This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
August 29, 2005
The Fall of the Roman Republic
TA BL E OF CON TE N TS
I. Introduction..............................................................................................................................2 II. The Struggle of Orders...........................................................................................................4 III. Expansion............................................................................................................................10 A. The loss of “Civic Virtue” b. The Roman soldier’s relationship with his state and his general IV. Ambitious Politicians...........................................................................................................13 A. Tiberius Gracchus B. Gaius Gracchus C. Marius and Sulla D. Gaius Julius Caesar V. Conclusion............................................................................................................................32
THE DECLINE OF THE ROMAN REPUBLIC
The definition of a “republic” according to the Oxford American Dictionary is “a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elec-
The Fall of the Roman Republic
ted representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.”1 In 509 BC, the destiny of a little city on the coast of Italy, and indeed, the history of the world, was altered forever. This is because in 509 BC the Roman Republic was officially established. If this event did not take place, the geographical borders of today’s modern nations would be dramatically altered, and the world situation would be something entirely different than what it is today. This is because Rome would not have become successful had it allowed itself to be ruled by kings and potential tyrants such as Tarqinius Superbus: the last king of Rome. Under the Republic, Rome eventually became the only superpower in the entire western world. Before the Roman Republic was established, Rome was threatened by many rivals. Under the rule of the Republic, those rivals became no more. There was no one reason that the Roman Republic fell. Throughout the Roman Republic’s history (approximately 509 BC to 27 BC2) there were numerous events, personalities, and laws that can be considered as contributing factors to the decline of the Roman Republic. The first of these factors was the struggle of the orders, in which the majority of the Roman people known as plebeians, fought for their rights. The second factor was Rome’s tremendous expansion in and around the year 146 BC3 and the issue of that expansion. The third and last major factor is ambitious politicians who took advantage of the previous factors to strengthen their cause and, ultimately, contort the Roman Republic into a state in which neither the people, nor their elected representatives, were the sovereign rulers, but rather a supreme ruler or emperor, backed by his army, ruled Rome with unquestioned authority.
1 “Republic,” Oxford American Dictionaries, 2005 ed. 2 Erich Gruen, “Ancient Rome,” World Book Encyclopedia, 1997 ed. 3 Richard Hooker, The Punic Wars, 1996, Washington State University, June 7, 2005 <http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/Rome/Rome.HTM>. The Fall of the Roman Republic 3
II. The Struggle of Orders
Throughout the history of the Roman Republic, there was an ongoing struggle between the social classes of Rome. This struggle is widely known as the struggle of the orders1 and was one of the major factors that led to the fall of the Roman Republic. The founding of Rome is shrouded in ancient legends and myths which make it impossible to define any solid truth.2 The Romans credited a man named Aeneas as the founder of the Roman people because his relative, Reah Silvia, was the mother of Romulus, who was the supposed founder of Rome.3 There is much mythology involved in the story of Romulus, but there is no clear alternative. Consequently, the story of Romulus is generally used to describe the founding of Rome. According to Plutarch, Romulus opened his city to fugitives and travelers from neigboring lands. Many came seeking a new life or the protection of Rome’s walls. Once the city was adequately populated, Romulus appointed 100 senators to assist him in ruling Rome. These senators and their families became the “Patres,” the fathers of Rome.4 The descendants of these 100 senators were called the patricians.5 Around 40 years after Rome was built, Romulus disappeared in a storm and was never seen again6. He had ruled from approximately 753 BC to 715 BC.
1 "ancient Rome." Encyclopædia Britannica, 2005, Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service 21 June 2005 <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=26592>. 2 Christopher Heaton, Founding of Rome, 2003, UNRV History, June 21, 2005 <http://www.unrv.com/empire/founding.php>. 3 Titus Livius, History of Rome, Book 1: The Earliest Legends, 5 vols. (New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1905) 1.4 (Original text written somewhere between 59 BC and 17 AD). 4 Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, ed. Britannica Great Books, 1 vols. (Chicago, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952) 19 (original text written in 75 AD). 5 Titus Livius, 1.8. 6 Titus Livius, 1.16. The Fall of the Roman Republic 4
After a year of turmoil, a new king was chosen, the second out of seven. For the most part, the kings after Romulus ruled honorably and justly though there is not much solid information about them.7 The sixth king, Servius, created a law that allowed any man to hold positions of power if he had gained a certain amount of wealth. This law enraged the noble patrician class in which positions of power had previously been reserved. In 534 BC, with the encouragement of the nobles, Servius’ son in law, Lucius Tarquinius, cruelly murdered Servius and became king8. Though the Republic had not yet been established, this is the first example of the patrician class forfeiting their own rights through their jealousy. Tarquinius ruled with cruelty and murdered many senators, disregarding all counsel the senators provided. Tarquinius’ tyrannical rule caused the Roman people to despise the absolute authority the kings had over Rome, though they had not yet reached the breaking point of rebellion. According to the Roman Historian Titus Livius, in 510 BC, the fundamental last straw took place when Tarquin’s son, forced Lucretia, a patrician noblewoman, to commit adultery with him.9 When the patrician men came back from war, Lucretia made them swear revenge and thrust a hidden dagger into her own heart. Tarquin’s family was cast out of Rome in a revolt led by Lucretia’s husband and his friend Brutus. The Senate then voted to never again allow a king to rule over Rome, and in 509 BC, formed a republican government.10 It is very possible that the rape of Lucretia is mere legend and that there was no definitive event that led to the fall of monarchy in Rome, but the story of Lucretia is the only account of events that is available. In southern Italy, the cities chose one among them as an executive or president. In place of a king, the Senate chose to have two executive administrators to avoid the unreliability of a single executive. The executives had to be patrician (a descendant of the original 100 senators) and they were called “consuls.”11 Each consul was given the right to veto any move by the other consul, an attempt to keep balance in the Republic. The consuls would 7 Christopher Heaton, Kings of Rome, 2003, UNRV History, June 21, 2005 <http://www.unrv.com/empire/kings-of-rome.php>. 8 Titus Livius, 1.48. 9 Titus Livius, 1.57. 10 Titus Livius, 2.1. The Fall of the Roman Republic 5
serve a one year term and then the people would vote for a pair of different consuls. The consuls were essentially the leaders of the government along with functioning as commanders of the military, governors of provinces, and curators of public works.12 The Senate, composed of patrician citizens, served as the legislative branch of government and as an advisory body (thus the name: senatus, “counsel of elders”). Ex-consuls were required to serve in the Senate after their term as consul was over, so the consuls were careful to cultivate their relationship with the Senate throughout their consulship. According to Richard Hooker, a Washington State University Professor, the result was that “the consuls did not exercise much initiative or creativity, so Roman government tended to be highly conservative and cautious.”13 The ultimate position of power in the Roman government was the dictatorship, which was only relevant when Rome was in significant danger. A dictator elected by the people had supreme authority over Rome and her military in the case of an emergency. The dictators were elected for short periods of time, but in the last stages of the Republic, the ultimate goal of a Roman politician was to be elected dictator for life. The initial Republican constitution, one which was based merely on traditions and not a written document, was flawed in that all the governmental power was put into the hands of a single group of citizens, the patricians. These were the descendants of the first senators; the patricians were the only citizens who had access to political offices in Rome. This led to oppression of the rest of the Roman citizens, the plebeians, who had no real representatives in the government.14 The only influence the plebeians had on the government was through the citizen assemblies, in which politicians would 11 Christopher Heaton, Struggle of the Orders, 2003, UNRV History, June 7, 2005 <http://www.unrv.com/empire/struggle-of-the-orders.php>. 12 Christopher Heaton, Roman consuls, 2003, UNRV History, June 7, 2005 <http://www.unrv.com/government/consuls.php>. 13 Richard Hooker, The Roman Republic, 1996, Washington State University, June 7, 2005 <http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/Rome/Rome.HTM>. 14 Hooker, The Roman Republic. The Fall of the Roman Republic 6
bring legislation to the plebeians for voting. Because only the patricians were allowed into positions of power, the citizen assemblies were very much neglected15. The patricians abused their power by selling plebeian debtors as slaves and giving patricians tremendous leniency in court cases, among other things.16 This led to a very important stage of development in the Roman Republic generally known as the struggle of orders, in which the plebeians fought for their rights. The Romans were forced to use the plebeians as the backbone of the Roman army, as the patricians were only trained to fight on horseback, and there were simply not enough of them willing to fight.17 In 494 BC, as a large foreign army was marching toward Rome, the majority of plebeian class citizens threatened to leave Rome and form their own government. Because Rome could not defend itself without the aid of the plebeians, the patricians agreed to let the plebeians elect two representatives, called “tribunes,” every year. The tribunes had absolute veto power over anything and anyone for the good of the people, though they could not overule the authority of a dictator. These tribunes could not be held accountable for their actions, neither could they be harmfully touched while performing their duty. The tribuneship had tremendous flaws which only needed the manipulating minds of ambitious politicians to be expressed. The tribuneship, was created for the benefit of the Roman people, but it played a large role in causing the fall of the Roman Republic, which deprived the people of their place in the government. The Roman laws were kept secret from the plebeian class for a period of time in which the plebeians could not avoid breaking the law. This allowed the patrician class to manipulate the enforcement of these laws for their own benefit.18 15 Heaton, Struggle of the Orders. 16 "Conflict of the orders" Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 January 2001 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_of_the_Orders>. 17 Heaton, Struggle of the Orders. 18 “Twelve Tables” Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger 15 January 2001 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Tables>. The Fall of the Roman Republic 7
In 451 BC the plebeians revolted once again, and gained another great triumph with the appointment of the decemvirate, which resulted in the increase of the number of tribunes from 2 to 10.19 This gave the plebeians more representatives fighting for their interests in the government. Also, because of the decemvirate, the Laws of the Twelve Tables were established. The Laws of the Twelve Tables were essentially twelve codes related to civic matters, crimes, relationships, and land.20 In each table, there were a number of specific laws. Although the laws of the twelve tables were close to what the patricians had been enforcing already, they prevented the patrician class from manipulating the lack of written public laws and gave the plebeians the advantage of knowing where they stood in regards to the law. In 445 BC, the Canuleian law legalized marriage between patricians and plebeians, making it possible for wealthy plebeians to become patricians through marriage and become eligible for patrician positions. The Canuleian law also made it possible for patricians to become tribunes through marriage with plebeians. The plebeians continually gained rights through the tribunes until they gained the ultimate right of being elected consul. In 300 BC, the plebeians were granted the right to be elected to the priesthood, making them equal to the patricians in religion as well as politics.21 The aforementioned reforms initially granted the plebeians great rights, but for the most part, these laws only applied to wealthy plebeians. Acquiring a political position required not only an amount of political brilliance, but a considerable amount of funds to back it up. Because wealthy plebeians were granted essentially the same rights as the patricians, and patricians and plebeians could go from one class to the other through marriage, there was virtually no difference between the patricians and well to do plebeians except the matter of honor through birth. This formed an entirely new class: the equestrians— any Roman citizen possessing a certain amount of wealth.22 According to Matthias Gelzer, the “chief significance of these achievements” (referring to the aforementioned new rights gained by the 19 Heaton, Struggle of the Orders. 20 “The Laws of the Twelve Tables,” Constitution Society, 12 Sep. 1995 <http://www.constitution.org/sps/sps01_1.htm>. 21 Heaton, Struggle of the Orders. 22 Matthias Gelzer, Caesar Politician and Statesman, ed. Peter Needham Translation,(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003) 2. The Fall of the Roman Republic 8
plebeians) “was that powerful plebeians entered the ranks of the ruling families.”23 This created two general classes in Roman society: the rich, and the poor. Because of the distinct contrast between the two social classes, struggles arose. These struggles appeared throughout the entire history of the Roman Republic and would play a large role in its eventual fall.
23 Gelzer, 3. The Fall of the Roman Republic 9
A. The loss of “Civic Virtue”
In 147 BC, a Roman army led by Scipio Aemilianus utterly destroyed the city of Carthage.1 This marked the end of the Carthaginian empire and the beginning of a new stage in Roman history. The Carthaginian empire had been the last significant threat to the Romans. Carthage had been a significant danger to the Roman’s and as long as it stood as a threat to Rome, the Romans were united against it. They could not afford to fight among themselves, lest they be destroyed. When Carthage fell, so did the bond between the rich and poor class of Roman people.2 Without the imposing threat of Carthage, there was no uniting factor to keep the Romans “civic virtue” alive. Before Carthage, the Roman government relied heavily on civic virtue: the willingness of the individual to subordinate himself to the good of Rome.3 This is clear through the laws that were established in the early republic, such as that of the tribuneship. The tribunes could use their veto power over any piece of legislation in the name of the people of Rome. The Senate established this law trusting that the tribune’s would use the tribuneship for the good of Rome and not for their own personal benefit. Carthage helped fuel the civic virtue that was already dwindling during the confusion of the struggle between the plebeians and the patricians. When Carthage fell, the civic virtue that was keeping the Romans united was essentially nullified. This loss of civic virtue led politicians, to fight primarily for their own interests, rather than for the good of Rome.4 This general corruption in Roman politics elevated the struggle of the orders to an unprecedented level. It also led to many unfair laws and damaging rivalry’s between Roman politicians which caused significant problems in the effectiveness of the Roman Republic as a government. 1 Christopher Heaton, Third Punic War, 2003, UNRV History, June 7, 2005 <http://www.unrv.com/empire/third-punic-war.php>. 2 J. Rufus Fears, “Famous Romans Part 1, lecture 7: Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus,” University of Oklahoma, Norman, 2001. 3 Fears, “Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus”. 4 Fears, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. The Fall of the Roman Republic 10
b. The Roman soldier’s relationship with his state and his general
Not only did the fall of Carthage and conquests in the east bring immense wealth into Rome, but an unprecedented number of slaves as well.5 Because the price of slaves decreased so significantly, equestrians purchased thousands of these conquered foes and used them to manage huge plantations. This became a significant issue for many years because the bulk of Roman citizens made a living off of farming. Because the small farmer could not compete with the giant estates nor with any other job because of cheap slave labor, the majority of working class Roman citizens were forced onto the streets of Rome. This became an immense problem because the backbone of the Roman army was the small farmer, and only land-owning citizens were allowed to join the army. This became an even greater dilemma in 107 BC when the Cimbri and Teutonic tribes began migrating in the north, destroying everything in their way.6 The already dwindling Roman army had no recruiting base, and the forces fighting in the North were suffering numerous defeats against the Gauls. This led to the adoption of Gaius Marius’ legion reforms which, in themselves, became a major factor in the decline of the Roman Republic. In 107 BC, Gaius Marius was a rising star in the Roman political world.7 As consul, he proposed one of the most crucial reforms in the decline of the Roman Republic. Along with numerous reforms to the legion and the way it fought, Marius offered the entire head count of Rome, rich and poor, land owning and non-landowning, the opportunity to serve under him in the army.8 This gave disenfranchised Roman farmers the chance of some kind of 5 Hooker, The Roman Republic. 6 Christopher Heaton, Cimbri and Teutons, 2003, UNRV History, August 4, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/empire/cimbri-teutons.php >. 7 Heaton, Cimbri and Teutons. 8 Christopher Heaton, Marius Reforms Legions, 2003, UNRV History, August 4, 2005 The Fall of the Roman Republic 11
future, the chance of spoils on the campaign, and possible retirement benefits such as land after their 20-25 year terms9 were over. Because of these factors, the relationship between Roman soldiers, their generals, and the state was dramatically altered. Before Marius’ reforms, the typical Roman soldier was somewhat loyal to his general, but was actually fighting for the expansion of his state, which included his own lands. After Marius’ reforms, the soldier’s loyalty to his general was taken to another level. These landless Roman farmers had no future but their general. They were fed by there general, they gained spoils from their general, they had a chance of being promoted by their general, and their general would fight for their retirement benefits.10 Because of these factors, the typical Roman soldier was loyal to his general and his general alone.11 He owed his gratitude and life not to the state but to his general. The loss of civic virtue also played a role in these soldiers extreme loyalty to their generals. If the general was to command an extreme measure, not for the good of Rome, but for his own interests and theirs, the soldiers would now follow, having virtually no future but their general. These two factors that came out of the tremendous amount of growth Rome experienced around 147 BC12 played a large role in the impending fall of the Republic. The loss of civic virtue would effect the entire political scene in Rome. Ambitious politicians would show in the years following the fall of Carthage that they would go to virtually limitless measures to gain what they wanted, even if it meant the breaking of the principles that made the Roman Republic a republic. Because of Marius’ legion reforms, the stage was set for political chaos and bloodshed. Ambitious politicians looking for supreme power in Rome could now influence the government dramatically because of a tremendous army at their back, loyal to their general unto death, even if it meant fighting fellow Romans.
< http://www.unrv.com/empire/marius-reforms-legions.php >. 9 Heaton, Marius Reforms the Legions. 10 Heaton, Marius Reforms the legions. 11 Hooker, The Crisis of the Republic. 12 Heaton, Third Punic War. The Fall of the Roman Republic 12
IV. Ambitious Politicians
The previous factors have all been crucial, but the individuals who took advantage of them are even more so. After the loss of general civic virtue in Roman politics, certain particularly talented politicians determined to do virtually anything to further their interests. These politicians, starting with the Gracchi brothers and ending with Caesar, were the ones who gained significant power through the manipulation of the factors previously mentioned. The various politicians each found several strong powers that the aforementioned factors had allowed. Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus found the power of gaining support from the bulk of the lower class Roman citizens by championing their interests. The Gracchi also found the true power of the tribuneship when used with the full support of the people. Gaius Marius found, and Lucius Cornelius Sulla perfected, the power of a loyal army backing their political ambitions. Finally, Caesar, the ultimate consummation of the foregoing four politicians, perfected and wielded these powerful tools to become ruler of Rome, ultimately ruining the already weak Republic.
A. Tiberius Gracchus
Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus were essentially the initiators of the trend of going to any measure to carry through an agenda with the backing of the general people of Rome. This caused the senate and the higher class Roman citizens to fight back with equal energy, resulting in political turmoil such as Rome had not seen before. This went on to such an extent that laws were compromised, holes in the government were found, open corruption began, and violence ran rampant. The Roman historian Plutarch praised Tiberius highly for His virtue, saying in his narrative The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, “Notwithstanding, amidst the greatest misfortunes, and in the most unsuccessful enterprises, not only the discretion and valor of Tiberius, but also, which was still more to be admired, the great respect and honor which he showed for his general, were most eminently remarkable.”1 Though the Gracchi brothers 1 Plutarch, 673. The Fall of the Roman Republic 13
may have had a good motive, the ways in which they attempted to gain what they wanted — such as the tribuneship and the factor of popularity — played a large role in the fall of the Roman Republic. Scipio Aemilianus the Younger, a man known for his virtue and honor, criticized the Gracchi greatly because of what they did in the name of the people, saying when Tiberius was murdered, “So perish all who do the like again.”2 Just around the time Tiberius Gracchus began his political career, two distinct political parties began to emerge as the leading parties in the Roman Republic. The first, the conservative Optimate party, fought for more power to the wealthy classes and gained power through the government system.3 The second major party was the left-leaning Populares, who fought for support from the majority of the people of Rome.4 Though the reasons are not entirely clear, Tiberius joined the Populares party, championing the interests of the people. There is still much speculation on the sincerity of Tiberius’ choice however. After distinguishing himself as a soldier in the third punic war, Tiberius became a quaestor in Spain, an official in charge of finances. As quaestor, Tiberius managed to save the lives of as many as 20,000 Roman soldiers by negotiating a treaty with the Numantians. This treaty was utterly rejected by the senatorial Optimate’s in Rome who thought of it as admitting defeat. The treaty was thus cut off and Tiberius would have been given to the enemy to be dishonored had it not been for his popularity with the people and his inlaw Scipio Aemilianus’ intervention.5 Tiberius was related to the Optimate party: his father had been a Roman consul, and his mother was a member of the Scipio family, one of the most well known patrician families in Rome. The rejection of the treaty, however, caused Tiberius to bitterly despise the Optimate party.
2 Homer, The Iliad of Homer, ed. Britannica Great Books, 24 vols. (Chicago, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952) 47. 3 "Optimates" Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 January 2001 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimates>. 4 "Populares" Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 January 2001 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Populares >. 5 Plutarch, 674. The Fall of the Roman Republic 14
Because of this, the reasons for Tiberius joining the Populares party and fighting for the people of Rome will always be in question. Whether he did it because he was truly a man of virtue as Plutarch indicates, because of bitterness for the Optimate party, or because he found that championing the people’s interest brought in immense personal power, will remain unknown. Because of the general sense of corruption in Roman politics, it is difficult to believe the first possibility to be completely true. Whatever the reason, Tiberius joined the Populares party and was elected tribune of the people in 133 BC6 in which he started his fight for reform with zeal never seen in the previous history of Rome. Tiberius Gracchus emerged onto the political scene just as the fall of the small farmer was becoming a big issue. The bulk of the Roman population was facing poverty because of the Equestrians' huge estates manned by thousands of slaves, making it impossible for the small farmer to compete. When Tiberius became tribune of the people, his first attempt at reform would be to solve this problem. He attempted to do this by creating a bill stating that those living on the land gained through Roman conquest would be restricted to the legal limit of 500 acres, giving portions of the “stolen” land to the lower class citizens.7 In the plan, the Equestrian land-owners would be compensated with a rent-free lease. The Optimates, however, were still not happy about the reform because it would cut down on their profits. Tiberius took the reform directly to the citizen assemblies, whereas the custom was to take it to the Senate for approval first.8 This is when the corruption of the Roman Republic became exposed. The Senate had never been directly opposed like this before and they knew it would be dangerous to let a move like this go untouched. The Senate convinced Octavius, the other tribune for that year to use his veto power to put down Tiberius’ reform. This unveiled a major flaw in the 6 "Tiberius Gracchus" Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 January 2001 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiberius_Gracchus >. 7 Christopher Heaton, Tiberius Gracchus, 2003, UNRV History, August 12, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/empire/tiberius-gracchus.php >. 8 Heaton, Tiberius Gracchus. The Fall of the Roman Republic 15
tribuneship, the undeniable veto power. In the wrong hands, this veto power could essentially wreak havoc on the entire political system. In response to Octavius veto, Tiberius used his own veto power to put down every proposed law or bill, shutting down the entire Republican system, until his bill would be passed.9 In the name of the people of Rome Tiberius did this. The people supported him because it would positively effect them. It was surely not for the good of Rome as a republic because it revealed the power of the tribuneship when used in a corrupt way along with openly undermining the civic virtue the Roman Republic relied on to prevent political turmoil. Because it was in the name of the people and for the benefit of the people, Tiberius became an icon of equality in the eyes of the people. This made him and his reforms virtually untouchable, along with making Tiberius a very dangerous politician, having the power of the people in his hand. Wielding this tremendous power, Tiberius became a major threat to the Optimate party along with the Republic as a whole. Octavius held to his veto but the Senate, facing open rebellion because of Tiberius’ tremendous support from the people, illegally ignored Tiberius veto, and passed Tiberius’ land reform into law.10 The reform proved to be effective, creating around 75,000 small farms, though it also was very expensive. Tiberius proposed to take money from the newly acquired land of Pergamum to carry the reform through. This concept was opposed by the Senate, but they were once again forced to accept the measure due to Tiberius’ tremendous support from the people.11 As long as Tiberius was tribune of the people, he was immune to revenge from the Senate, as the law forbade anyone to lay a hand on a tribune. The elections were coming up, however, and the law stated that a tribune could not be elected two consecutive terms. Tiberius, backed by the people of Rome, ignored the law and carried forward his election campaign. This enraged the already furious Senate, and at an election rally, Tiberius’ cousin Scipio Nasica, with a
9 Heaton, Tiberius Gracchus. 10 Tiberius Gracchus, 2003, Illustrated History of the Roman Empire, August 12, 2005 < http://www.roman-empire.net/republic/tib-gracchus.html >. 11 Heaton, Tiberius Gracchus. The Fall of the Roman Republic 16
group of senators, charged the rally, clubbing Tiberius and many of his supporters to death.12 Scipio Nasica fled from Rome but was hunted down and killed in Pergamum. Rome was in a state of chaos. Violence ran rampant in the streets of Rome. Scipio Aemilianus was called from Spain to save the state. While Rome was brought back to a better but still unstable state, the people of Rome were still bitter about the death of Tiberius Gracchus. Scipio, while sympathizing with Tiberius’ cause, criticized his actions and was murdered in 129 BC. He was believed to be killed by past supporters of Tiberius.13
B. Gaius Gracchus
Choosing to follow a similar path as his brother Tiberius, Gaius Gracchus served under Scipio Aemilianus, whom Tiberius also served.14 After several years, Gaius served as a consul of Rome. After spending two years governing Sardinia as consul, Gaius returned to Rome where he was elected tribune of the people.15 As tribune, Gaius chose the way of his brother, garnering support from the masses by passing laws benefiting the common man. Gaius directly attacked his political enemies by using the citizen assemblies to exile the consul Popolius and his supporters for their involvement in Tiberius murder.16 He then created a law that would prevent any magistrate who had been taken 12 Plutarch, 680. 13 "Scipio Aemilianus Africanus" Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 January 2001 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scipio_Aemilianus_Africanus >. 14 "Gaius Gracchus" Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 January 2001 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaius_Gracchus >. 15 Christopher Heaton, Gaius Gracchus, 2003, UNRV History, August 16, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/empire/gaius-gracchus.php >. The Fall of the Roman Republic 17
out of office by the will of the people to serve in any political office again. These laws were followed by a long line of popular legislation directly damaging the revenue and status of the patrician class.17 This was the start of a bloody trend in Roman politics in which there were two sides to follow, one side openly against the other. This principle was at a small scale at the time of Gaius Gracchus but would grow into bloody conflict and open civil war in the later days of the Republic. In 122 BC, Gaius blatantly disregarded the Roman constitution by being elected a second consecutive year as tribune. Gaius continued to bring in anti Optimate legislation throughout 122 BC. He overhauled the taxation system in Asia Minor, hurting the Optimate senators’ profits. He then introduced a state-funded grain law, allowing the citizens to buy grain directly from the state, slicing grain prices in half. Gaius re-introduced his brothers’ agrarian law, which was revoked by the Senate after Tiberius death. According to Cicero, one of Romes greatest orators, Gaius reforms were far more successful than the reforms of Tiberius.18 Through his legislation, Gaius received even more support from the Roman people than Tiberius. Had it not been for Gaius’ tremendous mistake at the end of his tribuneship, Gaius, to some extent, could have passed virtually any bill that had some benefit to the people. Gaius was safe from assassination because he had so much support from the people. Open rebellion would have been a threat to the government of Rome had it acted against him. Because of this, along with the fact that any one politician would become extremely unpopular if he stood up to Gaius, the Senate was forced into signing every piece of legislature Gaius created. At the end of 132 BC however, Gaius Gracchus made a tremendous mistake that cost him his popularity and his life. The Italian citizens, who payed the same taxes as regular Roman Citizens but could not yet vote, wanted the agrarian laws (Tiberius’ land reforms) to apply to them as well as the official Roman citizens. Gaius saw this as a chance to gain more votes 16 Suzanne Cross, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, 2001, Julius Caesar: The Last Dictator, Agust 16, 2005 < http://heraklia.fws1.com/contemporaries/gracchi/ >. 17 Heaton, Gaius Gracchus. 18 Heaton, Gaius Gracchus. The Fall of the Roman Republic 18
and proposed a law that would grant all the Italian citizens full citizenship. What seemed to be an intelligent move in the eyes of Gaius was a disaster in the making because the law was unpopular both in the Senate and with the majority of the people of Rome. If the law was passed, the people of Rome would have to share their land with the Italian citizens, something they about which were extremely displeased. The Senate played this against Gaius by backing Livius Drusus, another tribune for the year 132, in proposing laws very beneficial to the people of Rome. These laws were never intended to be permanent and were supported by the Senate only long enough to do damage to Gaius. In 121 BC, Gaius attempted to be elected for a third consecutive year of tribuneship. He failed in getting elected because of his rapid loss of support from the people.19 Realizing his mistake, Gaius led a protest in the streets of Rome with thousands of his supporters at his back. The protest escalated into an armed revolt as the mob of Gaius supporters grew. The consul, Lucius Opimius was a strong political enemy of Gaius and saw his chance to bring an end to him. Because some of Gaius’ supporters were carrying weapons, the Senate was able to charge Opimius with the first ever Senatus Consultum Ultimatum which was the ultimate decree of martial law.20 Opimius, backed with an armed militia of legionary infantry and archers marched on the mad protesters, killing thousands of them. Gaius Gracchus, seeing that all hope was lost, ordered his personal slave to stab him to death. After the massacre, thousands more of Gracchus supporters were rounded up, arrested, and strangled to death.21 This started a new stage in the Roman Republic marked with violence and bloodshed. Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus were the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic. All of the elements had fallen into place for them to make a tremendous splash in the way the Roman Republic worked. They revealed the power of gaining support from the Roman people; they also revealed the power of the tribuneship when used by a politician with such support from the people that he could openly undermine traditional Roman laws and get away with it. However moral or caring they were, the Gracchi were the first 19 Heaton, Gaius Gracchus (whole paragraph). 20Heaton, Gaius Gracchus. 21 Plutarch, 688. The Fall of the Roman Republic 19
major showcase of the loss of civic virtue, at least as far as the Republic was concerned, having no consideration of the effect that their actions would take on the Roman Republic as a governing system. What the Gracchi did changed the whole way the Roman Republic worked. The stakes for political dominance were higher then they ever were before, and there were now more ways then ever for an ambitious Roman politician to rise in power. The Gracchi started the trend of two distinct factions going to extreme measures to gain political dominance, even if it meant violence. Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus brought out this turmoil in Roman politics and died because of it. While the Gracchi rarely resorted to open violence, they used the threat of violence to gain much political power in politics. This raised the bar in terms of the way Roman politicians played politics, and because of this, the Gracchi were killed. The mere power of the people was not enough in this era of violence and ferocity that the Gracchi had brought in. What was needed was an army. This army could not be any normal army, however; it had to be an army loyal not to its state but to its general.
C. Marius and Sulla
The stakes raised with Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus escalated to an unprecedented level with the infamous rivalry of Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla. The years of Marius and Sulla were marked with political turmoil, confusion, and bloodshed. If the Roman people were convinced that the Roman Republic was becoming ineffective as a government, this became even more evident with Marius and Sulla. Just as Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, Marius spent his early career serving under Scippio Aemilianus in Hispania.22 Because Marius did not have any political position at birth,23 he had to rise through the ranks of the army before he could have any political influence. Marius proved himself to be an excellent soldier and quickly rose through the ranks of the military.24 In 123 BC, Marius became a novus homo or new man, the title given to a plebeian 22 Plutarch, 333. 23 Plutarch, 333. 24 Christopher Heaton, Rise of Marius, 2003, UNRV History, June 15, 2005 <http://www.unrv.com/empire/rise-of-marius.php>. The Fall of the Roman Republic 20
who has risen through the ranks and is the first in his family to acquire some significant political position.25 Marius was 34 and was elected as quaestor, starting his political career. Marius used past clients and relations in his military career to back his political ambitions.26 In 119 BC, Marius joined the Populares ideology, and was elected tribune of the people.27 Just as the Gracchi, Marius championed the peoples interests to gain political power. Marius firmly opposed the Roman elite by passing a law that forbade the inspection of ballot boxes. Before this law, the elite members of Roman society would intimidate voters by inspecting the ballots in the citizen assembly elections, thus gaining votes. Through popular laws such as this, Marius gained the status of champion of the people which would greatly help him in fulfilling his political ambitions.28 In 115 Marius was elected praetor, an official with similar powers as the consul, usually commanding Roman armies. He served a year in Rome and then was assigned to the province of Further Spain.29 Through this Marius gained a significant military reputation and amassed much wealth through his conquests. Marius then returned to Rome. In 110 BC he allied himself with the Julii family through marriage.30 The Julii family were a much respected but poor patrician family. Through his relationship with them, Marius gained the benefit of entry into social and political circles, and the Julii family gained the benefit of becoming a power player in Roman politics through Marius’ wealth.
In 107 BC, the Roman people were utterly frustrated with their government because of Jugurtha, the king of Numidia. Jugurtha was a brilliant general and led the Numidian armies against the surrounding nations, including allies of Rome. The Roman allies appealed to Rome for help, and envoys were sent to stop Jugurtha’s attacks. The envoys were sent home empty 25 "Novus Homo" Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 January 2001 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novus_homo >. 26 Heaton, Rise of Marius. 27 Plutarch, 333. 28 Heaton, Rise of Marius 29 Plutarch, 334. 30 Plutarch, 334. 31 Heaton, Rise of Marius. The Fall of the Roman Republic 21
handed because Jugurtha had much influence in the leading families of Rome because of bribes. Finally, after a long period of time, the Senate declared war on Jugurtha. Two Roman generals were sent with large armies to stop him. These generals were easily corruptible and did very little damage to Jugurtha. The Roman people were furious that such a small problem could penetrate the Roman Republic because of inner corruption.32 Memmius, a tribune of the people at the time, passed a law that would force Jugurtha to come before the Roman Senate and reveal those who he had bribed. But before Jugurtha could arrive in Rome, another tribune vetoed the whole arrangement and Jugurtha left Italy without a question asked. Later, some assassins sent by Jugurtha were caught in the attempt of murdering some of Jugurtha’s political enemies. Rome reacted by sending another general to stop Jugurtha in his conquests. But with the excuse of being “surrounded” by Jugurtha’s army, the general and his army fled back to Rome. This obvious corruption and bribery angered the Roman people to the uttermost. Rome was giving up battles to a small Numidian king without a single fight.33 The Roman people were rapidly losing confidence in their government to solve problems. In 107 BC, after another unsuccessful general was sent back to Rome, Marius was elected consul, promising to take care of the situation in Numidia. In the two years of his consulship, Marius not only fulfilled his promise of conquering Jugurtha, but, through his reform of the legions, completely changed the way Roman politics were played. Though the people were led to believe that Marius reformed the legions because of his love for the people, Marius really created the reform because increasing threat of Cimbri and Teutonic tribes migrating from the North.34 The year 107 BC also marked the start of the infamous rivalry between Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla. According to Plutarch, Sulla, a rising general in Marius army, used the betrayal of Jugurtha’s ally Bochus to capture
32 Heaton, Rise of Marius. 33 Christopher Heaton, Jugurthine War, 2003, UNRV History, June 18, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/empire/war-with-jugurtha.php >. 34 "Marius" Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 January 2001 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marius >. The Fall of the Roman Republic 22
Jugurtha.35 In 105 BC, despite Sulla’s claims to victory, Marius was honored as victor due to his command and he was granted a Triumph (a ceremony honoring the victor of a war.)36 This, along with various other similar situations, began the rivalry between Marius, the champion of the people and Sulla, the champion of the Senate. In order to deal with the Germanic threat, the people of Rome elected Marius consul for 5 consecutive years, an open breach in the Republican constitution which required at least a ten year gap between one year consulships for an individual.37 This was a clear display of the power of a politician with full support from the people of Rome. After years of battle with the Cimbri and Teutonic tribes, Marius, Sulla, and a general by the name of Catulus each proclaimed themselves victor. Because of Marius’ tremendous support from the people, Marius and Catulus shared a joint triumph. In Rome, Marius was hailed as the Savior of Rome and the Third Founder of Rome.38 Marius displayed his power over Rome by illegally giving grants of citizenship to many of the Italian allied soldiers that fought for him. He then used Saturninus, a tribune of the people, to give settlement rights to his large body of veteran troops. Marius pushed through this proposal, along with many others, by the use of the tribune Saturninus, the citizen assemblies, mob tactics, and open street violence.39 Marius used these tactics to exile his old enemy Metellus, continuing the strong arm tactics that Tiberius Gracchus had begun. In 99 BC however, Saturninus pushed the limits of the tribuneship, organizing the assassination of a potential rival. Saturninus took control of the streets of Rome, bringing mob violence to an unprecedented level.40 Marius 35 Plutarch, 369. 36 Christopher Heaton, Cimbri and Teutons, 2003, UNRV History, June 18, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/empire/cimbri-teutons.php >. 37 "Marius" Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 January 2001 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marius >. 38 Heaton, Cimbri and Teutons. 39 Christopher Heaton, Political Turmoil, 2003, UNRV History, June 18, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/empire/political-turmoil.php >. 40 Plutarch, 345. The Fall of the Roman Republic 23
was the only one who could stop him, so the Senate issued a Senatus Consultum Ultimatum giving Marius the authority to stop a tribune. Marius ordered his troops to stop the violence in the streets of Rome. Saturninus and his supporters tried to get refuge in the senate house where he was killed by angry senators.41 This ended the crisis but proved the inability of the Republican system to solve problems: there was no way to stop Saturninus through the law, thus the Senate had to resort to violence. It was events like these that weakened the Republic to such an extent that violence soon became the popular choice in Roman politics to solve problems, as holes in the Republican system were revealed. By 88 BC, Sulla had made a name for himself militarily and was greatly favored by the Senate. He became consul and was chosen to lead a campaign against Mithridates of Pontus, who was leading a major offensive against Rome in Asia Minor. Marius, at the age of 70 and possibly mentally ill, desperately sought this command. He used the tribune Supicius Rufus, and the citizen assemblies. Marius got what he wanted because the people were still in favor of him. But this time, Marius had no army, and hearing the news of the transfer of command, Sulla gathered his legions and marched on Rome.42 Marius managed to flee to Africa before Sulla could capture him. When Sulla did secure Rome however, he killed Supicius Rufus and many other supporters of Marius.43 This was the beginning of the reign of terror, a stage in which the Roman people lost all trust in the Republic government due to its instability and corruption. This was the ultimate consummation of the factor that the Gracchi initiated: two distinct factions doing anything to gain power. This reign of terror would also not have been possible without Marius’ legion reforms. If the soldiers were loyal to the state as opposed to their general, they would not have followed Sulla to march on Rome itself. This was the first time a Roman politician had marched on Rome in pursuit of political power.
41 Plutarch, 345-346. 42 Christopher Heaton, Fall of Marius, 2003, UNRV History, June 18, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/empire/fall-of-marius.php >. 43 Plutarch, 373. The Fall of the Roman Republic 24
The first of Sulla’s reforms was to immensely reduce the power of the tribunes and increase the power of the Senate.44 Soon after Sulla took Rome, he had to leave with his army to fight Mithridates of Pontus.45 While Sulla was gone, Cinna, whom Sulla had put in charge of Rome when he was gone, was banished from Rome by the Senate.46 Cinna decided to join forces with Marius, and they used an army that Marius had been forming to return to Rome in Sulla’s absence. Marius and Cinna continued the bloodbath that Sulla had started by putting to death any Sullan supporters they could find .47 Marius and Cinna declared joint consulship without the consent of the Senate or the people, but Marius died just half way into his consulship. While Sulla chose to concentrate on the war with Mithridates, Cinna ruled ruthlessly over Rome for three years. Finally fed up with Cinna, his troops put him to death48, showing the influence the army had on politics. When Sulla finally defeated Mithridates, he and his supporters in hiding marched toward Rome. Their forces met with the forces of Marius’ supporters at Colline gate, just outside of Rome. It was a desperate battle, but Sulla’s forces were victorious. In the battle of Colline gate, 50,000 Romans died49 and Sulla became supreme master of Rome. After crushing the remaining forces openly opposing him, Sulla was proclaimed dictator of Rome for an indefinite period of time, giving him supreme power in Rome. With this power, Sulla made a new law called proscription: the listing of names of people he supposed to be undesirable and murdering them. The death toll rose past 1,600 members of the Equestrians class and over 40 senators. Sulla had an intricate network of spies who kept him informed and tracked down all slight opposition.50 Sulla continued his reforms, completely abolishing the power of the tribunes and giving more power to the Senate (now full of Sulla support44 Heaton, Fall of Marius. 45 Plutarch, 374. 46 Plutarch, 351. 47 Plutarch, 352. 48 Christopher Heaton, Roman Victory, 2003, UNRV History, June 18, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/empire/roman-victory.php >. 49 Christopher Heaton, Sulla’s Civil War, 2003, UNRV History, June 18, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/empire/sullas-civil-war.php >. 50 Plutarch, 384. The Fall of the Roman Republic 25
ers because of the proscriptions.) In 79 BC, Sulla grew weary of politics and retired to write his memoirs, dying a natural death in 78 BC.51 The time of Marius and Sulla was a time of political turmoil, a time in which the Roman people lost all confidence in their government, and rightfully so. The Roman government as a concrete system of politics had lost its function due to the holes that were brought in through the various factors. These holes were put into the light with the Gracchi and put into context with Marius and Sulla. That is, with the Gracchi, the holes were exposed and somewhat used to gain political power but in practicality, Marius and Sulla put these powers into action and found the prize which they could gain from these powers: ultimate power in Rome. After Marius and Sulla, the people of Rome realized that because the Roman constitution, the basis on which the Republic was formed, was being so blatantly ignored, there would never be stability in the Roman Republic in its current form. There would always be a chance for a rivalry like that of Marius and Sulla to cause chaos and bloodshed once again. This general thought in the minds of the people, encouraged by the brilliant mind of Caesar, ultimately ended the Republic. This ending was not something the people of Rome despised, but rather, encouraged. The Roman government in the state it was in after Marius and Sulla was completely unacceptable in terms of stability and balance. Because of the corruption in the Roman government, small problems like that of Jugurtha could not be solved and the Republic was ineffective to carry out anything but what the strongest politicians were fighting for. After Sulla’s death, there were many power grabs by Sulla’s supporters and Sulla’s opposers. This led to another civil war in which one man, Gnaeus Pompeius, became victor with an army at his back. For fear of a repetition of Sulla, the Senate illegally granted him his wish of governing Hispania.52 By the time of the rise of Gaius Julius Caesar, the ultimate consummation of all the popular politicians who had gone before, the people were ready for a single man to gain full control of the Roman empire in order to stabilize it for the good of Rome.
D. Gaius Julius Caesar
51 Plutarch, 386. 52 Plutarch, 506-507. The Fall of the Roman Republic 26
Gaius Julius Caesar was born around 100 BC into the Caesar sprout of the patrician Julii family.53 Because Caesar was born just before the rise of Marius, throughout his life he was able to learn from the mistakes of Marius, due to their close relationship. Caesar benefited greatly from watching his uncle Marius’ success through his championing the interests of the people, and his use of the military to gain political power.54 Not only did Caesar have the benefit of watching his uncle, but he also had the tremendous benefit of many great qualities so crucial to a politician’s success. Qualities such as military genius, political brilliance, cunning, and great speaking ability allowed Caesar to quickly climb the political ladder. Caesar also had the advantage of having noble patrician blood and being in a respected patrician family with the wealth of Marius to back him.55 Caesar sided with the populares party early in his political career, and used the first 27 years of his life to showcase himself as a brilliant military commander and a man of virtue. In Rome, Caesar had an extravagant lifestyle, way beyond his financial means, to generate for himself the image of an elite member in Roman society.56 This is when Caesar began his relationship with Marcus Lucinius Crassus, the richest man in Rome. Caesar used Crassus to support his financial situation and in return, he passed legislation in favor of Crassus.57 At the funeral of his Aunt Julia, Marius’ wife, Caesar proved his boldness by openly praising Julia and her husband Marius, something no politician had done since the death of Sulla.58 Because he needed the support of not only the people but the Optimate party as well, Caesar married the granddaughter of Sulla and daughter of Gneius Pompeius after his previous wife died. He further nurtured his relationship with Pompei53 "Julius Caesar" Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 January 2001 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_caesar >. 54 Christopher Heaton, Gaius Julius Caesar, 2003, UNRV History, June 18, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/fall-republic/gaius-julius-caesar.php >. 55 "Julius Caesar" Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 January 2001 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_caesar >. 56 Heaton, Gaius Julius Caesar. 57 Plutarch, 581. 58 Plutarch, 578. The Fall of the Roman Republic 27
us as a senator by passing reforms in the interest of Pompey.59 This relationship, along with that with Crassus, would play a key role in Caesar’s rise to political power. In 65 BC, Caesar was elected as curule aedile, which put him in charge of the care of public temples, public buildings, and public games. Caesar used this position to gain immense popularity with the people by using Crassus money to finance extremely elaborate games60. Along with this, Caesar erected statues of Marius for public display, creating an outrage in the Senate but making him extremely popular with the head count of Rome. His popularity forced politicians looking to stay in office to support him granting Caesar tremendous political success.61 In 60 BC, Caesar faced strong opposition in his race for consulship. For this he needed allies in the Senate. Crassus needed a politician to support legislation that benefitted his faction, so he gladly joined Caesars “amicitia,” or coalition. Once Crassus was solidified into the coalition, Caesar came to Pompey (Pompeius) who needed a politician to push through a reform that would give land to his veterans, something most senators did not support.62 This coalition, widely known as the first triumvirate, consisted of not only Caesar Pompey and Crassus but also included many more leading senators such as Lucius Lucceius and Lucius Calpurnius.63 The alliance, which was formed in 60 BC, secretly worked for the interests of all involved.64 The members in this coalition, which contained around 200 politicians,65 voted for legislation benefitting their fellow members and supported those who were in the coalition. This greatly assisted Caesar’s rise in prominence and power. As consul, the first law Caesar passed was a piece of legislation that would require the public release of all debates and procedures that the mem59 Plutarch, 578. 60 Plutarch, 579. 61 Plutarch, 579. 62 "Julius Caesar" Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 January 2001 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_caesar >. 63 Plutarch, 582. 64 "Julius Caesar" Wikipedia, Site created and designed by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, 15 January 2001 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_caesar >. 65 Plutarch, 586. The Fall of the Roman Republic 28
bers of the Senate participated in. Later in his career, Caesar would use this to publicly reveal his records in the Gallic Wars so that the people might think highly of him. The next bill Caesar presented to the Senate was a land bill that would benefit Pompey, the senators, and the people, giving the Senate no reason to oppose it. The Senate however was deeply concerned about Caesar and opposed Caesar’s bill because of his popularity with the people. Because the Senate would not support the bill, Caesar took it to the citizen assemblies. After taking it to the citizen assemblies for voting, Caesar asked his co-consul Bibulus what he thought of the bill. Bibulus answered that the bill would never be passed, even if the people voted to approve it. This is when the coalition of senators and politicians was made public. Both Pompey and Crassus, two of the biggest players in Roman politics, approving the bill. The Optimate party was in a state of panic, doing everything it could to stop the bill. Bibulus tried to veto the entire process; but the crowd, who strongly supported Caesar, cast dung onto Bibulus’ head. This intimidated the senators into passing the bill regardless of Bibulus’ veto, which was an illegal act.66 For the remainder of his consulship, Caesar proposed many bills benefitting Crassus which were easily passed because of the coalition. Caesar further strengthened his relationship with Pompey by giving him his daughter in marriage. Caesar then supported the tribune Publius so that he would give him the Lex Vatinia; which allowed him to be Proconsul over Cisalpine Gaul and Illyricum.67 In Gaul, Caesar proved his military genius. In the five years he served there, he conquered over three-hundred and fifty thousand square miles of territory, killed over one million Gauls, and enslaved around one million Gauls. While Caesar was away from Rome, Crassus had gone off on a foolish war campaign and was killed by his own carelessness. Because Pompey was a terrible politician, he was forced closer to the Optimate party in order to maintain order in Rome. By the time Caesar was marching to Rome, with wealth and glory from his conquests, Pompey was jealous of Caesar.68 66 Christopher Heaton, First Triumvirate, 2003, UNRV History, August 22, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/fall-republic/first-triumvirate.php >. 67 Heaton, First Triumvirate. 68 Plutarch, 588. The Fall of the Roman Republic 29
Though Caesar bribed many politicians to join his side as he marched toward Rome, the majority of the senators strongly opposed Caesar and were afraid of a Sullan like march on Rome.69 On the first of December, 50 BC, the Senate ordered both Pompey and Caesar to disband their legions. Gaius Marcellus and Lucius Lentulus, who were joint consuls, ignored the Senate vote, the people, and the Roman constitution and ordered Pompey to prepare the defense of Rome against Caesar. Neither the Senate nor the tribunes could do anything. The Roman constitution was annulled. Driven by ambition and jealousy, Pompey gladly accepted the challenge of defending Rome against Caesar.70 On January first, 49 BC, the Senate refused Caesar’s final peace proposal and declared him a public enemy of Rome, beginning a civil war.71 The tribunes, acting on the will of the people, attempted to block these measures once again, but their attempts failed. On January eleventh, Caesar crossed the Rubicon river, officially invading the borders of Rome.72 After one year of civil war, Caesar defeated Pompey. Pompey fled to Egypt and was assassinated not long afterwards by the Egyptians.73 In 46 BC, Caesar arrived in Rome, victor and master. When Caesar arrived in Rome, he appointed many new hand-picked senators and praetors, garnering more control over Roman politics.74 This was the first act in which Caesar expressed his ultimate authority over Rome. There was no major player powerful enough to oppose Caesar. Not only did he have the army at his back but he had the support of the people as well. These two powers combined granted Caesar the power to rule Rome.
69 Christopher Heaton, Crossing the Rubicon, 2003, UNRV History, August 22, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/fall-republic/crossing-the-rubicon.php >. 70 Plutarch, 589. 71 Plutarch, 589. 72 Plutarch, 590. 73 Plutarch, 595. 74 Christopher Heaton, Caesar the Dictator, 2003, UNRV History, August 22, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/fall-republic/caesar-dictator.php >. The Fall of the Roman Republic 30
Many senators tried to convince Caesar to return to the Republic governing system, but Caesar had no intention of giving up all that he had worked so hard to gain. Caesar wore the purple robe of the kings of Rome and held many public occasions in his honor.75 Caesar had absolute authority over Rome, and there was nothing to stop him from becoming king publicly. Some even referred to him as king, a title he did not yet except.76 By this time, the Roman Republican way of government was completely annulled and was on the way to public extinction with no return. Along with many other honors, the Senate appointed Caesar dictator for life. Caesar probably would have proclaimed himself king had he not been murdered by conspirators on March 15th, 44 BC.77 After civil war, Caesar’s relative Gaius Octavius became the first emperor, having been proclaimed heir through Caesar’s will.78 This was the official end of the Republic, although it had ended long before with the rule of Caesar.
75 Plutarch, 600. 76 Christopher Heaton, Caesar the King, 2003, UNRV History, August 22, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/fall-republic/caesar-the-king.php >. 77 Christopher Heaton, Ides of March, 2003, UNRV History, August 22, 2005 < http://www.unrv.com/fall-republic/ides-of-march.php >. 78 Plutarch, 603. The Fall of the Roman Republic 31
What had started as a small city flourished into the dominant nation of the world through the Roman Republic. After a period of time, however, the Republic government became obsolete due to massive holes in the constitution and tremendous growth. The Struggle of the Orders brought in the basis of the Roman government with its many holes. The initiation of the tribuneship, as well as the conflict of classes, proved to be a leading factor in the decline of the Roman Republic. Civic Virtue, the foundation on which the Roman constitution relied so heavily, was lost upon the destruction of Carthage. The tremendous growth of the empire, and the influx of slaves, caused the fall of the Roman farmer, who represented the majority of the Roman citizens. This issue was dealt with by Gaius Marius, bringing in the legion reform which played a tremendous role in the fall of the Roman Republic and the ineffectiveness of Roman law. Soon after the stage of growth, ambitious politicians exposed and used the gaping holes in the Roman Republic for their advantage, and the Republic’s demise. The Gracchi brothers found the power of the people. They used the general population’s thirst for equal rights with the governing classes to gain tremendous power. And they used the tribuneship to use this power in practicality. Gaius Marius and Lucius Sulla contributed to the political power machine by exposing the tremendous power of a loyal army at the back of a politician, exposing the ineffectiveness of the Roman Republic to the public. Caesar combined all these powers and circumstances along with his lineage and brilliance to completely upturn the Roman Republic, causing its collapse in 44 BC when he was proclaimed dictator for life. What started as a Republic with tremendous hidden holes, was weakened with the growth of Rome, and finally completely destroyed by ambitious politicians who manipulated the holes to gain personal power. These three major factors, though ineffective by themselves, built on each other to cause the fall of the Roman Republic.
The Fall of the Roman Republic
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.