Text #9678Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk
October 27 came and went and nothing happened. There was no arson, no massacre, no army of farmers with firebrands and pitchforks at the gate of the city. On November 1st, the predicted uprising was also a non-event. His credibility was further eroded by the arrival of a letter from the alleged leader of the Sullan veterans in Etruria. The letter said:
We have taken up arms not against our fatherland nor to bring danger upon others bot to protect our own persons from outrage; for we are wretched and destitute, many of us have been driven from our country by the violence and cruelty of the moneylenders, while all have lost repute and fortune. … We ask neither for power nor for riches, the usual causes of war and strife among mortals, but only for freedom, which no true man gives up except with his life. …take thought for your unhappy countrymen… and [do] not to impose upon us the necessity of asking ourselves how we may sell our lives most dearly.
In short, the “march on Rome” was simply an appeal for the redress of grievances. They left the choice of violence or peaceful negotiation to the magistrates and the senate. The consular to whom the letter had been addressed rejected the plea and demanded that the “rebels” lay down their arms and repeated the myth of equality in answer to them:
The senate and the Roman people had always been so compassionate and merciful that no one had ever asked it for succor and been refused.
Things were not looking good for Cicero. His campaign for glory was losing momentum and he was being threatened with a court of inquiry. Time was running out. His term as consul was almost over and Pompey was on his way to Rome. He had to do something, and fast.