Immagini della pagina



Political power of

means directed against the cause that they defended, but against the measures which they adopted on every opportunity to increase their influence. Cato was just as much an aristocrat and a thorough Roman as Scipio the Elder and Scipio the Younger; and if Flamininus was a friend of the Greeks, as has been so often and so loudly proclaimed, Cato has a right to be called so too.

The domestic power of the Scipios contained in it the the Scipios. first real danger for the maintenance of the republic. During the Hannibalic war they exercised a kind of hereditary monarchical power in Spain, and decidedly stood out as distinct from the great number of other noble families. In the general bearing of the Elder Scipio, especially in his relation to the senate, we can perceive a selfesteem, pride, and contempt of the law that characterise the born ruler. For fifteen years in succession he held the most honourable post that a Roman, without being a magistrate, could hold-namely, that of foreman of the senate (princeps senatus). He seemed destined to be a king, and he might have become one had he not lived too early. But we may reasonably doubt whether, in spite of his ambition, the idea ever occurred to him that it might be possible to overthrow the republican order of things. Such ideas ripen but slowly in a state which has gone through a natural development. It can take root only on the ruins of a worn-out and overthrown constitution. But during the Hannibalic war Rome was still in a healthy condition. A statesman attempting to assume monarchical power Iwould have been considered and treated as a madman. Apart from this, Scipio was convinced that the aristocratic form of government was the best, and therefore, even had he been able to rule Rome as a sovereign, he would have disdained to act as demagogue, by which means alone he

Even at the present time, when monarchical government is the rule in Europe, the idea of establishing it in republican Switzerland or republican America cannot enter into the head of a sane politician of those states. In Rome it was still less likely at a time when the monarchies with which the republic was practically acquainted were either barbarous countries like Numidia, or the effete remnants of Alexander's empire.

could have obtained this end. He contented himself with occupying a high position as the greatest among the great men in the republic, with impressing his own will and conviction upon the government, with exacting homage and flattery from ordinary politicians, and considering himself better than every one else.2 This was naturally


not the way to remain in the high position which he had gained through the great victory over Hannibal. After the peace with Carthage Scipio almost disappeared from the scene of action. His talent for political controversy was not to be compared with his military ability. When, ten years after his first consulship, he applied for a second, he gained his election, it is true, but he could not obtain an employment in which he might have upheld his reputation as the first general of his time. Although a war with Antiochus was impending, and Scipio's old antagonist Hannibal, now in the service of Antiochus, had again to be encountered, the senate ordered the consuls of the year to undertake the administration of Italy, and Scipio, himself condemned to inactivity, had the vexation of witnessing the triumph of his two principal political opponents, that of Cato over Spain and that of Flamininus over Macedonia. The establishment of some colonies and the religious celebration of a 'sacred spring' were not tasks to satisfy the ambition of a Scipio.



shown to

When his second consulship had passed without being Opposition marked by any memorable event, Scipio endeavoured to the procure the consulship for the year 192 B.C. for his cousin Scipios. Publius Scipio, and for C. Lælius, a client of his family, but he had the mortification of being worsted by his oppo

1 According to Livy (xxxviii. 54, 6), the friends of liberty complained of the 'regnum in senatu Scipionum.' Seneca, who, we must not forget, was taught by history what Scipio's contemporaries did not know, expressed his opinion of the monarchical tendency of Scipio's policy thus: Aut Scipio Romæ deesse debebat, aut Roma sine libertate. Seneca, Epist. xiii. 1, 1.

2 Liv. xxxviii. 52, 2. Gellius (iv. 18) calls him altus animo atque magnificus et sui conscientia subnixus,' and he ascribes to him fiducia atque exsuperantia ingens.'

3 Livy, xxxviii. 53, 9, calls him: bellicis quam pacis artibus memorabilior. 4 Liv. xxxiv. 43.




Neither of the candidates whom he patronised was elected. The defeat was felt the more keenly, as one of the successful candidates was Lucius Quinctius Flamininus, the brother of Titus, who, as the conqueror of Philip, was Scipio's chief rival for military glory. Not until two years later, after the beginning of the Syrian war, did Scipio succeed in bringing about the election of his incompetent brother Lucius Scipio to the consulship for 190 B.C., by undertaking to accompany him as legate into the field. In this election, as well as in the arrangement for conducting the war, we can see how the family influence of the Scipios determined the action of the state. But the Scipios were soon to learn that in the nobility there were forces which baffled their control. After the conclusion of the Syrian war their personal opponents, at the instigation of Cato, directed a formidable attack against them, and the two great public trials in which the most prominent family of the Roman nobility was pulled down from its high and overbearing position produced a great and beneficial effect. To these trials it is principally due that the danger which threatened the republic was for a time averted. The impeachment of the Scipios was a forcible and effective protest against the presumption of men who dared to show some inclination to play the masters in a free state. Yet even this violent struggle cannot be said to have been undertaken in the interest of abstract principles. It was a personal dispute between an overpowerful family and that part of the nobility which was endeavouring to remove the influence of this family and maintain some sort of equality among all the noble houses.

The leader of the party hostile to the Scipios was M. Porcius Cato, a man who was enabled to take a prominent

Liv. xxxv. 10. This is one of the instances of elections hotly contested by rival candidates of the same political party who opposed each other on merely personal grounds. See above, p. 321. Livy says: In exitu iam annus erat, et ambitio magis quam unquam alias exarserat consularibus comitiis. Multi et potentes petebant patricii plebeique . . sed omnium oculi in Quinctium Corneliumque coniecti . . . . ceterum ante omnia certamen accendebant fratres candidatorum, duo clarissimi ætatis suæ imperatores, &c.

position in political life, not by hereditary wealth or the influence of his family, but solely by his personal energy, his indefatigable activity, his undaunted spirit, his stern and genuine Roman virtues. He knew and had often practised the art of employing the law and the sense of justice of his fellow-citizens for his own ambitious purposes, and he could thus make his own virtues serve his political ends. He constantly advocated the good old habits of moderation, self-control, and justice, and so attained to greatness in spite of his slender abilities. By running down his rivals and unmercifully exposing their faults, he came to the front, and actually succeeded in obtaining one after another the highest offices of state.

pass of



Career of

M. Por

cius Cato.

vres for


After his consulship, in which, according to his own Cato's account at least, he had thoroughly conquered Spain, Cato maneu had in 191 B.C. gone to Macedonia as legate to Acilius the censorGlabrio, and had contributed to the forcing of the Thermopyla 1by making a circuit and attacking the enemy in the rear. After this exploit he had hastened back to Rome before his general, in order to slander him and to place his own services in the most brilliant light. In the following year Glabrio celebrated a triumph, and at once applied for the censorship. Cato competed with him for the same office, and to clear the road for himself he supported as witness a formal charge against his rival for having appropriated to his own use a part of the booty made in the war. Doubtless the accusation was well founded, and Cato's share in it would have been honourable for him if it had been brought forward from a pure sense of justice and not as an electioneering manoeuvre. Glabrio, to escape condemnation, withdrew from the candidature, and Cato thereupon dropped his accusation when it had answered its object. By his hostility to Glabrio, who was a client of the Scipionic family, he had entered into a direct opposition to this powerful house. It was probably the result of their great influence that in spite of his skilful assault on his rival he himself lost 1 Vol. iii. p. 125.


Cato and

the Scipios.

The war

indemnity of Antiochus.

his election. The censors chosen for 189 B.C. were M. Claudius Marcellus and T. Quinctius Flamininus. Cato, however, could not submit to the loss of an office which would enable him to display those virtues on which he particularly prided himself. The toil of years might be needed before his end was attained; but he never thought of shrinking from the task, and he directed his whole energy to this one aim with iron perseverance. The victims of this dogged determination were his personal enemies the Scipios, the prize at stake was the censorship, and the final result was the surname 'Censorinus,' which has remained his title of honour in the history of Rome.

That the Scipios would oppose his candidature, Cato could easily foresee, and he was probably prepared for a sharp struggle. But what gave peculiar asperity to the fight was the circumstance that his competitor for the censorship was no other than Lucius Scipio himself, the conqueror of Antiochus, who, though a man of no particular merits and no ability, became a dangerous rival through the splendour and power of his family, and, above all, through the high position of his brother Publius. Besides, Lucius Scipio had just returned as the conqueror of the powerful king of Syria, and had with great magnificence celebrated a triumph (188 B.C.), which far surpassed the show which Cato had exhibited a few years previously on his return from Spain.

The first attack upon the Scipios was made in the senate in the following year (187 B.C.) by two tribunes of the name of Petillius.' They demanded an account of the disposal of certain sums of money during the Syrian war, especially of the three thousand talents which Antiochus had paid down as a preliminary payment towards the war contribution of fifteen thousand talents imposed upon

1 Polyb. xxix. 9a; Gellius iv. 18. Livy, following the account of Valerius Antias, commits the error of speaking of an accusation before the people. Liv. xxxviii. 50. On the date of the proceedings see Liv. xxxix. 6, 4, and Mommsen, Forschungen, ii. p. 480.

« IndietroContinua »