Young Folks' History of Rome HTML version
25. Sulla's Proscription, 88-71
There was great fear at Rome, among the friends of Cinna and Marius, at the prospect of
Sulla's return. A fire broke out in the Capitol, and this added to their terror, for the Books
of the Sybil were burnt, and all her prophecies were lost. Cinna tried to oppose Sulla's
landing, but was killed by his own soldiers at Brundusium.
Sulla, with his victorious army, could not be stopped. Sertorius fled to Spain, but Marius'
son tried, with the help of the Samnites, to resist, and held out Præneste, but the Samnites
were beaten in a terrible battle outside the walls, and when the people of the city saw the
heads of the leaders carried on spear points, they insisted on giving up. Young Marius
and a Samnite noble hid themselves in a cave, and as they had no hope, resolved to die;
so they fought, hoping to kill each other, and when Marius was left alive, he caused
himself to be slain by a slave.
Sulla marched on towards Rome, furious at the resistance he met with, and determined on
a terrible vengeance. He could not enter the city till he was ready to dismiss his army and
have his triumph, so the Senate came out to meet him in the temple of Bellona. As they
took their seats, they heard dreadful shrieks and cries. "No matter," said Sulla; "it is only
some wretches being punished." The wretches were the 8000 Samnite prisoners he had
taken at the battle of Præneste, and brought to be killed in the Campus Martius; and with
these shocking sounds to mark that he was in earnest, the purple-faced general told the
trembling Senate that if they submitted to him he would be good to them, but that he
would spare none of his enemies, great or small.
And his men were already in the city and country, slaughtering not only the party of
Marius, but every one against whom any one of them had a spite, or whose property he
coveted. Marius' body, which had been buried and not burnt, was taken from the grave
and thrown into the Tiber; and such horrible deeds were done that Sulla was asked in the
Senate where the execution was to stop. He showed a list of eighty more who had yet to
die; and the next day and the next he brought other lists of two hundred and thirty each.
These dreadful lists were called proscriptions, and any one who tried to shelter the
victims was treated in the same manner. The property of all who were slain was seized,
and their children declared incapable of holding any public office.
Among those who were in danger was the nephew of Marius' wife, Caius Julius Cæsar,
but, as he was of a high patrician family, Sulla only required of him to divorce his wife
and marry a stepdaughter of his own. Cæsar refused, and fled to the Sabine hills, where
pursuers were sent after him; but his life was begged for by his friends at Rome,
especially by the Vestal Virgins, and Sulla spared his life, saying, however, "Beware; in
that young trifler is more than one Marius." Cæsar went to join the army in the East for
safety, and thus broke off the idle life of pleasure he had been leading in Rome.
The country people were even more cruelly punished than the citizens: whole cities were
destroyed and districts laid waste; the whole of Etruria was ravaged, the old race entirely
swept away, and the towns ruined beyond revival, while the new city of Florence was
built with their remains, and all we know of them is from the tombs which have of late
years been opened.
Both the consuls had perished, and Sulla caused himself to be named Dictator. He had
really a purpose in all the horrors he had perpetrated, namely, to clear the way for