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The Decline and Fall of the Republic. (146-27 b.c.).

Ancient history, from the beginning of historical information to the downfall of the Western Roman Empire (? B.C. - 476 A.D.). Rome (? 753 b.c. - a.d. 476).
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During the ages of conquest a great change had been passing over the olden simplicity and virtue of Roman public men. The homely country-life was abandoned for a race for honours and wealth in the capital. Luxury of living, introduced from the East, and the taste for art acquired from Greece, caused eagerness for wealth, and the attainment of public honours, the high offices of the state, was the surest road to its acquirement in provincial governorships where the plunder of tax-gatherers was shared, bribes were received for judicial decisions in cases between wealthy provincials, and rich gifts came from kings and states yet unsubdued. The Senate at this time wielded supreme power, and every rising citizen sought admission to the body. The way thither, as has been shown, lay through the holding of one or more of the five chief offices, and as the election to these offices rested with the body of citizens assembled in the Comitia Tributa, a gigantic system of bribery was developed, not in the way of payments man by man, but in the securing of the masses, tribe by tribe, through the expensive shows of the cruel public games, where men fought with strange strong wild beasts from abroad, and were pitted against each other in the famous fights of pairs of gladiators, well-fed, well-trained athletes, whose business it was to fight and in many cases to die "to make a Roman holiday." Crime begat crime in this career of Roman politicians. The successful candidate for senatorial rank was loaded with debt to the rich trading order of Rome, the knights - the tax-farmers and usurers of the day - through borrowing money for the vast expenditure needful to his election to office. When he quitted Rome for his provincial career as proconsul or propraetor, his only hope of repaying his creditors lay in what he could make out of those he governed. It was understood that, out of three years of provincial governorship, the gains of the first year would pay the debts at Rome; the second would obtain plunder enough to bribe up to an acquittal at the trial for extortion which might follow gross tyranny; and the third year lay up a fortune large enough to enable the possessor to adorn his mansion with choice works of art, to live in Oriental luxury, with his villa on the Campanian coast and his great retinue of freedmen and slaves.

Greed for wealth, party-rivalry, and desire for personal distinction, had replaced the old Roman virtue of self-sacrifice to the common good, unswerving loyalty to the state; and domestic purity of life decayed with the introduction of foreign manners and licentious foreign forms of faith. The social system had been greatly changed through the disappearance, to a large extent, of the middle class which, in all free states, is the backbone of national welfare. The soil of Italy had been enriched by the blood of countless thousands of her sons slain in the dreadful warfare with Hannibal. The bones of many thousands more lay in foreign lands won by Roman swords. In exchange for these, Italy had received millions of slaves, the spoil of war, and the population and politics of the capital were debased by the admixture of large numbers of these men who received enfranchisement and became citizens. Both at Rome and in Italy at large, the old race was corrupted by intermarriages with these aliens from all parts of the Roman world. A wealthy oligarchy, and a degraded mob, living in idleness on free corn supplied by the state and by rich men seeking popular favour for political ends, represented the old Patricians and Plebeians, the latter of whom had been mainly small proprietors of land or traders, the middle class needful to give stability to a constitutional system. In another direction, the horizon was dark through the growing discontent of the Italian allies and the Latins, treated rather as subjects, as conquered foreigners, than as kinsmen who were worthy of, and were aspiring to, the full Roman citizenship. The land-question was the one which showed the most alarming condition of affairs. The ruin of the small farmers in the Hannibalian war had sent men to live in the towns rather than in the country-districts, and the wealthy men of Rome had bought up the soil, so that the great number of small freeholders had been replaced by a few proprietors of vast estates. Great areas of fertile corn-lands had been turned into pasture, and such tillage as remained was in the hands of chained gangs of slaves. Worse than all, the Roman nobles had lost the old regard for law and order. Armed violence took the place of constitutional methods. Tiberius Gracchus, a citizen of the noble Cornelian family, a grandson of the victor of Zama, became a tribune in 134 b.c., and sought to remedy existing evils by a measure for dividing the public lands, wrongfully held by nobles without paying rent, into small freeholds. In the following year he was murdered in the Forum, with some hundreds of his supporters, by the hands of the nobles themselves and their following of slaves and bravos. Ten years later his brother Cains Gracchus, also as tribune, aimed at still more extensive reforms, and met with the same fate. Henceforth the internal history of the republic.has much to do with civil war between aristocratic and popular leaders. The former sought to maintain the existing condition of affairs, so profitable for the oligarchy and the degraded mass of the people in Rome; the latter aimed at reforms which would break down the power of the oligarchs, chiefly by admitting all the Italians to the full franchise conferring political power. Taking a momentary glance at foreign affairs, we find that southern Gaul (beyond the Alps) became a province as Gallia Narbonensis, with Aquae Sextiae, the modern Aix, as a colony. The new territory was commonly called Provinda, or "the Province," and is represented by the modern Provence. The Balearic Isles were annexed, and after a war of five years' duration with an able and wicked usurper of the throne, the greatest state in Africa, Numidia, was added to the Roman territories (106 b.c.).

Near the end of the 2nd century b.c. the Romans were, for the first time, and in a way formidable even for them, brought face to face with a body of the Teutonic (Germanic) peoples who were to form so large an element in the population of modern Europe. In 113 the people of the extreme north-east of Italy were alarmed by the appearance of hordes of tall strong warriors, blue-eyed, some with thick long fair hair, some with shaggy red locks. On their helmets were the heads of horned oxen, bears, or wolves, while others had the spread wings of eagles fastened to their iron caps. These were Cimbri, originally from the territory now called Jutland, and perhaps of Celtic race, and Teutons, German tribes from the Baltic coast. They had migrated into Helvetia (Switzerland), and dwelt there until the natural increase of their numbers forced them to seek food elsewhere. They were desperate, as men are in front of starvation, and their bodily strength made them terrible foes. The number of fighting men is said to have reached 300,000, and the wives and children took part in the migration. In six years (113-107) five Roman armies were defeated in the eastern Alpine region and in southern Gaul, to which the invaders had made their way, and all Italy was failed with terror. The right man was at hand for the crisis that had come, or Rome might have been overwhelmed. This was Marias, an able commander of low birth, who had finished (104) the war against Jugurtha in Africa, and had twice been consul. In politics he was a champion of the people against the aristocracy, but he had in that line no weight beyond that belonging to a bold, rude, arrogant soldier who was very popular with the rank and file. In 102 Marius, as consul for the fourth time, marched into the Province (Gallia Narbonensis), and almost destroyed the Teutons in a tremendous battle near Aquse Sextite (Aix). The German survivors of the struggle slew themselves, and the valley, enriched by the blood of the invaders, became very fertile. To this day the village of Pourrieres, a corruption of (Campi) Putridi, "the fields of putrefaction," preserves the memory of the contest, and the country-folk have a yearly festival, at which heaps of brushwood are burnt on the hill amid shouts of "Victoire!" In the following year this skilful general, again as consul, aided his colleague Catulus in annihilating the Cimbri at Vercelte (Vercelli) in Cisalpine Gaul. The Cimbric women, when the day was lost, ran themselves through with swords, or hung themselves to the waggon-poles, rather than become Roman slaves.

The next great trouble came from the just discontent of the Italian "allies," still excluded from political power. With equal folly and tyranny, the Roman oligarchy and the voters of the Comitia had persisted in refusing the Roman franchise to those who had well earned it by service in the armies and by contributions to the revenue, and were well fitted for it by a community of manners. In the better days of the republic, the system of enfranchising the subject-allies, and of forming from them new tribes of citizens, had gone along with the gradual extension of full political rights to the plebeians. This was one great cause of the growth and solidity of Roman power, and citizens thus acquired had made a noble return in furnishing some of the finest generals and statesmen. This excellent system had long been abandoned, and when Drusus, one of the tribunes, in 91, proposed a bill granting the rights of citizenship to the Italians, he died by assassination, doubtless at the instigation of members of the Senate. A general revolt of the Italians then occurred, with the establishment of a federal republic, having consuls, praetors, and a Senate, and a capital at Corfinium in the country of the Samnites, the chief of the rebel peoples, who were aided by the Marsians and others in central Italy, and by the Lucanians and Apulians in the south. The two-years' contest, in which 300,000 Italians are asserted, on good authority, to have fallen, was of a desperate character. Rome was saved from destruction by the fidelity of the Latin allies, by the military skill of Marius, and especially of the noble named Sulla, a pupil of the old plebeian soldier in the conduct of war, and by the artful policy of conceding the franchise, during the struggle, to such Italians as had not yet revolted, and then to all who should lay down their arms within two months. In 89 b.c. Asculum, in Picenum, was taken by the state-troops and utterly destroyed, and finally the Lex Julia gave the Roman franchise throughout the country to all citizens of towns in alliance with Rome up to the borders of Cisalpine Gaul. The devastation of the land almost equalled that which had occurred during the war with Hannibal, and intensified the evil, above described, of the extirpation of small freeholders.

The next phase of Roman history takes us to the East, where the very able and energetic Mithradates, king of Pontus, in the north-east of Asia Minor, reigning from 120 to 63 b.c., had founded a powerful realm, extending north-eastwards to beyond the Caucasus, and over the east of Asia Minor. In 92 he had been checked by Sulla, as proconsul in Cilicia, in his aggressions on Roman dependents in Asia Minor, but in 88 Mithradates broke out again, defeated several Roman generals, and caused the massacre of many thousands of Roman subjects in the cities. His forces also invaded Greece, and excited the people to rebel against Rome. Sulla took the field in 87, landing in Epirus, capturing Athens, and defeating the Pontic armies in 86 and 85. He then entered Asia by way of Thrace and the Hellespont, and brought Mithradates to terms, which included the restoration of all his conquests, and the payment of a great war-indemnity. In order to complete this subject, we shall for the time leave aside affairs in Italy, and keep with the obstinate Eastern monarch. In 74, along with his son-in-law Tigranes, king of Armenia, he again attacked Roman power in the East, occupying the kingdom of Bithynia which the sovereign Nicomedes, another son-in-law of Mithradates, had bequeathed to the republic. The war was conducted for Rome with great ability and energy, at the outset, by Lucullus, one of the consuls, who drove the king of Pontus from his territory and then occupied Armenia, and defeated Tigranes in a great battle. In 68 he forced the passage of the Euphrates, and was advancing towards Artaxata, the residence of Tigranes, when he was disabled from further success by mutiny among his troops. Mithradates then recovered his kingdom. Lucullus was recalled to Rome, and the famous Pompeius (Pompey the Great) was sent out to Asia in 66 with unlimited powers. His exploits in Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine have been given in a former section. Mithradates, finally driven off, destroyed himself in 63. Pontus became a Roman province, as did Syria and Cilicia. These Asiatic territories of Rome were much intermingled with the lands of cities allowed to retain self-government, and of vassal kings such as those of Cappadocia and Galatia. In Italy the period of civil war, on the largest scale, began in 88. Matters had long been tending to this anarchical issue. The army was ever growing in importance, and its generals were superseding in power the highest civil officials. Disputed questions would, it was clear, be no longer settled by discussion and by voting, but by armed force. A great change had come, under the consulships of Marius, in the military system. The armies had become those of professional soldiers, whose whole active lives were devoted to the service, instead of being composed of citizen-levies, virtually a militia. The troops were now chiefly raised by recruitment from the unoccupied mob, the lowest part of the plebeians, and the cavalry and light-armed troops were drawn from the contingents of subject-princes. There was thus a separate military order in the state, and if a rising politician could become also a successful general, able to afford abundant plunder to his men, his career was safe. There is nothing either instructive or interesting in the disgraceful details of savage civil contests such as that between Marius, the inconsistent and unscrupulous leader of the democratic party, and Sulla, the champion of the oligarchy, which lasted from 88 to 82. Sulla, before he went to his command against Mithradates, having an army ready, marched on Rome and drove Marius into exile, after storming the city. It was at this time that the old general, having fled to Africa, was seen "sitting among the ruins of Carthage." After the departure of Sulla, Cinna, a democratic leader, driven from Rome after a sanguinary battle in the Forum, raised an army in Campania of outlaws and freed slaves, recalled Marius, and marched on Rome. The city was forced to surrender, and five days' slaughter and plunder of the oligarchic party followed. Marius died in 86, and for three (years Cinna ruled at Rome as a mere tyrant. In 82 Sulla, who had returned from the East with 40 ooo men, and had been joined by Pompeius, then a young leader of the nobles, with an army of volunteers, defeated the Marian party and their Italian supporters in several battles, entered Rome, and then took a terrible revenge upon the cities and towns which had supported the democratic cause. A regular proscription deprived some thousands of knights, and many senators, of life and property, and the soldiers of Sulla had a rich booty. We need not be troubled about the so-called "reforms" of Sulla. Made "perpetual Dictator," he greatly increased the power of the Senate, and reduced that of the tribunes; but these changes had no permanent effect, as the old free state was already dead, and things were swiftly moving towards the possession of absolute power by a single person. Sulla's death in 78, after his abdication in the previous year, was followed by more civil war between "Marians" and "Sullans," and then Rome had to face another peril in the war with Spartacus the gladiator.

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