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THE HISTORY OF OLD ROME

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 X - The Sullan Constitution

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Page 12

Confiscations

The confiscated property was dealt with in a similar way. Sulla from political considerations sought to induce the respectable burgesses to take part in its purchase; a great portion of them, moreover, voluntarily pressed forward, and none more zealously than the young Marcus Crassus. Under the existing circumstances the utmost depreciation was inevitable; indeed, to some extent it was the necessary result of the Roman plan of selling the property confiscated by the state for a round sum payable in ready money. Moreover, the regent did not forget himself; while his wife Metella more especially and other persons high and low closely connected with him, even freedmen and boon-companions, were sometimes allowed to purchase without competition, sometimes had the purchase-money wholly or partially remitted.

One of his freedmen, for instance, is said to have purchased a property of 6,000,000 sesterces (60,000 pounds) for 2000 (20 pounds), and one of his subalterns is said to have acquired by such speculations an estate of 10,000,000 sesterces (100,000 pounds). The indignation was great and just; even during Sulla's regency an advocate asked whether the nobility had waged civil war solely for the purpose of enriching their freedmen and slaves. But in spite of this depreciation the whole proceeds of the confiscated estates amounted to not less than 350,000,000 sesterces (3,500,000 pounds), which gives an approximate idea of the enormous extent of these confiscations falling chiefly on the wealthiest portion of the burgesses. It was altogether a fearful punishment.

There was no longer any process or any pardon; mute terror lay like a weight of lead on the land, and free speech was silenced in the market-place alike of the capital and of the country-town. The oligarchic reign of terror bore doubtless a different stamp from that of the revolution; while Marius had glutted his personal vengeance in the blood of his enemies, Sulla seemed to account terrorism in the abstract, if we may so speak, a thing necessary to the introduction of the new despotism, and to prosecute and make others prosecute the work of massacre almost with indifference. But the reign of terror presented an appearance all the more horrible, when it proceeded from the conservative side and was in some measure devoid of passion; the commonwealth seemed all the more irretrievably lost, when the frenzy and the crime on both sides were equally balanced.

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Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/rome/4-10-sullan-constitution.asp?pg=12