“Gradually, then, by granting citizenship to those who had not carried arms or had put them down rather late, the population was rebuilt as Pompeius, Sulla and Marius restored the flagging and sputtering power of the Roman people.”
Paulatim deinde recipiendo in civitatem, qui arma aut non ceperant aut deposuerant maturius, vires refectae sunt, Pompeio Sullaque et Mano fluentem procumbentemque rem populi Romani restituentibus.
Any student of Roman history understands that Rome’s expansion and strength relied in part on its ability to absorb and assimilate hostile populations. Today we often forget that the Italian peninsula was far from a uniform culture. (And a tour through modern Italy will confirm the persistence of many differences). The process, of course, was not without pain and hard compromises, as Vergil echoes in Aeneid 6 during Anchises’ prophecy to Aeneas (851-3):
tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento
(hae tibi erunt artes), pacique imponere morem,
parcere subiectis et debellare superbos.
“Roman, remember that your arts are to rule
The nations with your empire, to enforce the custom of peace,
To spare the conquered and to subjugate the proud.”
“Faith in his sense of principle provided was the foundation of his great good will and fame. For Pompey the Great was not expected—should he overcome Caesar—to put down his power in deference to the laws, but people thought he would keep his political control, smooth-talking the people with the name of consulship or dictator or some other more palatable office.
Now it was imagined that Cassius, an eager and emotional man often distracted from justice by profit, was pursuing war and adventure to create some dynasty for himself rather than freedom for his fellow citizens. For in an earlier time than that, people like Cinna, Marius, and Carbo, even though they made their own country their victory prize and source for spoils, they warred by their own confession for tyranny alone.”
The Romans fought a war in Africa against the Numidians led by their King, Jugurtha (112-104 BCE). The Romans won. Sallust tells the tale of the war, but he ends it with the ominous anticipation of future dangers:
Sallust, Bellum Jugurthinum 114
“At that time, a battle was fought and lost against the Gauls by the generals Quintus Caepio and Gnaeus Mallius. Because of this, all of Italy quaked in fear. The Romans from that time down to our own have believed that while all other matters give way to our virtue, with the Gauls it is an issue of safety, not glory.
After it was made known that the war in Numidia was concluded and that Jugurtha was being returned as a prisoner, Marius was made consul even though absent, and Gaul was set as his province. On the first day of January, he celebrated his triumph as consul in great glory. And at that moment, the hope and health of the state resided with him.”
Per idem tempus adversum Gallos ab ducibus nostris Q. Caepione et Cn. Manlio male pugnatum. Quo metu Italia omnis contremuerat. Illincque [et inde] usque ad nostram memoriam Romani sic habuere, alia omnia virtuti suae prona esse, cum Gallis pro salute, non pro gloria certare. Sed postquam bellum in Numidia confectum et Iugurtham Romam vinctum adduci nuntiatum est, Marius consul absens factus est, et ei decreta provincia Gallia, isque Kalendis Ianuariis magna gloria consul triumphavit. Et ea tempestate spes atque opes civitatis in illo sitae.
“Such a great man [Marcus Aurelius], joined to the gods in life as well as death, left behind his son Commodus—if he had been truly blessed, he would have not left a son. So it was not enough that people of all ages, gender, social position, and condition gave him honors, but a man would be declared sacrilegious if he did not have his image in his own home, should he be able to do so thanks to fortune.
Indeed, even today status of Marcus Antoninus [Aurelius] remain in many homes among the household gods. There was no lack of men who claimed that he predicted many things in dreams that they foretold future events in truth. Hence, , a temple was constructed in his honor, and there were priests dedicated to the service of the Antonines, along with Flaminess and Sodales, all those things which tradition has established for sacred rites.
“Some men report a thing which seems likely, that Commodus Antoninus, his son and successor, was born not from him but from adultery and they support such a tale with a common rumor. There was a time when Faustina, Pius’ daughter and Marcus’ wife, saw some gladiators pass and was set afire with love for one of them. Later, when she was suffering from a long sickness, she told her husband about this. When Marcus relayed this to the Chaldaeans, their advice was that he should have Faustina bathe herself in the blood of the killed gladiator and then lie with her husband.
When this act was complete, the passion was quenched, though their son Commodus was as a result born to be a gladiator not a princeps. This tale is treated as likely since there was never a son of a prince so virtuous with ways worse than a gladiator master, a street-actor or some arena-fighter, a man who could summon up a trophy of crimes from a surfeit of blessings.
Many others, however, claim that Commodus was really conceived through adultery because it is known that when Faustina was at Caieta she would choose lovers from the sailors and the gladiators. When this was mentioned to Marcus Aurelius so that he would reject her or kill her, he is reported to have replied, “If I divorce my wife, I must return her dowry.” And what did he consider her dowry but the empire which he had received when he was adopted by his father-in-law at Hadrian’s urging.”
Hic sane vir tantus et talis ac diis vita et morte coniunctus filium Commodum dereliquit: qui si felix fuisset, filium non reliquisset. 5 Et parum sane fuit, quod illi honores divinos omnis aetas, omnis sexus, omnis conditio ac dignitas dedit, nisi quod etiam sacrilegus iudicatus est, qui eius imaginem in sua domo non habuit, qui per fortunam vel potuit habere vel debuit. 6 Denique hodieque in multis domibus Marci Antonini statuae consistunt inter deos penates. 7 Nec defuerunt homines qui somniis eum multa praedixisse augurantes futura et vera concinuerunt. 8 Unde etiam templum ei constitutum, dati sacerdotes Antoniniani et sodales et flamines et omnia, quae de sacratis decrevit antiquitas.
Aiunt quidam, quod et verisimile videtur, Commodum Antoninum, successorem illius ac filium, non esse de eo natum sed de adulterio, ac talem fabellam vulgari sermone contexunt. 2 Faustinam quondam, Pii filiam, Marci uxorem, cum gladiatores transire vidisset, unius ex his amore succensam, cum longa aegritudine laboraret, viro de amore confessam. 3 Quod cum ad Chaldaeos Marcus rettulisset, illorum fuisse consilium, ut occiso gladiatore sanguine illius sese Faustina sublavaret atque ita cum viro concumberet. 4 Quod cum esset factum, solutum quidem amorem, natum vero Commodum gladiatorem esse, non principem, 5 qui mille prope pugnas publice populo inspectante gladiatorias imperator exhibuit, ut in vita eius docebitur. 6 Quod quidem verisimile ex eo habetur, quod tam sancti principis filius his moribus fuit, quibus nullus lanista, nullus scaenicus, nullus arenarius, nullus postremo ex omnium decorum ac scelerum conluvione concretus. 7 Multi autem ferunt Commodum omnino ex adultero natum, si quidem Faustinam satis constet apud Caietam condiciones sibi et nauticas et gladiatorias elegisse. 8 De qua cum diceretur Antonino Marco, ut eam repudiaret, si non occideret, dixisse fertur : “Si uxorem dimittimus, reddamus et dotem.” 9 Dos autem quid habebatur [nisi] imperium, quod ille ab socero volente Hadriano adoptatus acceperat?
“I am also compelled to understand this war by something no less important than anything else I have already said—the fact that those who seem most qualified to write about it…have not sufficiently reported the truth.
I do not suspect that these men lie willingly (based on their manner of life and their choices), but they do seem to me to have suffered in the way that lovers do….It is certainly right for a good man to be loyal to his friends, to be patriotic, and to commiserate in his friend’s hatreds and take pleasure in his friends; but whenever someone takes up the historian’s post, he must banish all of these biases to the point of often gracing his enemies with the finest praise when their actions deserve it and also often rebuking and blaming those closest to him, whenever they reveal to him errors worthy of it. For, just as closed eyes make the rest of an animal useless, what is left from a history blind to the truth is just a pointless tale.”
“The race of man complains wrongly about its nature, namely the fact that it is feeble in strength, limited in years and ruled more by chance than virtue. To the contrary, you can realize through contemplation that nothing else is greater or more extraordinary—that human nature lacks only perseverance instead of strength or time.
The leader and ruler of mortal life is the mind. When it proceeds to glory along virtue’s path, it is fully powerful, potent and famous; it does not need fortune since fortune cannot grant or revoke honesty, perseverance, or any other good quality from any man.
But a mind seized by desires is dedicated to laziness and worn by obedience to physical pleasure; accustomed to ruinous temptation for too long, when, thanks to sloth, strength, age and wit have diminished, only then is the weakness of nature at fault. Every man shifts his own responsibility to his circumstances.”
 Falso queritur de natura sua genus humanum, quod inbecilla atque aevi brevis forte potius quam virtute regatur. Nam contra reputando neque maius aliud neque praestabilius invenias magisque naturae industriam hominum quam vim aut tempus deesse. Sed dux atque imperator vitae mortalium animus est. Qui ubi ad gloriam virtutis via grassatur, abunde pollens potensque et clarus est neque fortuna eget, quippe quae probitatem, industriam aliasque artis bonas neque dare neque eripere cuiquam potest. Sin captus pravis cupidinibus ad inertiam et voluptates corporis pessum datus est, perniciosa libidine paulisper usus, ubi per socordiam vires tempus ingenium diffluxere, naturae infirmitas accusatur: suam quisque culpam auctores ad negotia transferunt.
I can’t help but thinking that maybe Sallust had read (or heard) the beginning of the Odyssey where Zeus complains that Aigisthus ignored divine warnings (1.32-34)
“The evils of the civil war seemed to have ended when they were rekindled by Sulla’s cruelty. Once he was made dictator—and this honor had been avoided for a hundred and twenty years since the last time it had been used was one year after Hannibal quit Italy—and it is obvious that the fear which prompted the Roman people to want a dictator was less than how much they feared his power. As dictator, Sulla applied the power which earlier dictators had used only to save the country from the greatest dangers with unmeasured degrees of savagery.
He was the first—and I wish he had been the last—to discover the model of proscription with the result that in the same state in which legal recourse is available to an actor booed from the stage, in that state a price was set for the murder of a Roman citizen: he would have the most who killed the most! The reward for the killing of an enemy would be no greater than for the murder of a citizen.
In essence, each man was valued for the price of his own death. Such savagery was applied not only to those who had carried arms against them, but against many innocents too. In addition to this, the goods of the proscribed were offered for sale: children already deprived of their father’s goods were also prohibited from the right of seeking public office and, the most unjust thing of all, they had to maintain the standards of their social rank without recourse to the rights.”
Videbantur finita belli civilis mala, cum Sullae crudelitate aucta sunt. Quippe dictator creatus (cuius honoris usurpatio per annos centum et viginti intermissa; nam proximus post annum quam Hannibal Italia excesserat, uti adpareat populum Romanum usum dictatoris haud metu desiderasse tali quo timuisset potestatem) imperio, quo priores ad vindicandam maximis periculis rem publicam olim usi erant, eo in inmodicae crudelitatis licentiam usus est.3 Primus ille, et utinam ultimus, exemplum proscriptionis invenit, ut in qua civitate petularitis convicii iudicium histrioni ex albo redditur, in ea iugulati civis Romani publice constitueretur auctoramentum, plurimumque haberet, qui plurimos interemisset, neque occisi hostis quam civis uberius foret praemium Geretque quisque merces mortis suae.4 Nec tantum in eos, qui contra arma tulerant, sed in multos insontis saevitum. Adiectum etiam, ut bona proscriptorum venirent exclusique paternis opibus liberi etiam petendorum honorum iure prohiberentur simulque, quod indignissimum est, senatorum filii et onera ordinis sustinerent et iura perderent.
“But these tales and those like them—whether to ponder them or how to weigh them—I don’t emphasize greatly. Let anyone who reads these instead pay attention to what life was like, what the customs were, through which men and by which skills the empire was born and increased. And, when discipline bit by bit deteriorated, how at first customs degraded with desire, then they collapsed more and more, then they began to fall headlong until we came to our own time when we can endure neither our sins nor their remedies.”
ad haec tempora quibus nec vitia nostra nec remedia pati possumus. Sed haec et his similia utcumque animaduersa aut existimata erunt haud in magno equidem ponam discrimine: ad illa mihi pro se quisque acriter intendat animum, quae vita, qui mores fuerint, per quos viros quibusque artibus domi militiaeque et partum et auctum imperium sit; labente deinde paulatim disciplina velut desidentes primo mores sequatur animo, deinde ut magis magisque lapsi sint, tum ire coeperint praecipites, donec ad haec tempora quibus nec vitia nostra nec remedia pati possumus perventum est.
“The candidate Marcellus has been snoring so loudly that his neighbor—me—can hear him. I have learned that Clodius’ yard is almost completely empty, only a few nobodies with a lamp. They all claim that this has come about thanks to my plan, ignorant of how much is in the spirit of that Milo, and how great his judgment is too.
I won’t talk about certain recent miracles, but this is the essence of it. I don’t think the elections will happen, Clodius will be a defendant, unless he is killed beforehand and I think it is in Milo’s hands. If he thrusts himself into that mob, I suspect that he will be killed by Milo himself. He is not at all in doubt about it and looks forward to it. He does not fear what I faced—he’s never going to listen to jealous and deceptive advice or trust his life to a lazy nobility.”
Marcellus candidatus ita stertebat ut ego vicinus audirem. Clodi vestibulum vacuum sane mihi nuntiabatur: pauci pannosi sine lanterna. <m>eo consilio omnia illi fieri querebantur, ignari quantum in illo hero<e> esset animi, quantum etiam consili. miranda virtus est. nova quaedam divina mitto, sed haec summa est: comitia fore non arbitror, reum Publium, nisi ante occisus erit, fore a Milone puto; si se in turba ei iam obtulerit, occisum iri ab ipso Milone video. non dubitat facere, prae se fert; casum illum nostrum non extimescit. numquam enim cuiusquam invidi et perfidi consilio est us<ur>us nec inerti nobili<tati> crediturus.
Cicero, Letters to Friends 6.2 To A. Torquatus, April 45
“Truly our republic will either be oppressed by constant fighting, will flourish again if weapons or put down, or face complete ruin. If we turn to fighting, you don’t need to worry about which side forgives you or which you help. If we put weapons down in a treaty, give them up in exhaustion, or have them taken away in victory, the the state will breathe anew and you will be allowed to enjoy your status and your luck. But if everything falls apart—that every outcome which the most prudent man, Marcus Antonius was already fearing when he gazed at the great, impending destruction—then one solace will remain for you, even if it is sad however necessary for someone like you: that what happens to an individual will need be mourned no less than what has transpired for the state.
The detail contained in these few words—and there would have been more best not written in a letter—you will understand something you probably already do without any update from me that you have something to hope for and nothing to be afraid of in this or any other state. If all goes to hell, then you must bear what chance brings since you would not wish to survive the end of the republic, even if it is possible, especially since you are free of guilt. That’s enough of these things.”
est enim aut armis urgeri rem publicam sempiternis aut iis positis recreari aliquando aut funditus interire. si arma valebunt, nec eos a quibus reciperis vereri debes nec eos quos adiuvisti; si armis aut condicione positis aut defatigatione abiectis aut victoria detractis civitas respiraverit, et dignitate tua frui tibi et fortunis licebit; sin omnino interierint omnia fueritque is exitus quem vir prudentissimus, M. Antonius, iam tum timebat cum tantum instare malorum suspicabatur, misera est illa quidem consolatio, tali praesertim civi et viro, sed tamen necessaria, nihil esse praecipue cuiquam dolendum in eo quod accidat universis.
Quae vis insit in his paucis verbis (plura enim committenda epistulae non erant) si attendes, quod facis profecto etiam sine meis litteris, intelleges te aliquid habere quod speres, nihilquod aut hoc aut aliquo rei publicae statu timeas; omnia si interierint, cum superstitem te esse rei publicae ne si liceat quidem velis, ferendam esse fortunam, praesertim quae absit a culpa. sed haec hactenus.