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The Story of Rome by  Mary Macgregor

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THE PROSCRIPTIONS OF SULLA

[334] AFTER his victory over the Samnites, Sulla met the Senate in the temple of Bellona, without the walls of the city.

Ominous thoughts stole into the minds of the senators and distracted them, as the general's speech was suddenly interrupted by terrible shrieks as of those in agony.

Sulla alone remained undisturbed. But seeing that the senators were not listening to his speech, he sternly bade them "not to busy themselves with what was doing out of doors."

The cries were those of the six thousand Samnite prisoners, who were being ruthlessly slain by Sulla's orders.

At this time, too, young Marius, who had fought against Sulla, killed himself rather than fall into the hands of his father's enemy.

His head was brought to Sulla at Rome. "One should be rower before one takes the helm," said the tyrant, looking with unconcern at the hideous trophy. For he was angry that young Marius had been chosen Consul when he was only twenty-seven years of age.

The forebodings of many were now justified, for Rome became as a city of the dead. Sulla had determined to kill all who had been his enemies while he was absent in Greece.

Day after day the cruel slaughter went on. Forty senators and sixteen hundred of the citizens were condemned, and to add to the consternation among those who had escaped, there were others yet to be punished. Sulla said that he could not remember their names. The suspense in the city was terrible.

[335] One senator, bolder than the others, said to Sulla: "We do not ask you to pardon any whom you have resolved to destroy, but to free from doubt those whom you are pleased to spare."

"I know not as yet whom I will spare," grimly answered the general.

"Why, then," persisted the senator, "tell us whom you will punish."

Sulla promised to do this, and henceforth lists of those who were doomed were hung up in the Forum. These lists were called the "Proscriptions of Sulla."


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Lists of those who were doomed were hung up in the Forum.

In the first list eighty persons were proscribed, and for a moment Rome dreamed that there would be no more dread uncertainty, that the end of the death sentences had at least come in sight.

But the horror in the city was but heightened by the proscriptions, when the first list was followed by another, and yet another.

Moreover, an edict was published, saying that if any one dared to give shelter or food to a proscribed person he would be punished with death. While, if any one killed a person whose name was on the list of the condemned, he would be rewarded. The property of those who perished was forfeited, and in this way Sulla and his friends soon grew rich. These cruel proscriptions remain for ever a blot on Sulla's fame.

For one hundred and twenty years there had been no Dictator. But now Sulla determined to become the ruler of Rome under that name.

In other times a Dictator was elected only for six months, but Sulla had no intention of abdicating in so short a time. He meant to remain Dictator as long as he wished.

The tyrant was of course elected, for no one dared to resist his will. He took the title toward the end of 82 B.C., and held it for about three years.

But there was one man in Rome whose influence was [336] fast increasing, and he was not afraid of Sulla. This was Pompey.

Pompey had been sent to Africa by Sulla, and in forty days had defeated the enemies of Rome, and restored the King of Numidia to his throne.

When the successful general returned Sulla went out to meet him at the head of a great procession, and welcomed him as Magnus, or the Great. And the name clung to him, for from that time he was known as Pompey the Great.

But when Pompey claimed a triumph, Sulla was not pleased, and refused to grant it.

Pompey knew that he was liked by the people, while Sulla ruled only because he had inspired them with terror. It would not be long in the Dictator's power to refuse his claim.

"More worship the rising than the setting sun," he murmured, and those around him who heard these bold words were startled. Sulla, seeing their amazement, demanded what Pompey had said.

On being told, he cried out testily: "Let him triumph, let him triumph."

In 79 B.C. Sulla, to the surprise and relief of Rome, laid down his Dictatorship, and retired to a beautiful villa he had built near Cumæ.

Here he employed his time in entertaining men of letters and artists, and in writing his memoirs. He died in 78 B.C., while his memoirs were still unfinished.


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