Imágenes de páginas



1. But while Rome was thus steadily advancing to uni. versal dominion, great and unfortunate changes were taking place in its internal constitution. The spoils of Carthage and the east, rich in accumulations of the industry, commerce and art of two thousand years, flowed into Rome and was gathered into the hands of those in power; the equilibrium between the plebeians and the patricians was lost; the selling of captives taken in war filled Italy with slaves; and the inequality of conditions produced the most disastrous consequences. 133 — The eldest son of a noble house, the Gracchi, under

took to stem the torrent that was sweeping away the ancient barriers of the constitution, and to raise the people from the misery into which the increase of patrician wealth and power and the innumerable mul. titudes of slaves had plunged them. In the year in which Numantia fell and Spain was thoroughly subdued, Tiberius Gracchus was slain in a tumult, produced by the patricians, who determined that his project should not succeed. He had attempted to revive the old agrarian law, by which the landed possessions of the republic were shared among the people as well as the patricians, which would have rescued the plebeians from poverty and oppression; but the patricians were too powerful and too violent. He was

removed by assassination. 2. 121 - Twelve years later his brother, Caius Gracchus,

attempted the same thing and was likewise slain. This point was vital to the internal liberties of Rome. The failure of the Gracchi announced the overthrow of the constitution; and, after seventy years of civil anarchy and the murderous conflict of rival factions, the empire was found the only refuge against the ruir.

of the state. Vigorous Rome, who could govern all the world but herself, must have a master, and became the prey of the strongest. It is a melancholy history, a sad conclusion for a people whose strength and grandeur of character had made them masters of the world, but a perfectly legitimate result of the immoral principle that lay at the foundation of the state. That principle legalized the doctrine of force, or robbery on the grandest scale. They carried it out with great consistency and skill, with all the ability of a race eminently sagacious and steady in the pursuit of an end. The conservative force that dwelt in their organization, so instinctively and exceptionally wise, and the power of religious faith, strong in a hardy and simple people, however weakened by pagan ignorance and superstition, long maintained the integrity of their institutions - but Greek culture, too imperfect not to culminate in skepticism, came in to confuse their moral sense at the same time that boundless wealth flowed into their hands to corrupt their manners, that slavery assumed gigantic proportions to demoralize labor, and the conquest of the world relieved them from the severe discipline that might not, otherwise, have left them the leisure to become deeply vicious.

The sternness of even Roman character was unequal to the heavy strain and virtue gave way. The native vigor of the race made them as excessive in unrestrained passion as wise in council and invincible in war. The cruelty and rapacity that were common in the civil wars of the Republic, and nnder many of the early emperors, educated giants in crime, and only the Roman spirit in the army, and the vigorous organization everywhere maintained through the institutions established in the subject world by Roman law, could have held its vast dominions together. Rome had vitality and sense to govern others, even in the midst of civil war.

3. From the death of the Gracchi to the consulship 107 - Of Marius, Rome was in a tumult of corrupt intrigne,

which rendered easy the usurpation and inhuman cruelty of Jugurtha, king of Numidia. Marius, a plebian of the lowest rank, became consul.

He was unequaled at once as a general and a tyrant. He con


106 — Jugurtha, who was brought to Rome and starved in

prison. In the same year Cicero, the great Roman orator, was born.

A vast horde of Cimbri and Teutons from northern 105 Europe, invaded Gaul and defeated several Roman con

suls. 100 — Marius led an army against these barbarians and

defeated them, inore than 100,000 being slain or made prisoners. He was equally successful in a second engagement. During the war 200,000 barbarians were slain and 90,000 taken prisoners. A revolt of the slaves was put down about the same time with circumstances of extreme cruelty. More than a million of these unfortunates were slain or thrown to wild beasts

for the amusement of the Roman popnlace. 4. 100 — In this year Julius Cæsar, one of the greatest men

of any time, and virtual founder of the Roman Empire, was born. llis supreme ability put an end to civil dis

sention and saved society from total ruin. 90 — The Italian allies revolted against Rome. They claimed

the privileges of Roman citizenship, which the Senate refused. A war of three years followed and half a million of men perished, when, having conquered

them, the Senate granted their first request. 88 – Mithridates, king of Pontus, talented and ambitivils,

sought to drive the Romans out of Asia and Greece, and warred with them for twenty-five years. Sylla procured the banishment of his rival, Marius, and conducted the war against Mithridates.

86 – Marius regained power in the absence of Sylla and

slaughtered his enemies, the patricians, without mercy,

but soon after died. 83 - Sylla, after obliging Mithridates to sue for peace,

hastened to Rome, conquered his enemies, and slew

more than 6,000 Roman citizens in revenge. 81 - Sylla caused himself to be made perpetual dictator 77 – But after three years resigned and soon after died from

the effects of his vices. Civil war was continued for a

time in Spain and Italy, but finally put down by Pom70 – pey, the greatest general of the patrician party.

The war of the gladiators — men trained to fight in the theatres for the amusement of the populace - broke out under an able leader, Spartacus, who, collecting an

army of 120,000 gladiators, endangered Rome itself, but 70 — he was conquered by Crassus. Spartacus was defeated

and killed. It was the inhuman oppression of the

patricians that produced all these dreadful conflicts. 65 — Pompey and Crassus, by paying court to the people,

were made consuls. Pompey proceeded to Asia and

made war on Mithridates, who was again formidable, 63 - whom he defeated and slew in battle. He subdued

nearly all western Asia, visiting Jerusalem, and treating the Jews with kindness. He also cleared the Med

iterranean of pirates, who had always infested it. 62— A dangerous conspiracy of Cataline, a patrician of the

most corrupt morals, at the head of the depraved young nobility of the time, would have been successful but for the ability and eloquence of Cicero, who was consul. Cataline and his fellow conspirators were taken and

slain. 59 - Cæsar, Pompey, and Crassus formed the first “Trium

virate," and divided the rule of the world between

them. Cæsar was the head of the popular party. He 57 - took Gaul as his government. Here he spent eight

years in his “Gallic wars,” showing unparalleled talents as a general, training his army to become invincible in

battle, and completely subduing the fierce Gauls. He 55 - entered Britain and laid the foundation of civiliza

tion there, thus carrying the march of empire to its

farthest bounds in Europe. 5. 49 — He was ordered to return and lay down his authori

ty by the Roman Senate, headed by Pompey, who was now his enemy. They were the rival champions of the two parties in the state, the people and the patricians, whose quarrels had so long filled Rome with tumult and slaughter. The tribunes in Cæsar's interest interposed a veto, which the Roman Constitution authorized them to do. The Senate voted to suspend the Constitution, which really terminated the Roman Republic, Jan. 7, B. C. 49. Cæsar at once crossed the river Rubicon, the boundary of his government, and marched his army on Rome. Pompey and the aristocratic party fled in haste, leaving the public treasure behind. In sixty days Cæsar had possession of all Italy. Sicily, Sardinia, and Spain were next conquered from the officers of Pompey, when he returned to Rome, and was created dictator by his party. He treated all his ene

mies with clemency. Pompey had gone into Greece, 48 — where he gathered a large army. Cæsar followed with

his veteran legions, and defeated him in the battle of Pharsalia in Thessaly. Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was treacherously slain, to the great indignation of Cæsar, who would shed no blood but in necessary battle Thus he became sole master of the world.

In a conflict with the Egyptians in Alexandria Cæsar set on fire their fleet, he being attended by but few troops, and the contlagration extended to the Alexandrian Library, filled with inestimable treasures of ancient literature, which were destroyed, to the great loss of future generations. Cæsar soon subdued Egypt,

« AnteriorContinuar »