ROME-THE IMPERIAL REPUBLIC.
conquests made by the generals and armies of the Republic was to fill Rome
and all Italy with multitudes of slaves. The policy of selling into
servitude not only the soldier population, but all the inhabitants of
conquered countries was universally adopted. The slave sale was looked for
as a matter of course after every victory won by the Roman arms. Among the
upper classes of society free labor was almost unknown. The vast landed
estates of the nobles were cultivated by a servile race, driven mercilessly
to their tasks, punished, whipped, starved, killed, with impunity. Nor was
there any badge of nationality, color, or natural inferiority to
distinguish the slaves from the other classes of population. They were not
by any means the refuse people of other states, but were a heterogeneous
aggregation of human beings swept together by the surging tides of war from
all quarters of the world, and embracing every grade and rank and tribe
from the blackest son of the Libyan desert to the most refined philosopher
of Athens. In intelligence and the possession of those arts and refinements
which tend to humanize mankind, the slaves were frequently the superiors of
the coarse and brutal masters into whose power they had been flung by the
vicissitudes of war. It was in the nature of things to be expected that
this immense throng of creatures, made wretched by exile and callous by the
miseries of servitude, would in some moment of passion, aroused perhaps by
unusual barbarity and injustice, make a clutch at their masters throats and
repay in an hour of fury the wrongs of a generation.
The first revolt of the slaves occurred in Sicily. A certain serf, named
Ennus, became the leader of the insurrection. The circumstances of the
revolt were illustrative of the condition of society and the spirit of the
times. Ennus was a prophet. He claimed to be in possession of the lore of
Syria. He predicted events, which, as fortune would have it, chanced to
come true. Among other things he foretold his own royalty that was to be.
Great was the reputation which this servile seer acquired, especially among
the desperate class to which he belonged. He had communion with the gods.
and could blow flames of fire out of his mouth. To him the slaves of the
island began to look as a divinely appointed leader. Presently the serfs on
the estate of a cruel tyrant, named Damophilus, driven to desperation by
abuse, rose against their master, murdering him and his whole household,
except a daughter who had previously treated them with kindness.
The outbreak was the spark in a magazine. The insurrection spread like a
flame, and in a short time Ennus found himself at the head of a host of two
hundred thousand slaves. For the time Sicily was at their mercy. Four
consular armies were sent against them, and were as many times defeated.
The town of Enna was captured and plundered. The years B. C. 134-132 were
consumed by the Romans in futile efforts to suppress the insurrection. The
rebels gained possession of the town of Tauromenium, and made it their
stronghold. Against this place in B. C. 132 was sent the consul Publius
Rupilius with a fifth army. The town was besieged and finally taken, as was
also the fortress of Enna, but not until the desperate wretches within the
works were reduced to the extremity of eating the bodies of their comrades
in order to preserve life. Those who survived were seized by Rupilius and
hurled down a precipice. Ennus, the king of the slaves, made his escape and
took refuge in a cavern, where he was presently caught and destroyed.
Rupilius, acting as proconsul, and assisted by ten commissioners sent out
from Rome, then proceeded to restore order in the island; but the
repressive measures which were adopted by him and his colleagues were so
atrocious and cruel as to be a disgrace alike to the home government and
the officers who devised them.
It will be of interest in this connection to note some of the features of
the government established by Rome in her principal provinces. When a new
country was conquered and organized, it was assigned to a praetor, who,
acting as proconsul or governor, assumed the management of the province. He
conducted the affairs of his district as he would. He received no salary
for his services, but was permitted to enrich himself by wringing from the
provincials the very blood and marrow of their