The terrible disintegration which the Social War had brought on Italy was faithfully reproduced in Rome. There, too, every man's hand was against his neighbour. Creditor and debtor, tribune and consul, Senate and anti-Senate, fiercely confronted each other. Personal interests had become so much more prominent, and old party-divisions were so confused by the schemes of Italianising politicians, aristocratic in their connexions, but cleaving to part at least of the traditional democratic programme, that it is very hard to see where the views of one faction blended with those of another and where they clashed. [The Sulpician revolution difficult to understand.] Still harder is it to dissect the character of individuals; to decide, for instance, how far a man like Sulpicius was swayed by disinterested principles, and how far he fought for his own hand. We need not make too much of the fact that he appealed to force, because violence was the order of the day, and submission to the law simply meant submission to the law of force. But there are some parts of his career apparently so inconsistent as almost to defy explanation which in any case can be little more than guesswork.

[Sulpicius.] Publius Sulpicius Rufus was now in the prime of life, having been born in 124 B.C. He was an aristocrat, an orator of great force and fire, and a friend of Drusus, whose views he shared and inherited. Cicero speaks of him in no grudging terms. 'Of all the speakers I have heard Sulpicius was the grandest, and, so to speak, most tragic. Besides being powerful, his voice was sweet and resonant. His gestures and movements, elegant though they were, had nothing theatrical about them, and his oratory, though quick and fluent, was neither redundant nor verbose.' [Financial crisis at Rome.] The year before his tribunate had been a turbulent one at Rome. The Social War and Asiatic disturbances had brought about a financial crisis. Debtors, hard pressed by their creditors, invoked obsolete penalties against usury in their defence, and the creditors, because the praetor Asellio attempted to submit the question to trial, murdered him in the open Forum. The debtors responded by a cry for tabulae novae, or a sweeping remission of all debts. Of these debtors many doubtless would belong to the lower orders; but, from a proposal of Sulpicius made the next year, it appears probable that some were found in the ranks of the Senate. War had made money 'tight,' to use the phraseology of our modern Stock Exchange, and reckless extravagance could no longer be supported by borrowing.

[Sulpicius the successor of Drusus.] Sulpicius inherited the policy of Drusus, which was to reconstruct the Senatorial Government on an Italian basis. Like Drusus he had to conciliate prejudices in order to carry out his design. Plutarch says that he went about with 600 men of the equestrian order, whom he called his anti-Senate. No doubt it was to please these equites, who would belong to the party of creditors, that he proposed that no one should be a senator who owed more than 2,000 denarii. No doubt, too, he would have filled the vacancies thus created by the expulsion of reckless anti-Italian optimates, from the ranks of these equites, just as Drusus had done. [He attempts to remodel the government.] Just like Drusus, too, he had to court the proletariate, and this he did by proposing to enrol freedmen in the tribes. This, as they were generally dependent on men of his own order, he could do without prejudice to the new-modelled aristocracy which he was attempting to organize. He also proposed to grant an amnesty to those who had been exiled by the Lex Varia, hoping, no doubt, to gain more by the adherents who would return to Rome than he would lose by the return of men like Varius himself. He had opposed such an amnesty before; but on such a point he might have easily changed his views, especially if a strong cry was being raised by the friends of the exiles. He had a personal feud with the Julian family, because he had opposed Caesar's illegal candidature for the consulship; but, having fortified himself by such alliances, he proceeded to carry out the main design of Drusus, namely, the complete enfranchisement of the Italians. [Pro-Italian measure of Sulpicius.] This, perhaps, would be especially distasteful to the Julii, as superseding the Lex Julia and the Lex Plautia Papiria, which to them, no doubt, seemed ample and more than ample concessions. Sulpicius, on the other hand, and the minority of the Senate which sided with him, saw that under the cover of clemency a grievous wrong was being done. For not only were the Italians who had submitted since the terms of the Lex Plautia took effect without the franchise, but from the fact of their rebellion they had lost their old privileges as allied States. Even those who had benefited by these concessions had benefited only in name. As they voted in new tribes, their votes were valueless, and often would not be recorded at all; for a majority on most questions would be assured long before it came to their turn to vote. To a statesman imbued with the views of Drusus such a distribution of the franchise must have seemed impolitic trickery; and, like Drusus, Sulpicius resorted to questionable means in order to gain the end on which he had set his heart.

Rome was thus broken up into two camps, not as of yore broadly marked off by palpable distinctions of rank, property, or privilege, but each containing adherents of all sorts and conditions, though in the Senate the opponents of Sulpicius had the majority. When Sulpicius proposed to enrol the Italians in the old tribes, the consuls proclaimed a justitium, or suspension of all public business for some religious observances. It is said by some modern writers that the object of Sulpicius in proposing to enrol the Italians in the old tribes was to secure the election of Marius to the command against Mithridates. It is certain, indeed, that Marius longed for it. [Attitude of Marius.] Daily he was to be seen in the Campus Martius exercising with the young men, and, though old and fat, showing himself nimble in arms and active on horseback - conduct which excited some men's good-humoured sympathy, but shocked others, who thought he had much better go to Baiae for the baths there, and that such an exhibition was contemptible in one of his years. Sulpicius may have thought Marius quite fit for the command, and was warranted in thinking so by the events of the Social War; but there is no more ground for supposing that the election of Marius was his primary object than for considering Plutarch's diatribe a fair estimate of his character. [Connection of Marius and Sulpicius explained.] He was the friend and successor of Drusus, and his alliance with Marius was a means to the end which in common with Drusus he had in view, and not the end itself. This consideration is essential to a true understanding of the politics of the time, and just makes the difference whether Sulpicius was a petty-minded adventurer or deliberately following in the lines laid down for him by a succession of statesmen. [Sidenote: Street-fighting.] To the manoeuvre of the consul he replied by a violent protest that it was illegal. Rome was being paraded by his partisans - 3,000 armed men, and there was a tumult in which the lives of the consuls were in danger. One, Pompeius Rufus, escaped, but his son was killed. The other, Sulla, annulled the justitium, but is said to have got off with his life only because Marius generously gave him shelter in his own house. In these occurrences it is impossible not to see that the consuls were the first to act unfairly. Sulpicius had been intending to bring forward his laws in the regular fashion. They thwarted him by a trick. Whether he in anger gave the signal for violence, or whether, as is quite as likely, his Italian partisans did not wait for his bidding, the blame of the tumult lay at the door of the other side. In such cases he is not guiltiest who strikes the first blow, but he who has made blows inevitable.

[The Sulpician laws carried by force.] The laws of Sulpicius were carried. [Sulla flies to the army, which marches on Rome.] Sulla fled to the army; and, perhaps, it was only now that Sulpicius, knowing or thinking that he knew that Sulla would march on Rome, carried a resolution in the popular assembly for making Marius commander in the east. Two tribunes were accordingly sent to the camp at Nola to take the army from Sulla. His soldiers immediately slew them; and, burning for the booty of Asia and attached to their fortunate leader, they, when without venturing to hint at the means by which he could avenge it, he complained of the wrong done to him, clamorously called on him to lead them to Rome. All his officers, except one quaestor, left him; but he set out with six legions and was joined by Pompeius on the way. Two praetors met him and forbade his advance. They escaped with their lives, but the soldiers broke their fasces and tore off their senatorial robes. A second and a third time the Senate sent to ask his intentions. 'To release Rome from her tyrants,' was the grim reply. Then he vouchsafed an offer that the Senate, Marius, and Sulpicius should meet him in the Campus Martius to come to terms. If this meant that he would come with his army at his back, it was an absurd proposal. If it meant that he would come alone, it was a falsehood. In either case it was a device to fritter away time. [Sulla's astuteness and superstition.] For all the while that he was bandying meaningless messages he continued his onward march. He had sacrificed, and the soothsayer Postumius, when he saw the entrails, had stretched out his hands to him, and offered to be kept in chains for punishment after the battle if it was not a victory. He, too, had himself seen a vision of good omen. Bellona, or another goddess, had, he dreamed, put a thunderbolt in his hands, and, naming his enemies one by one, bidden him strike them, and they were consumed to ashes.

Again envoys came from the Senate forbidding him to come within five miles of Rome. Perhaps they still felt as secure in the immemorial freedom of the city from military rule as the English Parliament did before Cromwell's coup d'etat. Again he amused them, and no doubt himself also, with a falsehood, and, professing compliance, followed close upon their heels. With one legion he occupied the Caelian Gate, with another under Pompeius the Colline Gate, with a third the Pons Sublicius, while a fourth was posted outside as a reserve. Thus, for the first time, a consul commanded an army in the city, and soldiers were masters of Rome. [Street-fighting.] Marius and Sulpicius met them on the Esquiline and, pouring down tiles from the housetops, at first beat them back. But Sulla, waving a burning torch, bade his men shoot fiery arrows at the houses, and drove the Marians from the Esquiline Forum. Then he sent for the legion in reserve, and ordered a detachment to go round by the Subura and take the enemy in the rear. In vain Marius made another stand at the temple of Tellus. In vain he offered liberty to any slaves that would join him. He was beaten and fled from the city. Thus Sulla, having by injustice provoked disorder, quelled it by the sword, and began the civil war. Sulpicius, Marius, and ten others were proscribed, and Sulla is said to have still further stimulated the pursuit of Marius by setting a price on his head. [Sulpicius slain.] Sulpicius was killed at Laurentum, and, according to Velleius Paterculus, Sulla fixed up the eloquent orator's head at the Rostra, a thing not unlikely to have been done by a man to whose nature such grim irony was thoroughly congenial. [Stories of Sulla.] He evinced it on this occasion in another way, which may have suggested to Victor Hugo his episode of Lantenac and the gunner. He gave the slave who betrayed Sulpicius his freedom, and then had him hurled from the Tarpeian Rock. After this he set to work to restore such order as would enable him to hasten to the east.

[Why Sulla left Italy.] Various explanations have been offered to account for his moderation at this conjuncture, and for his leaving Italy precisely when his enemies were again gathering for an attack. But the true one has never yet, perhaps, been suggested. Who was it that had made him supreme at Rome? The army. What had been the bribe which had won it over? A campaign in Asia under the fortunate Sulla. Without that army he was powerless, nay, he was a dead man. Therefore it was absolutely necessary to execute his pledge to the army, which would have no keen desire to encounter its countrymen in Italy. No doubt he coveted the glory and spoil of the Asiatic command; but it is absurd to suppose that he would have quitted Italy now of his own free will. He had no choice in the matter. He was bound hand and foot by his promises to the soldiers; and all that he could do was by plausible moderation to win as many friends, conciliate as many foes, as possible, throw on Cinna, whom he could not hope to keep quiet, the guilt of perjury, and trust to fortune for the rest. This is a probable and consistent view of what now took place at Rome; and every other account makes out Sulla to have been either inconsistent, which he never was, for he was always uniformly selfish; or patriotic, which he never was, if patriotism consists in sacrificing private to public considerations; or indifferent, which he was in principle but never in practice, unless where his own interests were not threatened and only the suffering of others involved.

[Sulla's measures.] His first measure was to annul the Sulpician laws. Secondly, to relieve the debtors, some colonies were established, and a law was passed about interest, the terms of which we do not know. Thirdly, the Senate, thinned by the Social War and the Varian law, was recruited by 300 optimates. Fourthly, because Sulpicius had resisted the proclamation of a justitium - that device by which the Senate had virtually, though not legally, retained in its own hands the power of discussing any measure before it was submitted to the people - therefore for the future no measure was to be submitted to the people till it had been previously discussed by the Senate. In other words, the Senate was now confirmed by law in a privilege which it had hitherto only exercised by the employment of a fiction. Fifthly, the votes were to be taken, not in the Comitia Tributa, but in the Comitia of Centuries. Sixthly, the five classes were no longer to have an equal voice, but the first class was, as in the Servian constitution, to have nearly half the votes. As the first class consisted of those who had an estate of 100,000 sesterces, this ordinance changed the democracy into a timocracy, transferring the power from the people generally to the wealthier classes: but, considering how voting had been manipulated of late, it was perhaps a measure due to the Senate quite as much as to Sulla. On the whole he legislated as little as he could and proscribed as few as he could. [Opposition to Sulla.] But he tried to get two of his partisans, Servius and Nonius, elected consuls for the year 87. Instead of them, however, L. Cornelius Cinna, a determined leader of the populares, was elected; and though Cnaeus Octavius, his colleague, was one of the optimates, he was not Sulla's creature. In another quarter his arrangements were thwarted even more unpleasantly. He had got a decree framed by the people, giving the army of the north to his friend Q. Pompeius Rufus, and recalling Cn. Pompeius Strabo. But the latter procured the assassination of the former, and remained at the head of the army. Still Sulla showed no resentment. A tribune named Virginius was threatening to prosecute him. But he contented himself with making Cinna ascend the Capitol with a stone in his hand, and, throwing it down before a number of spectators, solemnly swear to observe the new constitution. Then, leaving Metellus in Samnium and Appius Claudius at Nola, he hurried to Capua, and embarking at Brundusium felt, no doubt, that if he must pay his debt to the army before the army would commit fresh treasons for him, it was not unpleasant now to be forced away from the wasps' nest which he had stirred up round him at home. And so, making a virtue of a necessity, he sailed with a light heart from the chance of assassination at Rome to fame and fortune in the East.

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