THE PROSCRIPTION OF SULLA
 WHILE Marius and his friends were ruling and murdering
in Rome, Sulla, their bitter enemy, was commanding and
conquering in the East, biding his time for revenge. He
drove the Asiatic foe out of Greece, taking and
pillaging Athens as an episode. He carried the war into
Asia, forced Mithridates to sue for peace, and exacted
enormous sums (more than one hundred million dollars in
our money) from the rich cities of the East. Then,
after giving his soldiers a winter's rest in Asia, he
turned his face towards Rome, writing to the senate
that he was coming, and that he intended to take
revenge on his enemies.
It was now the year 83 B.C. Three years had passed
since the death of Marius. During the interval the
party of the plebeians had been at the head of affairs.
Now Sulla, the aristocrat, was coming to call them to a
stern account, and they trembled in anticipation. They
remembered vividly the Marian carnival of blood. What
retribution would his merciless rival exact?
Cinna, who had most to fear, proposed to meet the
conqueror in the field. But his soldiers were not in
the mood to fight, and settled the question by
murder-  ing their commander. When spring was well advanced, Sulla
left Asia, and in sixteen hundred ships transported his
men to Italy, landing at the port of Brundusium.
On the 6th of July, shortly after his landing, an event
occurred that threw all Rome into consternation. The
venerable buildings of the Capitol took fire and were
burned to the ground, the cherished Sibylline books
perishing in the flames. Such a disaster seemed to many
Romans a fatal prognostic. The gods were surely against
them, and all things were at risk.
Onward marched Sulla, opposed by a much greater army
collected by his opponents. But he led the veterans of
the Mithridatic War, and in the ranks of his opponents
no man of equal ability appeared. Battle after battle
was fought, Sulla steadily advancing. At length an army
of Samnites, raised to defend the Marian cause, marched
on Rome. Caius Pontius, their commander, was bent on
terribly avenging the sufferings of his people on that
"Rome's last day," he said to his soldiers, "is come.
The city must be annihilated. The wolves that have so
long preyed upon Italy will never cease from troubling
till their lair is utterly destroyed."
Rome was in despair, for all seemed at an end. The
Samnites had not forgotten a former Pontius, who had
sent a Roman army under the Caudine Forks, and had been
cruelly murdered in the Capitol. They thundered on the
Colline Gate. But at that critical moment a large body
of cavalry appeared
 and charged the foe. It was the vanguard of Sulla's
army, marching in haste to the relief of Rome.
A fierce battle ensued. Sulla fought gallantly. He rode
a white horse, and was the mark of every javelin. But
despite his efforts his men were forced back against
the wall, and when night came to their relief it looked
as if nothing remained for them but to sell their lives
as dearly as possible the next morning.
But during the night Sulla received favorable news.
Crassus, who commanded his right wing, had completely
defeated a detachment of the Marian army. With quick
decision, Sulla marched during the night round the
enemy's camp, joined Crassus, and at day-break attacked
The battle that ensued was a terrible one. Fifty
thousand men fell on each side. Pontius and other
Marian leaders were slain. In the end Sulla triumphed,
taking eight thousand prisoners, of whom six thousand
were Samnites. The latter were, by order of the victor,
ruthlessly butchered in cold blood.
This was but the prelude to an equally ruthless but
more protracted butchery. Sulla was at last lord of
Rome, as absolute in power as any emperor of later
days. In fact, he had himself appointed dictator, an
office which had vanished more than a century before,
and which raised him above the law. He announced that
he would give a better government to Rome, but to do so
he must first rid that city of its enemies.
Marius, whom Sulla hated with intense bitterness,
 had escaped him by death. By his orders the bones of
the old general were torn from their tomb near the Anio
and flung into that stream. The son of Marius had slain
himself to prevent being taken. His head was brought to
Sulla at Rome, who gazed on the youthful face with grim
satisfaction, saying, "Those who take the helm must
first serve at the oar." As for himself, his fortune
was now accomplished, he said, and henceforth he should
be known as Felix.
The cruel work which Sulla had promised immediately
began. Adherents of the popular party were slaughtered
daily and hourly at Rome. Some who had taken no part in
the late war were slain. No man knew if he was safe.
Some of the senators asked that the names of the guilty
should be made known, that the innocent might be
relieved from uncertainty. The proposition hit with
Sulla's humor. He ordered that a list of those doomed
to death should be made out and published. This was
called a Proscription.
But the uncertainty continued as great as ever. The
list contained but eighty names. It was quickly
followed by another containing one hundred and twenty.
Day after day new lists of the doomed were issued. To
make death sure, a reward of two talents was promised
any one who should kill a proscribed man,—even if the
killer were his son or his slave. Those who in any way
aided the proscribed became themselves doomed to death.
Men who envied others their property managed to have
their names put on the list. A partisan of
 Sulla was exulting over the doomed, when his eye fell
on his own name in the list. He hastily fled, and the
bystanders, judging the cause, followed and cut him
down. Catiline, who afterwards became notorious in
Roman history, murdered his own brother, and to
legalize the murder had the name of his victim placed
on the list.
How many were murdered we do not know. Probably little
less than three thousand in Rome. The stream of murder
flowed to other cities. Several of these defied the
conqueror, but were taken one by one and their
defenders slain. To all cities which had taken part
with the Marians the proscription made its way. Of the
total number slain during this reign of terror no
record exists, but the deliberate butchery of Sulla
went far beyond the ferocious but temporary slaughter
Murder was followed by confiscation. Sulla ordered that
the property of the slain should be sold at auction and
the proceeds put in the treasury. But the favorites of
the dictator were the chief bidders, the property was
sold at a tithe of its value, and the unworthy and
dissolute obtained the lion's share of the spoil.
During this period of murder and confiscation we first
hear the names of a number of afterwards famous Romans.
Catiline we have named. Pompey took part in the war on
Sulla's side, was victorious in Sicily and Africa, and
on his return was hailed by his chief with the title of
Pompey the Great. Another still more famous personage
was Julius Cæsar. Sulla had ordered that all persons
 by marriage with the Marian party should divorce their
wives. Pompey obeyed. Cæsar, who was a nephew of Marius
and had married the daughter of Cinna, boldly refused.
He was then a youth of nineteen. His boldness would
have brought him death had not powerful friends asked
for his life.
"You know not what you ask," said Sulla; "that
profligate boy will be more dangerous than many
Cæsar, not trusting Sulla's doubtful humor, escaped
from Rome, and hid in the depths of the Sabine
mountains, awaiting a time when the streets of the
capital city would be safer for those who dared speak
Another young man of rising fame showed little less
boldness. This was Cicero, who had just returned to
Rome from his studies in Greece. He ventured to defend
Roscius of Ameria against an accusation of murder made
by Chrysogonus, a prime favorite of Sulla. Cicero
lashed the favorite vigorously, and won a verdict for
his client. But he found it advisable to leave Rome
immediately and resume his studies at Rhodes.
Sulla ended his work by organizing a new senate and
making a new code of laws. Three hundred new members
were added to the senate, and the laws of Rome were
brought largely back to the state in which they had
been before the Gracchi.
This done, to the utter surprise of the people he laid
down his power and retired from Rome, within whose
streets he never again set foot. He had no occasion for
fear. He had scattered his veterans
 throughout Italy on confiscated estates, and knew that
he could trust to their support. Before his departure
he gave a feast of costly meats and rich wines to the
Roman commons, in such profusion that vast quantities
that could not be eaten were cast into the Tiber. Then
he dismissed his armed attendants, and walked on foot
to his house, through a multitude of whom many had
ample reason to strike him down.
He now retired to his villa near Puteoli, on the Bay of
Naples, with the purpose of enjoying that life of
voluptuous ease which he craved more than power and
distinction. Here he spent the brief remainder of his
life in nocturnal orgies and literary converse,
completing his "Memoirs," in which he told, in
exaggerated phrase, the story of his life and exploits.
He lived but about a year. His excesses brought on a
complication of disorders, which ended, we are told, in
a loathsome disease. The senate voted him a gorgeous
funeral, after which his body was burned on the Campus
Martius, that no future tyrant could treat his remains
as he had done those of his great rival Marius.
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