The senate, in presence of the insurrection, evinced its pusillanimity and its fears by the re-establishment of the corn-law; in order to be relieved from a street-riot, it furnished the notorious head of the insurrection with an army; and, when the two consuls were bound by the most solemn oath which could be contrived not to turn the arms entrusted to them against each other, it must have required the superhuman obduracy of oligarchic consciences to think of erecting such a bulwark against the impending insurrection. Of course Lepidus armed in Etruria not for the senate, but for the insurrection-- sarcastically declaring that the oath which he had taken bound him only for the current year. The senate put the oracular machinery in motion to induce him to return, and committed to him the conduct of the impending consular elections; but Lepidus evaded compliance, and, while messengers passed to and fro and the official year drew to an end amidst proposals of accommodation, his force swelled to an army. When at length, in the beginning of the following year (677), the definite order of the senate was issued to Lepidus to return without delay, the proconsul haughtily refused obedience, and demanded in his turn the renewal of the former tribunician power, the reinstatement of those who had been forcibly ejected from their civic rights and their property, and, besides this, his own re-election as consul for the current year or, in other words, the -tyrannis- in legal form.

Outbreak Of The War Lepidus Defeated Death Of Lepidus

Thus war was declared. The senatorial party could reckon, in addition to the Sullan veterans whose civil existence was threatened by Lepidus, upon the army assembled by the proconsul Catulus; and so, in compliance with the urgent warnings of the more sagacious, particularly of Philippus, Catulus was entrusted by the senate with the defence of the capital and the repelling of the main force of the democratic party stationed in Etruria. At the same time Gnaeus Pompeius was despatched with another corps to wrest from his former protege the valley of the Po, which was held by Lepidus' lieutenant, Marcus Brutus. While Pompeius speedily accomplished his commission and shut up the enemy's general closely in Mutina, Lepidus appeared before the capital in order to conquer it for the revolution as Marius had formerly done by storm. The right bank of the Tiber fell wholly into his power, and he was able even to cross the river. The decisive battle was fought on the Campus Martius, close under the walls of the city. But Catulus conquered; and Lepidus was compelled to retreat to Etruria, while another division, under his son Scipio, threw itself into the fortress of Alba. Thereupon the rising was substantially atan end. Mutina surrendered to Pompeius; and Brutus was, notwithstanding the safe-conduct promised to him, subsequently put to death by order of that general. Alba too was, after a long siege, reduced by famine, and the leader there was likewise executed. Lepidus, pressed on two sides by Catulus and Pompeius, fought another engagement on the coast of Etruria in order merely to procure the means of retreat, and then embarked at the port of Cosa for Sardinia from which point he hoped to cut off the supplies of the capital, and to obtain communication with the Spanish insurgents. But the governor of the island opposed to him a vigorous resistance; and he himself died, not long after his landing, of consumption (677), whereupon the war in Sardinia came to an end. A part of his soldiers dispersed; with the flower of the insurrectionary army and with a well-filled chest the late praetor, Marcus Perpenna, proceeded to Liguria, and thence to Spain to join the Sertorians.

Pompeius Extorts The Command In Spain

The oligarchy was thus victorious over Lepidus; but it found itself compelled by the dangerous turn of the Sertorian war to concessions, which violated the letter as well as the spirit of the Sullan constitution. It was absolutely necessary to send a strong army and an able general to Spain; and Pompeius indicated, very plainly, that he desired, or rather demanded, this commission. The pretension was bold. It was already bad enough that they had allowed this secret opponent again to attain an extraordinary command in the pressure of the Lepidian revolution; but it was far more hazardous, in disregard of all the rules instituted by Sulla for the magisterial hierarchy, to invest a man who had hitherto filled no civil office with one of the most important ordinary provincial governorships, under circumstances in which the observance of the legal term of a year was not to be thought of. The oligarchy had thus, even apart from the respect due to their general Metellus, good reason to oppose with all earnestness this new attempt of the ambitious youth to perpetuate his exceptional position. But this was not easy. In the first place, they had not a single man fitted for the difficult post of general in Spain. Neither of the consuls of the year showed any desire to measure himself against Sertorius; and what Lucius Philippus said in a full meeting of the senate had to be admitted as too true--that, among all the senators of note, not one was able and willing to command in a serious war. Yet they might, perhaps, have got over this, and after the manner of oligarchs, when they had no capable candidate, have filled the place with some sort of makeshift, if Pompeius had merely desired the command and had not demanded it at the head of an army. He had already lent a deaf ear to the injunctions of Catulus that he should dismiss the army; it was at least doubtful whether those of the senate would find a better reception, and the consequences of a breach no one could calculate-- the scale of aristocracy might very easily mount up, if the sword of a well-known general were thrown into the opposite scale. So the majority resolved on concession. Not from the people, which constitutionally ought to have been consulted in a case where a private man was to be invested with the supreme magisterial power, but from the senate, Pompeius received proconsular authority and the chief command in Hither Spain; and, forty days after he had received it, crossed the Alps in the summer of 677.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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