Taken as a whole, the agitation was aimless; and we discern in it the perplexity of its authors to find an object for their activity, for it turned almost wholly on things already essentially settled or on subordinate matters.

Impending Collision Between The Democrats And Pompeius

It could not be otherwise. In the struggle with the aristocracy the democrats had remained victors; but they had not conquered alone, and the fiery trial still awaited them--the reckoning not with their former foe, but with their too powerful ally, to whom in the struggle with the aristocracy they were substantially indebted for victory, and to whose hands they had now entrusted an unexampled military and political power, because they dared not refuse it to him. The general of the east and of the seas was still employed in appointing and deposing kings. How long time he would take for that work, or when he would declare the business of the war to be ended, no one could tell but himself; since like everything else the time of his return to Italy, or in other words the day of decision, was left in his own hands. The parties in Rome meanwhile sat and waited. The Optimates indeed looked forward to the arrival of the dreaded general with comparative calmness; by the rupture between Pompeius and the democracy, which they saw to be approaching, they could not lose, but could only gain. The democrats on the contrary waited with painful anxiety, and sought, during the interval still allowed to them by the absence of Pompeius, to lay a countermine against the impending explosion.

Schemes For Appointing A Democratic Military Dictatorship

In this policy they again coincided with Crassus, to whom no course was left for encountering his envied and hated rival but that of allying himself afresh, and more closely than before, with the democracy. Already in the first coalition a special approximation had taken place between Caesar and Crassus as the two weaker parties; a common interest and a common danger tightened yet more the bond which joined the richest and the most insolvent of Romans in closest alliance. While in public the democrats described the absent general as the head and pride of their party and seemed to direct all their arrows against the aristocracy, preparations were secretly made against Pompeius; and these attempts of the democracy to escape from the impending military dictatorship have historically a far higher significance than the noisy agitation, for the most part employed only as a mask, against the nobility. It is true that they were carried on amidst a darkness, upon which our tradition allows only some stray gleams of light to fall; for not the present alone, but the succeeding age also had its reasons for throwing a veil over the matter. But in general both the course and the object of these efforts are completely clear. The military power could only be effectually checkmated by another military power. The design of the democrats was to possess themselves of the reins of government after the example of Marius and Cinna, then to entrust one of their leaders either with the conquest of Egypt or with the governorship of Spain or some similar ordinary or extraordinary office, and thus to find in him and his military force a counterpoise to Pompeius and his army. For this they required a revolution, which was directed immediately against the nominal government, but in reality against Pompeius as the designated monarch;(8) and, to effect this revolution, there was from the passing of the Gabinio-Manilian laws down to the return of Pompeius (688-692) perpetual conspiracy in Rome. The capital was in anxious suspense; the depressed temper of the capitalists, the suspensions of payment, the frequent bankruptcies were heralds of the fermenting revolution, which seemed as though it must at the same time produce a totally new position of parties. The project of the democracy, which pointed beyond the senate at Pompeius, suggested an approximation between that general and the senate. But the democracy in attempting to oppose to the dictatorship of Pompeius that of a man more agreeable to it, recognized, strictly speaking, on its part also the military government, and in reality drove out Satan by Beelzebub; the question of principles became in its hands a question of persons.

League Of The Democrats And The Anarchists

The first step towards the revolution projected by the leaders of the democracy was thus to be the overthrow of the existing government by means of an insurrection primarily instigated in Rome by democratic conspirators. The moral condition of the lowest as of the highest ranks of society in the capital presented the materials for this purpose in lamentable abundance. We need not here repeat what was the character of the free and the servile proletariate of the capital. The significant saying was already heard, that only the poor man was qualified to represent the poor; the idea was thus suggested, that the mass of the poor might constitute itself an independent power as well as the oligarchy of the rich, and instead of allowing itself to be tyrannized over, might perhaps in its own turn play the tyrant. But even in the circles of the young men of rank similar ideas found an echo. The fashionable life of the capital shattered not merely the fortunes of men, but also their vigour of body and mind. That elegant world of fragrant ringlets, of fashionable mustachios and ruffles--merry as were its doings in the dance and with the harp, and early and late at the wine-cup--yet concealed in its bosom an alarming abyss of moral and economic ruin, of well or ill concealed despair, and frantic or knavish resolves. These circles sighed without disguise for a return of the time of Cinna with its proscriptions and confiscations and its annihilation of account-books for debt; there were people enough, including not a few of no mean descent and unusual abilities, who only waited the signal to fall like a gang of robbers on civil society and to recruit by pillage the fortune which they had squandered.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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