CHAPTER I. ANTECEDENTS OF THE REVOLUTION.
[Whence the slaves came. Their treatment.] A vast impetus had been given to the slave-trade at the time of the conquest of Macedonia, about thirty-five years before our period. The great slave-producing countries were those bordering on the Mediterranean - Africa, Asia, Spain, &c. An organized system of man-hunting supplied the Roman markets, and slave-dealers were part of the ordinary retinue of a Roman army. When a batch of slaves reached its destination they were kept in a pen till bought. Those bought for domestic service would no doubt be best off, and the cunning, mischievous rogue, the ally of the young against the old master of whom we read in Roman comedy, if he does not come up to our ideal of what a man should be, does not seem to have been physically very wretched. Even here, however, we see how degraded a thing a slave was, and the frequent threats of torture prove how utterly he was at the mercy of a cruel master's caprice. We know, too, that when a master was arraigned on a criminal charge, the first thing done to prove his guilt was to torture his slaves. But just as in America the popular figure of the oily, lazy, jocular negro, brimming over with grotesque good-humour and screening himself in the weakness of an indulgent master, merely served to brighten a picture of which the horrible plantation system was the dark background; so at Rome no instances of individual indulgence were a set-off against the monstrous barbarities which in the end brought about their own punishment, and the ruin of the Republic. [Sidenote: Dread inspired by the prospect of Roman slavery.] Frequent stories attest the horrors of Roman slavery felt by conquered nations. We read often of individuals, and sometimes of whole towns, committing suicide sooner than fall into the conquerors' hands. Sometimes slaves slew their dealers, sometimes one another. A boy in Spain killed his three sisters and starved himself to avoid slavery. Women killed their children with the same object. If, as it is asserted, the plantation-system was not yet introduced into Italy, such stories, and the desperate out-breaks, and almost incredibly merciless suppression of slave revolts, prove that the condition of the Roman slave was sufficiently miserable. [The horrors of slavery culminated in Sicily.] But doubtless misery reached its climax in Sicily, where that system was in full swing. Slaves not sold for domestic service were there branded and often made to work in chains, the strongest serving as shepherds. Badly fed and clothed, these shepherds plundered whenever they found the chance. Such brigandage was winked at, and sometimes positively encouraged, by the owners, while the governors shrank from punishing the brigands for fear of offending their masters. As the demand for slaves grew, slave-breeding as well as slave-importation was practised. No doubt there were as various theories as to the most profitable management of slaves then as in America lately. Damophilus had the instincts of a Legree: a Haley and a Cato would have held much the same sentiments as to the rearing of infants. Some masters would breed and rear, and try to get more work from the slave by kindness than harshness. Others would work them off and buy afresh; and as this would be probably the cheapest policy, no doubt it was the prevalent one. And what an appalling vista of dumb suffering do such considerations open to us! Cold, hunger, nakedness, torture, infamy, a foreign country, a strange climate, a life so hard that it made the early death which was almost inevitable a comparative blessing - such was the terrible lot of the Roman slave. At last, almost simultaneously at various places in the Roman dominions, he turned like a beast upon a brutal drover. [Outbreaks in various quarters.] At Rome, at Minturnae, at Sinuessa, at Delos, in Macedonia, and in Sicily insurrections or attempts at insurrections broke out. They were everywhere mercilessly suppressed, and by wholesale torture and crucifixion the conquerors tried to clothe death, their last ally, with terror which even a slave dared not encounter. In the year when Tiberius Gracchus was tribune (and the coincidence is significant), it was found necessary to send a consul to put down the first slave revolt in Sicily. It is not known when it broke out. [Story of Damophilus.] Its proximate cause was the brutality of Damophilus, of Enna, and his wife Megallis. His slaves consulted a man named Eunous, a Syrian-Greek, who had long foretold that he would be a king, and whom his master's guests had been in the habit of jestingly asking to remember them when he came to the throne. [The first Sicilian slave war.] Eunous led a band of 400 against Enna. He could spout fire from his mouth, and his juggling and prophesying inspired confidence in his followers. All the men of Enna were slain except the armourers, who were fettered and compelled to forge arms. Damophilus and Megallis were brought with every insult into the theatre. He began to beg for his life with some effect, but Hermeias and another cut him down; and his wife, after being tortured by the women, was cast over a precipice. But their daughter had been gentle to the slaves, and they not only did not harm her, but sent her under an escort, of which this Hermeias was one, to Catana. Eunous was now made king, and called himself Antiochus. He made Achaeus his general, was joined by Cleon with 5,000 slaves, and soon mustered 10,000 men. Four praetors (according to Florus) were defeated; the number of the rebels rapidly increased to 200,000; and the whole island except a few towns was at their mercy. In 134 the consul Flaccus went to Sicily; but with what result is not known. In 133 the consul L. Calpurnius Piso captured Messana, killed 8,000 slaves, and crucified all his prisoners. In 132 P. Rupilius captured the two strongholds of the slaves, Tauromenium and Enna (Taormina and Castragiovanni).