ROME-THE IMPERIAL REPUBLIC.
Republic. In the spring of B. C. 82 the war was renewed, but Marius, in the
first battle, fought at Sacriportus, was overwhelmingly defeated. At this
the praetor, Damasippus, acting under the orders of Marius, put to death
the leading Optimates in Rome and evacuated the city. Many eminent senators
were murdered in their own seats in the chamber. Both of the aediles and
the pontifex maximus, Quintus Mucius Scaevola, were murdered before the
desperate Marians relaxed their grasp on Rome. Sulla soon entered the city
without opposition, but presently set out to the North to join Metellus
against the consul Carbo, who still commanded a large army in Etruria.
While these movements were taking place an unexpected turn was given to the
tempestuous tides which were surging through Italy. The Samnites and
Lucanians, still harboring the grudges of centuries, rose in revolt, and
under their able leader, Pontius Telesinus, marched first on Praeneste and
then on Rome. Pontius saw amid the distractions of the civil war a final
opportunity of avenging the wrongs of centuries. To him the party of Marius
and the party of Sulla were both alike, and he declared his purpose to
avenge the wrongs of generations by destroying the lair "in which the Roman
wolves had made their den"-- meaning Rome.
The Samnite leader came near entering the city. Only the opportune arrival
of Sulla, who, hearing of the peril, turned back from Etruria, prevented
the catastrophe. As it was, Telesinus reached the Colline Gate, and was
there confronted by the veterans. One of the fiercest battles ever fought
in Italy ensued, and Sulla was on the point of suffering an overthrow; but
he suddenly bethought him of the gods, and prayed to the Pythian Apollo.
Then the tide turned, and the Samnites were utterly routed. Three thousand
prisoners were taken into the Campus Martius and butchered. It was the end
of the Samnite nation.
Then began the proscription. The scenes that ensued beggar description.
Sulla, as the master of Rome, threw the reins to the Optimates and set them
the example of destruction. The aim was to annihilate the Marian party. It
was to be torn out root and branch. To this end the relentless leader of
Rome drew up a proscription list, which included not only those who had
taken an active part in the recent struggle, but also the leading citizens
and even prominent Italians at a distance from the city. A reward was
offered for the heads of all the proscribed. Their estates were
confiscated. None might offer them shelter. When the first list was
exhausted another was prepared, and then another. All Italy was a scene of
ever-recurring murder. Forty-seven thousand persons were butchered. The
estates of those who were destroyed were put up at auction; but none dared
to bid for the confiscated property except the known friends of Sulla. It
became the order to kill men merely to secure their property. To have a
villa was equivalent to a death warrant. In many instances men were killed
and their names added to the proscription list afterward. All these
atrocities were sanctioned by the Senate, which body not only formally
approved of all things done under Sulla's consulate, but proceeded to order
an equestrian statue to be set up in the forum, inscribed to Lucius
Cornelius Sulla, the Happy General.
The kindly consul next proceeded to revolutionize the government by a
restoration of the ancient regime. All the old prerogatives of the Senate
were restored to that body, and every popular feature which had been
introduced into the political system of Rome was abrogated. It was one of
those unreasoning, backward movements in the policy of states to which no
amount of force or statecraft has ever been able to give permanency. Sulla
was made dictator with unlimited powers to reorganize the Republic. He
proceeded in the exercise of his authority to reduce the tribunes to a
state of miserable dependency, and to dose the office to all but members of
the senatorial order. It was also enacted that the consulship, as of old,
must follow the praetorship, and the praetorship succeed the quaestorship.
The law forbidding the reelection of a consul was abrogated, and that
requiring an interval of ten years between a first and second election was
revived. The college of praetors was increased from six members to eight,
and that of the quaestors from twelve to twenty.