That he had been the victim of a political assassination, cannot be doubted; he himself shortly before had publicly mentioned the plots formed to murder him. What assassin's hand had during the night slain the first statesman and the first general of his age, was never discovered; and it does not become history either to repeat the reports handed down from the contemporary gossip of the city, or to set about the childish attempt to ascertain the truth out of such materials. This much only is clear, that the instigator of the deed must have belonged to the Gracchan party; the assassination of Scipio was the democratic reply to the aristocratic massacre at the temple of Fidelity. The tribunals did not interfere. The popular party, justly fearing that its leaders Gaius Gracchus, Flaccus, and Carbo, whether guilty or not, might be involved in the prosecution, opposed with all its might the institution of an inquiry; and the aristocracy, which lost in Scipio quite as much an antagonist as an ally, was not unwilling to let the matter sleep. The multitude and men of moderate views were shocked; none more so than Quintus Metellus, who had disapproved of Scipio's interference against reform, but turned away with horror from such confederates, and ordered his four sons to carry the bier of his great antagonist to the funeral pile. The funeral was hurried over; with veiled head the last of the family of the conqueror of Zama was borne forth, without any one having been previously allowed to see the face of the deceased, and the flames of the funeral pile consumed with the remains of the illustrious man the traces at the same time of the crime.

The history of Rome presents various men of greater genius than Scipio Aemilianus, but none equalling him in moral purity, in the utter absence of political selfishness, in generous love of his country, and none, perhaps, to whom destiny has assigned a more tragic part. Conscious of the best intentions and of no common abilities, he was doomed to see the ruin of his country carried out before his eyes, and to repress within him every earnest attempt to save it, because he clearly perceived that he should only thereby make the evil worse; doomed to the necessity of sanctioning outrages like that of Nasica, and at the same time of defending the work of the victim against his murderers. Yet he might say that he had not lived in vain. It was to him, at least quite as much as to the author of the Sempronian law, that the Roman burgesses were indebted for an increase of nearly 80,000 new farm-allotments; he it was too who put a stop to this distribution of the domains, when it had produced such benefit as it could produce. That it was time to break it off, was no doubt disputed at the moment even by well-meaning men; but the fact that Gaius Gracchus did not seriously recur to those possessions which might have been, and yet were not, distributed under the law of his brother, tells very much in favour of the belief that Scipio hit substantially the right moment. Both measures were extorted from the parties--the first from the aristocracy, the second from the friends of reform; for each its author paid with his life. It was Scipio's lot to fight for his country on many a battle-field and to return home uninjured, that he might perish there by the hand of an assassin; but in his quiet chamber he no less died for Rome than if he had fallen before the walls of Carthage.

Democratic Agitation Under Carbo and Flaccus

The distribution of land was at an end; the revolution went on. The revolutionary party, which possessed in the allotment-commission as it were a constituted leadership, had even in the lifetime of Scipio skirmished now and then with the existing government. Carbo, in particular, one of the most distinguished men of his time in oratorical talent, had as tribune of the people in 623 given no small trouble to the senate; had carried voting by ballot in the burgess-assemblies, so far as it had not been introduced already;(5) and had even made the significant proposal to leave the tribunes of the people free to reappear as candidates for the same office in the year immediately following, and thus legally to remove the obstacle by which Tiberius Gracchus had primarily been thwarted. The scheme had been at that time frustrated by the resistance of Scipio; some years later, apparently after his death, the law was reintroduced and carried through, although with limiting clauses.(6) The principal object of the party, however, was to revive the action of the allotment- commission which had been practically suspended; the leaders seriously talked of removing the obstacles which the Italian allies interposed to the scheme by conferring on them the rights of citizenship, and the agitation assumed mainly that direction. In order to meet it, the senate in 628 got the tribune of the people Marcus Junius Pennus to propose the dismissal of all non-burgesses from the capital, and in spite of the resistance of the democrats, particularly of Gaius Gracchus, and of the ferment occasioned by this odious measure in the Latin communities, the proposal was carried. Marcus Fulvius Flaccus retorted in the following year (629) as consul with the proposal to facilitate the acquisition of burgess-rights by the burgesses of the allied communities, and to concede even to those who had not acquired them an appeal to the Roman comitia against penal judgments. But he stood almost alone--Carbo had meanwhile changed his colours and was now a zealous aristocrat, Gaius Gracchus was absent as quaestor in Sardinia--and the project was frustrated by the resistance not of the senate merely, but also of the burgesses, who were but little inclined to extend their privileges to still wider circles. Flaccus left Rome to undertake the supreme command against the Celts; by his Transalpine conquests he prepared the way for the great schemes of the democracy, while he at the same time withdrew out of the difficulty of having to bear arms against the allies instigated by himself.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
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