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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 27

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 27.—Of the Civil War Between Marius and Sylla.

But when Marius, stained with the blood of his fellow-citizens, whom the rage of party had sacrificed, was in his turn vanquished and driven from the city, it had scarcely time to breathe freely, when, to use the words of Cicero, “Cinna and Marius together returned and took possession of it.  Then, indeed, the foremost men in the state were put to death, its lights quenched.  Sylla afterwards avenged this cruel victory; but we need not say with what loss of life, and with what ruin to the republic.” 157   For of this vengeance, which was more destructive than if the crimes which it punished had been committed with impunity, Lucan says:  “The cure was excessive, and too closely resembled the disease.  The guilty perished, but when none but the guilty survived:  and then private hatred and anger, unbridled by law, were allowed free indulgence.” 158   In that war between Marius and Sylla, besides those who fell in the field of battle, the city, too, was filled with corpses in its streets, squares, markets, theatres, and temples; so that it is not easy to reckon whether the victors slew more before or after victory, that they might be, or because they were, victors.  As soon as Marius triumphed, and returned from exile, besides the butcheries everywhere perpetrated, the head of the consul Octavius was exposed on the rostrum; Cæsar and Fimbria were assassinated in their own houses; the two Crassi, father and son, were murdered in one another’s sight; Bebius and Numitorius were disembowelled by being dragged with hooks; Catulus escaped the hands of his enemies by drinking poison; Merula, the flamen of Jupiter, cut his veins and made a libation of his own blood to his god.  Moreover, every one whose salutation Marius did not answer by giving his hand, was at once cut down before his face.



Cicero, in Catilin, iii. sub. fin.


Lucan, Pharsal. 142–146.

Next: Chapter 28

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