Mario and Sulla - World History

Mario and Sulla - World History
Posted on 30-12-2022

Mario and Sulla ( 100) Mario and Sulla compete for the domination of Rome.

At the beginning of the first century, there were three great powers in the world: the Chinese Empire, the Parthian Empire, and Rome. It had been a relatively short time since China had discovered the existence of Western civilization, and it did not take long to take advantage of it by designing an appropriate trade policy. Every year up to ten caravans left for the West. China dominated the Asian corridor through which the so-called silk road reached Farganá, from where it forked into two branches, one to the north, towards Maracanda (present-day Samarkand) and the other to the south, towards the Pamirs. Chinese exports ended up mostly in the hands of the Parthians, who in turn sold them to the Hellenistic kingdoms and to Rome. China made silk manufacturing a national secret. In fact, the origin of silk was a mystery to Westerners. The most accepted conjecture was that the silk thread had to be extracted from a tree, but, whatever its origin, the truth is that Rome came to pay a kilo of gold for each kilo of silk. At this time lived Sima Qian, author of the first historical work of Chinese literature: the Historical Memoirs (Shiji) in one hundred and thirty volumes covering the Qin dynasty and the beginning of the Han dynasty. In it alternate imperial annals, monographs on the peoples of Asia and biographies. It is one of the five works that the Chinese consider classical. Two others are the Shijing (an anthology of three hundred and eleven Chinese poems whose selection is attributed to Confucius, although it includes works composed between the 6th and 2nd centuries) and the Shujing ( The Book of History,which was originally made up of a selection of historical and political texts chosen by Confucius, but which was lost when Qin Shi Huang Di ordered the destruction of books and was also reconstructed around this time). The five classics are completed by the Chunqiu of Confucius and the Yijing (the Book of Changes ), the oldest of the five, which describes a divination system. To the five classics is often added the Four Books, written by the disciples of Confucius, which are the Lunyu, the Zhongyong, the Daxueand the Mengzi. Knowledge of the classics gave access to administrative careers and conferred the quality of lawyer.

As the Tokarians settled in Bactria, hordes of Scythians and Parthians destroyed the Indo-Greek kingdoms founded by the Bactrians and in their place created new monarchies that soon absorbed Indian culture.

Rome had just entered a period of calm: Yugurtha was dead, the Cimbri and Teutonic raids had been neutralized, the Sicilian slave insurrection was put down. At this time, Rome's worst enemy was Rome itself. Roman politics degenerated more and more. It was divided into two factions: the popular or democratic party and the conservative or senatorial party,but these names meant less and less. They were simply the two alternatives that a politician had to satisfy his own interests: gain the support of the lower classes or that of the aristocracy. The humble classes of Rome had become a proletariat less and less interested in obtaining land or a good job, and more concerned with supporting the politicians who gave them the most in return.

At this time the undisputed leader of the popular party was Mario, who was in his sixth consulate. Marius had been forced to raise an army of volunteers to face Yugurta, and then he had led them against the Cimbri and the Teutons. He now needed to reward them with land, and for this he needed to expropriate. The appropriate instrument was the laws of the Gracchi. However, Roman politics at the time required a talent that Mario did not have. He was a good soldier, but a bad politician. He soon ended up dominated by the tribune Lucius Apuleius Saturninus,that a few years earlier he had been removed from office by the Senate, and has since become a radical Democrat. He passed the laws that Mario wanted, for which he had to intimidate many senators through riots and violent mob mobilizations. He came to force the Senate to swear that they would comply with the laws approved within five days. The only one who refused to swear was Quinto Cecilio Metelo, son and namesake of the general who had participated in the Jugurta War. Metelo opted for voluntary exile.

However, Saturninus defended, like Gaius Gracchus, that the Italians receive Roman citizenship, and the conservatives once again took advantage of this point to excite the egoism of the proletariat. He organized the mob and the tribunes were forced into open rebellion. Then the Senate demanded that Mario, as consul, put down the revolt. Mario considered that, indeed, that was his duty and, in a pitched battle fought in the forum, Saturnino and his supporters were forced to surrender, after which they were killed by a violent mob. All this happened in the year 100.As a consequence of his attempt to swim and save his clothes, Mario lost the support of the popular without gaining that of the conservatives, so he had to withdraw from politics.

In 1998 the Chinese government managed to impose a monopoly on wine. In 97 Sulla was chosen propraetor for Cilicia. Cilicia was the southern coastal region of Asia Minor, which in recent years had become a haven for pirates. In his fight against the pirates, Rome had seized some possessions in the region, and now Sulla was the delegate of the Praetor of Asia in Cilicia, whose mission was to confront the pirates.

In 96 died Ptolemy Apion, the king of Cyrene, who bequeathed his territory to Rome, as Attalus III of Pergamum had done years before. Antiochus VIII, king of what is already absurd to continue calling the Seleucid Empire, died in a palace revolt, since his domains were reduced to a part of Syria. He was succeeded by his son Seleucus VI, but his uncle Antiochus IX, who ruled Phoenicia and part of Syria, tried to keep the whole kingdom. In 95 Seleucus VI, with the help of his brothers, defeated Antiochus IX, who was killed, but his son Antiochus X He gained control of his father's kingdom and continued the fight with Seleucus VI, dethroned him and sentenced him to the stake that same year, but his brothers continued the fight against Antiochus X.

Sulla contributed to Cappadocia's independence from Pontus, establishing King Ariobarzanes I.

The Parthian king Mithridates II made a relative of his, named Tigranes I , king of Armenia. (For some it is Tigranes II, because the name corresponded to a legendary Armenian king who had ruled centuries before.) Armenia became practically a Parthian possession , and the king decided to call himself Mithridates the Great.

In 94 two of the brothers of the late Seleucus VI managed to seize power in the part of Syria that had belonged to their father and proclaimed themselves kings, becoming known as Antiochus XI and Philip I, but this did not end the war . against Antiochus X. Shortly after, Antiochus XI drowned in a river, and his brother Philip I shared the kingdom with another brother, Demetrius III. That same year King Nicomedes III of Bithynia died, and was succeeded by his son Nicomedes IV.

In 92 Sulla signed a treaty of friendship with the Parthian king Mithridates II on behalf of Rome.

In 91 Rome elected a new reformist tribune: Marco Livio Druso. His father had been a tribune under Gaius Gracchus, and had opposed the reforms, but his son turned out to be a convinced democrat, perhaps one of the few idealists left in Rome. His main concern was the judicial system. Gaius Gracchus had tried to remove power from the Senate at the cost of granting it to the middle class (the equites). However, the "knights" were not long in showing themselves as corrupt as the senators. They were in charge of collecting taxes, which were auctioned to the highest bidder, so that whoever received the contract had a free hand to collect what was necessary to provide the state with the agreed sum and obtain a profit margin. Senators looked down on equites, but often made pacts with them. The governors of the provinces were normally of the senatorial class, and received considerable sums of money from the equites . in exchange for agreeing that the taxes collected far exceeded what was theoretically approved by Rome. Gaius Gracchus had achieved that the juries of the courts were made up equally of senators and equites, which undoubtedly benefited the latter, but not justice, since what happened is that both covered up their scandals and accepted bribes. equally.

Drusus tried to win over the equites by proposing that they could be judges as well as juries, but in exchange he also proposed that special commissions be appointed to judge corruption cases. His plan was to have one class watch the other and ultimately both be forced to be honest. To win over the people he presented the usual program of agrarian reform, but did not fail to include the dire idea of ​​granting citizenship to all Italians. None of this went ahead, because Drusus was assassinated. It was never known who the murderer was.

For the Italians, this was the straw that broke the camel's back. In recent years they had watched with dismay as all attempts to grant them citizenship failed. The main argument of the senators was the fear that the Italians would end up ruling Rome, but this was unthinkable, because the law established that to vote it was essential to move to the city. Instead, citizenship would have brought Italians tax exemption, which Rome could afford. The Samnites proclaimed an Italian Republic with its capital at Corfinio, about 130 kilometers east of Rome. The rebellion had been brewing for a long time, so an unsuspecting Rome was suddenly faced with a well-organized secession. Thus began the so-called Social War, from the Latin socius (ally).

Rome hastily assembled an army, which was placed under the command of the consul Lucius Julius Caesar. After suffering several defeats at Samnio, Caesar decreed in 90 that citizenship would be granted to Italians who remained faithful to Rome. Mario had just returned from a tour of the East, and the Senate was forced to remember that he was a good general, after all, so he was asked to accept command of an army. Mario reluctantly accepted. He had once been in favor of granting citizenship to the Italians, and now he was forced to fight them for asking what he thought was fair. He accepted, but at all times he tried to make the fighting less bloody for both parties.

Meanwhile, King Mithridates VI of Pontus invaded Bithynia and overthrew Nicomedes IV. He asked Rome for help, which, despite his internal problems, sent an embassy demanding that Mithridates VI leave Bithynia. Although Rome was not at its best, it is possible that his fame made Mithridates VI hesitate, who chose to abide by the order and thus Nicomedes IV regained the throne from him.

In 89 Caesar died, and the Senate entrusted supreme command to Sulla, who, devoid of Marius's qualms, had no difficulty in sweeping away the rebels everywhere. The Senate announced that it would grant citizenship to all Italians who applied for it within sixty days, which made most of the Italians give up the fight, but the Samnites continued to the end.

The two brothers, Demetrius III and Philip I, had managed to wrest most of his possessions from Antiochus X, but after dividing up the conquered territories they fought each other. In 88 Demetrius III was captured by the Parthian king Mithridates II and his fragment of the Syrian throne was claimed by his brother Dionysus, who was renamed Antiochus XII.In turn, Mithridates II soon died, and the Parthian Empire was involved in internal disputes, since its structure was feudal, and there were many powerful lords who saw themselves with possibilities of seizing the throne. This allowed King Tigranes I of Armenia to free himself from the Parthian yoke and sealed an alliance with Mithridates VI of Pontus.

King Gauda of Numidia also died, and was succeeded by his son Hiempsal II.

The king of Egypt Ptolemy X had earned the enmity of his court by desecrating Alexander's tomb. He also had stood out for his protection towards the Jews of Alexandria, who were getting along worse with the Greeks. All this allowed his brother Ptolemy IX to return to Egypt and regain the throne. Ptolemy X had to flee and was killed in a naval battle near Cyprus. The city of Thebes rebelled and Ptolemy IX had to send an army to besiege it.

In Italy Sulla put an end to the Social War. The measures that Rome took in the following years to guarantee the loyalty of Italy included, among other things, the phasing out of Italian languages ​​other than Latin, especially Oscan, the language of the Samnites. Soon after, Latin was the only language in Italy.

In reality, Rome could have defeated the Italians without having to grant them citizenship, but it would have needed a little more time to do so, and everything suggested that King Mithridates VI of Pontus could attack Roman interests in Asia at any moment ( more than anything because Rome had been encouraging Nicomedes IV of Bithynia to invade Pontus in revenge for the invasion that Pontus had suffered two years before.) Indeed, Mithridades VI was enraged and his armies invaded Bithynia, Galatia, Cappadocia again and they also occupied the province of Asia. The king ordered the killing of all Italian merchants found in Asia Minor, and the number of victims is said to have been about 80,000, although the figure may be exaggerated. He then went on to the Greek islands and finally invaded Greece itself. The Greeks celebrated finding someone capable of resisting Rome and joined Mithridates VI.

Rome's reaction was hampered by the fact that there were two generals suitable for the mission and each had the support of one of the parties, and neither was willing to allow the candidate of the opposite party to return to Rome in triumph. The generals were, naturally, Mario and Sila. The Senate quickly appointed Sulla as general-in-chief, claiming that it was he who had put an end to the Social War. Mario approached the tribune Publio Sulpicio Rufo,that he was drowning in debts, and he promised to pay them with the benefits of the war. Rufo did not take long to discover his democratic vocation, and had a law approved that increased the weight of the votes of Italian citizens. He then took charge of transporting the appropriate number of voters to the capital and managed to get Mario elected as general in chief. The result was that neither Mario nor Sila could leave until it was decided who was really in command. More exactly, what happened is that neither was willing to abandon Rome, leaving his rival in the city with an army under his command.

Sulla's army was waiting for him in Naples, Sulla had to escape from Rome to join him, but he did not leave for the east, but marched on Rome. Thus began the First Civil War, from the Latin ciuis (citizen), in which one Roman general faced another. Sulla managed to expel Mario and Rufus from Rome. The latter was captured and killed a short distance away, while Mario was apprehended some time later, he miraculously escaped death and was finally able to make his way to the coast, where he sailed for Africa. He found refuge on an island off the Carthaginian coast, where he led a group of outlaws.

Sulla was now an undisputed proconsul. At first a proconsul was someone to whom a consul delegated part of his functions, but now he simply meant that he acted as a consul even though he had not been chosen as such. He had constitutional laws approved by which the Senate had only the power to make laws (but not, for example, to remove him).

In 87 the Chinese emperor Wudi died. No heir had been designated, and the families of the empresses vied for the new emperor to emerge from his bosom. As no solution was reached, it was agreed to designate as heir an eight-year-old son of the late emperor who was not linked to any of the great clans that competed with each other, while establishing three regents, the most influential of the which was Huo Guang. The new emperor received the name of Zhaodi.

The situation in the country was critical. The interventionist policy of the Han had made life difficult for a large part of the population. In addition, the Huns had recently achieved some victories in the north. There had been revolts that were put down with difficulty and with the death of the emperor the civil service achieved a certain independence from the court, more concerned with palace intrigues than with governing the nation.

Meanwhile, the Seleucid King Demetrius III died in captivity. Sulla finally left for Greece and soon occupied Thessaly and Boeotia. The popular ones reacted in Rome by electing Lucio Cornelio Cinna consul,that he had tried in vain to stop Sulla's expedition. He then tried to apply a law that he would make citizens of those Italians who had been unable to obtain citizenship at the end of the Servile War. The other consul objected, and Cinna was expelled from Rome. He then asked for the support of the Italians and managed to get Mario to return to Italy. Together they marched against Rome and took it. Mario took revenge for all the offenses that, in his opinion, the Senate had inflicted on him. He killed everyone he considered his enemies, among whom were numerous senators. In all the history of Rome the Senate had never suffered an affront like this, and never got over it. His authority was no longer considered indisputable, and in the future there were many generals who did not hesitate to go over the Senate when they deemed it convenient.

In 86 Mario forced the Senate to appoint him consul, but he died a few days later, so that the city came under the rule of Cinna. Meanwhile, Sulla besieged Athens, which soon fell and was pillaged. Later Sulla faced Mithridates VI in Chaeronea. Mithridates was defeated and had to flee to Asia. The Romans followed. King Tigranes I of Armenia began to expand his kingdom at the expense of the troubled Parthian Empire and thus gained control of northern Mesopotamia.

Cinna sent a general of democratic sympathies with an army to Asia Minor with the order to replace Sulla, but the new army joined Sulla's and the envoy committed suicide. Sulla again defeated Mithridates VI, who in 85He had to sign a peace in which he promised to return the province of Asia, liberate Bithynia and Cappadocia (with which Nicomedes IV and Ariobarzanes I recovered their crowns), cede a fleet of seventy ships to Rome and pay heavy compensation. He wintered in Ephesus, from where he reorganized the province of Asia, rewarded the cities that had remained faithful to Rome and punished those that had joined Mithridates VI, then returned to Greece, leaving two legions in Asia Minor and returning to Italy with its most loyal troops.

After three years of siege, the city of Thebes succumbed to the armies of Ptolemy IX. The king looted it so brutally that the ancient pharaonic capital was never recovered.

In 84 Cinna died in a mutiny, but Sulla had to face the Samnites and troops loyal to Mario's followers, including his nephew Gaius Mario the Younger. At his side was Metellus, who left his exile to join him, as well as a 22-year-old named Gnaeus Pompey.He was from a commoner family. His father had stood out in the Social War and had tried to remain neutral in the fight between Mario and Sulla, but his son sympathized with the aristocrats. While Marius dominated Rome, Pompey tried to remain inconspicuous, but when he heard that Sulla was returning from Asia he hastened to raise an army at his own expense to join him.

The Seleucid King Antiochus XII also died in an expedition against the Arabs. His descendants could not occupy the throne, because in 83 Tigranes I of Armenia, after seizing Cilicia (the southern coast of Asia Minor), occupied the part of Syria that Antiochus XII had ruled. That year Antiochus X also died, fighting against the Parthians, and Tigranes I took control of all of Syria. He built a new capital, Tigranocerta, in northern Mesopotamia, near the border with Asia Minor. He called himself Tigranes the Great and King of Kings.

In 82 Sulla was able to enter Rome. He had to face the armies led by the consuls Cneo Papirio Carbón and Cayo Mario the Younger. After a battle before the Hill Gate of Rome (the same gate that Hannibal approached on his day), he entered the city. The consuls managed to escape, but Mario was defeated nearby and committed suicide so as not to fall into Sulla's hands. For his part, Papirio Carbón managed to flee to Sicily.

Now it was Sulla who "refined" Rome with the same rigor that Mario had used a few years before. Furthermore, Sulla not only had his political opponents executed, including some senators, but included citizens with valuable property on his list. The law established that the properties of a person convicted of treason passed to the disposal of the government and had to be auctioned. Since no one dared to bid against Sulla and his friends, they ended up with their estates significantly enlarged. It is estimated that some three thousand people were victims of the persecution.

Perhaps the most benefited by the expropriations of Sila was Marco Licinio Crassus. His father and his brother had died during Mario's rule, and he was able to save himself by fleeing to southern Spain and then to Africa, but joined Sulla along with Pompey when he returned to Italy. Crassus was already rich, but now he had become the richest man in Rome and was known as Crassus Diues.(Crassus the rich). It is said that he set up a kind of fire brigade, so that when one of the many wretched wooden houses in the city caught fire, his men would show up instantly and negotiate with the owner to buy it at a very low price, after which put out the fire. Neighbors often also sold their houses at a low price, otherwise the "firefighters" would not prevent the fire from spreading. Thus Crassus took over a good part of the urban properties of Rome.

There was a twenty-year-old young man who miraculously escaped death. His name was Gaius Julius Caesar, and he was the son of General Lucius Julius Caesar (who had died two years earlier) who had intervened not very gracefully in the Social War. Although his family was of aristocratic origin, none of his members had held any relevant political office. The family had tried to maintain its prestige through marriages, which was quite common at the time. Thus, Julia, Lucio Julio's sister had married Mario, and his son Caius had in turn married Cornelia,Cinna's daughter. These relationships meant that Cayo was better related to the popular than to the conservatives. Sulla ordered him to get a divorce, but he had the courage to refuse. The pleas of his family convinced Sulla to let him live, but they say that she said: "Watch him. There are many Marios in that young man." In any case, Gaius did not take long to leave Rome, settling in the province of Asia.

Sulla had himself named dictator, but not like in the times of Cincinnatus or Fabio Maximus, when the position lasted six months and he was resorted to in an extreme situation. Sulla's dictatorship had unlimited duration, which made him an absolute monarch or a dictator in the modern sense of the word.

From Rome, Sulla had no difficulty in gaining control of all of Italy. In fact, it made the last vestiges of the Etruscan and Samnite cultures disappear. In 81 he sent Pompey to Sicily, where Papirius Carbon still held out. There he won sweeping victories, after which he went to Africa, where Mario had left followers. Before the year was out he had returned to Rome covered in glory. His soldiers gave him the nickname Pompey the Great .(the big one). Such was his fame that Sulla decided to grant him a triumph (a solemn entry into Rome acclaimed by the people), despite the fact that he did not meet the established requirements: he was not a government official and he was not old enough.

From this year Sulla dedicated himself to reforming the Roman institutions. He weakened the equites, who were hostile to him, withdrawing the collection of taxes in Asia and the judiciary, which he returned to the senators. The tribunes lost the right to veto, the right to convene the Senate and the right of initiative in legislative matters, since their proposals for plebiscites could not be submitted to the people without the approval of the Senate. He also prohibited the tribunes of the common people from accessing the magistracies. The composition of the Senate went from 300 to 600 members, of which 500 were chosen by Sulla, although 300 of them had to belong to the equestrian order. He diminished the authority of the consuls and separated the civil administration from the military.

In legal matters, he clarified criminal law, increased penalties, and reinforced repressive measures against immorality and luxury. He expedited justice by separating the criminal courts. He also tried to appease the masses with social measures: compulsory lowering of prices, reduction of debts, carried out public works in Italy and founded military colonies for 120,000 veterans on lands seized from his adversaries.

Sulla walked through the city accompanied by twenty-four lictors, like the ancient kings of Rome and protected by an oriental-style bodyguard . He went so far as to mint coins bearing his effigy, thus, for all intents and purposes, he had become king of Rome.

This same year Ptolemy IX died. He had recaptured Cyrene for Egypt, territory that Ptolemy Apion had bequeathed to the Romans but which Rome never took possession of. The king died without issue, and the only member of the royal family who could legitimately occupy the throne was a son of Ptolemy X who had been educated in Pontus but was now in Rome. In 80 he arrived in Egypt, where he was recognized as Ptolemy XI and married Queen Cleopatra Berenice, but then had her killed and the Alexandrians killed him before the year was out. In his testament he bequeathed Egypt to Rome.

After the death of King Bocco I of Mauritania, the throne was occupied by his son Bocco II.

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