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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


IV. The Revolution

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

CHAPTER IV - The Rule of the Restoration


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Page 13

The Men of the Restoration

It could not be otherwise; the whole nation was in a state of intellectual and moral decline, but especially the upper classes. The aristocracy before the period of the Gracchi was truly not over- rich in talent, and the benches of the senate were crowded by a pack of cowardly and dissolute nobles; nevertheless there sat in it Scipio Aemilianus, Gaius Laelius, Quintus Metellus, Publius Crassus, Publius Scaevola and numerous other respectable and able men, and an observer favourably predisposed might be of opinion that the senate maintained a certain moderation in injustice and a certain decorum in misgovernment.

This aristocracy had been overthrown and then reinstated; henceforth there rested on it the curse of restoration. While the aristocracy had formerly governed for good or ill, and for more than a century without any sensible opposition, the crisis which it had now passed through revealed to it, like a flash of lightning in a dark night, the abyss which yawned before its feet. Was it any wonder that henceforward rancour always, and terror wherever they durst, characterized the government of the lords of the old nobility? that those who governed confronted as an united and compact party, with far more sternness and violence than hitherto, the non- governing multitude? that family-policy now prevailed once more, just as in the worst times of the patriciate, so that e. g. the four sons and (probably) the two nephews of Quintus Metellus--with a single exception persons utterly insignificant and some of them called to office on account of their very simplicity--attained within fifteen years (631-645) all of them to the consulship, and all with one exception also to triumphs--to say nothing of sons-in-law and so forth? that the more violent and cruel the bearing of any of their partisans towards the opposite party, he received the more signal honour, and every outrage and every infamy were pardoned in the genuine aristocrat? that the rulers and the ruled resembled two parties at war in every respect, save in the fact that in their warfare no international law was recognized?

It was unhappily only too palpable that, if the old aristocracy beat the people with rods, this restored aristocracy chastised it with scorpions. It returned to power; but it returned neither wiser nor better. Never hitherto had the Roman aristocracy been so utterly deficient in men of statesmanly and military capacity, as it was during this epoch of restoration between the Gracchan and the Cinnan revolutions.

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