Leaders Of The Democrats

In the opposition proper, both among the liberal conservatives and among the Populares, the storms of revolution had made fearful havoc. Among the former, the only surviving man of note was Gaius Cotta (630-c. 681), the friend and ally of Drusus, and as such banished in 663,(12) and then by Sulla's victory brought back to his native land;(13) he was a shrewd man and a capable advocate, but not called, either by the weight of his party or by that of his personal standing, to act more than a respectable secondary part. In the democratic party, among the rising youth, Gaius Julius Caesar, who was twenty-four years of age (born 12 July 652?(14)), drew towards him the eyes of friend and foe. His relationship with Marius and Cinna (his father's sister had been the wife of Marius, he himself had married Cinna's daughter); the courageous refusal of the youth who had scarce outgrown the age of boyhood to send a divorce to his young wife Cornelia at the bidding of the dictator, as Pompeius had in the like case done; his bold persistence in the priesthood conferred upon him by Marius, but revoked by Sulla; his wanderings during the proscription with which he was threatened, and which was with difficulty averted by the intercession of his relatives; his bravery in the conflicts before Mytilene and in Cilicia, a bravery which no one had expected from the tenderly reared and almost effeminately foppish boy; even the warnings of Sulla regarding the "boy in the petticoat" in whom more than a Marius lay concealed--all these were precisely so many recommendations in the eyes of the democratic party. But Caesar could only be the object of hopes for the future; and the men who from their age and their public position would have been called now to seize the reins of the party and the state, were all dead or in exile.


Thus the leadership of the democracy, in the absence of a man with a true vocation for it, was to be had by any one who might please to give himself forth as the champion of oppressed popular freedom; and in this way it came to Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, a Sullan, who from motives more than ambiguous deserted to the camp of the democracy. Once a zealous Optimate, and a large purchaser at the auctions of the proscribed estates, he had, as governor of Sicily, so scandalously plundered the province that he was threatened with impeachment, and, to evade it, threw himself into opposition. It was a gain of doubtful value. No doubt the opposition thus acquired a well-known name, a man of quality, a vehement orator in the Forum; but Lepidus was an insignificant and indiscreet personage, who did not deserve to stand at the head either in council or in the field. Nevertheless the opposition welcomed him, and the new leader of the democrats succeeded not only in deterring his accusers from prosecuting the attack on him which they had begun, but also in carrying his election to the consulship for 676; in which, we may add, he was helped not only by the treasures exacted in Sicily, but also by the foolish endeavour of Pompeius to show Sulla and the pure Sullans on this occasion what he could do. Now that the opposition had, on the death of Sulla, found a head once more in Lepidus, and now that this their leader had become the supreme magistrate of the state, the speedy outbreak of a new revolution in the capital might with certainty be foreseen.

The Emigrants In Spain Sertorius

But even before the democrats moved in the capital, the democratic emigrants had again bestirred themselves in Spain. The soul of this movement was Quintus Sertorius. This excellent man, a native of Nursia in the Sabine land, was from the first of a tender and even soft organization--as his almost enthusiastic love for his mother, Raia, shows--and at the same time of the most chivalrous bravery, as was proved by the honourable scars which he brought home from the Cimbrian, Spanish, and Italian wars. Although wholly untrained as an orator, he excited the admiration of learned advocates by the natural flow and the striking self-possession of his address. His remarkable military and statesmanly talent had found opportunity of shining by contrast, more particularly in the revolutionary war which the democrats so wretchedly and stupidly mismanaged; he was confessedly the only democratic officer who knew how to prepare and to conduct war, and the only democratic statesman who opposed the insensate and furious doings of his party with statesmanlike energy. His Spanish soldiers called him the new Hannibal, and not merely because he had, like that hero, lost an eye in war. He in reality reminds us of the great Phoenician by his equally cunning and courageous strategy, by his rare talent of organizing war by means of war, by his adroitness in attracting foreign nations to his interest and making them serviceable to his ends, by his prudence in success and misfortune, by the quickness of his ingenuity in turning to good account his victories and averting the consequences of his defeats. It may be doubted whether any Roman statesman of the earlier period, or of the present, can be compared in point of versatile talent to Sertorius. After Sulla's generals had compelled him to quit Spain,(15) he had led a restless life of adventure along the Spanish and African coasts, sometimes in league, sometimes at war, with the Cilician pirates who haunted these seas, and with the chieftains of the roving tribes of Libya. The victorious Roman restoration had pursued him even thither: when he was besieging Tingis (Tangiers), a corps under Pacciaecus from Roman Africa had come to the help of the prince of the town; but Pacciaecus was totally defeated, and Tingis was taken by Sertorius. On the report of such achievements by the Roman refugee spreading abroad, the Lusitanians, who, notwithstanding their pretended submission to the Roman supremacy, practically maintained their independence, and annually fought with the governors of Further Spain, sent envoys to Sertorius in Africa, to invite him to join them, and to commit to him the command of their militia.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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