The Jugurthine, Cimbric, and Social Wars - Marius and Sulla

In the year of the first tribuneship of Caius Gracchus, the Belearic islands were added to the Roman dominion; and six years afterwards (B.C. 117), Dalmatia was reduced to a Roman province. About this time the famous Jugurtha, the illegitimate son of one of the sons of Masinissa, already mentioned as a king of Numidia in the Roman interest, was left heir to that kingdom, in conjunction with his two cousins, by Micipsa, their father and his uncle. Aspiring to the undivided sovereignty, he killed one of his cousins, and drove the other to Rome. Interfering in behalf of the expelled prince, the Romans compelled Jugurtha to share Numidia with him. By bribing the commissioners, however, who were sent to effect the division, Jugurtha obtained the best part for himself; and not long after (B.C. 112), he showed his contempt for the Romans by invading his cousin's dominions, and putting him to death. Bribes and wily tactics protected him for a while from the vengeance of the Romans; but at length, in the year B.C. 109, the brave consul Metellus who was proof against bribes, went over to Numidia to conduct the war which his predecessors had mismanaged. After he had carried on the war successfully for two years, he was supplanted by his second in command, Caius Marius, a man of humble birth, and nearly fifty years of age, who, although almost without education, had raised himself to high rank by his military talents, and whose. services under Metellus had been so favorably represented at Rome, that he was appointed consul (B.C. 107), with the express intention that he should end the Jugurthine war. This he speedily accomplished, greatly assisted by his quaestor, a young man of high patrician family and unusual literary accomplishments, named Lucius Cornelius Sulla. Jugurtha was sent to Rome, where he was starved in prison (B.C. 106); and the services of Marius were at the disposal of the Romans for a war of an infinitely more formidable character than that which had been waged against this ill-fated African.

About the year B.C. 113, a numerous tribe of savages, called Cimbri, but who were most probably Celts, had been set in motion in the southeast of Europe; and emigrating westward, they had communicated their restlessness to the Tutones, and undoubtedly German race, through whose territories they must have passed. Roving about in quest of settlements, sometimes together, and sometimes separately, the two barbarian hosts, consisting of men, women, and children, had thrown all Gaul into consternation; and as the Romans had already colonized the portion of Gaul contiguous to the Alps, the duty of checking the savages devolved on them, the more especially as there was some danger that Italy would be invaded. But such a moving mass of human beings, driven by that hardest of forces, hunger, was not easily to be checked; and army after army sent by the Romans to oppose them had been shivered to pieces. All Italy began to tremble, and there was a universal cry among the Romans, 'Make Marius again consul.' Accordingly Marius was chosen consul a second time in his absence (B.C. 104), that he might drive back the Cimbri. Meanwhile the poor homeless creatures had made a general rush towards Spain; and the Romans, to secure the services of Marius when they should be required, reelected him to the consulship in B.C. 102. In the latter year, when Marius was consul for the fourth time, the barbarians, repulsed from Spain, directed their march towards the Alps. Fortunately, they divided themselves into two masses - the Teutones taking one route, the Cimbri another. The former, amounting to about 300,000 men, were met by Marius, and slaughtered, all except 90,000, who were made prisoners, and sold as slaves. Meanwhile the Cimbri had been making progress in their route, and to oppose them, Marius was elected to a fifth consulship (B.C. 101). Another bloody field, in which about 140,000 were slain, and 60,000 taken prisoners, delivered Italy from its fears. Strange and affecting thought, that half a million of human beings, women and children, should be wandering through Europe for years, poor outcasts, with their little carts and cooking-kettles, and that a civilized nation should have been compelled, by the necessity of self-preservation, to take means to sweep them out of existence!

Marius was rewarded for his exertions with a sixth consulship (B.C. 100), which, there being now no enemy to call forth his military activity, he employed in political schemes for the humiliation of the aristocratic or senatorial party, to which, both by the accident of birth and on principle, he was a determined enemy. The efforts of the nobles, however, assisted by the violent conduct of the partisans of Marius, especially a tribune named Saturninus, occasioned a reaction and on the expiry of his consulship, Marius withdrew from Rome, and undertook a journey to the East, where the Roman influence was extending itself. During the following ten years the political agitations were incessant, the liberal spirit of that party of which Marius was the head developing itself every year in fresh manifestations, and the aristocratic party becoming every year more fierce and dogged in their opposition. On the aristocratic side, the ablest and most earnest man, although not yet the most distinguished, was Sulla - the former quaestor of Marius, and who had since been employed in various capacities both military and civil. At length, in the year B.C. 90, a storm which had been long gathering burst out in that war which is denominated in history 'the Social or Marsic War,' or 'the War of Italian Independence.'

As early as the tribuneship of Caius Gracchus, a clamor had been raised for the emancipation of the various Italian states from the thraldom in which they were held by the Romans. The progress of time welding the various Italian nationalities into one common society, and giving to all parts of the peninsula a common interest, had made them sensible to the grievances arising from their subordinate condition. The system of a triple franchise - Roman, Latin, and Italian inevitable perhaps at first, had now become a source of gross injustice. To put an end to this injustice, the Italians demanded the full Roman franchise. Caius Gracchus wished to bestow it on them; and from the time of his death, 'Italian, emancipation' had been one of the watchwords of the liberal party. Despairing of effecting their end by agitation, and especially provoked by a recent persecution of the Italian tradesmen who had settled in Rome, the Italian nations had recourse to arms (B.C. 90). Ten of these - namely, the Piceni, the Vestinians, the Marrucenians, the Marsians, the Pelignians, the Samnites, the Frentanians, the Hirpinians, the Lucanians, and the Apulians, constituted themselves into a confederacy for the destruction of Rome, and the foundation of a new Commonwealth, of which Corfinium, under the new name of Italica, was to be the capital, and which was to embrace the whole peninsula. Fortunately for Rome, the Latins (including the various colonies of the Latin name throughout Italy), the Etruscans, the Umbrians, and the Campanians, did not join the confederacy. The Latins were instantly rewarded with the Roman franchise, and the field was taken against the confederacy. During two years, the war was carried on vigorously on both sides, the most distinguished of the Roman generals being Marius, Sulla, and Cneius Pompeius Strabo. At length (B.C. 89), the Italians having been greatly reduced, and the whole peninsula having suffered much, the Romans saw fit to yield to demands which many even of those whose patriotism led them to fight against the allies believed to be just. The Roman citizenship was extending to all the nations of the peninsula south of the Po, the new citizens being either distributed, according to one account, among eight of the old tribes, or arranged, according to another, in fifteen new ones. At the same time the Latin franchise was conferred on the Gauls between the Po and the Alps.

Sulla had gained greater distinction in the Marsic War than Marius, who was now verging on old age. The public eye was consequently turned to Sulla; and as, on the appearance of the Cimbric hosts twenty years before, the Romans had placed their dependence on Marius, so now, on the breaking out of war in the East, they placed their dependence on his younger rival. Mithridates VI, the young king of Pontus, an Oriental by birth, but of Greek education, and a man of splendid abilities, had been for some years silently extending his dominions in western Asia; and the Romans, long jealous of his movements, had at length openly warned him to desist. Mithridates scouted the warning; marched through Asia Minor, putting the Romans to the sword; and was welcomed every where by the Asiatic Greeks as a deliverer from the Roman yoke: ultimately (B.C. 88), crossing over into Greece, he menaced the Empire near its centre.

Sulla, then engaged with the Samnites, the last dregs of the Social War, was chosen consul, and invested with the command against the Eastern monarch. He was then in the forty-ninth year of his age. Vexed at the preference of his rival, the grim old Marius used all his efforts to have the appointment canceled, and himself nominated to the Mithridatic command. His political opinions recommending him to many, and a tribune named Sulpicius having procured the passing of a preliminary measure distributing the new Italian citizens among all the old tribes, which had now attained the number of thirty-five, he at length carried his point, and Sulla was superseded. But the aristocratic general was not a man to be trifled with. Marching from the south of Italy, where he was when he heard the news, he appeared with his army before the city, forced his entrance through the rotten walls, dislodged his antagonists from the houses from which they were throwing stones and missiles at his men, and compelled Marius and his adherents to save their lives by a precipitate flight. Marius escaped to Africa; Sulla, after settling affairs at Rome, set out for Greece. Here he speedily retrieved the Roman losses sacked Athens, which had provoked him by its opposition; and reduced Archelaus, the general of Mithridates, to such extremities, that having crossed into Asia, Mithridates was glad to conclude a peace with him (B.C. 84), by which he renounced all he had gained, and agreed to pay the expenses of the war. Meanwhile a terrible reaction had occurred at Rome in Sulla's absence. Scarcely had he left the city (B.C. 87), when Lucius Cornelius Cinna, one of the consuls whose appointment he had sanctioned, proclaimed himself on the popular side, and commenced a series of measures directly opposed to Sulla's views. His colleague Octavius drove him from Rome, and the senate deposed him from the consulship. The Italians, however, gathered round Cinna; Marius and his fellow-exiles hearing of the movement, hastened back to Italy; all the able military men of the Marian party, and among them a young and generous commander named Sertorius, excited themselves to raise troops; and at length the aristocratic party found themselves besieged in Rome. Famine and pestilence began their ravages in the city; and the senate, reinstating Cinna in the consulship, capitulated on the understanding that blood should not be shed. But there was little softness in the nature of Marius. Admitted into the city, the stern old man, who was already tottering on the brink of the grave, revenged his wrongs by a frightful massacre, in which many men of distinction fell. Marius then caused himself to be elected to a seventh consulship (B.C. 86), his colleague being Cinna. He enjoyed the unprecedented honor but a few days, dying on the 13th of January (B.C. 86), and Valerius Flaccus was named his successor. Flaccus, setting out with authority to supersede Sulla in the Mithridatic war, was murdered by his legate Flavius Fimbria, who assumed the command of the army, and gained some successes; but being afterwards hard pressed by Sulla, and deserted by his army, committed suicide. This occurred about the time of the conclusion of the peace with Mithridates (B.C. 84); and Sulla, after settling the affairs of Asia Minor, and draining the country of money, so remorselessly as to affect its prosperity for a century, commenced his journey homewards, with bloody purposes against Cinna and his adherents, and an army ready to execute them.

Cinna did not live to face his dreadful enemy. Murdered by his soldiers in his fourth consulship, he left, as his successors in the leadership of the popular party, Caius Marius the Younger, Papirius Carbo, and the brave Sertorius the two former of whom were chosen consuls for the year B.C. 82, to oppose Sulla in Italy, while Sertorius was despatched to Spain to secure that province. But Carbo and the younger Marius, even when backed by the brave Samnites and other Italian nations, were not equal to a contest with such a general as Sulla, assisted as he was by commanders like Metellus, Lucullus, and young Cneius Pompeius Strabo, more commonly called Pompey, the son of that Pompeius who had been one of the Roman generals in the Marsic War. The consular armies were defeated; Marius killed himself; Carbo fled to Africa; and Sulla remained master of Italy. Fearful was his vengeance. The massacre which Marius had ordered five years before, was slight compared with the butcheries which took place by the command of Sulla. In Rome, and over all Italy, every man of distinction implicated in the popular movement was sought out and slain. Proscription lists, as they were called that is, lists of doomed individuals - were published and soldiers were ready to track them out for the prices put upon their heads. Military colonies were likewise planted in all parts of Italy lands being taken by force for that purpose: thus purging Italy of the Marian leaven, Sulla was resolved to create in it a new population, which should be pliant to aristocratic influence.

The work of the soldier over, Sulla commenced that of the legislator. Appointed perpetual dictator B.C. 82, he continued for three years to exercise the sovereignty, making alterations in the constitution, the general effect of which was to lessen the power of the people in political affairs, and reforming the criminal law. In B.C. 79, he surprised every one by abdicating the dictatorship, and retiring into private life; and in the following year he died of a loathsome and incurable disorder, brought on by his debaucheries. Among other evidences of Sulla's literary accomplishments, he left memoirs of his own life composed in Greek.