History of Rome





Anno Urbis - The Roman Empire Online

A HISTORY OF ROME DURING THE LATER REPUBLIC AND EARLY PRINCIPATE

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CHAPTER VIII

The summer must have been well advanced when Marius landed at Utica with his untried forces. The veterans were handed over to his care by the legate Rutilius[1114] for Metellus had fled the sight of the man, whose success had been based on a slanderous attack on his own reputation. It must have been with a heavy heart that he accomplished the voyage to Rome; for the greatest expert in the moods of the people could scarcely have foretold the surprise that awaited him there. The popular passion was spent; it was a feverish force that had burnt itself out; the country voters had at last bethought themselves of their work and returned to their farms; many of the most active and disorderly spirits, the restless loud-voiced men who are the potent minority in an agitation, had been removed by the levy of Marius; with the city mob docility generally alternated with revolution, and it was now inclined to look to the verdict of the recognised heads of the State. In this moment of reaction, too, many must have been inclined to wonder what after all could be said against this general who had never lost a battle, who had conquered cities and pitilessly revenged the one disaster which was not his fault, who had constantly swept the terrible King of Numidia as a helpless fugitive before him. The presence of Metellus completed the work by giving stability to these half-formed views. The common folk are the true idealists. They love a hero rather better than a victim, although it often depends on the turn of a hair which part the object of their attentions is to play. Now they followed the lead of the senate; the returned commander was the man of the day[1115] he had exalted the glory of the Roman name; and if there was no fault, there could only have been misfortune; but misfortune might be compensated by honour. There was the prospect of a triumph in store, that mixed source of sensuous satisfaction and national self-congratulation. Thus Metellus won his prizes from the Numidian war, a parade through the streets to the Capitol and the addition of the surname "Numidicus" to the already lengthy nomenclature of his house[1116]

The war itself, under the guidance of Marius, soon assumed the character which it had possessed under that of all his predecessors. The originality of the new commander seemed to have spent itself in the selection of his troops; no new idea seems to have been introduced into the conduct of operations, which resumed their old shapes of precautions against surprise, weary marches from end to end of Numidia, and the siege of strongholds which were no sooner taken than they proved to be beyond the area of actual hostilities. Perhaps no new idea was possible except one that exchanged the weapons of war for those of diplomacy; but even the final attempt that had been made in this direction by Metellus was not continued by Marius. Bocchus, unwilling to lose the chance which had been presented of a definite convention with Home, sent repeated messages to her new representative to the effect that he desired the friendship of the Roman people, and that no acts of hostility on his part need be feared[1117] but his protestations were received with distrust, and Marius, accustomed to the duplicity of the African mind and rejecting the view that the king might really be wavering between war and peace, chose to regard them as the treacherous cover for a sudden attack. The desultory campaign which followed seems to have been directed by two motives. The first was the training of the raw levies which had just been brought from Rome; the second the supposed necessity of cutting Jugurtha off from the strongholds which he still held at the extremities of his kingdom. As these extremities were now threatened or commanded, on the south by the Gaetulians and on the west by the Mauretanians, the area of the war was no less than that of Numidia itself; and, as the occupation of such an area was impossible, the destruction of these strongholds, which was little loss to a mobile self-supporting force such as that which Jugurtha had at his command, was the utmost end which could be secured.

The practice of the untrained Roman levies was rendered easy by the fact that Jugurtha had resumed the offensive. He no longer had the help of his Mauretanian auxiliaries, for Bocchus had retired to his own kingdom, and he had therefore lost his desire for a pitched battle; but his swarms of Gaetulian horse had enabled him to resume his old style of guerilla fighting, and he had taken advantage of the practical suspension of hostilities which had accompanied the change in the Roman command, to set on foot a series of raids against the friends of Rome and even to penetrate the borders of the Roman province itself.[1118] For some time the attention of Marius was absorbed in following his difficult tracks, in striving to anticipate his rapidly shifting plans, in creating in his own men the habits of endurance, the mobility and the strained attention, which even a brief period of such a chase will rapidly engender in the rawest of recruits. The pursuit gradually shifted to the west, and a series of sharp conflicts on the road ended finally in the rout of the king in the neighbourhood of Cirta. With troops now seasoned to the toils of long marches and deliberate attack, Marius turned to the more definite, if not more effective, enterprise of beleaguering such fortified positions as were still strongly held, and by their position seemed to give a strategic advantage to the enemy. His object was either to strip Jugurtha of these last garrisons or to force him to a battle if he came to their defence. At first he confined his operations within a narrow area; the best part of the summer months seems to have been spent in the territory lying east and south of Cirta, and within this region several fortresses and castles still adhering to the king were reduced by persuasion or by force.[1119] Yet Jugurtha made no move, and Marius gained a full experience of the helpless irritation of the commander who hears that his enemy is far away, neglectful of his efforts and wholly absorbed in some deep-laid scheme the very rudiments of which are beyond the reach of conjecture. His operations seem to have brought him to a point somewhere in the neighbourhood of Sicca, and this proximity to the southern regions of Numidia suggested the thought of an enterprise that might rival and even surpass Metellus's storm of Thala. About thirteen miles west of that town[1120] lay the strong city of Capsa.[1121] It marked almost the extremest limit of Jugurtha's empire in this direction, placed as it was just north of the great lakes and west of the deepest curve of the Lesser Syrtis. The town was the gift of an oasis, which here broke the monotony of the desert with pleasant groves of dates and olives and a perennial stream of water. The sources of this stream, which was formed by the union of two fountains, had been enclosed within the walls, and supplied drinking water for the city before it passed beyond it to irrigate the land. Even this supply hardly sufficed for the moderate needs of the Numidians, who supplemented it by rain water[1122] which they caught and stored in cisterns. A siege of Capsa in the dry season might therefore prove irksome to the inhabitants; but the invading army might be even less well supplied, for although four other springs outside the walls fed the canals which served the work of irrigation, they tended to run low when the season of rain was past. The security of the city, although its defences and its garrison were strong, was thought to reside mainly in its desert barrier. The waste through which an invading army would have to pass was waterless and barren, while the multitude of snakes and scorpions that found a congenial home on the arid soil increased the horror, if not the danger, of the route.[1123] Jugurtha had dealt kindly by the lonely citizens of Capsa; they were free from taxes and had seldom to answer to any demand of the king: and this favour, which was perhaps as much the product of necessity as of policy, had strengthened their loyalty to the Numidian throne. It is probable that some strategic, or at least military, motive was mingled in the mind of Marius with the mere desire of excelling his predecessor and creating a deep impression in the minds of the proletariate in his army and at home. Although Capsa, with its limited resources, could hardly ever have served as the point of departure for a large Numidian or Gaetulian host, it might have been of value as a refuge for the king when he wished to vanish from the eyes of his enemies, and perhaps as a means of communication with friendly cities or peoples situated between the two Syrtes. To vanquish the difficulties of such an enterprise might also strike terror into the Numidian garrisons of other towns, and the subjects of Jugurtha might feel that no stronghold was safe when the unapproachable Capsa had been taken or destroyed. But the difficulties of the task were great. The Numidians of these regions were more attached to a pastoral life than to agriculture; the stores of corn to be found along the route were therefore scanty, and their scarcity was increased by the fact that the king, who seems but lately to have passed through these regions, had ordered that large supplies of grain should be conveyed from the district and stored in the fortresses which his garrisons still held.[1124] Nothing could be got from the fields, which at this late period of the autumn showed nothing but arid stubble. It was fortunate that some stores still lay at Lares (Lorbeus), a town at a short distance to the south-east of his present base;[1125] these were to be supplemented by the cattle that the foraging parties had driven in, and the Roman soldier would at least have his unwelcome supply of meat tempered by a moderate allowance of meal. Yet the terrors of the journey were so great that Marius thought it wise to conceal the object of his enterprise even from his own men, and even when, after a six days' march to the south, he had reached a stream called the Tana,[1126] the motive of the expedition was still in all probability unknown. Here, as in Metellus's march on Thala, a large supply of water was drawn from the river and stored in skins, all heavy baggage was discarded, and the lightened column prepared for its march across the desert. By day the soldiers kept their camp and every stage of the journey was accomplished between night-fall and dawn. On the morning of the third day they had reached some rising ground not more than two miles from Capsa.[1127] The sun had not yet risen when Marius halted his men in a hollow of the dunes, and watched the town to see whether his cautious plans had really effected a surprise. Evidently they had; for, when day broke, the gates were seen to open and large numbers of Numidians could be observed leaving the city for the business of the fields. The word was given, and in a moment the whole of the cavalry and the lightest of the infantry were dashing on the town. They were meant to block the gates; while Marius and the heavier troops followed as speedily as they could, driving the straggling Numidians before them. It was the possession of these hostages that decided the fate of the town. The commandant parleyed and agreed to admit the Romans within the walls, the condition, whether tacit or expressed, of this surrender being that the lives of the citizens should be spared. The condition was immediately broken. The town was given over to the flames, all the Numidians of full age were put to the sword, the rest were sold into slavery, and the movable property which had been seized was divided amongst the soldiers. The breach of international custom was not denied; the only attempt at palliation was drawn from the reflection that it was due neither to motiveless treachery nor to greed; a position like Capsa, it was urged,--difficult of approach, open to the enemy, the home of a race notorious for its mobile cunning-could be held neither by leniency nor by fear.[1128] The expedition had miscarried, if the town was not destroyed; and, as frequently happens in the pursuit of wars with peoples to whom the convenient epithet of "barbarian" can be applied, the successful fruit of cruelty and treachery was perhaps defended on the ground that the obligations of international law must be either reciprocal or non-existent.

The destruction of Capsa was followed by other successes of a similar though less arduous kind. The event had served the purpose of Marius well in so far as it spread before him a name of terror which caused some of the Numidian garrisons to flee their strong places without a struggle. In the few cases where resistance was met, it was beaten down, and the fortified places which Jugurtha's soldiers were not rash enough to defend, were utterly destroyed by fire.[1129] Marius left a wilderness behind him on his return march to winter quarters,[1130] and perhaps renewed his devastating course in the south-eastern parts of Numidia during the spring of the following year, before his attention was suddenly called to another point in the vast area of the war. This easy triumph which cost little Roman blood and enriched the soldiers with the spoils of war, created in his men a belief in his foresight and prowess which seemed sufficient to stand the severest strain.[1131] A great effort had now to be made in a quarter of Numidia which lay not less than seven hundred miles from the recent scene of operations. As neither the site of Marius's recent winter quarters nor the base which he chose for his spring campaign are known to us, we cannot say whether the expedition which he now directed to the extreme west of Numidia was an unpleasant diversion from a scheme already in operation, or whether it was the result of a plan matured in the winter camp; but in either case this conviction of the necessity for sweeping the country in such utterly diverse directions proves the full success of the plan which Jugurtha was pursuing. It is more difficult to determine whether Marius increased the success of this plan by a political blunder of his own. The point at which he is now found operating was near the river Muluccha or Molocath,[1132] the dividing line between the kingdoms of Numidia and Mauretania. If the incursion which he made into this region was unprovoked, it was a challenge to King Bocchus and an impolitic disturbance of the recent attitude of quiescence that had been assumed by that hesitating monarch; but it is possible that news had reached Marius that a Mauretanian attack was impending, and that the same motive which had impelled Metellus to hasten from the south to the defence of Cirta, now urged his successor to push his army more than five hundred miles farther to the west up to the very borders of Mauretania. The movement seems to have been defensive, for at the moment when we catch sight of his efforts he had not attempted to cross the admitted frontier,[1133] but was endeavouring to secure a strong position that lay within what he conceived to be the Numidian territory. A giant rock rose sheer out of the plain, tapering into the narrow fortress which continued by its walls an ascent so smoothly precipitous that it seemed as though the work of nature had been improved by the hand of man.[1134] But one narrow path led to the summit and was believed to be the only way, not merely to a position of supreme value for defensive purposes, but also to one of those rich deposits which the many-treasured king was held to have laid up in the strongest parts of his dominions. The difficulties of a siege were almost insurmountable. The garrison was strong and well supplied with food and water; the only avenue for a direct assault upon the walls was narrow and dangerous; the site was as ill-suited as it could be for the movement of the heavier engines of war. When the attack was made, the mantlets of the besiegers were easily destroyed by fire and stones hurled from above; yet the soldiers could not leave cover, nor get a firm hold on the steeply sloping ground; the foremost amongst the storming party fell stricken with wounds, and a panic seemed likely to prevail amidst the ever-victorious army if it were again urged to the attack. While Marius was brooding over this unexpected check, and his mind was divided between the wisdom of a retreat and the chances that might be offered by delay, an accident supplied the defects of strength and counsel.[1135] A Ligurian in quest of snails was tempted to pursue his search from ridge to ridge on that side of the hill which lay away from the avenue of attack and had hitherto been deemed inaccessible. He suddenly found that he had nearly reached the summit; a spirit of emulation urged him to complete the work which he had unconsciously begun, and the branches of a giant holmoak, which twisted amongst the rocks, gave him a hold and footing when the perpendicular walls of the last ascent seemed to deny all chance of further progress. When at length he craned over the edge of the highest ridge, the interior of the fort lay spread before him. No member of the garrison was to be seen, for every man was engaged in repelling the assault which had been renewed on the opposite side. A prolonged survey was therefore possible, and all the important details of the fortress were imprinted on the mind of the Ligurian before he began his leisurely descent. The features of the slope he traversed were also more cautiously observed; the next ascent would be attempted by more than one, and every irregularity that might give a foothold must be noted by the man who would have to prove and illustrate his tale. When the story was told to Marius he sent some of his retinue to view the spot; their reports differed according to the character of their minds; some of the investigators were sanguine, others more than doubtful; but the consul eventually determined to make the experiment. The escalade was to be attempted by a band of ten; five of the trumpeters and buglemen were selected and four centurions, the Ligurian was to be their guide. With head and feet bare, their only armour a sword and light leathern shield slung across their backs, the soldiers painfully imitated the daring movements of their active leader. But he was considerate as well as daring. Sometimes he would weave a scaling ladder of the trailing creepers; at others he would lend a helping hand; at others again he would gather up their armour and send them on before him, then step rapidly aside and pass with his burden up and down their struggling line. His cheery boldness kept them to their painful task until every man had reached the level of the fort. It was as desolate as when first seen by the Ligurian, for Marius had taken care that a frontal attack should engage the attention of the garrison. The climb had been a long one, and the battle had now been raging many hours when news was brought to the anxious commander that his men had gained the summit.[1136] The assault was now renewed with a force that astonished the besieged, and soon with a recklessness that led them to think the besiegers mad. They could see the Roman commander himself leaving the cover of the mantlets and advancing in the midst of his men up the perilous ascent under a tortoise fence of uplifted shields. Over the heads of the advancing party came a storm of missiles from the Roman lines below. Confident as the Numidians were in the strength of their position, scornful as were the gibes which a moment earlier they had been hurling against the foe, they could not think lightly of the serried mass that was moving up the hill and the rain of bullets that heralded its advance. Every hand was busy and every mind alert when suddenly the Roman trumpet call was heard upon their rear. The women and boys, who had crept out to watch the fight, were the first to take the alarm and to rush back to the shelter of the fort; most of the men were fighting in advance of their outer walls; those nearest to the ramparts were the first to be seized with the panic; but soon the whole garrison was surging backwards, while through and over it pressed the long and narrow wedge of Romans, cutting their way through the now defenceless mass until they had seized the outworks of the fort.

It is difficult to gauge the positive advantages secured by this feat of arms; but it is probable that the capture of this particular hill-fortress, although its difficulty gave it undue prominence in the annals of the war, was not an isolated fact, but one of a series of successful attempts to establish a chain of posts upon the Mauretanian border, which might bring King Bocchus to better counsels and interrupt his communications with Jugurtha. The enterprise may have been followed by a tolerably long campaign in these regions. This campaign has not been recorded, but that it was contemplated is proved by the fact that Marius had ordered an enormous force of cavalry to meet him near the Muluccha.[1137] The force thus summoned actually served the purpose of covering a retirement that was practically a retreat; but this could not have been the object which it was intended to fulfil when its presence was commanded. A large force of horse was essential, if Bocchus was to be paralysed and the border country swept clear of the enemy. The cloud that was to burst from Mauretania was not the only chance that could be foretold; it was the issue to be dreaded, if all plans at prevention failed; but it was one that might possibly be averted by the presence of a commanding force in the border regions.

It had taken nearly a year to collect and transport from Italy the cavalry force that now entered the camp of Marius. The reason why Italy and not Africa was chosen as the recruiting ground is probably to be found in the lack of confidence which the Romans felt even in those Numidians who professed a friendly attitude; otherwise cheapness and even efficiency might seem to have dictated the choice of native contingents, although it is possible that, as a defensive force, the tactical solidarity of the Italians gave them an advantage even over the Numidian horse. The Latins and Italian allies had furnished the troopers that had lately landed on African soil,[1138] perhaps not at the port of Utica, but at some harbour on the west, for the time consumed by Marius in the march to his present position, even had not his campaign been planned in winter quarters, would have given him an opportunity to send notice of his whereabouts to the leader of the auxiliary force. This leader was Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who had spent nearly the whole of the first year of his quaestorship in beating up on Italian soil the troops of horsemen which he now led into the camp. In comparison with the arrival of the force that of the quaestor was as nothing; yet the advent of such a subordinate was always a matter of interest to a general. Tradition had determined that the ties between a commander and his quaestor should be peculiarly close; the superior was responsible for every act of the minor official whom the chance of the lot might thrust upon him; if his subordinate were capable, he was the chosen delegate for every delicate operation in finance, diplomacy, jurisdiction, or even war: if he were incapable, he might be dismissed,[1139] but could not be neglected, for he was besides the general the only man in the province holding the position of a magistrate, and was in titular rank superior even to the oldest and most distinguished of the legates.[1140] It was a matter of chance whether a government or a campaign was to be helped or hindered by the arrival of a new quaestor; and Marius, when he first heard of the man whom destiny had brought to his side, was inclined to be sceptical as to the amount of assistance which was promised by the new appointment.[1141] Apart from a remarkable personal appearance--an impression due to the keen blueness of the eyes, the clear pallor of the face, the sudden flush that spread at moments over the cheeks as though the vigour of the mind could be seen pulsing beneath the delicate skin[1142]--there was little to recommend Sulla to the mind of a hard and stern man engaged in an arduous and disappointing task. The new lieutenant had no military experience, he was the scion of a ruined patrician family, and, if the gossip of Rome were true, his previous life suggested the light-hearted adventurer rather than the student of politics or war. In his early youth he seemed destined to continue the later traditions of his family--those of an unaspiring temper or a careless indolence, which had allowed the consulship to become extinct in the annals of the race and had been long content with the minor prize of the praetorship. Even this honour had been beyond the reach of the father of Sulla; the hereditary claim to office had been completely broken, and the family fortune had sunk so low that there seemed little chance of the renewal of this claim. The present bearer of the name, the elder son of the house, had lived in hired rooms, and such slender means as he could command seemed to be employed in gratifying a passion for the stage.[1143] Yet this taste was but one expression of a genuine thirst for culture;[1144] and, whatever the opinion of men might be, this youth whose most strenuous endeavours were strangely mingled with a careless geniality and an appetite that never dulled for the pleasures of the senses and the flesh, had a wonderful faculty for winning the love of women. His father had made a second marriage with a lady of considerable means; and the affection of the step-mother, who seems to have been herself childless, was soon centred on her husband's elder son.[1145] At her death he was found to be her heir, and the fortune thus acquired was added to or increased by another that had also come by way of legacy from a woman. This benefactress was Nicopolis, a woman of Greek birth, whose transitory loves, which had Brought her wealth, were closed by a lasting passion for the man to Whom this wealth was given.[1146] The possession of this competence, which might have completed the wreck of the nerveless pleasure-seeker that Sulla seemed to be, proved the true steel of which the man was made. The first steps in his political career gave the immediate lie to any theory of wasted opportunities. He had but exceeded by a year or two the minimum age for office when he was elected to the quaestorship; he was but thirty-one when he was scouring Italy for recruits;[1147] a year later he had entered Marius's camp near the Muluccha with his host of cavalry. A very brief experience was sufficient to convert the general's prejudice into the heartiest approval of his new officer. Any spirit of emulation which Sulla possessed was but shown in action and counsel; none could outstrip him in prowess and forethought, yet all that he did seemed to be the easy outcome either of opportunity or of a ready wit which charmed without startling: and he was never heard to breathe a word which reflected on the conduct of the pro-consul or his staff. Over the petty officers and the soldiers he attained the immediate triumph which attends supreme capacity combined with a facile temper and a sense of humour. His old companions of the stage had been perhaps his best instructors in the art of moulding the will of the common man. He had the right address for every one; a grumble was met by a few kind words; a roar of laughter was awakened by a ready jest, and its recipient was the happier for the day. When help was wanted, his resources seemed boundless; yet he never gave as though he expected a return, and the idea of obligation was dismissed with a shrug and a smile.[1148] Sulla was not one of the clumsy intriguers who laboriously lay up a store of favour and are easily detected in the attempt. He was a terrible man because his insight and his charm were a part of his very nature, as were also the dark current of ambition, scarcely acknowledged even by its possessor, and the surging tides of passion, carefully dammed by an exquisitely balanced intellect into a level stream, on which crowds might float and believe themselves to be victims or agents of an overmastering principle, not of a single man's caprice.

The capacity of every officer in Marius's army was soon to be put to an effective test; for the coalition of Jugurtha and Bocchus, which the campaign might have been meant to prevent, turned out to be its immediate result. The Moor was still hesitating between peace and war--looking still, it may be, for another bid from the representative of Rome, and waiting for the moment when he might compel the attention of Metellus's rude successor, who preferred the precautions of war to those of diplomacy--when the Numidian king, in despair at this ruinous passivity and at the loss of the magnificent strategic chance that was being offered by the enemy, approached his father-in-law with the proposal that the cession of one-third of Numidia should be the price of his assistance. The cession was to take effect, either if the Romans were driven out of Africa, or if a settlement was reached with Rome which left the boundaries of Numidia intact.[1149] Bocchus may not have credited the likelihood of the realisation of the first alternative; but combined action might render the second possible, and even if that failed, his chances of a bargain with Rome were not decreased by entering on a policy of hostility which might be closed at the opportune moment. For the time, however, he played vigorously for Jugurtha's success. His troops of horsemen poured over the border to join the Numidian force, and the combined armies moved rapidly to the east to encompass the columns of Marius, that had just begun their long march to the site which had been chosen for winter quarters.

The object of the Roman general was to keep in touch with the sea for the purpose of facilitating the supply of his army. But we cannot say whether his original choice was a station so distant as the neighbourhood of Cirta,[1150] or whether his movement in this direction, which severed him by some hundreds of miles from the region which he had lately commanded, was a measure forced on him by the danger to which his army was exposed in the distant west from the overwhelming forces of the enemy. He had at any rate covered a great stretch of territory before he actually came into touch with the combined forces of Bocchus and Jugurtha; for the almost continuous fighting that ensued, when once the armies had come into contact, seems all to have been confined to the last few days before Cirta was reached and to a period of time which could have formed but a small fraction of the whole duration of the march. The first attack was planned for the closing hours of the day.[1151] The advent of night would be of advantage to the native force whether they were victorious or defeated. In the first case their knowledge of the ground would enable them to follow up their success, in the second their retreat would be secured. Under all circumstances a struggle in the darkness must increase the difficulties of the Romans. A complete surprise was impossible, for Marius's scouting was good, and from all directions horsemen dashed up to tell him the enemy was at hand. But the quarter from which such an attack would be aimed could not be determined, and so incredibly rapid were the movements of the Moorish and Gaetulian horse that scarcely had the last messenger ridden up when the Roman column was assailed on every side. The Roman army had no time to form in line, and anything approaching battle array was scorned by the enemy. They charged in separate squadrons, the formation of which seemed to be due to chance as much as to design; this desultory mode of attack enabled them to assail the Roman forces at every point and to prevent any portion of the men from acquiring the stability that might save the helplessness of the others; they harried the legionaries as they shifted their heavy baggage, drew their swords and hurried into line, and the cavalry soldiers as they strove to mount their frightened horses. Horse and foot were inextricably mixed, and no one could tell which was the van and which the rear of the surrounded army. The general fought like a common soldier, but he did not forget the duties of a commander. With his chosen troop of horse he rode up and down the field, detecting the weak points of his own men, the strong points of the enemy, lending a timely succour to the first and throwing his weight against the second.[1152] But it was the experience of the well-trained legionaries that saved the day. Schooled in such surprises, they began to form small solid squares, and against these barriers the impact of the light horsemen beat in vain.[1153] But night was drawing on--the hour which the allied kings had chosen as the crowning moment of their attack--and Marius was as fully conscious as his enemies how helpless the Roman force would be if such a struggle were protracted into the darkness. Fortunately the place of the attack had been badly chosen; the neighbouring ground did not present a wholly level expanse on which cavalry could operate at will. But a short distance from the scene of the fight two neighbouring hills could be seen to rise above the plain; the smaller possessed an abundant spring of water, the larger by its rugged aspect seemed to promise an admirable rampart for defence.[1154] It was impossible to withdraw the whole army to the elevation which contained the welcome stream, for its space did not permit of an encampment; but Marius instructed Sulla to seize it with the cavalry. He then began to draw his scattered infantry together, taking advantage of the disorder in the enemy which the last sturdy stand of the veterans had produced, and when the divisions were at last in touch with one another, he led the whole force at a quick march to the place which he had chosen for its retreat. The kings soon recognised that this retreat was unassailable; their plan of a night attack had failed; but they did not lose the hope that they held the Romans at their mercy. The fight had become a blockade; they would coop the Romans within their narrow limits, or force them to straggle on their way under a renewal of the same merciless assault. To have withstood the legions and occupied their ground, was itself a triumph for Gaetulians and Moors. They spread their long lines round either hill and lighted a great ring of watchfires; but their minds were set on passing the night in a manner conducive neither to sleep nor vigilance. They threw away their victory in a manner common to barbarism, which often lacks neither courage nor skill, but finds its nemesis in an utter lack of self-restraint. From the silent darkness of the ridge above the Romans could see, in the circles of red light thrown by the blazing watch-fires, the forms of their enemies in every attitude of careless and reckless joy; while the delirious howls of triumph which reached their ears, were a source, not of terror, but of hope. In the Roman camp no sound was heard; even the call of the patrol was hushed by the general's command.[1155] As the night wore on, the silence spread to the Plain below, but here it was the silence of the deep and profound sleep that comes on men wearied by the excesses of the night. Suddenly there was a terrific uproar. Every horn and trumpet in the Roman lines seemed to be alive, every throat to be swelling the clamour with ear-piercing yells. The Moors and Gaetulians, springing from the ground, found the enemy in their very midst. Where the slaughter ended, the pursuit began. No battle in the war had shown a larger amount of slain; for flight, which was the Numidian's salvation and the mockery of his foe, had been less possible in this conflict than in any which had gone before.

Marius continued his march, but with precautions even greater than those which he had previously observed. He formed his whole army into a "hollow square" [1156]--in fact, a great oblong, arranged equally for defence on front, flanks, and rear, while the baggage occupied the centre. Sulla with the cavalry rode on the extreme right; on the left was Aulus Manlius with the slingers and archers and some cohorts of Ligurians; the front and rear were covered by light infantry selected from the legions under the command of military tribunes. Numidian refugees scoured the country around, their knowledge of the land giving them a peculiar value as a scouting force. The camp was formed with the same scrupulous care; whole cohorts formed from legionaries kept watch against the gates, fortified posts were manned at short distances along the enclosing mound, and squadrons of auxiliary cavalry moved all night before the ramparts. Marius was to be seen at all points and at all hours, a living example of vigilance not of distrust, a master in the art of controlling men, not by terror but by sharing in their toils. Four days had the march progressed and Cirta was reported to be not far distant, when suddenly an ominous but now familiar sight was seen. Scouts were riding in on every hand; all reported an enemy, but none could say with certainty the quarter from which he might appear.[1157] The present disposition of the Roman troops had made the direction of the attack a matter of comparatively little moment, and Marius called a halt without making any change in the order of his march. Soon the enemy came down, and Jugurtha, when he saw the hollow square, knew that his plan had been partly foiled. He had divided his own forces into four divisions; some of these were to engage the Roman van; but some at least might be able to throw themselves at the critical moment on the undefended rear of the Roman column, when its attention was fully engaged by a frontal attack.[1158]

As things were, the Roman army presented no one point that seemed more assailable than another, and Jugurtha determined to engage with the Roman cavalry on the right, probably with the idea that by diverting that portion of the Roman force which was under the circumstances its strongest protecting arm, he might give an opportunity to his ally to lead that attack upon the rear which was to be the crowning movement of the day. His assault, which was directed near to the angle which the right flank made with the van, was anticipated rather than received by Sulla, who rapidly formed his force into two divisions, one for attack, the other for defence. The first he massed in dense squadrons, and at the head of these he charged the Moorish horse; the second stood their ground, covering themselves as best they could from the clouds of missiles that rose from the enemy's ranks, and slaughtering the daring horsemen that rode too near their lines. For a time it seemed as if the right flank and the van were to bear the brunt of the battle; the king was known to be there in person: and Marius, knowing what Jugurtha's presence meant, himself hastened to the front.

But suddenly the chief point of the attack was changed. Bocchus had been joined by a force of native infantry, which his son Volux had just brought upon the field. It was a force that had not yet known defeat, for some delay upon the route had prevented it from taking part in the former battle. With this infantry, and probably with a considerable body of Moorish horse,[1159] Bocchus threw himself upon the Roman rear. Neither the general nor his chief officers were present with the division that was thus attacked; Marius and Sulla were both engrossed with the struggle at the other end of the right wing, and Manlius seems still to have kept his position on the left flank; the absence of an inspiring mind amongst the troops assailed, their ignorance of the fate of their distant comrades, moved Jugurtha to lend the weight of his presence and his words to the efforts of his fellow king. With a handful of horsemen he quitted the main force under his command and galloped down the whole length of the right wing, until he wheeled his horse amidst the front ranks of the struggling infantry. He raised a sword streaming with blood and shouted in the Latin tongue that Marius had already fallen by his hand, that the Romans might now give up the struggle. The suggestion conveyed by his words shook the nerves even of those who did not credit the horrifying news,[1160] while the presence of the king, here as everywhere, stirred the Africans to their highest pitch of daring. They pressed the wavering Romans harder than before, the battle at this point had almost become a rout, when suddenly a large body of Roman horse was seen to be bearing down on the right flank of the Moorish infantry. They were led by Sulla, whose vigorous attacks had scattered the enemy on the right wing; he could now employ his cavalry for other purposes, and the Moorish infantry shook beneath the flank attack, Jugurtha refused to see that the tide of victory had turned; with a reckless courage he still strove to weld together the shattered forces of the Moors and to urge them against the Roman lines; his own escape was a miracle; men fell to left and right of him, he was pressed on both sides by the Roman horse; at times he seemed almost alone amidst his foes; yet at the last moment he vanished, and the capture which would have ended the war was still beyond the reach of Roman skill and prowess.[1161] Sulla had saved the day, the advent of Marius was but needed to put the final touches to the victory. He had seen the cavalry on the right scatter beneath the charges of the Roman horse, and almost at the same moment news was brought him that his men were being driven back upon the rear. His succour was scarcely needed, but his presence gave an impulse to pursuit. The sight of the field when that pursuit was at its height, lived ever in the minds of those who shared in its glory and its horror. The sickening spectacle which a hard fought battle yields, was protracted in this instance by the vast vista of the plains. Wherever the eye could reach there were prostrate bodies of men and horses, whose only claim to life was the writhing agony of their wounds; on a stage dyed red with blood and strewn with the furniture of shattered weapons little moving groups could be seen. The figures of these puppets showed all the phases of helpless flight, violent pursuit, and pitiless slaughter.

In spite of the carnage of this battlefield, victory here, as elsewhere throughout the war, meant little more than driving off the foe. We possess but a fragmentary record of this terrible retreat to Cirta, but it is certain that its dangers and losses were by no means exhausted in two pitched battles. A chance notice torn from its context[1162] tells of a third great contest which closed a long period of harassing attacks. Close to the walls of Cirta the Roman army was met by the two kings at the head of sixty thousand horse. The combatants were swathed in a cloud raised by the dust of battle, the Roman soldiers massed in a narrow space were such helpless victims of the missiles of the enemy that the Numidian and Moorish horsemen ceased to single out their targets, and threw their javelins at random into the crowded ranks with the certainty that each would find its mark. For three days was the running fight continued. A charge was impossible against the volleys of the foe, and retreat was cut off by the multitude of light horsemen that hemmed the army in on every side. In the last desperate effort which Marius made to free himself from the meshes of the kings, even the centre of his column shook under the hail of missiles that assailed it, and to the weapons of the enemy were soon added the terrors of blinding heat and intolerable thirst. Suddenly a storm broke over the warring hosts. It cooled the throats of the Romans and refreshed their limbs, while it lessened the power of their foes. The strapless javelins[1163] of the Numidians could not be hurled when wet, for they slipped from the hands of the thrower; their shields of elephants' hide absorbed water like a sponge and weighed down the arms on which they hung. The Moors and Numidians, seeing that even their means of defence had failed them, took to flight: but only to appear on another day with their army raised to ninety thousand and to repeat the attempt to surround the Roman host. This last effort ended in a signal victory for Marius. The forces of the two kings were not only defeated but almost destroyed.

The events thus recorded can scarcely be regarded as mere variants of the two battles which we have previously described. Vague and rhetorical as is the account which sets them forth, it shows that there were traditions of suffering and loss endured by the army of Marius such as found no parallel in the campaign of his predecessor. Marius had attempted what Metellus had never dared--a campaign in the far west of Numidia. Its results were fruitless successes of the paladin type followed by a burdensome and disastrous retreat. The west was lost, the east was threatened, yet the lesson was not without its fruit. The general when he reached the walls of Cirta had lost something of his hardy faith in the use of blood and iron; he was more ready to appeal to the motives which make for peace, to pretend a trust he did not feel, to make promises which might induce the fluid treachery of Bocchus to harden into a definite act of treason to his brother king, above all, to lean on some other man who could play the delicate game of diplomatic fence with a cunning which his own straightforward methods could not attain. Everything depended on the attitude of the King of Mauretania; and here again the campaign had not been without some healthful consequences. If the Romans had gained no material advantage, Bocchus had suffered some very material losses. His forces had been cut up, the stigma of failure attached (perhaps for the first time) to their leader, the first contact with the Romans had not been encouraging to his subjects. And the campaign may also have revealed the difficulty, if not the hopelessness, of Jugurtha's cause. The plan of driving the Romans from Africa could not be perfected even with the combined forces of the two kingdoms at their fullest strength; however much they might harass, they had proved themselves utterly unable to attain such a success as even the most complacent patriotism could name a victory; while the sturdiness of the resistance of Rome seemed to banish the hypothesis that Jugurtha would be included in any terms that might be made. Yet the campaign had left Bocchus in an excellent position for negotiation. He had shown that Mauretania was a great make-weight in the scale against Rome; he had advertised his power as an enemy, his value as an ally; now was the time to see whether the power and the value, so long ignored, would be appreciated by Rome.

But five days are said to have elapsed since the last great conflict with the Moors when envoys from Bocchus waited on Marius in his winter quarters at Cirta.[1164] The request which they brought was that "two of the Roman general's most trusty friends should wait on the king, who desired to speak with them on a matter of interest to himself and the Roman people".[1165] Marius forthwith singled out Sulla and Manlius, who followed the envoys to the place of meeting that had been arranged. On the way it was agreed by the representatives of Rome that they should not wait for the king to open the discussion. Hitherto every proposal had come from Bocchus; he had been played with, but never given a straightforward answer, still less a sign of real encouragement. Yet no good could be gained by expecting the king to assume a grovelling attitude, by forcing him to begin proposals for peace with a confession of his own humiliation. It would be far wiser if the commissioners opened with a few spontaneous remarks which might restore rest and dignity to the royal mind. Manlius the elder readily yielded the place of first speaker to the more facile Sulla. If the words which history has attributed to the quaestor[1166] were really used by him, they are a record of one of those rare instances in which a diplomatist is able to tell the naked truth. Sulla began by dwelling on the joy which he and his friends derived from the change in Bocchus's mind--from the heaven-sent inspiration which had taught the king that peace was preferable to war. He then dwelt on the fact, which he might have adduced the whole of his country's history to prove, that Rome had been ever keener in the search for friends than subjects, that the Republic had ever deemed voluntary allegiance safer than that compelled by force. He showed that Roman friendship might be a boon, not a burden, to Bocchus; the distance of his kingdom from the capital would obviate a conflict of interests, but no distance was too great to be traversed by the gratitude of Rome. Bocchus had already seen what Rome could do in war; all that he needed to learn was the still greater lesson that her generosity was as unconquerable as her arms. Sulla's words were a genuine statement of the whole theory of the Protectorate, as it was held and even acted on at this period of history. As a proof of the ruinous lengths to which Roman generosity might proceed, he could have pointed to the Numidian war now in the sixth year of its disastrous course. The darker side of the Protectorate--the rapacity of the individual adventurer--was no creation of the government, and needed not to be reproduced on the canvas of the bright picture which he drew. The hopes held out to Bocchus were genuine enough; the burden of his alliance was but slight, its security immense.

The king seemed impressed by the gracious overtures of the commissioners. His answer was not only friendly, but apologetic.[1167] He urged that he had not taken up arms in any spirit of hostility to Rome, but simply for the purpose of defending his own frontiers. He claimed that the territory near the Muluccha, which had been harried by Marius, did not belong to Jugurtha at all. He had expelled the Numidian king from this region and it was his by the right of war. He appealed finally to the fact of his own former embassy to Rome: he had made a genuine effort to secure her friendship, but this had been repulsed.[1168] He was, however, willing to forget the past; and, if Marius permitted, he would like to send a fresh embassy to the senate. This last request was provisionally granted by the commissioners; Bocchus, in making it, showed a wise and, in consideration of some of the events of this very war, a natural sense of the insecurity of the promises made by Roman commanders, at the same time as he exhibited a justifiable faith in a word once given by the great organ of the Republic. Yet, when the commissioners had taken their departure, his old hesitancy seemed to revive. He consented at least to listen to those of his advisers who still urged the claims of Jugurtha.[1169] They had raised their voices again, either at the time when the Roman commissioners were waiting on Bocchus, or immediately after their departure; for Jugurtha had no sooner learnt of his father-in-law's renewed negotiations with Rome than he had used every means (amongst others, we are told, that of costly gifts) to induce his Mauretanian supporters to advocate his cause.

A further stage in the negotiations was reached before the winter season was over, although it is probable that, at the time when this next step was taken by the Mauretanian king, the new year had been passed and the advent of spring was not far off. Marius, who was not fettered in his operations by respect for the traditional seasons which were deemed suitable to a campaign, had started with some flying columns of infantry and a portion of the cavalry to some desert spot, with a view to besiege a fortress still held by Jugurtha, and garrisoned by all the deserters from the Roman army who were now in the king's service. Sulla had been left with the usual title of pro-praetor to represent his absent commander. To the headquarters of the winter camp[1170] Bocchus now sent five of his closest friends, men chosen for their approved loyalty and ability.[1171] His last access of hesitancy, if it were more than a semblance, had certainly been shortlived, and the envoys were given full powers to arrange the terms of peace. They had set out with all speed to reach the Roman winter camp, but their journey had been long and painful. They had been seized and plundered on the route by Gaetulian brigands, and now appeared panic-stricken and in miserable plight before the representative of Rome. Stripped of their credentials and the symbols of their high office, they expected to be treated as vagrant impostors from a hostile state; Sulla received them with the lavish dignity that might be the due of princes. The simple nomads felt the charm and the surprise of this first glimpse of the public manners of Rome. Was it possible that these kindly and courteous men were the spoilers of the world? The rumour must be the false invention of the enemies of the bounteous Republic. The untrained mind rapidly argues from the part to the whole, and Sulla's tact had done a great service to his country. He had also established a claim on the Mauretanian king,[1172] and this personal tie was not to be without its consequences.

The envoys revealed to the quaestor the instructions of their master, and asked his help and advice in the mission that lay before them. They dwelt with pardonable pride on the wealth, the magnificence, and the honour of their king, and dilated on every point in which the alliance with such a potentate was likely to serve the cause of Rome.[1173] Sulla promised them the plenitude of his help; he instructed them in the mode in which they should address Marius, in which they should approach the senate, and continued to be their host for forty days, until his commander was ready to listen to their proposals and forward them on their way. When Marius returned to Cirta after the successful completion of his brief campaign, and heard of the arrival of the envoys, he asked Sulla to bring them[1174] to his quarters, and made preparations for assembling as formal a council as the resources of the province permitted. A praetor happened to be within its limits and several men of senatorial rank. All these sat to listen to the proposals made by Bocchus. The verdict of the council was in favour of the genuineness of the king's appeal, and the proconsul granted the envoys permission to make their way to Rome. They asked an armistice for their king[1175] until the mission should be completed. Loud and angry voices were heard in protest--the voices of the narrow and suspicious men who are haunted by the fixed conviction that a request for a cessation of hostilities is always a treacherous attempt at renewed preparations for war. But Sulla and the majority of the board supported the request of the envoys, and the wiser counsel at length prevailed. The embassy now divided; two of its members returned to their king, while three were escorted to Rome by Cnaeus Octavius Ruso, a quaestor who had brought the last instalment of pay for the army and was ready for his return homewards. The language of the envoys before the Roman senate assumed the apologetic tone which had been suggested by Sulla. Their king, they said, had erred; Jugurtha had been the cause of this error. Their master asked that Rome should admit him to treaty relations with herself, that she should call him her friend. It is not impossible that these negotiations had a secret history; that Bocchus was told of some very material reward that he might expect, if Jugurtha were surrendered. But the assumption is not necessary. The magic of the name of Rome had fired the imagination of the African king at the commencement of the struggle; now that his fears were quieted, the end, in whatever form it was attained, may have seemed supremely desirable in itself. His envoys had been schooled by Sulla to expect much more than was promised and to read the senate's words aright. Certainly, if a prize had been offered for Bocchus's fidelity, the offer was carefully concealed. The official form in which the government accepted the petitioner's request, granted a free pardon and expressed a cold probation. "The senate and Roman people (so ran the resolution) are used to be mindful of good service and of wrongs. Since Bocchus is penitent for the past, they excuse his fault. He will be granted a treaty and the name of friend, when he has proved that he deserves the grant." [1176]

When Bocchus received this answer, he despatched a letter to Marius asking that Sulla should be sent to advise with him on the matters that touched the common interests of himself and Rome.[1177] It was tolerably clear what the subject of interest was. If it could be made "common," the end of the war had been reached. Sulla was despatched, and the final triumph, if attained, would be that of the diplomatist, not of the soldier. The quaestor was accompanied by an escort of cavalry, slingers, and archers, and a cohort of Italians bearing the weapons of a skirmishing force; for the adventures of Bocchus's envoys had shown the insecurity of the route. On the fifth day of the march, a large body of horse was seen approaching from a distance--a force that looked larger and more threatening than it afterwards proved to be; for it rode in open order, and the wild evolutions of the horsemen seemed to be the preliminary to an attack. Sulla's escort sprang to their arms; but the returning scouts soon removed all sense of fear. The approaching band of cavalry proved to be but a thousand strong and their leader to be Volux the son of Bocchus. The prince saluted Sulla and told him that he had been sent to meet and escort him to the presence of the king. For two days the combined forces advanced together, and there were no adventures by the road; but on the evening of the second day, when their resting place had been already chosen, the Moorish prince came hastily to Sulla with a look of perplexity on his face. He said that his scouts had just informed him that Jugurtha was close at hand, he entreated Sulla to join him in flight from the camp while it was yet night.[1178] The request was met by an indignant refusal; Sulla pointed to his men, whose lives might be sacrificed by the disgraceful disappearance of their leader. But, when Volux shifted his ground and merely insisted on the utility of a march by night from the dangerous neighbourhood, the quaestor yielded assent. He ordered that the soldiers should take their evening meal, and that a large number of fires should be lit which were to be left burning in the deserted camp. At the first watch the Moors and Romans stole silently from the lines. The dawn found them jaded, heavy with sleep, and longing for rest. Sulla was supervising the measurement of a camp, when some Moorish horsemen galloped up with the news that Jugurtha was but two miles in advance of their position. It was clear that the anxious Numidian was watching their every movement; the question to be answered was "Was Prince Volux in the plot?" The facts seemed dark enough to justify any suspicion. The nerves of the Romans had been shaken by the unknown danger which had forced them to leave their camp, by the night of sleepless watchfulness which had followed its abandonment. A panic was the inevitable result, and panic leads to fury. Voices were raised that the Moorish traitor should be slain, and that, if the fruit of his treason was reaped, he at least should not be allowed to see it. Sulla himself was weighed down with the same suspicion that animated his men, but he would not allow them to lay violent hands on the Moor.[1179] He encouraged them as best he might, then he turned with a passionate protest on his dubious companion. He called the protecting god of his own race, the guardian of its international honour, Jupiter Maximus, to witness the crime and perfidy of Bocchus, and he ordered Volux to leave his camp. The unhappy prince was probably in a state of genuine terror of Jugurtha, of complete uncertainty as to the intentions of that jealous kinsman and ally. Even had Volux known that his father Bocchus wished to play a double game, to balance the helplessness of Sulla against that of Jugurtha, to hold two valuable hostages in his hands at once, how could he be certain that Jugurtha would be content to play the part of a mere pawn in the king's game, to be dependent for his safety on the passing whim of a man whom he distrusted? Jugurtha might have everything to gain by massacring the Romans and seizing Sulla. The act would compromise Bocchus hopelessly in the eyes of the Roman government. There was hardly a man that would not believe in his treason, and from that time forth Bocchus would have no choice but to be the firm ally of Numidia against the vengeance of Rome. Yet, if Volux acted or spoke as though he believed in the possibility of this issue, he might seem to be incriminating his father and himself, he might seem to deserve the stern rebuke of Sulla and the order of expulsion from the Roman camp. His fears must therefore be concealed and he must profess a confidence which he did not feel. With tears which may have expressed a genuine emotion, he entreated Sulla not to harbour the unworthy suspicion. There had been no preconcerted treachery; the danger was at the most the product of the cunning of Jugurtha, who had discovered their route. Volux implied that the object of the Numidian's movement was to compromise the Moorish government in the eyes of Sulla; but he stated his emphatic belief that Jugurtha would, or could, do no positive hurt to the Roman envoy or his retinue. He pointed out that the king had no great force at his command, and (what was more important still) that he was now wholly dependent on the favour of his father-in-law. It was incredible, he maintained, that Jugurtha would attempt any overt act of hostility, when the son of Bocchus was present to be a witness to the crime. Their best plan would be to show their indifference to his schemes, to ride in broad daylight through the middle of his camp. If Sulla wished, he would send on the Moorish escort, or leave it where it was and ride with him alone.

It was one of those situations which are the supreme tests of the qualities of a man. Sulla knew that his life depended on the caprice, or the momentary sense of self-interest, of a barbarian who was believed to have shrunk from no crime and on whose head Rome had put a price. Yet he did not hesitate. He passed with Volux through the lines of Jugurtha's camp, and the desperate Numidian never stirred. What motive held his hand was never known; it may have been that Jugurtha never intended violence; yet the failure of his plan of compromising Bocchus might well have stirred such a ready man to action; it may have been that he still relied on his influence with the Mauretanian king, which was perpetuated by his agents at the court. But some believed that his inaction was due to surprise, and that the transit of Sulla through the hostile camp was one of those actions which are rendered safe by their very boldness.[1180]

In a few days the travellers had reached the spot where Bocchus held his court. The secret advocates of Numidia and Rome were already in possession of the king.[1181] Jugurtha's representative was Aspar, a Numidian subject who had been sent by his master as soon as the news had been brought of Bocchus's demand for the presence of Sulla. He had been sent to watch the negotiations and, if possible, to plead his monarch's cause. The advocate of Rome was Dabar, also a Numidian but of the royal line and therefore hostile to Jugurtha. He was a grandson of Masinissa, but not by legitimate descent, for his father had been born of a concubine of the king.[1182] His great parts had long recommended him to Bocchus, and his known loyalty to Rome made him a useful intermediary with the representative of that power. He was now sent to Sulla with the intimation that Bocchus was ready to meet the wishes of the Roman people; that he asked Sulla himself to choose a day, an hour and a place for a conference; that the understanding, which already existed between them, remained wholly unimpaired. The presence of a representative of Jugurtha at the court should cause no uneasiness. This representative was only tolerated because there was no other means of lulling the suspicion of the Numidian king. We do not know what Sulla made of this presentment of the case; but somewhere in the annals of the time there was to be found an emphatic conviction that Bocchus was still playing a double game, that he was still revolving in his mind the respective merits of a surrender of Jugurtha to the Romans and of Sulla to Jugurtha;[1183] that his fears prompted the first step, his inclinations the second, and that this internal struggle was waged throughout the whole of the tortuous negotiations which ensued.

Sulla, in accepting the promised interview, replied that he did not object to the presence of Jugurtha's legate at the preliminaries; but that most of what he wished to say was for the king's ear alone, or at least for those of a very few of his most trusted counsellors. He suggested the reply that he expected from the king, and after a short interval was led into Bocchus's presence. At this meeting he gave the barest intimation of his mission; he had been sent, he said, by the proconsul[1184] to ask the king whether he intended peace or war. It had been arranged that Bocchus should make no immediate answer to this question, but should reserve his reply for another date. The king now adjourned the audience to the tenth day, intimating that on that day his intention would be decided and his reply prepared. Sulla and Bocchus both retired to their respective camps; but the king was restless, and at a late hour of that very night a message reached Sulla entreating an immediate and secret interview. No one was present but Dabar, the trusty go-between, and interpreters whose secrecy was assured. The narrative of this momentous meeting[1185] is therefore due to Sulla, whose fortunate possession of literary tastes has revealed a bit of secret history to the world. The king began with some complimentary references to his visitor, an acknowledgment of the great debt that he owed him, a hope that his benefactor would never be weary of attempting to exhaust his boundless gratitude. He then passed to the question of his own future relations with Rome. He repeated the assertion, which he had made on the occasion of Sulla's earlier visit, that he had never made, or even wished for, war with the people of Rome, that he had merely protected his frontiers against armed aggression. But he was willing to waive the point. He would impose no hindrance to the Romans waging war with Jugurtha in any way they pleased. He would not press his claim to the disputed territory east of the Muluccha. He would be content to regard that river, which had been the boundary between his own kingdom and that of Micipsa, as his future frontier. He would not cross it himself nor permit Jugurtha to pass within it. If Sulla had any further request to urge, which could be fairly made by the petitioner and honourably granted by himself, he would not refuse it.

A strict and safe neutrality was the tentacle put out by Bocchus. The only shadow of a positive service by which he proposed to deserve the alliance of Rome, was the abandonment of a highly disputable claim to a part of Jugurtha's possessions. It was certainly time to bring the monarch to the real point at issue, and Sulla pressed it home. He began by a brief acknowledgment of the complimentary references which the king had made to himself, and then indulged in some plain speaking as to the expectations which the Roman government had formed of their would-be ally.[1186] He pointed out that the offers made by Bocchus were scarcely needed by Rome. A power that possessed her military strength would not be likely to regard them in the light of favours. Something was expected which could be seen to subserve the interests of Rome far more than those of the king himself. The service was patent. He had Jugurtha in his power; if he handed him over to Rome, her debt would certainly be great, and it would be paid. The recognition of friendship, the treaty which he sought, and the portion of Numidia which he claimed--all these would be his for the asking. The king drew back; he urged the sacred bonds of relationship, the scarce less sacred tie of the treaty which bound him to his son-in-law; he emphasised the danger to himself of such a flagrant breach of faith. It might alienate the hearts of his subjects, who loved Jugurtha and hated the name of Rome.[1187] But Sulla continued to press the point; the king's resistance seemed to give way, and at last he promised to do everything that his persistent visitor demanded. It was agreed, however, between the two conspirators that it was necessary to preserve a semblance of peaceful relations with Jugurtha. A pretence must be made of admitting him to the terms of the convention; this would be a ready bait, for he was thoroughly tired of the war. Sulla agreed to this arrangement as the only means of entrapping his victim; to Bocchus it may have had another significance as well; it still left his hands free.

The next day witnessed the beginning of the machinations that were to end in the sacrifice of a Numidian king or a Roman magistrate. Bocchus summoned Aspar, the agent of Jugurtha, and told him that a communication had been received from Sulla to the effect that terms might be considered for bringing the war to a close; he therefore asked the legate to ascertain the views of his sovereign.[1188] Aspar departed joyfully to the headquarters of Jugurtha, who was now at a considerable distance from the scene of the negotiations. Eight days later he returned with all speed, bearing a message for the ear of Bocchus. Jugurtha, it appeared, was willing to submit to any conditions. But he had little confidence in Marius. It had often happened that terms of peace sanctioned by Roman generals had been declared invalid. But there was a way of obtaining a guarantee. If Bocchus wished to secure their common interests and to enjoy an undisputed peace, he should arrange a meeting of all the principals to the agreement, on the pretext of discussing its terms. At that meeting Sulla should be handed over to Jugurtha. There could be no doubt that the possession of such a hostage would wring the consent of the senate and people to the terms of the treaty; for it was incredible that the Roman government would leave a member of the nobility, who had been captured while performing a public duty, in the power of his foes.

Bocchus after some reflection consented to this course. Then, as later, it was a disputed question whether the king had even at this stage made up his mind as to his final course of action.[1189] When the time and place for the meeting had been arranged, the nature of the treachery was still uncertain. At one moment the king was holding smiling converse with Sulla, at another with the envoy of Jugurtha. Precisely the same promises were made to both; both were satisfied and eager for the appointed day. On the evening before the meeting Bocchus summoned a council of his friends; then the whim took him that they should be dismissed, and he passed some time in silent thought. Before the night was out he had sent for Sulla, and it was the cunning of the Roman that set the final toils for the Numidian. At break of day the news was brought that Jugurtha was at hand. Bocchus, attended by a few friends and the Roman quaestor, advanced as though to do him honour, and halted on some rising ground which put the chief actors in the drama in full view of the men who lay in ambush. Jugurtha proceeded to the same spot amidst a large retinue of his friends; it had been agreed that all the partners to the conference should come unarmed.[1190] A sign was given, and the men of the ambuscade had sprung from every side upon the mound. Jugurtha's retinue was cut down to a man; the king himself was seized, bound and handed over to Sulla. In a short while he was the prisoner of Marius.

Every one had long known that the war would be closed with the capture of the king. Marius could leave for other fields and dream other dreams of glory. But even the utter collapse of resistance in Numidia did not obviate the necessity for a considerable amount of detailed labour, which absorbed the energy of the commander during the closing months of the year. Even when news had been brought from Rome that a grateful people had raised him to the consulship for the second time, and that a task greater than that of the Numidian war had been entrusted to his hand,[1191] he did not immediately quit the African province, and it is probable that at least the initial steps of the new settlement of Numidia determined by the senate, were taken by him. The settlement was characteristic of the imperialism of the time. The government declined to extend the evils of empire westward and southward, to make of Mauretania another Numidia, and to enter on a course of border warfare with the tribes that fringed the desert. It therefore refused to recognise Numidia as a province. In default of an abler ruler, Gauda was set upon the throne of his ancestors;[1192] he had long had the support of Marius, and seems indeed to have been the only legitimate claimant. But he was not given the whole of the realm which had been swayed by Masinissa and Micipsa. The aspirations of Bocchus for an extension of the limits of Mauretania had to be satisfied, partly because it would have been ungenerous and impolitic to deprive of a reward that had been more than hinted at, a man who had violated his own personal inclinations and the national traditions of the subjects over whom he ruled, for the purpose of performing a signal service to Rome; partly because it would have been dangerous to the future peace of Numidia, and therefore of Rome, to leave the question of Bocchus's claims to territory east of the Muluccha unsettled, especially with such a ruler as Gauda on the throne. The western part of Numidia was therefore attached to the kingdom of Mauretania; nearly five hundred miles of coast line may have been transferred, and the future boundary between the two dominions may have been the port of Saldae on the west of the Numidian gulf.[1193] The wisdom of this settlement is proved by its success. Until Rome herself becomes a victim to civil strife, and her exiles or conquerors play for the help of her own subjects, Numidia ceases to be a factor in Roman politics. The mischief of interfering in dynastic questions had been made too patent to permit of the rash repetition of the dangerous experiment.

In comparison with the settlement of Numidia, the ultimate fate of its late king was a matter of little concern. But Jugurtha had played too large a part in history to permit either the historian, or the lounger of the streets who jostled his neighbour for the privilege of gazing with hungry eyes at the visage and bearing of the terrible warrior, to be wholly indifferent to his end. The prisoner was foredoomed. Had he not for years been treated as an escaped criminal, not as a hostile king? If one ignored his outrages on his own race, had he not massacred Roman merchants, prompted the treacherous slaughter of a Roman garrison, and devised the murder of a client of the Roman people in the very streets of Rome? In truth, a formidable indictment might be brought against Jugurtha, nor was it the care of any one to discriminate which of the counts referred to acts of war, and which must be classed in the category of merely private crimes. It was sufficient that he was an enemy (which to the Roman mind meant traitor) who had brought death to citizens and humiliation to the State, and it is probable that, had the Numidian been the purest knight whose chivalrous warfare had shaken the power of Rome, he would have taken that last journey to the Capitol. It was the custom of Rome, and any derogation of the iron rule was an act of singular grace. The stupidity of the mob, which is closely akin to its brutality, was utterly unable to distinguish between the differences in conduct which are the result of the varying ethical standards of the races of the world, or even to balance the enormities committed by their own commanders against those which could be fastened on the enemy whom they had seized. And this lack of imagination was reflected in a cultured government, partly because their culture was superficial and they were still the products of the grim old school which had produced their ferocious ancestors, partly for reasons that were purely politic. The light hold which Rome held over her dependants, could only be rendered light by acts of occasional severity; the world must be made to see the consequences of rebellion against a sovereign. But the true justification for Roman rigour was not dependent on such considerations, which are often of a highly disputable kind, nearly so much as on the normal attitude of the Roman mind itself. Cruelty was but an expression of Roman patriotism; with characteristic consistency they applied much the same views to their citizens and their subjects, and their treatment of captured enemies was but one expression of the spirit which found utterance in their own terrible law of treason.

When Marius celebrated his triumph on the 1st of January in the year which followed the close of the Numidian war,[1194] Jugurtha and his two sons walked before his chariot. While the pageant lasted, the king still wore his royal robes in mockery of his former state; when it had reached its bourne on the Capitol, the degradation and the punishment were begun. But it was believed by some that neither could now be felt, and that it was a madman that was pushed down the narrow stair which leads to the rock-hewn dungeon below the hill.[1195] His tunic was stripped from him, the golden rings wrested from his ears, and, as the son of the south[1196] stepped shivering into the well-like cavern, the cry "Oh! what a cold bath!" burst from his lips. Of the stories as to how the end was reached, the more detailed speaks of a protracted agony of six days until the prisoner had starved to death, his weakened mind clinging ever to the hope that his life might yet be spared.[1197]

The minor prize of the Numidian war was a quantity of treasure including more than three thousand pounds' weight of gold and over five thousand of silver[1198]--which was shown in the triumph of Marius before it was deposited in the treasury. It was indeed the only permanent prize of the war which could be exhibited to the people; if one excepted two triumphs and the recognition of the merit of three officials, there was nothing else to show. It was difficult to justify the war even on defensive grounds, for it would have required a courageous advocate to maintain that the mere recognition of Jugurtha as King of Numidia would have imperilled the Roman possessions in Africa; and, if the struggle had assumed an anti-Roman character, this result had been assisted, if not secured, by the tactics of the opposition which had systematically foiled every attempt at compromise. But a war, which it is difficult to justify and still more difficult to remember with satisfaction, may be the necessary result of a radically unsound system of administration: and the disasters which it entails may be equally the consequence of a military system, excellent in itself but ill-adapted to the circumstances of the country in which the struggle is waged. These are the only two points of view from which the Numidian war is remarkable on strategic or administrative grounds. The strategic difficulties of the task do nothing more than exhibit the wisdom of the majority of the senate, and of the earlier generals engaged in the campaign, in seeking to avoid a struggle at almost any cost. A military system is conditioned by the necessities of its growth; even that of an empire is seldom sufficiently elastic to be equally adapted to every country and equally capable of beating down every form of armed resistance. The Roman system had been evolved for the type of warfare which was common to the civilised nations around the Mediterranean basin--nations which employed heavily armed and fully equipped soldiers as the main source of their fighting strength, and which were forced to operate within a narrow area, on account of the possession of great centres of civilisation which it was imperative to defend. Its mobility was simply the mobility of a heavy force of infantry with a circumscribed range of action; in the days of its highest development it was still strikingly weak in cavalry. It had already shown itself an imperfect instrument for putting down the guerilla warfare of Spain; it had never been intended for the purposes of desert warfare, or to effect the pacification of nomad tribes extending over a vast and desolate territory. Even as the Parthian war of Trajan required the formation of what was practically a new army developed on unfamiliar lines, so the complete reorganisation of the Republican system would have been essential to the effective conquest of Numidia. The slight successes of this war, such as the taking of Thala and of Capsa and the victories near Cirta, were attained by judicious adaptations to the new conditions, by the employment of light infantry and the increased use of cavalry; but even these improvements were of little avail, for effective pursuit was still impossible, and without pursuit the conflict could not be brought to a close. The unkindness of the conditions almost exonerates the generals who blundered during the struggle, and to an unprejudiced observer the record of incompetence is slight. The fact that the inconclusive proceedings of Metellus and Marius were deemed successes, almost justifies the exploits of a Bestia, and even the crowning disaster of the war--the surprise of the army of Aulus Albinus--might have been the lot of a better commander opposed to an enemy so far superior in mobility and knowledge of the land. Most wars of this type are destructive of military reputations; the general is fortunate who can emerge as the least incapable of the host of blunderers. If we adopt this relative standard, one fortunate issue of the campaign may be held to be the discovery that Marius was not unworthy of his military reputation. The verdict, it is true, was not justified by positive results; but it was the verdict of the army that he led and as incapable of being ignored as all such judgments are. His leadership had been characterised at least by efficiency in detail, and this efficiency had been secured by gentle measures, by unceasing vigilance, by the cultivation of a true soldierly spirit, and by the untiring example of the commander. The courage of the innovator--a courage at once political and military--had also given Rome, in the mass of the unpropertied classes, a fathomless source from which she could draw an army of professional soldiers, if she possessed the capacity to use her opportunities.

The political issues of the war were bound up with those which were strategic, both in so far as the hesitancy of the senate to enter on hostilities was based on a just estimate of the difficulties of the campaign, and in so far as the policy of smoothing over difficulties in a client state by diplomatic means, in preference to stirring up a hornet's nest by the thrust of the sword, was one of the traditional maxims of the Roman protectorate. But this second issue raised the whole of the great administrative question of the limits of the duties which Rome owed to her client kings. Such a question not infrequently suggests a conflict of duty with interest. The claims of Adherbal for protection against his aggressive cousin might be just, but even to many moderate men, not wholly vitiated by the maxims of a Machiavellian policy, they may have appeared intolerable. Was Rome to waste her own strength and stake the peace of the empire on a mere question of dynastic succession? Might it not be better to allow the rivals to fight out the question amongst themselves, and then to see whether the man who emerged victorious from the contest was likely to prove a client acceptable and obedient to Rome? There was danger in the course, no doubt: the danger inherent in a vicious example which might spread to other protected states; but might it not be a slighter peril than that involved in dethroning a ruler, who had proved his energy and ability, his familiarity with Roman ways, and his knowledge of Roman methods, above all, his possession of the confidence of the great mass of the Numidian people? Nay, it might be argued that Adherbal had by his weakness proved his unfitness to be an efficient agent of Rome. It might be asked whether such a man was likely to be an adequate representative of Roman interests in Africa, an adequate protector of the frontiers of the province. On the other hand, it must be admitted that the advocates of interference had something more than the claim of justice and the claim of prestige on their side. It was an undisputed fact that the division of power in Numidia, at the time when the question was presented to Rome, showed that Adherbal stood for civilisation and Jugurtha for barbarism. This was an issue that might not have been manifest at first, although any one who knew Numidia must have been aware that the military spirit of the country which was embodied in Jugurtha, was not represented in the coast cities with their trading populations drawn from many towns, but in the remote agricultural districts and the deserts of the west and south; but it was an issue recognised by the commissioners when they assigned the more civilised portion of the kingdom to Adherbal, and the territories, whose strength was the natural wealth and the manhood which they yielded, to his energetic rival; and it was one that became painfully apparent when Jugurtha led his barbarous hordes against Cirta, and when these hordes in the hour of victory slew every merchant and money-lender whom they could find in the town. It was this aspect of the question that ultimately proved the decisive factor in bringing on the war; for the claims of justice could now be reinforced by those of interest, and the interest which was at stake was that of the powerful moneyed class at Rome. It was this class that not only forced the government to war, but insisted on seeing the war through to its bitter end. It was this class that systematically hindered all attempts at compromise, that brandished its control of the courts in the face of every one who strove to temper war with hopes of peace, that tolerated Metellus until he proved too dilatory, and sent out Marius in the vain hope that he might show greater expedition. The close of the war was a singular satire on their policy, a remarkable proof of the justice of the official view. The end came through diplomacy, not through battle, through an unknown quaestor who belonged to the old nobility and possessed its best gifts of facile speech and suppleness in intrigue, not through the great "new man" who was to be a living example of what might be done, if the middle class had the making of the ministers of the State.

But the moneyed class could hardly have developed the power to force the hand of the council of state, had it not been in union with the third great factor in the commonwealth, that disorganised mass of fluctuating opinion and dissipated voting power which was known as "the people." How came the Populus Romanus to be stirred to action in this cause, with the result that the balance of power projected by Caius Gracchus was again restored? Much of their excitement may have been the result of misrepresentation, of the persistent efforts made by the opposition to prove that all parleying with the enemy was tantamount to treason; more must have been due to the dishonouring news of positive disaster which marked a later stage of the war; but the mingled attitude of resentment and suspicion with which the people was taught to regard its council and its ministers, seems to have been due to the genuine belief that many of the former and nearly all of the latter were hopelessly corrupt. This darkest aspect of the Numidian war is none the less a reality if we believe that the individual charges of corruption were not well founded, and that they were mere party devices meant to mask a policy which would have been impossible without them. The proceedings of the Mamilian commission certainly commanded little respect even from the democrat of a later day; but it is with the suspicion of corruption, rather than with the justice of that suspicion in individual cases, that we are most intimately concerned. A political society must be tainted to the core, if bribery can be given and accepted as a serious and adequate explanation of the proceedings of its leading members. The suspicion was a condemnation of the State rather than of a class. It might be tempting to suppose that the disease was confined to a narrow circle (by a curious accident to the circle actually in power); but of what proof did such a supposition admit? The leaders of the people were themselves members of the senatorial order and scions of the nobility of office. Marius the "new man" might thunder his appeal for a purer atmosphere and a wider field; but it would be long, if ever, before the councils of the State would be administered by men who might be deemed virtuous because their ancestors were unknown.

But for a time the view prevailed that the interests of the State could best be served by a combination of powerful directors of financial corporations with patriotic reformers, invested with the tribunate, struggling for higher office, and expressing their views of statecraft chiefly in the form of denunciations of the government. Such a coalition might form a powerful and healthy organ of criticism; but it could only become more by serving as a mere basis for a new executive power. As regards the nature of this power and even the necessity for its existence, the views of the discontented elements of the time were probably as indefinite as those of the adherents of Caius Gracchus. The Republican constitution was an accepted fact, and the senate must at least be tolerated as a necessary element in that constitution; for no one could dream of finding a coherent administration either in the Comitia or in the aggregate of the magistrates of the people. Now, as at all times since the Roman constitution had attained its full development, the only mode of breaking with tradition in order to secure a given end which the senate was supposed to have neglected, was to employ the services of an individual. There was no danger in this employment if the individual could be overthrown when his work had been completed, or when the senate had regained its old prestige. The leader elevated to a purely civil magistracy by the suffrages of the people was ever subject to this risk; if his personal influence outgrew the necessities of his task, if he ceased to be an agent and threatened to be a master, the mere suspicion of an aspiration after monarchy would send a shudder of reaction through the mass of men which had given him his greatness. As long as the cry for reform was based on the existence of purely internal evils, which the temporary power of a domestic magistracy such as the tribunate might heal, the breast even of the most timid constitutionalist did not deserve to be agitated by alarm for the security of the Republican government. But what if external dangers called for settlement, if the eyes of the mercantile classes and the proletariate were turned on the spectacle of a foreign commerce in decay and an empire in disorder, if the grand justification for the senate's authority--its government of the foreign dependencies of Rome--were first questioned, then tossed aside? Would not the Individual makeshift have in such a case as this to be invested with military authority? Might not his power be defended and perpetuated by a weapon mightier than the voting tablet? Might not his supporters be a class of men, to whom the charms of civil life are few, whose habits have trained them to look for inspiration to an individual, not to a corporation, still less to that abstraction called a constitution--of men not subjected to the dividing influences, or swayed by the momentary passions, of their fellows of the streets? In such a case might not the power of the individual be made secure, and what was this but monarchy?

Such were the reflections suggested to posterity by the power which popularly-elected generals began to hold from the time of the Numidian war. But such were not the reflections of Marius and his contemporaries. There was no precedent and no contemporary circumstance which could suggest a belief in any danger arising from the military power. The experiment of bearding the senate by entrusting the conduct of a campaign to a popular favourite had been tried before, and, whether its immediate results were beneficial or the reverse, it had produced no ulterior effects. Whether the people had pinned its faith on men of the nobility such as the two Scipios, or on a man of the people like Varro, such agents had either retired from public life, confessed their incapacity, or returned to serve the State. The armies which such generals had led were composed of well-to-do men who, apart from the annoyance of the levy, had no ground of complaint against the commonwealth: and the change in the recruiting system which had been introduced by Marius, was much too novel and too partial for its consequences to be forecast. Nor could any one be expected to see the fundamental difference between the Rome of but two generations past and the Rome of the day--the difference which sprang from the increasing divergence of the interests of classes, and the consequent weakening of confidence in the one class which had "weathered the storm and been wrecked in a calm". Aristocracy is the true leveller of merit, but, if it lose that magic power by ceasing to be an aristocracy, then the turn of the individual has come.

The fact that it was already coming may justify us in descending from the general to the particular and remarking that the question "Who deserved the credit of bringing the war with Jugurtha to an end?" soon excited an interest which appealed equally to the two parties in the State and the two personalities whom the close of the episode had revealed. It was natural that the success of Sulla should be exploited by resentful members of the nobility as the triumph of the aristocrat over the parvenu, of the old diplomacy and the old bureaucracy over the coarse and childish methods of the opposition; it was tempting to circulate the view that the humiliation of Metellus had been avenged, that the man who had slandered and superseded him had found an immediate nemesis in a youthful member of the aristocracy.[1199] Such a version, if it ever reached the ears of the masses, was heard only to be rejected; the man who had brought Jugurtha in chains to Rome must be his conqueror, and, even had this evidence been lacking, they did not intend to surrender the glory which was reflected from the champion whom they had created. Nor even in the circles of the governing class could this controversy be for the moment more than a matter for idle or malicious speculation. Hard fighting had to be done against the barbarians of the north, a reorganisation of the army was essential, and for both these purposes even they admitted that Marius was the necessary man. Even the two men who were most interested in the verdict were content to stifle for the time, the one the ambitious claim which was strengthened by a belief in its justice, the other the resentful repudiation, which would have been rendered all the more emphatic from the galling sense that it could not be absolute. In the coming campaigns against the Germans Sulla served first as legate and afterwards as military tribune in the army of his old commander.[1200] But his own conviction of the part which he had played in the Numidian war was expressed in a manner not the less irritating because it gave no reasonable ground for offence. He began wearing a signet ring, the seal of which showed Bocchus delivering Jugurtha into his hand.[1201] This emblem was destined to grate on the nerves of Marius in a still more offensive form, for thirteen years later, when his work had been done and his glory had begun to wane, Rome was given an unexpected confirmation of the truthfulness of the scene which it depicted. The King of Mauretania, eager to conciliate the people of Rome while he showed his gratitude to Sulla, sent as a dedicatory offering to the Capitol a group of trophy-bearing Victories who guarded a device wrought in gold, which showed Bocchus surrendering to Sulla the person of the Numidian king. Marius would have had it removed, but Sulla's supporters could now loudly assert the claim, which had been only whispered when the dark cloud of barbaric invasion hung over the State and the loyal belief of the people in Marius was quickened by their fears.[1202]

Yet, although at the close of the Numidian war an appalling danger to the empire tended to perpetuate the coalition that had been formed between the mercantile classes and the proletariate, and to wring from the senate an acceptance of the new military genius with his plans for reform, there are clear indications which prove that an ebb of political feeling had been witnessed, even during the last three years--a turn of the tide which shows how utterly unstable the coalition against the senate would have been, had it not been reinforced by the continuance of disasters abroad. The first sign of the reaction was the flattering reception and the triumph of Metellus; and it may have been this current of feeling which decided the consular elections for the following year. The successful candidates were Caius Atilius Serranus and Quintus Servilius Caepio. Of these Serranus could trace his name back to the great Reguli of Carthaginian fame;[1203] the family to which he belonged, although plebeian, had figured amongst the ranks of the official nobility since the close of the fourth century, although it is known to have furnished the State with but five consuls since the time of Caius Regulus. The merit which Serranus possessed in the eyes of the voters who elevated him to his high office, was a puzzle to posterity; for such nobility as he could boast seemed the only compensation for the lack of intelligence which was supposed to characterise his utterances and his conduct.[1204] But, if we may judge from the resolution which he subsequently displayed in combating revolution at Rome,[1205] he was known to be a supporter of the authority of the senate, and his aristocratic proclivities may have led to his association with his more distinguished colleague Caepio. The latter belonged to a patrician clan, and to a branch of that clan which had lately clung to the highest political prizes with a tenacity second only to that of the Metelli. Caepio's great-grandfather, his grandfather, his father and his two uncles had all filled the consulship; and his own hereditary claim to that office had been rendered more secure by some good service in Lusitania, which had secured him a military reputation and the triumph which he enjoyed in the very year that preceded his candidature.[1206] His political sentiments may have been known before his election; but the very fact of his elevation to the consulship, and his appreciation of the direction in which the tide of public feeling seemed to be running, gave a definiteness to his views and a courage to his reforming conservatism, which must have surprised his supporters as well as his opponents, and may not have been altogether pleasing to the extreme members of the former party. It must have been believed that a rift was opening between the moneyed classes and the people, and that the latter, satisfied with their recent political triumph and reconciled by the honest passivity of the senate, were content to resume their old allegiance to the governing class. It must even have been held that a spirit of repentance and indignation could be awakened at the reckless and selfish use which the knights had made of the judicial power entrusted to their keeping, that the Mamilian commission could be represented as an outrage on the public conscience, and the ordinary cognisance of public crimes as a reign of terror intended merely to ensure the security of investments.[1207] The knights were to be attacked in their stronghold, and Caepio came forward with a new judiciary law. Two accounts of the scope of this measure have come down to us. According to the one, the bill proposed that jurisdiction in the standing criminal courts should be shared between the senators and the equites;[1208] according to the other, this jurisdiction was to be given to the senate.[1209] That the latter result was meant to be attained in some way by the law, is perhaps shown by the intense dislike which the equestrian order entertained in later times to any laudatory reference to the hated Servilian proposal:[1210] and, although a class which has possessed and perhaps abused a monopoly of jurisdiction, may object to seeing even a share of it given to their enemies and their victims, yet this resentment would be still more natural if the threatened transference of jurisdiction from their order was to be complete. But, in any case, we cannot afford to neglect the express testimony to the fact that the senate was to have possession of the courts; and the only method of reconciling this view with the other tradition of a partition of jurisdiction between the orders, is to suppose that Caepio attempted the effort suggested by Tiberius Gracchus, once advocated by his brother Caius,[1211] and subsequently taken up by the younger Livius Drusus, of increasing the senate by admitting a certain number of knights into that body, and giving the control of the courts to the members of this enlarged council. It may seem a strange and revolutionary step to attempt such a reform of the governing body of the State, whose membership and whose privileges were so jealously guarded, for the purpose of securing a single political end; it may seem at first sight as though the admission of a considerable number of the upper middle class to the power and prizes possessed by the privileged few, would be a shock even to a mildly conservative mind that had fed upon the traditions of the past. Yet a closer examination will reveal the truth that such a change would have meant a very slight modification in the temper and tendencies of the senate, and would have insured a very great increase in its security, whether it meant to govern well or ill, to secure its own advantages or those of its suffering subjects. In reality a very thin line parted the interests of the senators from those of the more distinguished members of the equestrian order. It was only when official probity or official selfishness came into conflict with capitalistic greed, that recrimination was aroused between the two heads of the body politic. But what if official power, under either of its aspects, could make a compromise with greed? The rough features of both might be softened; but, at the worst, a stronger, more permanent and, in the long run, more profitable monopoly of the good things of the empire would be the result of the union. The admission of wealthy capitalists could not be considered a very marked social detraction to the dignity of the order. The question of pedigree might be sunk in an amiable community of taste. In point of lavish expenditure and exotic refinement, in the taste that displayed itself in the patronage of literature, the collection of objects of art, the adornment of country villas, there was little to choose between the capitalist and the noble. And community of taste is an easy passage to community of political sentiment. Any one acquainted with the history of the past must have known that all efforts to temper the exclusiveness of the senatorial order had but resulted in an increase of the spirit of exclusiveness. The patrician council had in old days been stormed by a horde of plebeian chiefs; but these chiefs, when they had once stepped within the magic circle, had shown not the least inclination to permit their poorer followers to do the same. The successful Roman, practical, grasping, commercial and magnificently beneficent, ranking the glory of patronage as second only in point of worth to the possession and selfish use of power, scarcely attached a value even to the highest birth when deprived of its brilliant accessories, and had always found his bond of fellowship in a close community of interest with others, who helped him to hold a position which he might keep against the world. How much more secure would this position be, if the front rank of the assailants were enticed within the fortress and given strong positions upon the walls! They would soon drink into their lungs the strong air of possession, they would soon be stiffened by that electric rigidity which falls on a man when he becomes possessed of a vested interest. There was little probability that the knights admitted to the senate would continue to be in any real sense members of the equestrian order.

But even to a senator who reckoned the increase of profit-sharers, whatever their present or future sentiments might be, as a loss to himself, the sacrifice involved in the proposed increase of the members of his order may have seemed well worthy of the cost. For how could power be exercised or enjoyed in the face of a hostile judicature? The knights had recently made foreign administration on the accepted lines not only impossible in itself, but positively dangerous to the administrator, and in all the details of provincial policy they could, if they chose, enforce their views by means of the terrible instrument which Caius Gracchus had committed to their hands. Even if the business men, shorn of their most distinguished members, might still have the power to offer transitory opposition to the senate by coalition with the mob, the more dangerous, because more permanent, possibilities of harm which the control of the courts afforded them, would be wholly swept away.

The attraction of Caepio's proposal to the senatorial mind is, therefore, perfectly intelligible; but it is very probable that there were many members of the nobility who were wholly insensible to this attraction. The men who would descend a few steps in order to secure a profitable concord between the orders, may have been in the majority; but there must have been a considerable number of stiff-backed nobles who, even if they believed that concord could be secured by a measure which gave away privileges and did not conciliate hostility, were exceedingly unwilling to descend at all. Caepio is the first exponent of a fresh phase of the new conservatism which had animated the elder Drusus. That statesman had sought to win the people over to the side of the senate by a series of beneficent laws, which should be as attractive as those of the demagogue and perhaps of more permanent utility than the blessings showered on them by the irresponsible favourite of the moment; but he had done nothing for the mercantile class; and his greater son was left to combine the scheme of conciliation transmitted to him by his father with that enunciated by Caepio.

The moderation and the tactical utility of the new proposal fired the imagination of a man, whose support was of the utmost importance for the success of a measure which was to be submitted to a popular body that was divided in its allegiance, uncertain in its views, and therefore open to conviction by rhetoric if not by argument. It was characteristic of the past career of the young orator Lucius Crassus that he should now have thrown himself wholly on the side of Caepio and the progressive members of the senate.[1212] His past career had committed him to no extremes. He had impeached Carbo, known to have been a radical and believed to be a renegade, and he had championed the policy of provincial colonisation as illustrated by the settlement of Narbo Martius. His action in the former case might have been equally pleasing to either side; his action in the latter might have been construed as the work, less of an advanced liberal, than of an imperialist more enlightened than his peers. He had evidently not compromised his chances of political success; he was still but thirty-four and had just concluded his tenure of the tribunate. In the opposite camp stood Memmius, striving with all his might to keep alive the coalition, which he had done so much to form, between the popular party and the merchant class. The knights mustered readily under his banner, for they had no illusions as to the meaning of the bill; it was impossible to conciliate an order by the bribery of a few hundreds of its members, whose very names were as yet unknown. To keep the people faithful to the coalition was a much more difficult task. It was soon patent to all that the agitators had not been wrong in supposing that a serious cleft had opened between the late allies, and in the war of words with which the Forum was soon filled, Memmius seems to have been no match for his opponent. Crassus surpassed himself, and the keen but humorous invective with which he held Memmius up to the ridicule of his former followers,[1213] was balanced by the grand periods in which he formulated his detailed indictment of the methods pursued by the existing courts of justice, and of the terrible dangers to the public security produced by their methods of administration. He did not merely impugn the verdicts which were the issue of a jury system so degraded as to have become the sport of a political "faction," but he dwelt on the public danger which sprang from the parasites of the courts, the gloomy brood of public accusers which is hatched by a rotten system, feeds on the impurities of a diseased judicature, and terrifies the commonwealth by the peril that lurks in its poisonous sting. This speech was to be studied by eager students for years to come as a master work in the art of declamatory argument.[1214] But its momentary efficacy seems to have been as great as its permanent value. Caepio's bill was acclaimed and carried.[1215] Then began the turn of the tide. It is practically certain that the authors of the measure never had the courage, or perhaps the time, to carry a single one of its proposals Into effect. The senate was not enlarged, nor was the right of judicature wrested from the hands of its existing holders.[1216] The bill may have been repealed within a few months of its acceptance by the people. Caepio went to Gaul to stake his military reputation on a conflict with the German hordes; he was to return as the best hated man in Rome, to receive no mercy from an indignant people. There was probably more than one cause for this sudden change in political sentiment. The knights may have been thrown off their guard by the suddenness of Caepio's attack upon their privileges, and a few months of organisation and canvassing may have been all that they needed to restore the majority required for effacing the blot upon their name. But the chief reason is doubtless to be sought in the external circumstances of the moment, and can only be fully illustrated by the description which we shall soon be giving of the great events that were taking place on the northern frontiers of the empire. It is sufficient for the present to remember that, in the very year in which Caepio's measure had received the ratification of the people, Caius Popillius Laenas, a legate of one of the consuls of the previous year, had been put on his trial before that very people for making a treaty which was considered still more disgraceful than the defeat which had preceded it.[1217] The Comitia now heard the whole story of the conduct of the Roman arms against the barbarians of the North. The story immediately revived the coalition of the early days of the Numidian war, and there was no longer any hope for the success of even moderate counsels proceeding from the senate. Popillius was a second Aulus Albinus, and a new Marius was required to restore the fortunes of the day. It was, however, certain that the only Marius could not be withdrawn from Africa, and men looked eagerly to see what the consular elections for the next year would produce. We hear of no candidate belonging to the highest ranks of the nobility who was deemed to have been defrauded of his birthright on this occasion; but the disappointment of Quintus Lutatius Catulus was deemed wholly legitimate, when Cnaeus Mallius Maximus defeated him at the poll. Catulus belonged to a plebeian family that had been ennobled by the possession of the consulship at least as early as the First Punic War; but the distinction had not been perpetuated in the later annals of the house, and if Catulus received the support of the official nobility, it was because his tastes and temperament harmonised with theirs, and because it may have seemed impolitic to advance a man of better birth and more pronounced opinions in view of the prevailing temper of the people. Catulus was a man of elegant taste and polished learning, one of the most perfect Hellenists of the day, and distinguished for the grace and purity of the Latin style that was exhibited in his writings and orations.[1218] He was one day to write the history of his own momentous consulship and of the final struggle with the Cimbri, in which he played a not ignoble part. Much of our knowledge of those days is due to his pen, and the modern historian is perhaps likely to congratulate himself on the blindness of the people, which thrice refused Catulus the consulship and reserved him to be an actor and a witness in the crowning victory of the great year of deliverance. He had already been defeated by Serranus; he was now subordinated to the claims of Maximus. But what were those claims? Posterity found it difficult to give an answer,[1219] and the reason for that difficulty was that this second experiment in the virtues of a "new man" was anything but successful. The family to which Maximus belonged seems to have been wholly undistinguished, and he himself is the only member of his clan who is known to have attained the consulship. An explanation of his present prominence could only be gathered from a knowledge of his past career, and of this knowledge we are wholly deprived; but it is manifest that he must have done much, either in the way of positive service to the State in subordinate capacities, or in the way of invective against its late administrators, which caused him to be regarded as a discovery by the leaders of the multitude. The colleague given to Maximus was a man such as the people in the present emergency could not well refuse. Publius Rutilius Rufus was a kind of Cato with a deeper philosophy, a higher culture, and a far less bewildering activity. As a soldier he had been trained by Scipio in Spain, and he possessed a theoretical interest in military matters which issued in practical results of the most important kind.[1220] His tenure of the urban praetorship seems to have been marked by reforms which materially improved the condition of the freedmen in matters of private law, and limited the right of patrons to impose burdensome conditions of personal service as the price of manumission.[1221] It was he too who may have introduced the humane system of granting the possession of a debtor's goods to a creditor, if that creditor was willing to waive his claim to the debtor's person.[1222] Rutilius, therefore, may have had strong claims on the gratitude of the lower orders; and his personality was one that could more readily command a grateful respect than a warm affection. He was a learned adherent of the Stoic system, the cold and stern philosophy of which imbued his speeches, already rendered somewhat unattractive by their author's devotion to the forms of the civil law.[1223] He was much in request as an advocate, his learning commanded deep respect, but he lacked or would not condescend to the charm which would have made him a great personal force with the people at a time when there was a sore need of men who were at the same time great and honest.

By a singular irony of fortune it chanced that the province of Gaul fell to Maximus and not to Rutilius. The strong-headed soldier was left at home to indulge his schemes of army reform while the new man went to his post in the north, to quarrel with the aristocratic Caepio, who was now serving as proconsul in those regions, and to share in the crushing disaster which this dissension drew upon their heads. The search for genius had to be renewed at the close of this melancholy year.[1224] Another "new man" was found in Caius Flavius Fimbria, a product of the forensic activity of the age, a clever lawyer, a bitter and vehement speaker, but with a power that secured his efforts a transitory circulation as types of literary oratory.[1225] He is not known to have shown any previous ability as a soldier, and his election, so far as it was not due to his own unquestioned merit, may have been but a symbol of the continued prevalence of the distrust of the people in aristocratic influence and qualifications. His competitor was Catulus who was for the third time defeated. For the other place in the consulship there could be no competition. The close of the Numidian war had freed the hands of the man who was still believed to be the greatest soldier of the day. There was, it is true, a legal difficulty in the way of the appointment of Marius to the command in the north. Such a command should belong to a consul, but nearly fifty years before this date a law had been passed absolutely prohibiting re-election to the consulship.[1226] Yet the dispensation granted to the younger Africanus could be quoted as a precedent, and indeed the danger that now threatened the very frontiers of Italy was an infinitely better argument for the suspension of the law than the reverses of the Numantine war.[1227] The people were in no mood to listen to legal quibbles. They drove the protestant minority from the assembly, and raised Marius to the position which they deemed necessary for the salvation of the State.[1228] The formal act of dispensation may have been passed by the Comitia either before or after the election, but the senate must have been easily coerced into giving its assent, if its adherence were thought requisite to the validity of the act. The province of Gaul was assigned him as a matter of course,[1229] whether by the senate or the people is a matter of indifference. For the Roman constitution was again throwing off the mask of custom and uncovering the bold lineaments which spoke of the undisputed sovereignty of the people. Certainly, if a sovereign has a right to assert himself, it is one who is in extremis, who stands between death and revolution. Personality had again triumphed in spite of the meshes of Roman law and custom. It remained to be seen whether the net could be woven again with as much cunning as before, or whether the rent made by Marius was greater than that which had been torn by the Gracchi.




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