Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber
Marius would not reënter Rome until the frightened senate recalled his sentence of banishment; for he always appeared very anxious to obey the laws, so as to make the people believe that he was thinking only of them.
The Roman citizens were, therefore, called together, the question was put to the vote, and Marius found a large majority in favor of his return. He entered Rome, as powerful as ever, and celebrated his return by ordering the death of all the people who had been his enemies.
Marius and Cinna named themselves consuls, and one of their first acts was to set aside all the laws made by Sulla. Their next was to hunt up all his friends, and to carry out their bloody plans for revenge by killing them all. Fortunately for the Romans, however, the old man died one month after his return to Rome, and thus his bloody career came to an end.
In the mean while the news that Marius had returned to Rome was sent as quickly as possible to Sulla, who was making war against Mithridates in the East. Sulla waited till he had won many victories over this king; then, making peace, he came home as fast as possible to punish the men who had murdered his friends.
It was too late to injure Marius, for he was dead; but Sulla was fully as bloodthirsty as his former rival, and turned his wrath against Cinna and the son of Marius, who were now at the head of their party. Hearing that Sulla had made peace with Mithridates, and was on his way home, Cinna sent an army to meet and stop him.
But, instead of fighting Sulla, the Romans deserted, and joined him, hoping to receive a share of the gold which he had brought back from the East. Owing to this increase in his forces, and to the help of Pompey, who raised an army for him in Italy, Sulla won several victories, and finally marched into Rome at the head of his troops.
Cinna was killed by his own soldiers, and when Sulla entered Rome he had eight thousand prisoners of war who had belonged to the party of Marius. Instead of showing himself generous, he secretly ordered the massacre of all these men before he went to the senate.
The cries and groans of the dying could be plainly heard by the senators. They trembled and grew pale, but they did not dare oppose Sulla, and only shuddered when he said: "I will not spare a single man who has borne arms against me."
Then, for many days, long lists were made, containing the names of all the citizens whom Sulla wished to have slain. These lists were posted in public places, and a proclamation was made, offering a reward for the killing of each man whose name was marked there, and threatening with death any one—even a relative—who should give such a man shelter.
Through the civil wars waged between the parties of Marius and Sulla, and through these fatal lists, more than one hundred and fifty thousand Roman citizens lost their lives.
Sulla, to prevent any one else from ruling the Romans, now forced them to name him dictator for life. But, after governing for a short time with capricious tyranny, he suddenly gave up his power, and retired to a country house, where he spent his days and nights in revelry of all kinds.
Soon after, he was seized by a most horrible and loathsome disease, which could not be cured. He died, in a terrible fit of senseless anger, after giving orders for his own funeral, and for the building of a magnificent tomb on the Field of Mars. On this was placed the following epitaph, which he had himself composed:
"I am Sulla the Fortunate, who, in the course of my life, have surpassed both friends and enemies; the former by the good, the latter by the evil, I have done them."
But, although Sulla boastfully called himself "the Fortunate," he was never really happy, because he thought more of himself than of his country and fellow-citizens.