentially resemble one another. The early Romans possessed the faculty of self-government beyond any people of whom we have historical knowledge, with the one exception of ourselves. In virtue of their temporal freedom, they became the most powerful nation in the known world; and their liberties perished only when Rome became the mistress of conquered races, to whom she was unable or unwilling to extend her privileges. If England was similarly supreme, if all rival powers were eclipsed by her or laid under her feet, the Imperial tendencies, which are as strongly marked in us as our love of liberty, might lead us over the same course to the same end. If there be one lesson which history clearly teaches, it is this, that free nations cannot govern subject provinces. If they are unable or unwilling to admit their dependencies to share their own constitution, the constitution itself will fall in pieces from mere incompetence for its duties.

We talk often foolishly of the necessities of things, and we blame circumstances for the consequences of our own follies and vices; but there are faults which are not faults of will, but faults of mere inadequacy to some unforeseen position. Human nature is equal to much, but not to everything. It can rise to altitudes where it is alike unable to sustain itself or to retire from them to a safer elevation. Yet when the field is open it pushes forward, and moderation in the pursuit of greatness is never learnt and never will be learnt. Men of genius are governed by their instinct; they follow where instinct leads them; and the public life of a nation is but the life of successive generations of statesmen, whose horizon is bounded, and who act from day to day as immediate interests suggest. The popular leader of the hour sees some present difficulty or present opportunity of distinction. He deals with each question as it arises, leaving future consequences to those who are to come after him. The situation changes from period to period, and tendencies are generated with an accelerating force, which, when once established, can never be reversed. When the control of reason is once removed, the catastrophe is no longer distant, and then nations, like all organized creations, all forms of life, from the meanest flower to the highest human institution, pass through the inevitably recurring stages of growth and transformation and decay. A commonwealth, says Cicero, ought to be immortal, and for ever to renew its youth. Yet commonwealths have proved as unenduring as any other natural object:

Everything that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment, And this huge state presenteth nought but shows, Whereon the stars in silent influence comment.

Nevertheless, “as the heavens are high above the earth, so is wisdom above folly.” Goethe compares life to a game at whist, where the cards are dealt out by destiny, and the rules of the game are fixed: subject to these conditions, the players are left to win or lose, according to their skill or want of skill. The life of a nation, like the life of a man, may be prolonged in honor into the fulness of its time, or it may perish prematurely, for want of guidance, by violence or internal disorders. And thus the history of national revolutions is to statesmanship what the pathology of disease is to the art of medicine. The physician cannot arrest the coming on of age. Where disease has laid hold upon the constitution he cannot expel it. But he may check the progress of the evil if he can recognize the symptoms in time. He can save life at the cost of an unsound limb. He can tell us how to preserve our health when we have it; he can warn us of the conditions under which particular disorders will have us at disadvantage. And so with nations: amidst the endless variety of circumstances there are constant phenomena which give notice of approaching danger; there are courses of action which have uniformly produced the same results; and the wise politicians are those who have learnt from experience the real tendencies of things, unmisled by superficial differences, who can shun the rocks where others have been wrecked, or from foresight of what is coming can be cool when the peril is upon them.

For these reasons, the fall of the Roman Republic is exceptionally instructive to us. A constitutional government the most enduring and the most powerful that ever existed was put on its trial, and found wanting. We see it in its growth; we see the causes which undermined its strength. We see attempts to check the growing mischief fail, and we see why they failed. And we see, finally, when nothing seemed so likely as complete dissolution, the whole system changed by a violent operation, and the dying patient’s life protracted for further centuries of power and usefulness.

Again, irrespective of the direct teaching which we may gather from them, particular epochs in history have the charm for us which dramas have– periods when the great actors on the stage of life stand before us with the distinctness with which they appear in the creations of a poet. There have not been many such periods; for to see the past, it is not enough for us to be able to look at it through the eyes of contemporaries; these contemporaries themselves must have been parties to the scenes which they describe. They must have had full opportunities of knowledge. They must have had eyes which could see things in their true proportions. They must have had, in addition, the rare literary powers which can convey to others through the medium of language an exact picture of their own minds; and such happy combinations occur but occasionally in thousands of years. Generation after generation passes by, and is crumbled into sand as rocks are crumbled by the sea. Each brought with it its heroes and its villains, its triumphs and its sorrows; but the history is formless legend, incredible and unintelligible; the figures of the actors are indistinct as the rude ballad or ruder inscription, which may be the only authentic record of them. We do not see the men and women, we see only the outlines of them which have been woven into tradition as they appeared to the loves or hatreds of passionate admirers or enemies. Of such times we know nothing, save the broad results as they are measured from century to century, with here and there some indestructible pebble, some law, some fragment of remarkable poetry which has resisted decomposition. These periods are the proper subject of the philosophic historian, and to him we leave them. But there are others, a few, at which intellectual activity was as great as it is now, with its written records surviving, in which the passions, the opinions, the ambitions of the age are all before us, where the actors in the great drama speak their own thoughts in their own words, where we hear their enemies denounce them and their friends praise them; where we are ourselves plunged amidst the hopes and fears of the hour, to feel the conflicting emotions and to sympathize in the struggles which again seem to live: and here philosophy is at fault. Philosophy, when we are face to face with real men, is as powerless as over the Iliad or King Lear. The overmastering human interest transcends explanation. We do not sit in judgment on the right or the wrong; we do not seek out causes to account for what takes place, feeling too conscious of the inadequacy of our analysis. We see human beings possessed by different impulses, and working out a pre-ordained result, as the subtle forces drive each along the path marked out for him; and history becomes the more impressive to us where it least immediately instructs.

With such vividness, with such transparent clearness, the age stands before us of Cato and Pompey, of Cicero and Julius Caesar; the more distinctly because it was an age in so many ways the counterpart of our own, the blossoming period of the old civilization, when the intellect was trained to the highest point which it could reach, and on the great subjects of human interest, on morals and politics, on poetry and art, even on religion itself and the speculative problems of life, men thought as we think, doubted where we doubt, argued as we argue, aspired and struggled after the same objects. It was an age of material progress and material civilization; an age of civil liberty and intellectual culture; an age of pamphlets and epigrams, of salons and of dinner-parties, of senatorial majorities and electoral corruption. The highest offices of state were open in theory to the meanest citizen; they were confined, in fact, to those who had the longest purses, or the most ready use of the tongue on popular platforms. Distinctions of birth had been exchanged for distinctions of wealth. The struggles between plebeians and patricians for equality of privilege were over, and a new division had been formed between the party of property and a party who desired a change in the structure of society. The free cultivators were disappearing from the soil. Italy was being absorbed into vast estates, held by a few favored families and cultivated by slaves, while the old agricultural population was driven off the land, and was crowded into towns. The rich were extravagant, for life had ceased to have practical interest, except for its material pleasures; the occupation of the higher classes was to obtain money without labor, and to spend it in idle enjoyment. Patriotism survived on the lips, but patriotism meant the ascendency of the party which would maintain the existing order of things, or would overthrow it for a more equal distribution of the good things which alone were valued. Religion, once the foundation of the laws and rule of personal conduct, had subsided into opinion. The educated, in their hearts, disbelieved it. Temples were still built with increasing splendor; the established forms were scrupulously observed. Public men spoke conventionally of Providence, that they might throw on their opponents the odium of impiety; but of genuine belief that life had any serious meaning, there was none remaining beyond the circle of the silent, patient, ignorant multitude. The whole spiritual atmosphere was saturated with cant–cant moral, cant political, cant religious; an affectation of high principle which had ceased to touch the conduct, and flowed on in an increasing volume of insincere and unreal speech. The truest thinkers were those who, like Lucretius, spoke frankly out their real convictions, declared that Providence was a dream, and that man and the world he lived in were material phenomena, generated by natural forces out of cosmic atoms, and into atoms to be again resolved.

Tendencies now in operation may a few generations hence land modern society in similar conclusions, unless other convictions revive meanwhile and get the mastery of them; of which possibility no more need be said than this, that unless there be such a revival in some shape or other, the forces, whatever they be, which control the forms in which human things adjust themselves, will make an end again, as they made an end before, of what are called free institutions. Popular forms of government are possible only when individual men can govern their own lives on moral principles, and when duty is of more importance than pleasure, and justice than material expediency. Rome at any rate had grown ripe for judgment. The shape which the judgment assumed was due perhaps, in a measure, to a condition which has no longer a parallel among us. The men and women by whom the hard work of the world was done were chiefly slaves, and those who constitute the driving force of revolutions in modern Europe lay then outside society, unable and perhaps uncaring to affect its fate. No change then possible would much influence the prospects of the unhappy bondsmen. The triumph of the party of the constitution would bring no liberty to them. That their masters should fall like themselves under the authority of a higher master could not much distress them. Their sympathies, if they had any, would go with those nearest their own rank, the emancipated slaves and the sons of those who were emancipated; and they, and the poor free citizens everywhere, were to a man on the side which was considered and was called the side of “the people,” and was, in fact, the side of despotism.


The Roman Constitution had grown out of the character of the Roman nation. It was popular in form beyond all constitutions of which there is any record in history. The citizens assembled in the Comitia were the sovereign authority in the State, and they exercised their power immediately and not by representatives. The executive magistrates were chosen annually. The assembly was the supreme Court of Appeal; and without its sanction no freeman could be lawfully put to death. In the assembly also was the supreme power of legislation. Any consul, any praetor, any tribune, might propose a law from the Rostra to the people. The people if it pleased them might accept such law, and senators and public officers might be sworn to obey it under pains of treason. As a check on precipitate resolutions, a single consul or a single tribune might interpose his veto. But the veto was binding only so long as the year of office continued. If the people were in earnest, submission to their wishes could be made a condition at the next election, and thus no constitutional means existed of resisting them when these wishes showed themselves.

In normal times the Senate was allowed the privilege of preconsidering intended acts of legislation, and refusing to recommend them if inexpedient, but the privilege was only converted into a right after violent convulsions, and was never able to maintain itself. That under such a system the functions of government could have been carried on at all was due entirely to the habits of self-restraint which the Romans had engraved into their nature. They were called a nation of kings, kings over their own appetites, passions, and inclinations. They were not imaginative, they were not intellectual; they had little national poetry, little art, little philosophy. They were moral and practical. In these two directions the force that was in them entirely ran. They were free politically, because freedom meant to them not freedom to do as they pleased, but freedom to do what was right; and every citizen, before he arrived at his civil privileges, had been schooled in the discipline of obedience. Each head of a household was absolute master of it, master over his children and servants, even to the extent of life and death. What the father was to the family, the gods were to the whole people, the awful lords and rulers at whose pleasure they lived and breathed. Unlike the Greeks, the reverential Romans invented no idle legends about the supernatural world. The gods to them were the guardians of the State, whose will in all things they were bound to seek and to obey. The forms in which they endeavored to learn what that will might be were childish or childlike. They looked to signs in the sky, to thunder-storms and comets and shooting stars. Birds, winged messengers, as they thought them, between earth and heaven, were celestial indicators of the gods’ commands. But omens and auguries were but the outward symbols, and the Romans, like all serious peoples, went to their own hearts for their real guidance. They had a unique religious peculiarity, to which no race of men has produced anything like. They did not embody the elemental forces in personal forms; they did not fashion a theology out of the movements of the sun and stars or the changes of the seasons. Traces may be found among them of cosmic traditions and superstitions, which were common to all the world; but they added of their own this especial feature: that they built temples and offered sacrifices to the highest human excellences, to “Valor,” to “Truth,” to “Good Faith,” to “Modesty,” to “Charity,” to “Concord.” In these qualities lay all that raised man above the animals with which he had so much in common. In them, therefore, were to be found the link which connected him with the divine nature, and moral qualities were regarded as divine influences which gave his life its meaning and its worth. The “Virtues” were elevated into beings to whom disobedience could be punished as a crime, and the superstitious fears which run so often into mischievous idolatries were enlisted with conscience in the direct service of right action.

On the same principle the Romans chose the heroes and heroines of their national history. The Manlii and Valerii were patterns of courage, the Lucretias and Virginias of purity, the Decii and Curtii of patriotic devotion, the Reguli and Fabricii of stainless truthfulness. On the same principle, too, they had a public officer whose functions resembled those of the Church courts in mediaeval Europe, a Censor Morum, an inquisitor who might examine into the habits of private families, rebuke extravagance, check luxury, punish vice and self-indulgence, nay, who could remove from the Senate, the great council of elders, persons whose moral conduct was a reproach to a body on whose reputation no shadow could be allowed to rest.

Such the Romans were in the day when their dominion had not extended beyond the limits of Italy; and because they were such they were able to prosper under a constitution which to modern experience would promise only the most hopeless confusion.

Morality thus engrained in the national character and grooved into habits of action creates strength, as nothing else creates it. The difficulty of conduct does not lie in knowing what it is right to do, but in doing it when known. Intellectual culture does not touch the conscience. It provides no motives to overcome the weakness of the will, and with wider knowledge it brings also new temptations. The sense of duty is present in each detail of life; the obligatory “must” which binds the will to the course which right principle has marked out for it produces a fibre like the fibre of the oak. The educated Greeks knew little of it. They had courage and genius and enthusiasm, but they had no horror of immorality as such. The Stoics saw what was wanting, and tried to supply it; but though they could provide a theory of action, they could not make the theory into a reality, and it is noticeable that Stoicism as a rule of life became important only when adopted by the Romans. The Catholic Church effected something in its better days when it had its courts which treated sins as crimes. Calvinism, while it was believed, produced characters nobler and grander than any which Republican Rome produced. But the Catholic Church turned its penances into money payments. Calvinism made demands on faith beyond what truth would bear; and when doubt had once entered, the spell of Calvinism was broken. The veracity of the Romans, and perhaps the happy accident that they had no inherited religious traditions, saved them for centuries from similar trials. They had hold of real truth unalloyed with baser metal; and truth had made them free and kept them so. When all else has passed away, when theologies have yielded up their real meaning, and creeds and symbols have become transparent, and man is again in contact with the hard facts of nature, it will be found that the “Virtues” which the Romans made into gods contain in them the essence of true religion, that in them lies the special characteristic which distinguishes human beings from the rest of animated things. Every other creature exists for itself, and cares for its own preservation. Nothing larger or better is expected from it or possible to it. To man it is said, you do not live for yourself. If you live for yourself you shall come to nothing. Be brave, be just, be pure, be true in word and deed; care not for your enjoyment, care not for your life; care only for what is right. So, and not otherwise, it shall be well with you. So the Maker of you has ordered, whom you will disobey at your peril.

Thus and thus only are nations formed which are destined to endure; and as habits based on such convictions are slow in growing, so when grown to maturity they survive extraordinary trials. But nations are made up of many persons in circumstances of endless variety. In country districts, where the routine of life continues simple, the type of character remains unaffected; generation follows on generation exposed to the same influences and treading in the same steps. But the morality of habit, though the most important element in human conduct, is still but a part of it. Moral habits grow under given conditions. They correspond to a given degree of temptation. When men are removed into situations where the use and wont of their fathers no longer meets their necessities; where new opportunities are offered to them; where their opinions are broken in upon by new ideas; where pleasures tempt them on every side, and they have but to stretch out their hand to take them–moral habits yield under the strain, and they have no other resource to fall back upon. Intellectual cultivation brings with it rational interests. Knowledge, which looks before and after, acts as a restraining power, to help conscience when it flags. The sober and wholesome manners of life among the early Romans had given them vigorous minds in vigorous bodies. The animal nature had grown as strongly as the moral nature, and along with it the animal appetites; and when appetites burst their traditionary restraints, and man in himself has no other notion of enjoyment beyond bodily pleasure, he may pass by an easy transition into a mere powerful brute. And thus it happened with the higher classes at Rome after the destruction of Carthage. Italy had fallen to them by natural and wholesome expansion; but from being sovereigns of Italy, they became a race of imperial conquerors. Suddenly, and in comparatively a few years after the one power was gone which could resist them, they became the actual or virtual rulers of the entire circuit of the Mediterranean. The south-east of Spain, the coast of France from the Pyrenees to Nice, the north of Italy, Illyria and Greece, Sardinia, Sicily, and the Greek Islands, the southern and western shores of Asia Minor, were Roman provinces, governed directly under Roman magistrates. On the African side Mauritania (Morocco) was still free. Numidia (the modern Algeria) retained its native dynasty, but was a Roman dependency. The Carthaginian dominions, Tunis and Tripoli, had been annexed to the Empire. The interior of Asia Minor up to the Euphrates, with Syria and Egypt, were under sovereigns called Allies, but, like the native princes in India, subject to a Roman protectorate. Over this enormous territory, rich with the accumulated treasures of centuries, and inhabited by thriving, industrious races, the energetic Roman men of business had spread and settled themselves, gathering into their hands the trade, the financial administration, the entire commercial control of the Mediterranean basin. They had been trained in thrift and economy, in abhorrence of debt, in strictest habits of close and careful management. Their frugal education, their early lessons in the value of money, good and excellent as those lessons were, led them, as a matter of course, to turn to account their extraordinary opportunities. Governors with their staffs, permanent officials, contractors for the revenue, negotiators, bill-brokers, bankers, merchants, were scattered everywhere in thousands. Money poured in upon them in rolling streams of gold. The largest share of the spoils fell to the Senate and the senatorial families. The Senate was the permanent Council of State, and was the real administrator of the Empire. The Senate had the control of the treasury, conducted the public policy, appointed from its own ranks the governors of the provinces. It was patrician in sentiment, but not necessarily patrician in composition. The members of it had virtually been elected for life by the people, and were almost entirely those who had been quaestors, aediles, praetors, or consuls; and these offices had been long open to the plebeians. It was an aristocracy, in theory a real one, but tending to become, as civilization went forward, an aristocracy of the rich. How the senatorial privileges affected the management of the provinces will be seen more particularly as we go on. It is enough at present to say that the nobles and great commoners of Rome rapidly found themselves in possession of revenues which their fathers could not have imagined in their dreams, and money in the stage of progress at which Rome had arrived was convertible into power.

The opportunities opened for men to advance their fortunes in other parts of the world drained Italy of many of its most enterprising citizens. The grandsons of the yeomen who had held at bay Pyrrhus and Hannibal sold their farms and went away. The small holdings merged rapidly into large estates bought up by the Roman capitalists. At the final settlement of Italy, some millions of acres had been reserved to the State as public property. The “public land,” as the reserved portion was called, had been leased on easy terms to families with political influence, and by lapse of time, by connivance and right of occupation, these families were beginning to regard their tenures as their private property, and to treat them as lords of manors in England have treated the “commons.” Thus everywhere the small farmers were disappearing, and the soil of Italy was fast passing into the hands of a few territorial magnates, who, unfortunately (for it tended to aggravate the mischief), were enabled by another cause to turn their vast possessions to advantage. The conquest of the world had turned the flower of the defeated nations into slaves. The prisoners taken either after a battle or when cities surrendered unconditionally were bought up steadily by contractors who followed in the rear of the Roman armies. They were not ignorant like the negroes, but trained, useful, and often educated men, Asiatics, Greeks, Thracians, Gauls, and Spaniards, able at once to turn their hands to some form of skilled labor, either as clerks, mechanics, or farm-servants. The great landowners might have paused in their purchases had the alternative lain before them of letting their lands lie idle or of having freemen to cultivate them. It was otherwise when a resource so convenient and so abundant was opened at their feet. The wealthy Romans bought slaves by thousands. Some they employed in their workshops in the capital. Some they spread over their plantations, covering the country, it might be, with olive gardens and vineyards, swelling further the plethoric figures of their owners’ incomes. It was convenient for the few, but less convenient for the Commonwealth. The strength of Rome was in her free citizens. Where a family of slaves was settled down, a village of freemen had disappeared; the material for the legions diminished; the dregs of the free population which remained behind crowded into Rome, without occupation except in politics, and with no property save in their votes, of course to become the clients of the millionaires, and to sell themselves to the highest bidders. With all his wealth there were but two things which the Roman noble could buy, political power and luxury; and in these directions his whole resources were expended. The elections, once pure, became matters of annual bargain between himself and his supporters. The once hardy, abstemious mode of living degenerated into grossness and sensuality.

And his character was assailed simultaneously on another side with equally mischievous effect. The conquest of Greece brought to Rome a taste for knowledge and culture; but the culture seldom passed below the surface, and knowledge bore but the old fruit which it had borne in Eden. The elder Cato used to say that the Romans were like their slaves–the less Greek they knew the better they were. They had believed in the gods with pious simplicity. The Greeks introduced them to an Olympus of divinities whom the practical Roman found that he must either abhor or deny to exist. The “Virtues” which he had been taught to reverence had no place among the graces of the new theology. Reverence Jupiter he could not, and it was easy to persuade him that Jupiter was an illusion; that all religions were but the creations of fancy, his own among them. Gods there might be, airy beings in the deeps of space, engaged like men with their own enjoyments; but to suppose that these high spirits fretted themselves with the affairs of the puny beings that crawled upon the earth was a delusion of vanity. Thus, while morality was assailed on one side by extraordinary temptations, the religious sanction of it was undermined on the other. The, Romans ceased to believe, and in losing their faith they became as steel becomes when it is demagnetized; the spiritual quality was gone out of them, and the high society of Rome itself became a society of powerful animals with an enormous appetite for pleasure. Wealth poured in more and more, and luxury grew more unbounded. Palaces sprang up in the city, castles in the country, villas at pleasant places by the sea, and parks, and fish-ponds, and game-preserves, and gardens, and vast retinues of servants. When natural pleasures had been indulged in to satiety, pleasures which were against nature were imported from the East to stimulate the exhausted appetite. To make money–money by any means, lawful or unlawful–became the universal passion. Even the most cultivated patricians were coarse alike in their habits and their amusements. They cared for art as dilettanti, but no schools either of sculpture or painting were formed among themselves. They decorated their porticos and their saloons with the plunder of the East. The stage was never more than an artificial taste with them; their delight was the delight of barbarians, in spectacles, in athletic exercises, in horse-races and chariot-races, in the combats of wild animals in the circus, combats of men with beasts on choice occasions, and, as a rare excitement, in fights between men and men, when select slaves trained as gladiators were matched in pairs to kill each other. Moral habits are all-sufficient while they last; but with rude strong natures they are but chains which hold the passions prisoners. Let the chain break, and the released brute is but the more powerful for evil from the force which his constitution has inherited. Money! the cry was still money!–money was the one thought from the highest senator to the poorest wretch who sold his vote in the Comitia. For money judges gave unjust decrees and juries gave corrupt verdicts. Governors held their provinces for one, two, or three years; they went out bankrupt from extravagance, they returned with millions for fresh riot. To obtain a province was the first ambition of a Roman noble. The road to it lay through the praetorship and the consulship; these offices, therefore, became the prizes of the State; and being in the gift of the people, they were sought after by means which demoralized alike the givers and the receivers. The elections were managed by clubs and coteries; and, except on occasions of national danger or political excitement, those who spent most freely were most certain of success.

Under these conditions the chief powers in the Commonwealth necessarily centred in the rich. There was no longer an aristocracy of birth, still less of virtue. The patrician families had the start in the race. Great names and great possessions came to them by inheritance. But the door of promotion was open to all who had the golden key. The great commoners bought their way into the magistracies. From the magistracies they passed into the Senate; and the Roman senator, though in Rome itself and in free debate among his colleagues he was handled as an ordinary man, when he travelled had the honors of a sovereign. The three hundred senators of Rome were three hundred princes. They moved about in other countries with the rights of legates, at the expense of the province, with their trains of slaves and horses. The proud privilege of Roman citizenship was still jealously reserved to Rome itself and to a few favored towns and colonies; and a mere subject could maintain no rights against a member of the haughty oligarchy which controlled the civilized world. Such generally the Roman Republic had become, or was tending to become, in the years which followed the fall of Carthage, B.C. 146. Public spirit in the masses was dead or sleeping; the Commonwealth was a plutocracy. The free forms of the constitution were themselves the instruments of corruption. The rich were happy in the possession of all that they could desire. The multitude was kept quiet by the morsels of meat which were flung to it when it threatened to be troublesome. The seven thousand in Israel, the few who in all states and in all times remained pure in the midst of evil, looked on with disgust, fearing that any remedy which they might try might be worse than the disease. All orders in a society may be wise and virtuous, but all cannot be rich. Wealth which is used only for idle luxury is always envied, and envy soon curdles into hate. It is easy to persuade the masses that the good things of this world are unjustly divided, especially when it happens to be the exact truth. It is not easy to set limits to an agitation once set on foot, however justly it may have been provoked, when the cry for change is at once stimulated by interest and can disguise its real character under the passionate language of patriotism. But it was not to be expected that men of noble natures, young men especially whose enthusiasm had not been cooled by experience, would sit calmly by while their country was going thus headlong to perdition. Redemption, if redemption was to be hoped for, could come only from free citizens in the country districts whose manners and whoso minds were still uncontaminated, in whom the ancient habits of life still survived, who still believed in the gods, who were contented to follow the wholesome round of honest labor. The numbers of such citizens were fast dwindling away before the omnivorous appetite of the rich for territorial aggrandizement. To rescue the land from the monopolists, to renovate the old independent yeomanry, to prevent the free population of Italy, out of which the legions had been formed which had built up the Empire, from being pushed out of their places and supplanted by foreign slaves, this, if it could be done, would restore the purity of the constituency, snatch the elections from the control of corruption, and rear up fresh generations of peasant soldiers to preserve the liberties and the glories which their fathers had won.


Tiberius Gracchus was born about the year 164 B.C. He was one of twelve children, nine of whom died in infancy, himself, his brother Caius, and his sister Cornelia being the only survivors. His family was plebeian, but of high antiquity, his ancestors for several generations having held the highest offices in the Republic. On the mother’s side he was the grandson of Scipio Africanus. His father, after a distinguished career as a soldier in Spain and Sardinia, had attempted reforms at Rome. He had been censor, and in this capacity he had ejected disreputable senators from the Curia; he had degraded offending equites; he had rearranged and tried to purify the Comitia. But his connections were aristocratic. His wife was the daughter of the most illustrious of the Scipios. His own daughter was married to the second most famous of them, Scipio Africanus the Younger. He had been himself in antagonism with the tribunes, and had taken no part at any time in popular agitations.

The father died when Tiberius was still a boy, and the two brothers grew up under the care of their mother, a noble and gifted lady. They displayed early remarkable talents. Tiberius, when old enough, went into the army, and served under his brother-in-law in the last Carthaginian campaign. He was first on the walls of the city in the final storm. Ten years later he went to Spain as Quaestor, where he carried on his father’s popularity, and by taking the people’s side in some questions fell into disagreement with his brother-in-law. His political views had perhaps already inclined to change. He was still of an age when indignation at oppression calls out a practical desire to resist it. On his journey home from Spain he witnessed scenes which confirmed his conviction and determined him to throw all his energies into the popular cause. His road lay through Tuscany, where he saw the large-estate system in full operation–the fields cultivated by the slave gangs, the free citizens of the Republic thrust away into the towns, aliens and outcasts in their own country, without a foot of soil which they could call their own. In Tuscany, too, the vast domains of the landlords had not even been fairly purchased. They were parcels of the _ager publicus_, land belonging to the State, which, in spite of a law forbidding it, the great lords and commoners had appropriated and divided among themselves. Five hundred acres of State land was the most which by statute any one lessee might be allowed to occupy. But the law was obsolete or sleeping, and avarice and vanity were awake and active. Young Gracchus, in indignant pity, resolved to rescue the people’s patrimony. He was chosen tribune in the year 133. His brave mother and a few patricians of the old type encouraged him, and the battle of the revolution began. The Senate, as has been said, though without direct legislative authority, had been allowed the right of reviewing any new schemes which were to be submitted to the assembly. The constitutional means of preventing tribunes from carrying unwise or unwelcome measures lay in a consul’s veto, or in the help of the College of Augurs, who could declare the auspices unfavorable, and so close all public business. These resources were so awkward that it had been found convenient to secure beforehand the Senate’s approbation, and the encroachment, being long submitted to, was passing by custom into a rule. But the Senate, eager as it was, had not yet succeeded in engrafting the practice into the constitution. On the land question the leaders of the aristocracy were the principal offenders. Disregarding usage, and conscious that the best men of all ranks were with him, Tiberius Gracchus appealed directly to the people to revive the agrarian law. His proposals were not extravagant. That they should have been deemed extravagant was a proof of how much some measure of the kind was needed. Where lands had been enclosed and money laid out on them he was willing that the occupants should have compensation. But they had no right to the lands themselves. Gracchus persisted that the _ager publicus_ belonged to the people, and that the race of yeomen, for whose protection the law had been originally passed, must be re-established on their farms. No form of property gives to its owners so much consequence as land, and there is no point on which in every country an aristocracy is more sensitive. The large owners protested that they had purchased their interests on the faith that the law was obsolete. They had planted and built and watered with the sanction of the government, and to call their titles in question was to shake the foundations of society. The popular party pointed to the statute. The monopolists were entitled in justice to less than was offered them. They had no right to a compensation at all. Political passion awoke again after the sleep of a century. The oligarchy had doubtless connived at the accumulations. The suppression of the small holdings favored their supremacy, and placed the elections more completely in their control. Their military successes had given them so long a tenure of power that they had believed it to be theirs in perpetuity; and the new sedition, as they called it, threatened at once their privileges and their fortunes. The quarrel assumed the familiar form of a struggle between the rich and the poor, and at such times the mob of voters becomes less easy to corrupt. They go with their order, as the prospect of larger gain makes them indifferent to immediate bribes. It became clear that the majority of the citizens would support Tiberius Gracchus, but the constitutional forms of opposition might still be resorted to. Octavius Caecina, another of the tribunes, had himself large interests in the land question. He was the people’s magistrate, one of the body appointed especially to defend their rights, but he went over to the Senate, and, using a power which undoubtedly belonged to him, he forbade the vote to be taken.

There was no precedent for the removal of either consul, praetor, or tribune, except under circumstances very different from any which could as yet be said to have arisen. The magistrates held office for a year only, and the power of veto had been allowed them expressly to secure time for deliberation and to prevent passionate legislation. But Gracchus was young and enthusiastic. Precedent or no precedent, the citizens were omnipotent. He invited them to declare his colleague deposed. They had warmed to the fight, and complied. A more experienced statesman would have known that established constitutional bulwarks cannot be swept away by a momentary vote. He obtained his agrarian law. Three commissioners were appointed, himself, his younger brother, and his father-in-law, Appius Claudius, to carry it into effect; but the very names showed that he had alienated his few supporters in the higher circles, and that a single family was now contending against the united wealth and distinction of Rome. The issue was only too certain. Popular enthusiasm is but a fire of straw. In a year Tiberius Gracchus would be out of office. Other tribunes would be chosen more amenable to influence, and his work could then be undone. He evidently knew that those who would succeed him could not be relied on to carry on his policy. He had taken one revolutionary step already; he was driven on to another, and he offered himself illegally to the Comitia for re-election. It was to invite them to abolish the constitution and to make him virtual sovereign; and that a young man of thirty should have contemplated such a position for himself as possible is of itself a proof of his unfitness for it. The election-day came. The noble lords and gentlemen appeared in the Campus Martius with their retinues of armed servants and clients; hot-blooded aristocrats, full of disdain for demagogues, and meaning to read a lesson to sedition which it would not easily forget. Votes were given for Gracchus. Had the hustings been left to decide the matter, he would have been chosen; but as it began to appear how the polling would go, sticks were used and swords; a riot rose, the unarmed citizens were driven off, Tiberius Gracchus himself and three hundred of his friends were killed and their bodies were flung into the Tiber.

Thus the first sparks of the coming revolution were trampled out. But though quenched and to be again quenched with fiercer struggles, it was to smoulder and smoke and burst out time after time, till its work was done. Revolution could not restore the ancient character of the Roman nation, but it could check the progress of decay by burning away the more corrupted parts of it. It could destroy the aristocracy and the constitution which they had depraved, and under other forms present for a few more centuries the Roman dominion. Scipio Africanus, when he heard in Spain of the end of his brother-in-law, exclaimed, “May all who act as he did perish like him!” There were to be victims enough and to spare before the bloody drama was played out. Quiet lasted for ten years, and then, precisely when he had reached his brother’s age, Caius Gracchus came forward to avenge him, and carry the movement through another stage. Young Caius had been left one of the commissioners of the land law; and it is particularly noticeable that though the author of it had been killed, the law had survived him being too clearly right and politic in itself to be openly set aside. For two years the commissioners had continued to work, and in that time forty thousand families were settled on various parts of the _ager publicus_, which the patricians had been compelled to resign. This was all which they could do. The displacement of one set of inhabitants and the introduction of another could not be accomplished without quarrels, complaints, and perhaps some injustice. Those who were ejected were always exasperated. Those who entered on possession were not always satisfied. The commissioners became unpopular. When the cries against them became loud enough, they were suspended, and the law was then quietly repealed. The Senate had regained its hold over the assembly, and had a further opportunity of showing its recovered ascendency when, two years after the murder of Tiberius Gracchus, one of his friends introduced a bill to make the tribunes legally re-eligible. Caius Gracchus actively supported the change, but it had no success; and, waiting till times had altered, and till he had arrived himself at an age when he could carry weight, the young brother retired from politics, and spent the next few years with the army in Africa and Sardinia. He served with distinction; he made a name for himself both as a soldier and an administrator. Had the Senate left him alone, he might have been satisfied with a regular career, and have risen by the ordinary steps to the consulship. But the Senate saw in him the possibilities of a second Tiberius; the higher his reputation, the more formidable he became to them. They vexed him with petty prosecutions, charged him with crimes which had no existence, and at length by suspicion and injustice drove him into open war with them. Caius Gracchus had a broader intellect than his brother, and a character considerably less noble. The land question he perceived was but one of many questions. The true source of the disorders of the Commonwealth was the Senate itself. The administration of the Empire was in the hands of men totally unfit to be trusted with it, and there he thought the reform must commence. He threw himself on the people. He was chosen tribune in 123, ten years exactly after Tiberius. He had studied the disposition of parties. He had seen his brother fall because the equites and the senators, the great commoners and the nobles, were combined against him. He revived the agrarian law as a matter of course, but he disarmed the opposition to it by throwing an apple of discord between the two superior orders. The high judicial functions in the Commonwealth had been hitherto a senatorial monopoly. All cases of importance, civil or criminal, came before courts of sixty or seventy jurymen, who, as the law stood, must be necessarily senators. The privilege had been extremely lucrative. The corruption of justice was already notorious, though it had not yet reached the level of infamy which it attained in another generation. It was no secret that in ordinary causes jurymen had sold their verdicts; and, far short of taking bribes in the direct sense of the word, there were many ways in which they could let themselves be approached and their favor purchased. A monopoly of privileges is always invidious. A monopoly in the sale of justice is alike hateful to those who abhor iniquity on principle and to those who would like to share the profits of it. But this was not the worst. The governors of the provinces, being chosen from those who had been consuls or praetors, were necessarily members of the Senate. Peculation and extortion in these high functions were offences in theory of the gravest kind; but the offender could only be tried before a limited number of his peers, and a governor who had plundered a subject state, sold justice, pillaged temples, and stolen all that he could lay hands on, was safe from punishment if he returned to Rome a millionaire and would admit others to a share in his spoils. The provincials might send deputations to complain, but these complaints came before men who had themselves governed provinces or else aspired to govern them. It had been proved in too many instances that the law which professed to protect them was a mere mockery.

Caius Gracchus secured the affections of the knights to himself, and some slightly increased chance of an improvement in the provincial administration, by carrying a law in the assembly disabling the senators from sitting on juries of any kind from that day forward, and transferring the judicial functions to the equites. How bitterly must such a measure have been resented by the Senate, which at once robbed them of their protective and profitable privileges, handed them over to be tried by their rivals for their pleasant irregularities, and stamped them at the same time with the brand of dishonesty! How certainly must such a measure have been deserved when neither consul nor tribune could be found to interpose his veto! Supported by the grateful knights, Caius Gracchus was for the moment all-powerful. It was not enough to restore the agrarian law. He passed another, aimed at his brother’s murderers, which was to bear fruit in later years, that no Roman citizen might be put to death by any person, however high in authority, without legal trial, and without appeal, if he chose to make it, to the sovereign people. A blow was thus struck against another right claimed by the Senate, of declaring the Republic in danger, and the temporary suspension of the constitution. These measures might be excused, and perhaps commended; but the younger Gracchus connected his name with another change less commendable, which was destined also to survive and bear fruit. He brought forward and carried through, with enthusiastic clapping of every pair of hands in Rome that were hardened with labor, a proposal that there should be public granaries in the city, maintained and filled at the cost of the State, and that corn should be sold at a rate artificially cheap to the poor free citizens. Such a law was purely socialistic. The privilege was confined to Rome, because in Rome the elections were held, and the Roman constituency was the one depositary of power. The effect was to gather into the city a mob of needy, unemployed voters, living on the charity of the State, to crowd the circus and to clamor at the elections, available no doubt immediately to strengthen the hands of the popular tribune, but certain in the long-run to sell themselves to those who could bid highest for their voices. Excuses could be found, no doubt, for this miserable expedient in the state of parties, in the unscrupulous violence of the aristocracy, in the general impoverishment of the peasantry through the land monopoly, and in the intrusion upon Italy of a gigantic system of slave labor. But none the less it was the deadliest blow which had yet been dealt to the constitution. Party government turns on the majorities at the polling-places, and it was difficult afterward to recall a privilege which once conceded appeared to be a right. The utmost that could be ventured in later times with any prospect of success was to limit an intolerable evil; and if one side was ever strong enough to make the attempt, their rivals had a bribe ready in their hands to buy back the popular support. Caius Gracchus, however, had his way, and carried all before him. He escaped the rock on which his brother had been wrecked. He was elected tribune a second time. He might have had a third term if he had been contented to be a mere demagogue. But he, too, like Tiberius, had honorable aims. The powers which he had played into the hands of the mob to obtain he desired to use for high purposes of statesmanship, and his instrument broke in his hands. He was too wise to suppose that a Roman mob, fed by bounties from the treasury, could permanently govern the world. He had schemes for scattering Roman colonies, with the Roman franchise, at various points of the Empire. Carthage was to be one of them. He thought of abolishing the distinction between Romans and Italians, and enfranchising the entire peninsula. These measures were good in themselves–essential, indeed, if the Roman conquests were to form a compact and permanent dominion. But the object was not attainable on the road on which Gracchus had entered. The vagabond part of the constituency was well contented with what it had obtained–a life in the city, supported at the public expense, with politics and games for its amusements. It had not the least inclination to be drafted off into settlements in Spain or Africa, where there would be work instead of pleasant idleness. Carthage was still a name of terror. To restore Carthage was no better than treason. Still less had the Roman citizens an inclination to share their privileges with Samnites and Etruscans, and see the value of their votes watered down. Political storms are always cyclones. The gale from the east to-day is a gale from the west to-morrow. Who and what were the Gracchi, then?–the sweet voices began to ask–ambitious intriguers, aiming at dictatorship or perhaps the crown. The aristocracy were right after all; a few things had gone wrong, but these had been amended. The Scipios and Metelli had conquered the world: the Scipios and Metelli were alone fit to govern it. Thus when the election time came round, the party of reform was reduced to a minority of irreconcilable radicals who were easily disposed of. Again, as ten years before, the noble lords armed their followers. Riots broke out and extended day after day. Caius Gracchus was at last killed, as his brother had been, and under cover of the disturbance three thousand of his friends were killed along with him. The power being again securely in their hands, the Senate proceeded at their leisure, and the surviving patriots who were in any way notorious or dangerous were hunted down in legal manner and put to death or banished.


Caius Gracchus was killed at the close of the year 122. The storm was over. The Senate was once more master of the situation, and the optimates, “the best party in the State,” as they were pleased to call themselves, smoothed their ruffled plumes and settled again into their places. There was no more talk of reform. Of the Gracchi there remained nothing but the forty thousand peasant-proprietors settled on the public lands; the jury law, which could not be at once repealed for fear of the equites; the corn grants, and the mob attracted by the bounty, which could be managed by improved manipulation; and the law protecting the lives of Roman citizens, which survived in the statute-book, although the Senate still claimed the right to set it aside when they held the State to be in danger. With these exceptions, the administration fell back into its old condition. The tribunes ceased to agitate. The consulships and the praetorships fell to the candidates whom the Senate supported. Whether the oligarchy had learnt any lessons of caution from the brief political earthquake which had shaken but not overthrown them remained to be seen. Six years after the murder of Caius Gracchus an opportunity was afforded to this distinguished body of showing on a conspicuous scale the material of which they were now composed.

Along the south shore of the Mediterranean, west of the Roman province, extended the two kingdoms of the Numidians and the Moors. To what race these people belonged is not precisely known. They were not negroes. The negro tribes have never extended north of the Sahara. Nor were they Carthaginians or allied to the Carthaginians. The Carthaginian colony found them in possession on its arrival. Sallust says that they were Persians left behind by Hercules after his invasion of Spain. Sallust’s evidence proves no more than that their appearance was Asiatic, and that tradition assigned them an Asiatic origin. They may be called generically Arabs, who at a very ancient time had spread along the coast from Egypt to Morocco. The Numidians at this period were civilized according to the manners of the age. They had walled towns; they had considerable wealth; their lands were extensively watered and cultivated; their great men had country houses and villas, the surest sign of a settled state of society. Among the equipments of their army they had numerous elephants (it may be presumed of the African breed), which they and the Carthaginians had certainly succeeded in domesticating. Masinissa, the king of this people, had been the ally of Rome in the last Carthaginian war; he had been afterward received as “a friend of the Republic,” and was one of the protected sovereigns. He was succeeded by his son Micipsa, who in turn had two legitimate children, Hiempsal and Adherbal, and an illegitimate nephew Jugurtha, considerably older than his own boys, a young man of striking talent and promise. Micipsa, who was advanced in years, was afraid that if he died this brilliant youth might be a dangerous rival to his sons. He therefore sent him to serve under Scipio in Spain, with the hope, so his friends asserted, that he might there perhaps be killed. The Roman army was then engaged in the siege of Numantia. The camp was the lounging-place of the young patricians who were tired of Rome and wished for excitement. Discipline had fallen loose; the officers’ quarters were the scene of extravagance and amusement. Jugurtha recommended himself on the one side to Scipio by activity and good service, while on the other he made acquaintances among the high-bred gentlemen in the mess-rooms. He found them in themselves dissolute and unscrupulous. He discovered, through communications which he was able with their assistance to open with their fathers and relatives at Rome, that a man with money might do what he pleased. Micipsa’s treasury was well supplied, and Jugurtha hinted among his comrades that if he could be secure of countenance in seizing the kingdom, he would be in a position to show his gratitude in a substantial manner. Some of these conversations reached the ears of Scipio, who sent for Jugurtha and gave him a friendly warning. He dismissed him, however, with honor at the end of the campaign. The young prince returned to Africa loaded with distinctions, and the king, being now afraid to pass him over, named him as joint-heir with his children to a third part of Numidia. The Numidians perhaps objected to being partitioned. Micipsa died soon after. Jugurtha at once murdered Hiempsal, claimed the sovereignty, and attacked his other cousin. Adherbal, closely besieged in the town of Cirta, which remained faithful to him, appealed to Rome; but Jugurtha had already prepared his ground, and knew that he had nothing to fear. The Senate sent out commissioners. The commissioners received the bribes which they expected. They gave Jugurtha general instructions to leave his cousin in peace; but they did not wait to see their orders obeyed, and went quietly home. The natural results immediately followed. Jugurtha pressed the siege more resolutely. The town surrendered; Adherbal was taken, and was put to death after being savagely tortured; and there being no longer any competitor alive in whose behalf the Senate could be called on to interfere, he thought himself safe from further interference. Unfortunately in the capture of Citra a number of Romans who resided there had been killed after the surrender, and after a promise that their lives should be spared. An outcry was raised in Rome, and became so loud that the Senate was forced to promise investigation; but it went to work languidly, with reluctance so evident as to rouse suspicion. Notwithstanding the fate of the Gracchi and their friends, Memmius, a tribune, was found bold enough to tell the people that there were men in the Senate who had taken bribes.

The Senate, conscious of its guilt, was now obliged to exert itself. War was declared against Jugurtha, and a consul was sent to Africa with an army. But the consul, too, had his fortune to make, and Micipsa’s treasures were still unexpended. The consul took with him a staff of young patricians, whose families might be counted on to shield him in return for a share of the plunder. Jugurtha was as liberal as avarice could desire, and peace was granted to him on the easy conditions of a nominal fine, and the surrender of some elephants, which the consul privately restored.

Public opinion was singularly patient. The massacre six years before had killed out the liberal leaders, and there was no desire on any side as yet to renew the struggle with the Senate. But it was possible to presume too far on popular acquiescence. Memmius came forward again, and in a passionate speech in the Forum exposed and denounced the scandalous transaction. The political sky began to blacken again. The Senate could not face another storm with so bad a cause, and Jugurtha was sent for to Rome. He came, with contemptuous confidence, loaded with gold. He could not corrupt Memmius, but he bought easily the rest of the tribunes. The leaders in the Curia could not quarrel with a client of such delightful liberality. He had an answer to every complaint, and a fee to silence the complainer. He would have gone back in triumph, had he not presumed a little too far. He had another cousin in the city who he feared might one day give him trouble, so he employed one of his suite to poison him. The murder was accomplished successfully; and for this too he might no doubt have secured his pardon by paying for it; but the price demanded was too high, and perhaps Jugurtha, villain as he was, came at last to disdain the wretches whom he might consider fairly to be worse than himself. He had come over under a safe-conduct, and he was not detained. The Senate ordered him to leave Italy; and he departed with the scornful phrase on his lips which has passed into history: “Venal city, and soon to perish if only it can find a purchaser.” [1]

A second army was sent across, to end the scandal. This time the Senate was in earnest, but the work was less easy than was expected. Army management had fallen into disorder. In earlier times each Roman citizen had provided his own equipments at his own expense. To be a soldier was part of the business of his life, and military training was an essential feature of his education. The old system had broken down; the peasantry, from whom the rank and file of the legions had been recruited, were no longer able to furnish their own arms. Caius Gracchus had intended that arms should be furnished by the government, that a special department should be constituted to take charge of the arsenals and to see to the distribution. But Gracchus was dead, and his project had died with him. When the legions were enrolled, the men were ill armed, undrilled, and unprovided–a mere mob, gathered hastily together and ignorant of the first elements of their duty. With the officers it was still worse. The subordinate commands fell to young patricians, carpet knights who went on campaigns with their families of slaves. The generals, when a movement was to be made, looked for instruction to their staff. It sometimes happened that a consul waited for his election to open for the first time a book of military history or a Greek manual of the art of war.[2]

[Sidenote: B.C 109.]
An army so composed and so led was not likely to prosper. The Numidians were not very formidable enemies, but, after a month or two of manoeuvring, half the Romans were destroyed and the remainder were obliged to surrender. About the same time, and from similar causes, two Roman armies were cut to pieces on the Rhone. While the great men at Rome were building palaces, inventing new dishes, and hiring cooks at unheard-of salaries, the barbarians were at the gates of Italy. The passes of the Alps were open, and if a few tribes of Gauls had cared to pour through them, the Empire was at their mercy. Stung with these accumulating disgraces, and now really alarmed, the Senate sent Caecilius Metellus, the best man that they had and the consul for the year following to Africa. Metellus was an aristocrat, and he was advanced in years; but he was a man of honor and integrity. He understood the danger of further failure; and he looked about for the ablest soldier that he could find to go with him, irrespective of his political opinions.

Caius Marius was at this time forty-eight years old. Two thirds of his life were over, and a name which was to sound throughout the world and be remembered through all ages had as yet been scarcely heard of beyond the army and the political clubs in Rome. He was born at Arpinum, a Latin township, seventy miles from the capital, in the year 157. His father was a small farmer, and he was himself bred to the plough. He joined the army early, and soon attracted notice by his punctual discharge of his duties. In a time of growing looseness, Marius was strict himself in keeping discipline and in enforcing it as he rose in the service. He was in Spain when Jugurtha was there, and made himself especially useful to Scipio; he forced his way steadily upward, by his mere soldierlike qualities, to the rank of military tribune. Rome, too, had learned to know him, for he was chosen tribune of the people the year after the murder of Caius Gracchus. Being a self-made man, he belonged naturally to the popular party. While in office he gave offence in some way to the men in power, and was called before the Senate to answer for himself. But he had the right on his side, it is likely, for they found him stubborn and impertinent, and they could make nothing of their charges against him. He was not bidding at this time, however, for the support of the mob. He had the integrity and sense to oppose the largesses of corn; and he forfeited his popularity by trying to close the public granaries before the practice had passed into a system. He seemed as if made of a block of hard Roman oak, gnarled and knotted, but sound in all its fibres. His professional merit continued to recommend him. At the age of forty he became praetor, and was sent to Spain, where he left a mark again by the successful severity by which he cleared the province of banditti. He was a man neither given himself to talking nor much talked about in the world; but he was sought for wherever work was to be done, and he had made himself respected and valued in high circles, for after his return from the peninsula he had married into one of the most distinguished of the patrician families.

The Caesars were a branch of the Gens Julia, which claimed descent from Iulus the son of Aeneas, and thus from the gods. Roman etymologists could arrive at no conclusion as to the origin of the name. Some derived it from an exploit on an elephant-hunt in Africa–Caesar meaning elephant in Moorish; some to the entrance into the world of the first eminent Caesar by the aid of a surgeon’s knife;[3]some from the color of the eyes prevailing in the family. Be the explanation what it might, eight generations of Caesars had held prominent positions in the Commonwealth. They had been consuls, censors, praetors, aediles, and military tribunes, and in politics, as might be expected from their position, they had been moderate aristocrats. Like other families they had been subdivided, and the links connecting them cannot always be traced. The pedigree of the Dictator goes no further than to his grandfather, Caius Julius. In the middle of the second century before Christ, this Caius Julius, being otherwise unknown to history, married a lady named Marcia, supposed to be descended from Ancus Marcius, the fourth king of Rome. By her he had three children, Caius Julius, Sextus Julius, and a daughter named Julia. Caius Julius married Aurelia, perhaps a member of the consular family of the Cottas, and was the father of the Great Caesar. Julia became the wife of Caius Marius, a _mesalliance_ which implied the beginning of a political split in the Caesar family. The elder branches, like the Cromwells of Hinchinbrook, remained by their order. The younger attached itself for good or ill to the party of the people.

Marius by this marriage became a person of social consideration. His father had been a client of the Metelli; and Caecilius Metellus, who must have known Marius by reputation and probably in person, invited him to go as second in command in the African campaign. He was moderately successful. Towns were taken; battles were won: Metellus was incorruptible, and the Numidians sued for peace. But Jugurtha wanted terms, and the consul demanded unconditional surrender. Jugurtha withdrew into the desert; the war dragged on; and Marius, perhaps ambitious, perhaps impatient at the general’s want of vigor, began to think that he could make quicker work of it. The popular party were stirring again in Rome, the Senate having so notoriously disgraced itself. There was just irritation that a petty African prince could defy the whole power of Rome for so many years; and though a democratic consul had been unheard of for a century, the name of Marius began to be spoken of as a possible candidate. Marius consented to stand. The law required that he must be present in person at the election, and he applied to his commander for leave of absence. Metellus laughed at his pretensions, and bade him wait another twenty years. Marius, however, persisted, and was allowed to go. The patricians strained their resources to defeat him, but he was chosen with enthusiasm. Metellus was recalled, and the conduct of the Numidian war was assigned to the new hero of the “populares.”

A shudder of alarm ran, no doubt, through the senate-house when the determination of the people was known. A successful general could not be disposed of so easily as oratorical tribunes. Fortunately Marius was not a politician. He had no belief in democracy. He was a soldier, and had a soldier’s way of thinking on government and the methods of it. His first step was a reformation in the army. Hitherto the Roman legions had been no more than the citizens in arms, called for the moment from their various occupations, to return to them when the occasion for their services was past. Marius had perceived that fewer men, better trained and disciplined, could he made more effective and be more easily handled. He had studied war as a science. He had perceived that the present weakness need be no more than an accident, and that there was a latent force in the Roman State which needed only organization to resume its ascendency. “He enlisted,” it was said, “the worst of the citizens,” men, that is to say, who had no occupation and who became soldiers by profession; and as persons without property could not have furnished themselves at their own cost, he must have carried out the scheme proposed by Gracchus, and equipped them at the expense of the State. His discipline was of the sternest. The experiment was new; and men of rank who had a taste for war in earnest, and did not wish that the popular party should have the whole benefit and credit of the improvements, were willing to go with him; among them a dissipated young patrician called Lucius Sylla, whose name also was destined to be memorable.

By these methods and out of these materials an army was formed such as no Roman general had hitherto led. It performed extraordinary marches, carried its water-supplies with it in skins, and followed the enemy across sandy deserts hitherto found impassable. In less than two years the war was over. The Moors to whom Jugurtha had fled surrendered him to Sylla, and he was brought in chains to Rome, where he finished his life in a dungeon.

So ended a curious episode in Roman history, where it holds a place beyond its intrinsic importance, from the light which it throws on the character of the Senate and on the practical working of the institutions which the Gracchi had perished in unsuccessfully attempting to reform.

[1] “Urbem venalem, et mature perituram, si emptorem invenenit.”–Sallust, _De Bello Jugurthino_, c. 35. Livy’s account of the business, however, differs from Sallust’s, and the expression is perhaps not authentic.

[2] “At ego scio, Quirites, qui, postquam consules facti sunt, acta majorum, et Graecorum militaria praecepta legere coeperint. Homines praeposteri!”–Speech of Marius, Sallust, _Jugurtha_, 85.

[3] “Caesus ab utero matris.”


The Jugurthine war ended in the year 106 B.C. At the same Arpinum which had produced Marius another actor in the approaching drama was in that year ushered into the world, Marcus Tullius Cicero. The Ciceros had made their names, and perhaps their fortunes, by their skill in raising _cicer_, or vetches. The present representative of the family was a country gentleman in good circumstances given to literature, residing habitually at his estate on the Liris and paying occasional visits to Rome. In that household was born Rome’s most eloquent master of the art of using words, who was to carry that art as far, and to do as much with it, as any man who has ever appeared on the world’s stage.

Rome, however, was for the present in the face of enemies who had to be encountered with more material weapons. Marius had formed an army barely in time to save Italy from being totally overwhelmed. A vast migratory wave of population had been set in motion behind the Rhine and the Danube. The German forests were uncultivated. The hunting and pasture grounds were too strait for the numbers crowded into them, and two enormous hordes were rolling westward and southward in search of some new abiding-place. The Teutons came from the Baltic down across the Rhine into Luxemburg. The Cimbri crossed the Danube near its sources into Illyria. Both Teutons and Cimbri were Germans, and both were making for Gaul by different routes. The Celts of Gaul had had their day. In past generations they had held the German invaders at bay, and had even followed them into their own territories. But they had split among themselves. They no longer offered a common front to the enemy. They were ceasing to be able to maintain their own independence, and the question of the future was whether Gaul was to be the prey of Germany or to be a province of Rome.

Events appeared already to have decided. The invasion of the Teutons and the Cimbri was like the pouring in of two great rivers. Each division consisted of hundreds of thousands. They travelled with their wives and children, their wagons, as with the ancient Scythians and with the modern South African Dutch, being at once their conveyance and their home. Gray- haired priestesses tramped along among them, barefooted, in white linen dresses, the knife at their girdle; northern Iphigenias, sacrificing prisoners as they were taken to the gods of Valhalla. On they swept, eating up the country, and the people flying before them. In 113 B.C. the skirts of the Cimbri had encountered a small Roman force near Trieste, and destroyed it. Four years later another attempt was made to stop them, but the Roman army was beaten and its camp taken. The Cimbrian host did not, however, turn at that time upon Italy. Their aim was the south of France. They made their way through the Alps into Switzerland, where the Helvetii joined them, and the united mass rolled over the Jura and down the bank of the Rhone. Roused at last into exertion, the Senate sent into Gaul the largest force which the Romans had ever brought into the field. They met the Cimbri at Orange, and were simply annihilated. Eighty thousand Romans and forty thousand camp-followers were said to have fallen. The numbers in such cases are generally exaggerated, but the extravagance of the report is a witness to the greatness of the overthrow. The Romans had received a worse blow than at Cannae. They were brave enough, but they were commanded by persons whose recommendations for command were birth or fortune; “preposterous men,” as Marius termed them, who had waited for their appointment to open the military manuals.

Had the Cimbri chosen at this moment to recross the Alps into Italy, they had only to go and take possession, and Alaric would have been antedated by five centuries. In great danger it was the Senate’s business to suspend the constitution. The constitution was set aside now, but it was set aside by the people themselves, not by the Senate. One man only could save the country, and that man was Marius. His consulship was over, and custom forbade his re-election. The Senate might have appointed him dictator, but would not. The people, custom or no custom, chose him consul a second time–a significant acknowledgment that the Empire, which had been won by the sword, must be held by the sword, and that the sword itself must be held by the hand that was best fitted to use it. Marius first triumphed for his African victory, and, as an intimation to the Senate that the power for the moment was his and not theirs, he entered the Curia in his triumphal dress. He then prepared for the barbarians who, to the alarmed imagination of the city, were already knocking at its gates. Time was the important element in the matter. Had the Cimbri come at once after their victory at Orange, Italy had been theirs. But they did not come. With the unguided movements of some wild force of nature they swerved away through Aquitaine to the Pyrenees. They swept across the mountains into Spain. Thence, turning north, they passed up the Atlantic coast and round to the Seine, the Gauls flying before them; thence on to the Rhine, where the vast body of the Teutons joined them and fresh detachments of the Helvetii. It was as if some vast tide-wave had surged over the country and rolled through it, searching out the easiest passages. At length, in two divisions, the invaders moved definitely toward Italy, the Cimbri following their old tracks by the eastern Alps toward Aquileia and the Adriatic, the Teutons passing down through Provence and making for the road along the Mediterranean. Two years had been consumed in these wanderings, and Marius was by this time ready for them. The Senate had dropped the reins, and no longer governed or misgoverned; the popular party, represented by the army, was supreme. Marius was continued in office, and was a fourth time consul. He had completed his military reforms, and the army was now a professional service, with regular pay. Trained corps of engineers were attached to each legion. The campaigns of the Romans were thenceforward to be conducted with spade and pickaxe as much as with sword and javelin, and the soldiers learnt the use of tools as well as arms. Moral discipline was not forgotten. The foulest of human vices was growing fashionable in high society in the capital. It was not allowed to make its way into the army. An officer in one of the legions, a near relative of Marius, made filthy overtures to one of his men. The man replied with a thrust of his sword, and Marius publicly thanked and decorated him.

The effect of the change was like enchantment. The delay of the Germans made it unnecessary to wait for them in Italy. Leaving Catulus, his colleague in the consulship, to check the Cimbri in Venetia, Marius went himself, taking Sylla with him, into the south of France. As the barbarian host came on, he occupied a fortified camp near Aix. He allowed the enormous procession to roll past him in their wagons toward the Alps. Then, following cautiously, he watched his opportunity to fall on them. The Teutons were brave, but they had no longer mere legionaries to fight with, but a powerful machine, and the entire mass of them, men, women, and children, in numbers which however uncertain were rather those of a nation than an army, were swept out of existence.

The Teutons were destroyed on the 20th of July, 102. In the year following the same fate overtook their comrades. The Cimbri had forced the passes through the mountains. They had beaten the unscientific patrician Catulus, and had driven him back on the Po. But Marius came to his rescue. The Cimbri were cut to pieces near Mantua, in the summer of 101, and Italy was saved.

The victories of Marius mark a new epoch in Roman history. The legions were no longer the levy of the citizens in arms, who were themselves the State for which they fought. The legionaries were citizens still. They had votes, and they used them; but they were professional soldiers with the modes of thought which belong to soldiers, and beside the power of the hustings was now the power of the sword. The constitution remained to appearance intact, and means were devised sufficient to encounter, it might be supposed, the new danger. Standing armies were prohibited in Italy. Victorious generals returning from campaigns abroad were required to disband their legions on entering the sacred soil. But the materials of these legions remained a distinct order from the rest of the population, capable of instant combination, and in combination irresistible save by opposing combinations of the same kind. The Senate might continue to debate, the Comitia might elect the annual magistrates. The established institutions preserved the form and something of the reality of power in a people governed so much by habit as the Romans. There is a long twilight between the time when a god is first suspected to be an idol and his final overthrow. But the aristocracy had made the first inroad on the constitution by interfering at the elections with their armed followers and killing their antagonists. The example once set could not fail to be repeated, and the rule of an organized force was becoming the only possible protection against the rule of mobs, patrician or plebeian.

The danger from the Germans was no sooner gone than political anarchy broke loose again. Marius, the man of the people, was the saviour of his country. He was made consul a fifth time and a sixth. The party which had given him his command shared, of course, in his pre-eminence. The elections could be no longer interfered with or the voters intimidated. The public offices were filled with the most violent agitators, who believed that the time had come to revenge the Gracchi and carry out the democratic revolution, to establish the ideal Republic and the direct rule of the citizen assembly. This, too, was a chimera. If the Roman Senate could not govern, far less could the Roman mob govern. Marius stood aside and let the voices rage. He could not be expected to support a system which had brought the country so near to ruin. He had no belief in the visions of the demagogues, but the time was not ripe to make an end of it all. Had he tried, the army would not have gone with him, so he sat still till faction had done its work. The popular heroes of the hour were the tribune Saturninus and the praetor Glaucia. They carried corn laws and land laws–whatever laws they pleased to propose. The administration remaining with the Senate, they carried a vote that every senator should take an oath to execute their laws under penalty of fine and expulsion. Marius did not like it, and even opposed it, but let it pass at last. The senators, cowed and humiliated, consented to take the oath, all but one, Marius’s old friend and commander in Africa, Caecilius Metellus. No stain had ever rested on the name of Metellus. He had accepted no bribes. He had half beaten Jugurtha, for Marius to finish; and Marius himself stood in a semi-feudal relation to him. It was unlucky for the democrats that they had found so honorable an opponent. Metellus persisted in refusal. Saturninus sent a guard to the senate-house, dragged him out, and expelled him from the city. Aristocrats and their partisans were hustled and killed in the street. The patricians had spilt the first blood in the massacre in 121: now it was the turn of the mob.

Marius was an indifferent politician. He perceived as well as any one that violence must not go on, but he hesitated to put it down. He knew that the aristocracy feared and hated him. Between them and the people’s consul no alliance was possible. He did not care to alienate his friends, and there may have been other difficulties which we do not know in his way. The army itself was perhaps divided. On the popular side there were two parties: a moderate one, represented by Memmius, who, as tribune, had impeached the senators for the Jugurthine infamies; the other, the advanced radicals, led by Glaucia and Saturninus. Memmius and Glaucia were both candidates for the consulship; and as Memmius was likely to succeed, he was murdered.

Revolutions proceed like the acts of a drama, and each act is divided into scenes which follow one another with singular uniformity. Ruling powers make themselves hated by tyranny and incapacity. An opposition is formed against them, composed of all sorts, lovers of order and lovers of disorder, reasonable men and fanatics, business-like men and men of theory. The opposition succeeds; the government is overthrown; the victors divide into a moderate party and an advanced party. The advanced party go to the front, till they discredit themselves with crime or folly. The wheel has then gone round, and the reaction sets in. The murder of Memmius alienated fatally the respectable citizens. Saturninus and Glaucia were declared public enemies. They seized the Capitol, and blockaded it. Patrician Rome turned out and besieged them, and Marius had to interfere. The demagogues and their friends surrendered, and were confined in the Curia Hostilia till they could be tried. The noble lords could not allow such detested enemies the chance of an acquittal. To them a radical was a foe of mankind, to be hunted down like a wolf, when a chance was offered to destroy him. By the law of Caius Gracchus no citizen could be put to death without a trial. The persons of Saturninus and Glaucia were doubly sacred, for one was tribune and the other praetor. But the patricians were satisfied that they deserved to be executed, and in such a frame of mind it seemed but virtue to execute them. They tore off the roof of the senate house, and pelted the miserable wretches to death with stones and tiles.


Not far from the scene of the murder of Glaucia and Saturninus there was lying at this time in his cradle, or carried about in his nurse’s arms, a child who, in his manhood, was to hold an inquiry into this business, and to bring one of the perpetrators to answer for himself. On the 12th of the preceding July, B.C. 100,[1] was born into the world Caius Julius Caesar, the only son of Caius Julius and Aurelia, and nephew of the then Consul Marius. His father had been praetor, but had held no higher office. Aurelia was a strict stately lady of the old school, uninfected by the lately imported fashions. She, or her husband, or both of them, were rich; but the habits of the household were simple and severe, and the connection with Marius indicates the political opinions which prevailed in the family.

No anecdotes are preserved, of Caesar’s childhood. He was taught Greek by Antonius Gnipho, an educated Gaul from the north of Italy. He wrote a poem when a boy in honor of Hercules. He composed a tragedy on the story of Oedipus. His passionate attachment to Aurelia in after-years shows that between mother and child the relations had been affectionate and happy. But there is nothing to indicate that there was any early precocity of talent; and leaving Caesar to his grammar and his exercises, we will proceed with the occurrences which he must have heard talked of in his father’s house, or seen with his eyes when he began to open them. The society there was probably composed of his uncle’s friends; soldiers and statesmen who had no sympathy with mobs, but detested the selfish and dangerous system on which the Senate had carried on the government, and dreaded its consequences. Above the tumults of the factions in the Capitol a cry rising into shrillness began to be heard from Italy. Caius Gracchus had wished to extend the Roman franchise to the Italian States, and the suggestion had cost him his popularity and his life. The Italian provinces had furnished their share of the armies which had beaten Jugurtha, and had destroyed the German invaders. They now demanded that they should have the position which Gracchus designed for them: that they should be allowed to legislate for themselves, and no longer lie at the mercy of others, who neither understood their necessities nor cared for their interests. They had no friends in the city, save a few far-sighted statesmen. Senate and mob had at least one point of agreement, that the spoils of the Empire should be fought for among themselves; and at the first mention of the invasion of their monopoly a law was passed making the very agitation of the subject punishable by death.

Political convulsions work in a groove, the direction of which varies little in any age or country. Institutions once sufficient and salutary become unadapted to a change of circumstances. The traditionary holders of power see their interests threatened. They are jealous of innovations. They look on agitators for reform as felonious persons desiring to appropriate what does not belong to them. The complaining parties are conscious of suffering and rush blindly on the superficial causes of their immediate distress. The existing authority is their enemy; and their one remedy is a change in the system of government. They imagine that they see what the change should be, that they comprehend what they are doing, and know where they intend to arrive. They do not perceive that the visible disorders are no more than symptoms which no measures, repressive or revolutionary, can do more than palliate. The wave advances and the wave recedes. Neither party in the struggle can lift itself far enough above the passions of the moment to study the drift of the general current. Each is violent, each is one-sided, and each makes the most and the worst of the sins of its opponents. The one idea of the aggressors is to grasp all that they can reach. The one idea of the conservatives is to part with nothing, pretending that the stability of the State depends on adherence to the principles which have placed them in the position which they hold; and as various interests are threatened, and as various necessities arise, those who are one day enemies are frightened the next into unnatural coalitions, and the next after into more embittered dissensions.

To an indifferent spectator, armed especially with the political experiences of twenty additional centuries, it seems difficult to understand how Italy could govern the world. That the world and Italy besides should continue subject to the population of a single city, of its limited Latin environs, and of a handful of townships exceptionally favored, might even then be seen to be plainly impossible. The Italians were Romans in every point, except in the possession of the franchise. They spoke the same language; they were subjects of the same dominion. They were as well educated, they were as wealthy, they were as capable as the inhabitants of the dominant State. They paid taxes, they fought in the armies; they were strong; they were less corrupt, politically and morally, as having fewer temptations and fewer opportunities of evil; and in their simple country life they approached incomparably nearer to the old Roman type than the patrician fops in the circus or the Forum, or the city mob which was fed in idleness on free grants of corn. When Samnium and Tuscany were conquered, a third of the lands had been confiscated to the Roman State, under the name of _Ager Publicus_. Samnite and Etruscan gentlemen had recovered part of it under lease, much as the descendants of the Irish chiefs held their ancestral domains as tenants of the Cromwellians. The land law of the Gracchi was well intended, but it bore hard on many of the leading provincials, who had seen their estates parcelled out, and their own property, as they deemed it, taken from them under the land commission. If they were to be governed by Roman laws, they naturally demanded to be consulted when the laws were made. They might have been content under a despotism to which Roman and Italian were subject alike. To be governed under the forms of a free constitution by men no better than themselves was naturally intolerable.

[Sidenote: B.C. 95.]
[Sidenote: B.C. 91.]
The movement from without united the Romans for the instant in defence of their privileges. The aristocracy resisted change from instinct; the mob, loudly as they clamored for their own rights, cared nothing for the rights of others, and the answer to the petition of the Italians, five years after the defeat of the Cimbri, was a fierce refusal to permit the discussion of it. Livius Drusus, one of those unfortunately gifted men who can see that in a quarrel there is sometimes justice on both sides, made a vain attempt to secure the provincials a hearing, but he was murdered in his own house. To be murdered was the usual end of exceptionally distinguished Romans, in a State where the lives of citizens were theoretically sacred. His death was the signal for an insurrection, which began in the mountains of the Abruzzi and spread over the whole peninsula.

The contrast of character between the two classes of population became at once uncomfortably evident. The provincials had been the right arm of the Empire. Rome, a city of rich men with families of slaves, and of a crowd of impoverished freemen without employment to keep them in health and strength, could no longer bring into the field a force which could hold its ground against the gentry and peasants of Samnium. The Senate enlisted Greeks, Numidians, any one whose services they could purchase. They had to encounter soldiers who had been trained and disciplined by Marius, and they were taught by defeat upon defeat that they had a worse enemy before them than the Germans. Marius himself had almost withdrawn from public life. He had no heart for the quarrel, and did not care greatly to exert himself. At the bottom, perhaps, he thought that the Italians were in the right. The Senate discovered that they were helpless, and must come to terms if they would escape destruction. They abandoned the original point of difference, and they offered to open the franchise to every Italian state south of the Po which had not taken arms or which returned immediately to its allegiance. The war had broken out for a definite cause. When the cause was removed no reason remained for its continuance. The Italians were closely connected with Rome. Italians were spread over the Roman world in active business. They had no wish to overthrow the Empire if they were allowed to share in its management. The greater part of them accepted the Senate’s terms; and only those remained in the field who had gone to war in the hope of recovering the lost independence which their ancestors had so long heroically defended.

The panting Senate was thus able to breathe again. The war continued, but under better auspices. Sound material could now be collected again for the army. Marius being in the background, the chosen knight of the aristocracy, Lucius Sylla, whose fame in the Cimbrian war had been only second to that of his commander’s, came at once to the front.

Sylla, or Sulla, as we are now taught to call him, was born in the year 138 B.C. He was a patrician of the purest blood, had inherited a moderate fortune, and had spent it like other young men of rank, lounging in theatres and amusing himself with dinner-parties. He was a poet, an artist, and a wit, but each and everything with the languor of an amateur. His favorite associates were actresses, and he had neither obtained nor aspired to any higher reputation than that of a cultivated man of fashion. His distinguished birth was not apparent in his person. He had red hair, hard blue eyes, and a complexion white and purple, with the colors so ill- mixed that his face was compared to a mulberry sprinkled with flour. Ambition he appeared to have none; and when he exerted himself to be appointed quaestor to Marius on the African expedition, Marius was disinclined to take him as having no recommendation beyond qualifications which the consul of the plebeians disdained and disliked.

Marius, however, soon discovered his mistake. Beneath his constitutional indolence Sylla was by nature a soldier, a statesman, a diplomatist. He had been too contemptuous of the common objects of politicians to concern himself with the intrigues of the Forum, but he had only to exert himself to rise with easy ascendency to the command of every situation in which he might be placed. He had entered with military instinct into Marius’s reform of the army, and became the most active and useful of his officers. He endeared himself to the legionaries by a tolerance of vices which did not interfere with discipline; and to Sylla’s combined adroitness and courage Marius owed the final capture of Jugurtha.

Whether Marius became jealous of Sylla on this occasion must be decided by those who, while they have no better information than others as to the actions of men, possess, or claim to possess, the most intimate acquaintance with their motives. They again served together, however, against the Northern invaders, and Sylla a second time lent efficient help to give Marius a victory. Like Marius, he had no turn for platform oratory and little interest in election contests and intrigues. For eight years he kept aloof from politics, and his name and that of his rival were alike for all that time almost unheard of. He emerged into special notice only when he was praetor in the year 93 B.C., and when he characteristically distinguished his term of office by exhibiting a hundred lions in the arena matched against Numidian archers. There was no such road to popularity with the Roman multitude. It is possible that the little Caesar, then a child of seven, may have been among the spectators, making his small reflections on it all.

[Sidenote: B.C. 120.]
In 92 Sylla went as propraetor to Asia, where the incapacity of the Senate’s administration was creating another enemy likely to be troublesome. Mithridates, “child of the sun,” pretending to a descent from Darius Hystaspes, was king of Pontus, one of the semi-independent monarchies which had been allowed to stand in Asia Minor. The coast-line of Pontus extended from Sinope to Trebizond, and reached inland to the line of mountains where the rivers divide which flow into the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The father of Mithridates was murdered when he was a child, and for some years he led a wandering life, meeting adventures which were as wild and perhaps as imaginary as those of Ulysses. In later life he became the idol of Eastern imagination, and legend made free with his history; but he was certainly an extraordinary man. He spoke the unnumbered dialects of the Asiatic tribes among whom he had travelled. He spoke Greek with ease and freedom. Placed, as he was, on the margin where the civilizations of the East and the West were brought in contact, he was at once a barbarian potentate and an ambitious European politician. He was well informed of the state of Rome, and saw reason, perhaps, as well he might, to doubt the durability of its power. At any rate, he was no sooner fixed on his own throne than he began to annex the territories of the adjoining princes. He advanced his sea frontier through Armenia to Batoum, and thence along the coast of Circassia. He occupied the Greek settlements on the Sea of Azof. He took Kertch and the Crimea, and with the help of pirates from the Mediterranean he formed a fleet which gave him complete command of the Black Sea. In Asia Minor no power but the Roman could venture to quarrel with him. The Romans ought in prudence to have interfered before Mithridates had grown to so large a bulk, but money judiciously distributed among the leading politicians had secured the Senate’s connivance; and they opened their eyes at last only when Mithridates thought it unnecessary to subsidize them further, and directed his proceedings against Cappadocia, which was immediately under Roman protection. He invaded the country, killed the prince whom Rome had recognized, and placed on the throne a child of his own, with the evident intention of taking Cappadocia for himself.

This was to go too far. Like Jugurtha, he had purchased many friends in the Senate, who, grateful for past favors and hoping for more, prevented the adoption of violent measures against him; but they sent a message to him that he must not have Cappadocia, and Mithridates, waiting for a better opportunity, thought proper to comply. Of this message the bearer was Lucius Sylla. He had time to study on the spot the problem of how to deal with Asia Minor. He accomplished his mission with his usual adroitness and apparent success, and he returned to Rome with new honors to finish the Social war.

It was no easy work. The Samnites were tough and determined. For two years they continued to struggle, and the contest was not yet over when news came from the East appalling as the threatened Cimbrian invasion, which brought both parties to consent to suspend their differences by mutual concessions.

[1] I follow the ordinary date, which has been fixed by the positive