Marius and Sylla   
120-78 B.C.

120-105 B.C.


The capture of Jugurtha
The capture of Jugurtha
Joaquin Ibarra, 1772

The circumstances attending the war with Jugurtha, gave decisive proof of the corruption of the Roman manners. Jugurtha, grandson of Masinissa, sought to usurp the crown of Numidia, by destroying his cousins, Hiempsal and Adherbal, the sons of the last king.

Jugurtha murdered the elder of these brothers; and the younger applying to Rome for aid, Jugurtha bribed the senate, who declared him innocent, and decreed to him the sovereignty of half the kingdom. This operated only as an incentive to his criminal ambition. He declared war against his cousin, and put him to death. To avert a threatened war, Jugurtha went in person to Rome, plead his own cause in the senate, and once more, by bribery, secured his acquittal from all charges of criminality.

A perseverance, however, in a similar train of conduct, finally drew on him the vengeance of the Romans; and being betrayed into their hands by his own father-in-law, he was brought in chains to Rome, to grace the triumph of the consul Marius, confined in a dungeon, and starved to death.

91-79 B.C.

The revolution

The ambition of the Allied States of Italy to attain the rights of citizenship, produced the Social War, which ended in a concession of those rights to such of the confederates as should return peaceably to their allegiance. This war with the allies was a prelude to that which followed between Rome and her own citizens. Sylla and Marius, rivals, and thence enemies, were at this time leaders of the republic.

Sylla, commanding in a war against Mithridates, was superseded, and recalled from Asia. He refused to obey the mandate, and found his army disposed to support him. Let us march to Rome, said they with one voice; lead us on to avenge the cause of oppressed liberty. Sylla accordingly led them on, and they entered Rome sword in hand. Marius and his partizans fled with precipitation from the city, and Sylla ruled for a while triumphant. But the faction of his rival soon recovered strength. Marius returning to Italy, and joining his forces to those of Cinna, his zealous partizan, laid siege to Rome, and, while Sylla was engaged in the Mithridatic war, compelled the city to absolute submission. After a horrible massacre of all their enemies, Marius and Cinna proclaimed themselves consuls without the formality of an election; but Marius died a few days after in a fit of debauch.


After a victorious campaign in Asia, Sylla returned to Italy, and, joined by Cethegus, Verres, and the young Pompey, gave battle to the party of his enemies, entirely defeated them, and was elected Dictator.

Sylla's entry into Rome was signalized by a dreadful massacre, and a proscription, which had for its object the extermination of every enemy he had in Italy. Elected dictator for an unlimited period, he was now without a rival in authority, and absolute master of the government, which, of course, was no longer a republic. He restored the senate to its judicial authority, regulated the elections to all the important offices of state, and enacted many excellent laws against oppression and the abuse of power. Finally, he gave demonstration of a magnanimous character, by voluntarily resigning all command, retiring to the condition of a private citizen, and offering publicly to give an account of his conduct. He died soon after his resignation.

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