CHAPTER XXXI. CLODIUS AND MILO. - DEATH OF CRASSUS.
During the nine years (59-50) passed by Caesar in Gaul, great confusion prevailed at Rome. The Republic needed a strong, firm hand, which would stop the shedding of blood and insure security of person and property. Pompey had attempted to bring about this result, but had failed. There were two prominent factions, one led by CLODIUS, the other by MILO.
"Clodius is the most extraordinary figure in this extraordinary period. He had no character. He had no distinguished talent save for speech; he had no policy; he was ready to adopt any cause or person which for the moment was convenient to him; and yet for five years this man was the leader of the Roman mob. He could defy justice, insult the Consuls, beat the Tribunes, parade the streets with a gang of armed slaves, killing persons disagreeable to him; and in the Senate itself he had high friends and connections, who threw a shield over him when his audacity had gone beyond endurance." Milo was as disreputable as Clodius. His chief fame had been gained in the schools of the gladiators. Gangs of armed slaves accompanied him everywhere, and there were constant collisions between his retainers and those of Clodius.
In 57 Consuls were elected who favored Cicero, and his recall was demanded. Clodius and his followers opposed the recall. The nobles, led by their tool Milo, pressed it. Day after day the opposing parties met in bloody affrays. For seven months the brawl continued, till Milo's party finally got the ascendancy; the Assembly was convened, and the recall voted.
For seventeen months Cicero had been in Greece, lamenting his hard lot. He landed at Brundisium on August 5, 57, and proceeded to Rome. Outside the city all men of note, except his avowed enemies, were waiting to receive him. The Senate voted to restore his property, and to rebuild his palace on the Palatine Hill and his other villas at the public expense. But Clodius, with his bands of ruffians, interrupted the workmen engaged in the repair of his Palatine house, broke down the walls, and, attacking Cicero himself, nearly murdered him.
At last Clodius even attempted to burn the house of Milo. The long struggle between these two ruffians culminated when Milo was a candidate for the consulship, and Clodius for the praetorship. The two meeting by accident in the Via Appia at Bovillae, Clodius was murdered, 20 January, 52. This act of violence strengthened Pompey, who was nominated sole Consul. Milo was impeached. His guilt was evident, and he went into exile at Massilia. Cicero prepared an elaborate speech in his defence, but did not dare to deliver it.
During the interval between the two campaigns of 57 and 56, Caesar renewed his alliance with his two colleagues in interviews that were held at Ravenna and Luca. He retained the command of Gaul; Pompey, that of Spain; Crassus, that of Syria.
CRASSUS now undertook the war against the Parthians. He was accompanied by his son, who had done good service under Caesar in Gaul. They arrived at Zeugma, a city of Syria, on the Euphrátes; and the Romans, seven legions strong, with four thousand cavalry, drew themselves up along the river. The Quaestor, CASSIUS, a man of ability, proposed to Crassus a plan of the campaign, which consisted in following the river as far as Seleucia, in order not to be separated from his fleet and provisions, and to avoid being surrounded by the cavalry of the enemy. But Crassus allowed himself to be deceived by an Arab chief, who lured him to the sandy plains of Mesopotamia at Carrhae.
The forces of the Parthians, divided into many bodies, suddenly rushed upon the Roman ranks, and drove them back. The young Crassus attempted a charge at the head of fifteen hundred horsemen. The Parthians yielded, but only to draw him into an ambush, where he perished, after great deeds of valor. His head, carried on the end of a pike, was borne before the eyes of his unhappy father, who, crushed by grief and despair, gave the command into the hands of Cassius. Cassius gave orders for a general retreat. The Parthians subjected the Roman army to continual losses, and Crassus himself was killed in a conference (53).
In this disastrous campaign there perished more than twenty thousand Romans. Ten thousand were taken prisoners and compelled to serve as slaves in the army of the Parthians.
The death of Crassus broke the Triumvirate; that of Julia, in 54, had sundered the family ties between Caesar and Pompey, who married Cornelia, the widow of the young Crassus, and daughter of Metellus Scipio.