Julius Exsuperantius

Exsuperantius, or Exuperantius as he is sometimes spelt, probably lived in the fourth century A.D. His short history is clearly based on the works, now partly lost, of the historian Sallustius.

Translated from the text of N.Zorzetti. See key to translations for an explanation of the format.

[1] L   When the proconsul L.Metellus led an army to Numidia against Jugurtha, he had with him amongst the common soldiers C.Marius, who was low-born but outstanding in virtue. [2] When Metellus made him the soldiers' quaestor, Marius so distinguished himself by his brave deeds that he was feared by the enemy and respected by his general.

[3] L   When Marius made a sacrifice to the gods in the Numidian town which is called Utica, the soothsayers predicted that a great future awaited him. They urged him to attempt whatever he wanted, and seek a position loftier than his birth, and greater than he merited; for fortune seemed prepared to grant him everything. Then he was seized by a great desire to become consul; [4] so after gathering support, he left his province and returned to Rome to stand for the consulship. [5] Once there, by playing down the achievements of Metellus and stressing his own merit, he made the people become eager for change. He won their support with the help of the tribunes of the plebs.

[6] L   At that time, a struggle arose between the senate and the people, each desiring to gain control [of the state]. And so it happened that Marius was granted new honours, as if for the purpose of destroying the nobles, whom he had abused with insults. [7] So at the consular elections the whole populace, who had assembled for the voting, chose Marius as consul. Metellus was deprived of his province, and Marius was sent to Numidia.

[8] L   Marius accepted the post of consul as if it were the spoils of victory after his defeat of the senate, and openly proclaimed himself as the enemy of their power. [9] When he conscripted new soldiers, he was the first general to take into war the "capite censi" ("counted by head"), who were useless and untrustworthy citizens. This was his way of showing his gratitude to the people, who had granted him the honours which he longed for, but it was harmful to the state.

[10] L   At that time the Roman people was divided into classes, and each citizen was recorded in the census according to the size of his estate. [11] And those who possessed land were conscripted as soldiers, because they would toil strenuously for victory, as they were defending their ancestral possessions as well as their liberty. [12] But the citizens who had no possessions were recorded in the census by their head, which was all they owned, and in times of war they stayed within the city walls, because they could easily turn into traitors, as poverty often leads to evil. [13] Marius took these men, who should not have been entrusted with public business, to fight in the war.

[14] L   Marius also took L.Sulla, one of the nobles, with him to his province, where the war was brought to a successful close and Jugurtha was captured. After their victorious return to Rome, becaue Marius' excellence was recognised, he was immediately sent to Gaul, whose inhabitants were launching attacks on Roman territory.

[15] L   At the same time Mithridates, at the head of a huge army, began to attack and plunder the whole [province] of Asia, including the allied cities. [16] L.Sulla, who had shown greatness of mind and body during the war in Africa, was chosen to lead an army against Mithridates. [17] When Marius heard of this, he quickly put an end to the war which he was waging, because in his endless desire for glory he could not allow Rome's liberty and dignity to be defended by any other man's courage. So after crushing the Gauls and utterly destroying the barbarian tribes, he once again returned in triumph to Rome. [18] At his prompting Sulpicius, a tribune of the plebs, passed a law to take away Sulla's province and give it to Marius instead.

[19] L   When Sulla learnt this, he left his legate Murena in charge of the province and of the Valerian soldiers, whom he regarded as untrustworthy in a civil war. He himself, angry and upset at the injustice which he had received, went off with part of his army to put down Marius' faction. [20] As soon as he came to Rome, he killed Sulpicius, who was opposing him and undermining the state with rebellious assemblies, along with many of his supporters. Marius, the architect of the outrage, was forced into exile by the attack, [21] and, after so many victories, wandered, shipwrecked and penniless, through the countryside of Gaul and Africa, which he had once plundered.

[22] L   While this was happening, Cinna and Octavius were elected consuls. Cinna, who belonged to Marius' party, [23] passed a law to the effect that new citizens, upon receiving Roman citizenship for any reason, should be able to vote amongst the old citizens, with no distinction. [24] He did this to gain the favour of the men who had raised Marius to power by their votes and had granted him the greatest honours; but this law was unfair to the old citizens, who seemed to have lost the benefit of their dignity, by having their votes mixed in with those of the new, less worthy citizens.

[25] L   For this reason Octavius was aroused to put an end to the dissension, and with the approval of the old citizens he took us arms, depending on the support of Sulla's forces, and forced his colleague Cinna into exile. [26] In the course of these events, a large number of citizens were killed on both sides.

[27] L   While Cinna was wandering about after his expulsion, he came to Africa, where Marius was living in poverty. There they formed a joint plan of action, and got together an army by stirring up unrest amongst the lowest classes and by releasing slaves from their workplaces. So they came back to Rome with a very strong body of young supporters, and overcame and killed Octavius, the leader of Sulla's party. [28] Then cruelty of various kinds proliferated, so that all the nobles were slaughtered at the whim of runaway slaves; and the savagery of Cinna was so monstrous, that he did not even spare those by whose help he had been made the victor.

[29] L   And while Cinna was raging against everyone in this arrogant fashion, he was killed by his own soldiers at an assembly.

[30] L   Then Marius, fearing that he would not be able to continue in power without an ally, substituted Carbo for Cinna, to be his colleague in his seventh consulship. [31] Then Sulla, stirred up by these outrages, led his army against Marius and Carbo, and the Roman armies fought against each other in a bloody contest. Marius was defeated in this war.

[32] L   After his victory Sulla cruelly attacked whoever was left in the city, and he did not return the state which he had liberated to the rule of law, but took possession of it for himself. Such was his behaviour, that men longed for the rule of Cinna and Marius, which he had come to avenge. [33] This is why Sallustius say, "From good beginnings he achieved bad results." The beginnings were indeed good, because he wanted to defend the citizens' liberty, which had been suppressed. But the results were bad, because after defeating the tyrants and the cruel leaders, he disturbed the state even more grievously, though he had promised to free it from its calamities.

[34] L   While Sulla was in power, he drew up many laws and ordinances, and granted many states immunity from taxation, and brought many people into Roman citizenship.

[35] L   In an attempt to overturn Sulla's laws, the consul Lepidus started a civil war against his colleague Catulus, and was defeated. [36] Lepidus gathered together the dispossessed, whose land had been taken over by Sulla after his victory to make new colonies for his soldiers, and also the children of the proscribed. In this way he collected a large army, by promising to restore their ancestral property, if they were victorious. [37] He also made himself popular with the common people, as the defender of the people's freedom, by bestowing many gifts on them, both publicly and individually.

[38] L   A battle was fought on the coast of Etruria, and Lepidus started to gain the upper hand, because of the large number of soldiers who had joined his side out of hatred of Sulla's government. [39] But Pompeius returned from Gaul, in order to prevent Lepidus from harming the state by his impudent madness, and utterly defeated his army, who fled away and fell into a sudden panic. Lepidus lost the majority of his army and escaped to Sardinia, from where he reduced the Roman people to neediness by hindering their trade, while he rebuilt his own forces and supplies. [40] He fought several desperate battles in Sardinia with the propraetor Triarius, who defended his province so effectively that all Lepidus' plans were thwarted. [41] Lepidus was shut out of all the towns and could not capture them because of their fortifications. So he was unable to carry out his objectives, and in the midst of his preparations he fell seriously ill and died. [42] His partner and accomplice Perpenna, in order to avoid punishment for his great crimes, crossed over from Sardinia to Spain and joined Sertorius, who was then waging war against the Roman empire.

[43] L   This Sertorius belonged to Marius' party. In the consulship of Norbanus and Sulla, when Sulla returned from Asia against Marius and his faction, Sertorius forestalled the anger of the senate at the public suffering, which the fighting between the leaders would cause, by passing a resolution that "the consuls should see to it that the state received no harm." [44] This resolution of the senate prompted the consuls to prepare defences of every kind against Sulla, who was advancing against them and threatening everyone with destruction; and they chose suitable generals, including Sertorius, who would direct the war energetically. [45] After preparing a very strong army, the consuls marched out and in spite of Sertorius' objections they agreed to discussions between their army and Sulla's army. They were betrayed, and all their army passed over to Sulla.

[46] L   Then Sertorius, abandoned and without the protection of any force, escaped to Etruria. He was afraid that Sulla in his anger would punish him severely, as a defeated enemy. [47] But the Etruscans were faithful supporters of Marius' party, because they had received from them the Roman citizenship, which they did not possess before. They were afraid that Sulla would revoke the grant of this dignity, given to them by Marius' party, if his enemies were completely destroyed. So they joined Sertorius and the other leaders of that party, promising that they would do everything which was commanded without demur. [48] And so it happened that a strong army of forty cohorts was again assembled; and many soldiers, who had surrendered to Sulla on his arrival, returned to the camp of their former generals, whom they had betrayed, because their hopes of a [peaceful] agreement had been dashed.

[49] L   Meanwhile Marius (for the seventh time) and Cinna were elected consuls. Then Sertorius, safe again through the influence of Marius, came to Rome and began to criticise the slothfulness of all the leaders. With many ready examples he praised the energy and valour of Sulla, and said that unless he was immediately confronted, the war would be over and finished. [50] Then the consuls and leaders of the other party, reproved by these weighty accusations, sent Sertorius to Nearer Spain, with orders to settle affairs in Transalpine Gaul on his journey there. They did this either to remove from sight a rival and a passionate critic of their negligence, or to put a suitable leader in charge of a savage and untrustworthy province. [51] But when he arrived in the province, by a mixture of careful surveillance and encouragement, he so effectively won over the minds of the allies to his side, though they had been starting to defect and change their allegiance, that he was both liked and feared by everybody.

[52] L   Marius and Sulla fought near Rome; Marius was killed in the battle and Carbo fled, giving up the struggle as lost. [53] Then Sertorius, seeing that the side which he followed was finished and destroyed, decided that the best policy was not to dismiss his army, which would leave him defenceless against punishment by the victors, but to collect a large force in Spain and fight against the Roman armies.

[54] L   After the death of Sulla, he openly revealed himself as an enemy of the state, and Metellus and Pompeius were sent to suppress him. They attacked him in many fierce battles, [55] but even so it would have been difficult to defeat him, if he had not been killed by a conspiracy of his own men during a banquet.

[56] L   Afterwards Pompeius defeated Perpenna and destroyed the cities of Auxumnis, Clunia and Calagurris. He set up a trophy on the Pyrenees and then returned to Rome.

Attalus' home page   |   20.08.20   |   Any comments?