The reign of terror alarmed the more moderate of the victors not much less than the defeated party; the capitalists alone were not displeased to see that another hand lent itself to the work of thoroughly humbling for once the haughty oligarchs, and that at the same time, in consequence of the extensive confiscations and auctions, the best part of the spoil came to themselves--in these times of terror they acquired from the people the surname of the "hoarders."

Death Of Marius

Fate had thus granted to the author of this reign of terror, the old Gaius Marius, his two chief wishes. He had taken vengeance on the whole genteel pack that had embittered his victories and envenomed his defeats; he had been enabled to retaliate for every sarcasm by a stroke of the dagger. Moreover he entered on the new year once more as consul; the vision of a seventh consulate, which the oracle had promised him, and which he had sought for thirteen years to grasp, had now been realized. The gods had granted to him what he wished; but now too, as in the old legendary period, they practised the fatal irony of destroying man by the fulfilment of his wishes. In his early consulates the pride, in his sixth the laughing-stock, of his fellow-citizens, he was now in his seventh loaded with the execration of all parties, with the hatred of the whole nation; he, the originally upright, capable, gallant man, was branded as the crackbrained chief of a reckless band of robbers. He himself seemed to feel it. His days were passed as in delirium, and by night his couch denied him rest, so that he grasped the wine-cup in order merely to drown thought. A burning fever seized him; after being stretched for seven days on a sick bed, in the wild fancies of which he was fighting on the fields of Asia Minor the battles of which the laurels were destined for Sulla, he expired on the 13th Jan. 668. He died, more than seventy years old, in full possession of what he called power and honour, and in his bed; but Nemesis assumes various shapes, and does not always expiate blood with blood. Was there no sort of retaliation in the fact, that Rome and Italy now breathed more freely on the news of the death of the famous saviour of the people than at the tidings of the battle on the Raudine plain?

Even after his death individual incidents no doubt occurred, which recalled that time of terror; Gaius Fimbria, for instance, who more than any other during the Marian butcheries had dipped his hand in blood, made an attempt at the very funeral of Marius to kill the universally revered -pontifex maximus- Quintus Scaevola (consul in 659) who had been spared even by Marius, and then, when Scaevola recovered from the wound he had received, indicted him criminally on account of the offence, as Fimbria jestingly expressed it, of having not been willing to let himself be murdered. But the orgies of murder at any rate were over. Sertorius called together the Marian bandits, under pretext of giving them their pay, surrounded them with his trusty Celtic troops, and caused them to be cut down en masse to the number, according to the lowest estimate, of 4000.

Government Of Cinna

Along with the reign of terror came the -tyrannis-. Cinna not only stood at the head of the state for four years in succession (667-670) as consul, but he regularly nominated himself and his colleagues without consulting the people; it seemed as if these democrats set aside the sovereign popular assembly with intentional contempt. No other chief of the popular party, before or afterwards, possessed so perfectly absolute a power in Italy and in the greater part of the provinces for so long a time almost undisturbed, as Cinna; but no one can be named, whose government was so utterly worthless and aimless. The law proposed by Sulpicius and thereafter by Cinna himself, which promised to the new burgesses and the freedmen equality of suffrage with the old burgesses, was naturally revived; and it was formally confirmed by a decree of the senate as valid in law (670). Censors were nominated (668) for the purpose of distributing all the Italians, in accordance with it, into the thirty-five burgess-districts--by a singular conjuncture, in consequence of a want of qualified candidates for the censorship the same Philippus, who when consul in 663 had chiefly occasioned the miscarriage of the plan of Drusus for bestowing the franchise on the Italians,(8) was now selected as censor to inscribe them in the burgess-rolls. The reactionary institutions established by Sulla in 666 were of course overthrown. Some steps were taken to please the proletariate--for instance, the restrictions on the distribution of grain introduced some years ago,(9) were probably now once more removed; the design of Gaius Gracchus to found a colony at Capua was in reality carried out in the spring of 671 on the proposal of the tribune of the people, Marcus Junius Brutus; Lucius Valerius Flaccus the younger introduced a law as to debt, which reduced every private claim to the fourth part of its nominal amount and cancelled three fourths in favour of the debtors. But these measures, the only positive ones during the whole Cinnan government, were without exception the dictates of the moment; they were based--and this is perhaps the most shocking feature in this whole catastrophe--not on a plan possibly erroneous, but on no political plan at all. The populace were caressed, and at the same time offended in a very unnecessary way by a meaningless disregard of the constitutional arrangements for election. The capitalist party might have furnished a support, but it was injured in the most sensitive point by the law as to debt. The true mainstay of the government was--wholly without any cooperation on its part--the new burgesses; their assistance was acquiesced in, but nothing was done to regulate the strange position of the Samnites, who were now nominally Roman citizens, but evidently regarded their country's independence as practically the real object and prize of the struggle and remained in arms to defend it against all and sundry.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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