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CAIUS GRACCHUS (159-121 B.C.)
OST of us are familiar with the story told of Cornelia, the mother M of Caius and Tiberius Gracchus. A Campanian lady visiting her, boasted of her jewels, and asked to see those of her hostess. In reply Cornelia presented her sons, saying, “These are the only jewels of which I can boast.” These jewels of sons grew up to be leaders of the people in their struggle against the aristocrats. Tiberius, a valiant soldier, was elected tribune of the people, and enacted laws by which serious abuses were reformed. He sustained his position with great eloquence, but in a second election was attacked and massacred by the partisans of the aristocratic party. Caius, his younger brother, in time succeeded him in the tribunate, and two years afterward was, like him, murdered. They lived when the liberties of Rome were near their overthrow.
THE PEOPLE'S RIGHTS ABOVE PRIVILEGE
[Caius Sempronius Gracchus was endowed with great talents and excelled in eloquence. In the words of Plutarch, he was “a noble specimen of every virtue.” We have no direct example of his oratory, but extract from Livy what professes to be one of his speeches to the people when a candidate before them for the office of tribune.]
It is now ten years, O Romans, since my brother, Tiberius Gracchus, was elected your tribune. In what a condition did he find you ! The great mass of the people pined in abject poverty. Thousands, eager to work, without a clod of dirt they could call their own, actually wanted daily bread. A few men, calling themselves “the aristocracy,” having enormous wealth gotten by extortion and fraud, lorded it over you with remorseless rigor. The small land proprietors had disappeared. Mercenary idlers, their fingers actually itching for bribes, tricky demagogues, insatiate usurers, desperate gamblers, all the vilest abettors of lawless
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power, had usurped the places of men who had been the glory and strength of the Republic. What a state of things infinite wretchedness to the millions, but riches and prodigality to the hundreds. The rich could plunder the poor at will, for your rulers and judges were corrupt, cowardly and venal, and money could buy them to do anything. Bribery at elections, open, unblushing, flagrant, kept the very men in power who were sucking the life-blood of the country. Do I exaggerate 2 Oh, no It is too faint a picture of the woe and degradation of the people, and of the rapacity, arrogance, and depravity of their oppressors. At such a time my brother, Tiberius Gracchus, presented himself, and was elected tribune. His heart had been wrung by your distresses. He resolved to rescue the oppressed and down-trodden people. He defied your tyrants. He swiftly ended the fraud which had robbed you of your lands. No shelter of wealth, no rank or place, could shield from his fiery wrath. In vain did they hurl at him the cheap words “demagogue,” “factionist,” “anarchist.” There was that truth in his tones, that simplicity and nobility in his bearing, that gentle dignity in his very rage at the wrongs done, that carried conviction of his sincerity to every heart. Oh how pale with anger were those “aristocrats,” as they styled themselves, as their power melted away, as they saw the people resume their rights under the resistless eloquence of that young, devoted spirit ! But he must be silenced, this audacious tribune, this incorruptible critic of the privileged class, this friend and saviour of the people. A bloody revenge must quiet their fears, lest they should lose their illegal plunder. Alas ! the foul deed was done ! In a tumult instigated for the purpose, your tribune—champion of the poor, and friend of the friendless—was slain. Even his body was refused to his friends; but the sacred Tiber was made more sacred by receiving to its bosom all of Tiberius Gracchus that could perish. And now, men of Rome, if you ask, as those who fear me do ask, why I left my quaestorship in Sardinia without leave of the Senate, here is my answer: I had to come without leave or not at all. Why, then, did I come at all 2 To offer myself for the office my brother held, and for serving you in which he was brutally murdered. I have come to vindicate his memory, to re-inaugurate his policy, to strip the privileged class of its privileges, to restore popular rights, to lift up the crushed, to break down the oppressor. And, O Romans, I come with clean hands, with no coffers filled with gold wrenched from desolated provinces and a ruined people. I can offer no bribe for votes. I come back poor as I went; poor indeed in all but hatred of tyrants and zeal to serve my country. Shall I be your tribune 2
CAIUS JULIUS CAESAR (100-44 B.C.)
A GREAT CONQUEROR AND FAMOUS ORATOR
the world has ever known, proved himself possessed of genius in oratory as well as in civil and military affairs. It is not with his marvelous achievements in warfare, nor his great political skill and ability that we are here concerned, but simply with his standing in oratory, in which his supremacy was scarcely second to that in the other fields of effort in which he excelled. As an orator Cicero was the only Roman who excelled him, and many think that, if Caesar had devoted himself specially to this art, he might have rivalled or excelled Cicero himself. Macaulay, comparing him with Cromwell and Bonaparte, says that he was master of what neither of the others possessed, “Learning, taste, wit, eloquence, the sentiments and the manners of an accomplished gentleman.” It was through oratory, indeed, that he gained his first distinction, the civil position which opened the way to his later career, and he may be justly classed with the greatest orators of the world. Previous to Caesar's era of power, the stability of the Roman Republic had been threatened by two ambitious generals, Marius and Sulla. It was to the triumvirate formed by Caesar, Pompey and Crassus that it owed its final overthrow, the military power gaining supremacy over the civil. The war with Pompey and his defeat and death left Caesar at the head of the Roman state, imperial in station, though the name of emperor was not assumed by him, he accepting that of dictator instead. At his death he was dictator-elect for life.
ULIUS CAESAR, one of the greatest generals and greatest men
THE PUNISHMENT OF CATILINE'S ASSOCIATES
[Caesar held high office in the Roman state when the dangerous conspiracy of Catiline broke out, an organization of profligate and disaffected citizens, whose 418 CAIUS JULIUS CAESAR
purpose was the overthrow of the republic. Cicero, who was then consul, discovered the plot, and denounced Catiline so vehemently in the Senate that the baffled conspirator hastily left Rome. A battle followed between the army of his partisans and that of the Senate, in which Catiline's forces were defeated, and he, with some three thousand of his followers, was killed. Caesar was suspected of complicity in this plot, and when a number of captive conspirators were tried in the Senate, his voice was the only one that did not demand for them the sentence of death. He proposed imprisonment instead, saying that men of their birth and dignity should not be put to death without an open trial. Cato the Younger followed with a speech in which he accused Caesar of connection with the conspiracy, and their advocate narrowly escaped being included in the death sentence passed against the men on trial. Of Caesar's speech we possess only the version given by Sallust, in his “History of the Conspiracy of Catiline.” We append an extract from this version.]
But, you will say, “Who will find fault with any punishment decreed against traitors to the State 2'' I answer, time may, so may sudden conjectures; and fortune, too, that governs the world at pleasure. Whatever punishment is inflicted on these parricides will be justly inflicted. But take care, Conscript Fathers, how your present decrees may affect posterity. All bad precedents spring from good beginnings, but when the administration is in the hands of wicked or ignorant men, these precedents, at first just, are transferred from proper and deserving objects to such as are not so. The Lacedaemonians, when they had conquered the Athenians, placed thirty governors over them ; who began their power by putting to death, without any trial, such as were remarkably wicked and universally hated. The people were highly pleased at this, and applauded the justice of such executions. But when they had by degrees established their lawless authority, they wantonly butchered both good and bad without distinction; and thus kept the State in awe. Such was the severe punishment which the people, oppressed with slavery, suffered for their foolish joy. In our own times, when Sulla, after his success, ordered Damasippus, and others of the like character, who raised themselves on the misfortunes of the State, to be put to death, who did not commend him for it 2 All agreed that such wicked and factious instruments, who were constantly embroiling the commonwealth, were justly put to death. Yet this was an introduction to a bloody massacre; for whoever coveted his fellow-citizen's house, either in town or country, nay, even any curious vase or fine raiment, took care to have the possessor of it put on the list of the proscribed. Thus they who had rejoiced at the punishment of Damasippus were soon after dragged to death themselves; nor was an end put to this butchery till Sulla had glutted all his followers with riches. I do not,
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indeed, apprehend any such proceedings from Marcus Cicero, nor from these times. But in so great a city as ours there are various characters and dispositions. At another time, and under another consul, who may also have an army under his command, any falsehood may pass for fact; and when, on this precedent, the consul shall, by decree of the Senate, draw the sword, who is to set bounds to it? who to moderate the fury 2
Our ancestors, Conscript Fathers, never wanted conduct nor courage; nor did they think it unworthy of them to imitate the customs of other nations, if these were useful and praiseworthy. From the Samnites they learned the exercise of arms, and borrowed from them their weapons of war; and most of their ensigns of magistracy from the Tuscans—in a word, they were very careful to practice whatever appeared useful to them, whether among their allies or their enemies; choosing rather to imitate than envy what was excellent.
In those days, in imitation of the custom of Greece, they inflicted stripes on guilty citizens, and capital punishment on such as were condemned ; but when the commonwealth became great and powerful, and the vast number of citizens gave rise to factions; when the innocent began to be circumvented, and other such inconveniences to take place; then the Porcian and other laws were made, which provided no higher punishment than banishment for the greatest crimes. These considerations, Conscript Fathers, appear to me of the greatest weight against our pursuing any new resolution on this occasion; for surely, their share of virtue and wisdom, who from so small beginnings raised so mighty an empire, far exceeds ours, who are scarce able to preserve what they acquired so gloriously. “What | Shall we discharge the conspirators,” you will say, “to reinforce Catiline's army 2 '' By no means: but my opinion is this; that their estates should be confiscated; their persons closely confined in the most powerful cities of Italy; and that no one move the Senate or the people for any favor towards them, under the penalty of being declared by the Senate an enemy to the State and the welfare of its members.