The Optimates in Rome sneered at the wretched emigrant, the runaway from the Italian army, the last of the robber-band of Carbo; the sorry taunt recoiled upon its authors. The masses that had been brought into the field against Sertorius were reckoned, including the Spanish general levy, at 120,000 infantry, 2000 archers and slingers, and 6000 cavalry. Against this enormous superiority of force Sertorius had not only held his ground in a series of successful conflicts and victories, but had also reduced the greater part of Spain under his power. In the Further province Metellus found himself confined to the districts immediately occupied by his troops; hereall the tribes, who could, had taken the side of Sertorius. In the Hither province, after the victories of Hirtuleius, there no longer existed a Roman army. Emissaries of Sertorius roamed through the whole territory of Gaul; there, too, the tribes began to stir, and bands gathering together began to make the Alpine passes insecure. Lastly the sea too belonged quite as much to the insurgents as to the legitimate government, since the allies of the former--the pirates--were almost as powerful in the Spanish waters as the Roman ships of war. At the promontory of Diana (now Denia, between Valencia and Alicante) Sertorius established for the corsairs a fixed station, where they partly lay in wait for such Roman ships as were conveying supplies to the Roman maritime towns and the army, partly carried away or delivered goods for the insurgents, and partly formed their medium of intercourse with Italy and Asia Minor. The constant readiness of these men moving to and fro to carry everywhere sparks from the scene of conflagration tended in a high degree to excite apprehension, especially at a time when so much combustible matter was everywhere accumulated in the Roman empire.

Death Of Sulla And Its Consequences

Amidst this state of matters the sudden death of Sulla took place (676). So long as the man lived, at whose voice a trained and trustworthy army of veterans was ready any moment to rise, the oligarchy might tolerate the almost (as it seemed) definite abandonment of the Spanish provinces to the emigrants, and the election of the leader of the opposition at home to be supreme magistrate, at all events as transient misfortunes; and in their shortsighted way, yet not wholly without reason, might cherish confidence either that the opposition would not venture to proceed to open conflict, or that, if it did venture, he who had twice saved the oligarchy would set it up a third time. Now the state of things was changed. The democratic Hotspurs in the capital, long impatient of the endless delay and inflamed by the brilliant news from Spain, urged that a blow should be struck; and Lepidus, with whom the decision for the moment lay, entered into the proposal with all the zeal of a renegade and with his own characteristic frivolity. For a moment it seemed as if the torch which kindled the funeral pile of the regent would also kindle civil war; but the influence of Pompeius and the temper of the Sullan veterans induced the opposition to let the obsequies of the regent pass over in peace.

Insurrection Of Lepidus

Yet all the more openly were arrangements thenceforth made to introduce a fresh revolution. Daily the Forum resounded with accusations against the "mock Romulus" and his executioners. Even before the great potentate had closed his eyes, the overthrow of the Sullan constitution, the re-establishment of the distributions of grain, the reinstating of the tribunes of the people in their former position, the recall of those who were banished contrary to law, the restoration of the confiscated lands, were openly indicated by Lepidus and his adherents as the objects at which they aimed. Now communications were entered into with the proscribed; Marcus Perpenna, governor of Sicily in the days of Cinna,(17) arrived in the capital. The sons of those whom Sulla had declared guilty of treason--on whom the laws of the restoration bore with intolerable severity--and generally the more noted men of Marian views were invited to give their accession. Not a few, such as the young Lucius Cinna, joined the movement; others, however, followed the example of Gaius Caesar, who had returned home from Asia on receiving the accounts of the death of Sulla and of the plans of Lepidus, but after becoming more accurately acquainted with the character of the leader and of the movement prudently withdrew. Carousing and recruiting went on in behalf of Lepidus in the taverns and brothels of the capital. At length a conspiracy against the new order of things was concocted among the Etruscan malcontents.(18)

All this took place under the eyes of the government The consul Catulus as well as the more judicious Optimates urged an immediate decisive interference and suppression of the revolt in the bud; the indolent majority, however, could not make up their minds to begin the struggle, but tried to deceive themselves as long as possible by a system of compromises and concessions. Lepidus also on his part at first entered into it. The suggestion, which proposed a restoration of the prerogatives taken away from the tribunes of the people, he as well as his colleague Catulus repelled. On the other hand, the Gracchan distribution of grain was to a limited extent re-established. According to it not all (as according to the Sempronian law) but only a definite number-- presumably 40,000--of the poorer burgesses appear to have received the earlier largesses, as Gracchus had fixed them, of five -modii- monthly at the price of 6 1/3 -asses- (3 pence)--a regulation which occasioned to the treasury an annual net loss of at least 40,000 pounds.(19) The opposition, naturally as little satisfied as it was decidedly emboldened by this partial concession, displayed all the more rudeness and violence in the capital; and in Etruria, the true centre of all insurrections of the Italian proletariate, civil war already broke out, the dispossessed Faesulans resumed possession of their lost estates by force of arms, and several of the veterans settled there by Sulla perished in the tumult. The senate on learning what had occurred resolved to send the two consuls thither, in order to raise troops and suppress the insurrection.(20) It was impossible to adopt a more irrational course.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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