It is impossible to tell what might have happened, had the Cimbri immediately after their double victory advanced through the gates of the Alps into Italy. But they first overran the territory of the Arverni, who with difficulty defended themselves in their fortresses against the enemy; and soon, weary of sieges, set out from thence, not to Italy, but westward to the Pyrenees.

The Roman Opposition Warfare Of Prosecutions

If the torpid organism of the Roman polity could still of itself reach a crisis of wholesome reaction, that reaction could not but set in now, when, by one of the marvellous pieces of good fortune, in which the history of Rome is so rich, the danger was sufficiently imminent to rouse all the energy and all the patriotism of the burgesses, and yet did not burst upon them so suddenly as to leave no space for the development of their resources. But the very same phenomena, which had occurred four years previously after the African defeats, presented themselves afresh. In fact the African and Gallic disasters were essentially of the same kind. It may be that primarily the blame of the former fell more on the oligarchy as a whole, that of the latter more on individual magistrates; but public opinion justly recognized in both, above all things, the bankruptcy of the government, which in its progressive development imperilled first the honour and now the very existence of the state. People just as little deceived themselves then as now regarding the true seat of the evil, but as little now as then did they make even an attempt to apply the remedy at the proper point. They saw well that the system was to blame; but on this occasion also they adhered to the method of calling individuals to account--only no doubt this second storm discharged itself on the heads of the oligarchy so much the more heavily, as the calamity of 649 exceeded in extent and peril that of 645. The sure instinctive feeling of the public, that there was no resource against the oligarchy except the -tyrannis-, was once more apparent in their readily entering into every attempt by officers of note to force the hand of the government and, under one form or another, to overturn the oligarchic rule by a dictatorship.

It was against Quintus Caepio that their attacks were first directed; and justly, in so far as he had primarily occasioned the defeat of Arausio by his insubordination, even apart from the probably well-founded but not proved charge of embezzling the Tolosan booty; but the fury which the opposition displayed against him was essentially augmented by the fact, that he had as consul ventured on an attempt to wrest the posts of jurymen from the capitalists.(22) On his account the old venerable principle, that the sacredness of the magistracy should be respected even in the person of its worst occupant, was violated; and, while the censure due to the author of the calamitous day of Cannae had been silently repressed within the breast, the author of the defeat of Arausio was by decree of the people unconstitutionally deprived of his proconsulship, and--what had not occurred since the crisis in which the monarchy had perished--his property was confiscated to the state-chest (649?). Not long afterwards he was by a second decree of the burgesses expelled from the senate (650). But this was not enough; more victims were desired, and above all Caepio's blood. A number of tribunes of the people favourable to the opposition, with Lucius Appuleius Saturninus and Gaius Norbanus at their head, proposed in 651 to appoint an extraordinary judicial commission in reference to the embezzlement and treason perpetrated in Gaul; in spite of the de facto abolition of arrest during investigation and of the punishment of death for political offences, Caepio was arrested and the intention of pronouncing and executing in his case sentence of death was openly expressed. The government party attempted to get rid of the proposal by tribunician intervention; but the interceding tribunes were violently driven from the assembly, and in the furious tumult the first men of the senate were assailed with stones. The investigation could not be prevented, and the warfare of prosecutions pursued its course in 651 as it had done six years before; Caepio himself, his colleague in the supreme command Gnaeus Mallius Maximus, and numerous other men of note were condemned: a tribune of the people, who was a friend of Caepio, with difficulty succeeded by the sacrifice of his own civic existence in saving at least the life of the chief persons accused.(23)

Marius Commander-In-Chief

Of more importance than this measure of revenge was the question how the dangerous war beyond the Alps was to be further carried on, and first of all to whom the supreme command in it was to be committed. With an unprejudiced treatment of the matter it was not difficult to make a fitting choice. Rome was doubtless, in comparison with earlier times, not rich in military notabilities; yet Quintus Maximus had commanded with distinction in Gaul, Marcus Aemilius Scaurus and Quintus Minucius in the regions of the Danube, Quintus Metellus, Publius Rutilius Rufus, Gaius Marius in Africa; and the object proposed was not to defeat a Pyrrhus or a Hannibal, but again to make good the often-tried superiority of Roman arms and Roman tactics in opposition to the barbarians of the north--an object which required no genius, but merely a stern and capable soldier. But it was precisely a time when nothing was so difficult as the unprejudiced settlement of a question of administration. The government was, as it could not but be and as the Jugurthine war had already shown, so utterly bankrupt in public opinion, that its ablest generals had to retire in the full career of victory, whenever it occurred to an officer of mark to revile them before the people and to get himself as the candidate of the opposition appointed by the latter to the head of affairs. It was no wonder that what took place after the victories of Metellus was repeated on a greater scale after the defeats of Gnaeus Mallius and Quintus Caepio.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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