Front Page Titles (by Subject) DISCOURSE III.: Of the Resignation of SYLLA. - The Works of Sallust (Gordon's Discourses, Cicero's Orations against Catiline)
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DISCOURSE III.: Of the Resignation of SYLLA. - Gaius Sallustius Crispus (Sallust), The Works of Sallust (Gordon’s Discourses, Cicero’s Orations against Catiline) 
The Works of Sallust, translated into English with Political Discourses upon that Author. To which is added, a translation of Cicero’s Four Orations against Catiline (London: R. Ware, 1744).
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Of the Resignation of SYLLA.
His Policy in Resigning; his Motives and Encouragement to resign.
THE Name of Sylla occurs so often in Sallust, his Usurpation is so frequently referred to, and his Abdication has been so long considered as a profound Mystery in Politics, that I shall here bestow some Thoughts upon it. His Resignation hath been reckoned a surprising Step, very hard to be explained. I cannot help differing from such as think it so, since I can account for it from obvious and probable Causes. But they who seek only for deep and abstruse Reasons, will always overlook or despise plain ones. It was surely the greatest, as well as the wisest of all the Actions of his Life, and had as much Sense as Boldness in it. Had Cæsar followed his Example, he too might have avoided a tragical End; as Sylla, had he not resigned, might have met with Cæsar’s Fate.
The People are naturally Forgiving, as well as naturally Violent; and the Restoring of public Liberty, was, to the Romans, who ardently loved it, such an Act of Benignity, as gained their Hearts in general. His assuming the Dictatorship admitted of an Excuse from the Struggle of Parties, as a Measure of Self-defence, necessary to secure him, and the Nobility, against the Violence of Marius, and his Associates, at the Head of the Commons. This Consideration served to justify, at least to palliate, many Acts of Cruelty and Power; and his Abdication passed, with the Public, for a Compensation for all. His Usurpation was then ascribed to Necessity; his Resignation appeared to flow from Benignity and popular Spirit.
If Sylla, therefore, resigned only in order to be quiet and safe, it fully answered his Ends. Or, if he was supposed to have done it from Greatness of Mind; such an Opinion was sufficient to procure him high Applause, as one animated by something more noble than Ambition, or, at least, governed by the best Ambition; such Ambition, as made him prefer the public Interest and Welfare, to all the Glare and Charms of absolute Power, and seek personal Glory from the general Good, the only just and genuine Glory! All other Glory is falsly so called, groveling, selfish, and contemptible. Does the debasing and enslaving of all Men, that One may swagger, and, by tyrannizing over all, hurt all, entitle that Man to any Share of Glory? No: Whoever introduces universal Infamy, is universally infamous. He may pretend to Glory, because none dare contradict him; but none will support that Pretence but such as dread him, and court him, or are misled by them that do so.
Besides, Sylla had Proofs, and Warnings, that his absolute Power, even his Dictatorship, did not render him absolutely secure, nor procure him absolute Submission. His Friend Pompey, and some other young Patricians, who were become popular by their Address, and gallant Actions, had gained such Credit at Rome, that they were become powerful enough to thwart and disappoint him upon very important Occasions, so as to carry popular Elections against him. For he did not, I believe he durst nor, carry even the dictatorial Power so far as to abolish annual Magistracies. Cæsar did not carry it so far: He only controuled them by his Influence.
Sylla judged well, in not provoking all Men, especially such Men who had Courage and Interest to make a terrible Party against him; Men who were already grown too strong for him, and Men who might have been soon able to have forced him to resign. A voluntary Resignation was far preferable, as it was more safe. Had they gone so far, as to have forced him to resign, they would, perhaps, have found it necessary to have gone farther, and to have taken away his Life, for the Security of their own. A voluntary Resignation neither prompted Him to meditate Vengeance against Them, nor Them to use Precautions against Vengeance from Him.
It is likewise reasonable to believe, that Pompey, and other great Men, glad to get rid of him, in order to share at least in that Power which he possessed intire, had either explicitly engaged to him for the future Security of his Person, or were understood by him to have been so engaged, from Reasons of State. By an Ordinance already made, all his Acts and Regulations, many of them very tyrannical and barbarous, but many of them conducing to public Peace and Order, and most of them in Favour of the Nobility, against the Power of the People, and their Tribunes, were declared Legal, and made the standing Laws of the Commonwealth: They were even preserved and obeyed, not only after his Resignation, but after his Death.
As he therefore well knew the Situation of Things, and the Interest and Views of the leading Men, his Resignation was not altogether the Effect of Magnanimity. All this will account for the Tranquillity of his Mind, and for his bold and unconcerned Behaviour, after he had resigned; for his walking securely in the Forum; for his Forwardness in meddling still with public Affairs; and, for his causing a Man to be put to Death, in his Presence, for railing at him, when he was no longer Dictator. So that, whatever he might declare in resigning his Power, he trusted not altogether to his Genius, and the Felicity of his Fortune.
What Measures, and Precautions, he had taken for his Security, after his Resignation.
SYLLA could not, in the full Possession of all his tremendous Power, defend himself against the Attempts of any single desperate Man: No Monarch can. What Security he wanted, was, against the Violence of the People, against public Prosecution, and being made accountable to the Republic, for what he had done against the Republic, especially against the popular Part of it. This Security he had procured to himself, from the Condition in which he left the Republic, the People depressed, the Patricians in full Sway, and his own Friends, at least such as from Policy would not see him hurt, at the Head of Affairs.
He had got rid of all his most formidable Enemies; first, by conquering them, then by destroying them; nor had he spared any Measure or Manner of Cruelty; insomuch that, by the Sword, Proscription, Banishment, and Confiscation, he doomed a Hundred Thousand Roman Citizens to perish, with near a Hundred Senators, and almost Three Thousand Roman Knights. Such Enemies as remained alive, especially all the Children of the Proscribed, continued disabled, by the Law, from being restored; a Law, which continued in Force after Sylla was dead, for a Reason which will be found in these Discourses.
It must be owned, that many of his Regulations were wholsome and necessary: Many of them, too, contributed largely to the Safety of his Retreat; as I shall here shew in several Instances.
He had bestowed all the best Colonies, and great municipal Towns in Italy, which had taken Part against him, upon his faithful legionary Soldiers. So that in them he had a great and experienced Army, which cost him nothing, ready, at all Events, to espouse his Quarrel, and fight for him.
At Rome he had complimented Ten Thousand Slaves (such as had belonged to those whom he had proscribed) with their Freedom, on Pretence of supplying the City with a Body of Freemen, after so many destroyed in the Civil War. Here was a Band of Men, all his own Creatures, thoroughly engaged to him, distinguished by him with the Title of Cornelians, after his own Name, and answering the Purpose of a Body-guard to him at Rome.
As he had seized immense Wealth, from all whom he disliked or suspected, he distributed it so as to make by it many powerful Friends; and, by preferring his own Creatures to all Places of Power and Trust in the Provinces, he had made himself strong there.
He had secured himself from all popular Attacks, by retrenching, and, indeed, sinking the Power of the popular Tribunes, those formidable Officers, who had so lately and so long awed the Senate, swayed the People, and acted as Masters in Rome. By an Ordinance of his, none but Patricians could be Tribunes of the People; nor could they, after that Office, rise to any of the great Offices of the State, that of Consul, or of Prætor. They were likewise restrained from inflaming and haranguing the People, and from arguing before them, as usual, for, or against, any new Law. He had, moreover, taken the Administration of the Tribunals, that is, the Execution of all legal Justice, both Civil and Criminal, out of the Hands of the Roman Knights, and committed it wholly to the Patricians: A Change of high Moment to Him, as well as to Them!
He had done many great and popular Actions, highly to the Honour and Advantage of Rome; new conquered Greece, recovered Macedonia, subdued Thrace, vanquished Mithridates, that terrible and inveterate Enemy to the Romans, and rescued, from his Tyranny, the Cities and Coast of Asia.
He was brave, prosperous, handsome, and eloquent; all popular Qualities! He brought great Wealth, as well as great Honour, to Rome. His Triumph was splendid and dazling, over foreign Enemies only, not over any of the Roman Chiefs, his Rivals, nor for his Success in the Civil War; and he always modestly ascribed all his prosperous Events to good Fortune.
He entertained the People with magnificent Shews and Diversions, made them grand Feasts, gave them great Largesses; all mighty Engines of Popularity! His last great popular Action was his Resignation, the most popular of all; indeed, the most noble and virtuous: For which he was highly celebrated at Rome to the End of his Life, and his Death followed with the highest popular Honours.