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M. Porcius Cato

Reforming The Republic

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Shortly after the destruction of Carthage and the inheritance of Pergamon, the constitution of the Roman republic faced a series of tests, starting with the agrarian laws of the Gracchi, through the years of Marian and Sullan domination, until finally civil war both rended Rome and rendered a Princeps.

 

What could have been done to preserve the Republic but was not? Which reforms were beneficial but should have been expanded? What laws needed to be enacted? Was the Republic doomed, or could that form of government (albeit reformed) have survived another 500 years?

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I'm gonna sound stupid, but I'm gonna say it. :

I personally believe the armies were the problem. As you know that each general had a major army. Perhaps you would make a

list of generals and make a rotation out of it, so the generals wouldn't have a firm footing with each army so that each army would have problems favoring one general they could fight for?

Also, don't allow extentsion of offices such as governorship and limit a governor to only one province. You all know how Julius Caesar got those 8 legions, because he was governor of at least 3 provinces.

Edited by FLavius Valerius Constantinus

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I think that the army, even before Marius, was just as dependant on their general for their pay at the end of a successful campaign. The loyalty to generals as we all know caused the problems in the civil wars. The creation of a actual professional army loyal to the state and paid for by the state may have helped.

 

Also stem the corruption of the provincial governors *cough* Gaius Verres. The provinces were seen more as a way for individuals to turn a profit than a way to extract valuable resources. Set up an internal affairs type bureau to monitor governor

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The republic could not have been saved.

 

The need to rule and empire meant two things - the requirement for large standing armies. As numerous generals from Marius on showed, these were a risk unless they could be harnessed. A single imperator at the centre of affairs was largely able to contrive this.

 

The second requirement was for an effective bureaucracy - under the empire this was created and continued to function even through poor reigns (Nero) and periods of civil unrest.

 

The republic was intrinsically unable to promote or manage either of these.

 

Indeed, as the old system tried to repair itself it came increasingly close to evolving naturally the Augustan system - in the last 60 years or so of its life, it saw increasing dominance by a single will - Marius, Sulla, various demagogues, Pompeius, Caesar, the first triumvirate, Antonius and finally Octavian.

 

The Liberators finally revealed how ineffective was the older form of government - neither the conspiracy nor the aftermath was well-handled. It could not have been.

 

The republic got sick and died - Augustus gave it surgery that transformed it and kept alive enough for thre to be links between old and new. But I'd see it more as cloning than mouth to mouth (bad analogy but it'll have to do).

 

Phil

 

Phil

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Abuse of the office of Tribune of the plebs was responsible for much conflict. It was a means for individuals, plebian or patrician, to overule the Senate. It was however also a means to enhance plebian rights and privileges. I think possibly some of the Sullan reforms could have helped the Republican cause...if making the Aristocratic Oligarchy even more entrenched, and so a different republic.

 

It would have been one hell of a task, hence I don't think it really could have been saved. I also agree with a previously mentioned point regarding control of proffessional armies. How to limit a Generals control over the loyalty of his troops, without compromising his effectiveness ?

 

Good thread Cato !

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In the end, it seems like the senate had very little power (as Germanicus stated) they were a puppet of, it seems everyone. The senate's power would have to be restored, first off.

 

Secondly, one major problem with the armies is that they were in competition with each other. Two generals might be able to work together if they had to, but most of the time, they were out for their own personal glory. Allowing generals to have the triumph meant that every one wanted one and it caused armies, loyal to their respective generals, to do all sorts of things they shouldn't and wouldn't usually do. Armies it seems were no longer loyal to the Senate, or even to Rome. They were loyal to their general.

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Abuse of the office of Tribune of the plebs was responsible for much conflict. It was a means for individuals, plebian or patrician, to overule the Senate. It was however also a means to enhance plebian rights and privileges. I think possibly some of the Sullan reforms could have helped the Republican cause...if making the Aristocratic Oligarchy even more entrenched, and so a different republic.

 

I agree that the tribunate required reform.

 

One problem was that it wasn't part of the cursus honorum (i.e., it wasn't a proper magistracy) so it failed to attract the same quality of men as the aedileship and the praetorship. Compared to other office-holders, tribunes were much less likely to hold consular power afterwards, despite being larger in number than the aedileship and praetorship. Further, of the 113 known tribunes that served in the late republic, only about 1/3 were noble plebeians, meaning that 2/3 of these tribunes lacked the auctortitas that was needed to garner support for their agendas.

 

The tribunate has suffered the unjust reputation of being home to wide-eyed rabble-rousers or mere puppets of the higher orders. I think is an unjust stereotype, but it does have an element of truth. Notorious criminals such as C Corelius and C Manilius (67/66) may have been the exception rather than the rule, but it's difficult to find any other Italian office with so many criminals.

 

Had the tribunate been added to the cursus honorum, the office probably would have attracted better men, and they would have slowly transformed the senatorial body to one that was familiar and sympathetic to the interests of the tribal assemblies while still maintaining the critical autonomy of the senate.

 

 

 

In the end, it seems like the senate had very little power (as Germanicus stated) they were a puppet of, it seems everyone. The senate's power would have to be restored, first off.

OK--how exactly would you suggest restoring the power of the senate? Give the first man of the senate his own legion? Abolish the tribunate? What?

 

Secondly, one major problem with the armies is that they were in competition with each other. Two generals might be able to work together if they had to, but most of the time, they were out for their own personal glory. Allowing generals to have the triumph meant that every one wanted one and it caused armies, loyal to their respective generals, to do all sorts of things they shouldn't and wouldn't usually do. Armies it seems were no longer loyal to the Senate, or even to Rome. They were loyal to their general.

 

Yes, I agree that that was the problem--so what was the cure? Abolish triumphs? Rotate legions among generals? Provide for all possible veteran's benefits prior to deployment (e.g., by providing future land settlements via lottery)? What exactly is your proposal for reform?

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The republic could not have been saved.

The need to rule and empire meant two things - the requirement for large standing armies. [...]

The second requirement was for an effective bureaucracy

 

Neither large standing armies nor an effective bureaucracy required one-man rule. Modern republics have both large standing armies and a reasonably-competent civil service (at least compared to the civil service of totalitarian regimes). Nothing in your post supports your claim that the republic could not have been saved--you only point to reforms that were made later that could have been made earlier.

 

I do agree, however, that reforms were needed in both areas.

 

First, provincial administration, in particular, was very poor during the republic, but this was widely known. Higher standards and new methods of provincial administrations were being applied (e.g., by Cicero in Cilicia and by Cato in Cyprus), and very bad provincial governors (e.g., Varro certainly, maybe Caesar) were being brought to task in the courts. Many of Augustus' later reforms (e.g., census taking, direct taxation) were also applied sporadically during the republic and merely needed to be standardized.

 

Second, the requirement for large standing armies was obviously well-known during the republic. The problem was that there was no mechanism to prevent a single man from gaining control of the majority of the military power for himself. Nevertheless, there is no reason that this mechanism could not have existed during the republic.

 

Defeatism is simply a poverty of the imagination.

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Abuse of the office of Tribune of the plebs was responsible for much conflict.

 

How about making the senate answerable to other than themselves? Corruption eminates top down and clearly the festering sore of senate self regulation contributed more to extremism than anything other single thing.

 

Res Publica, Public thing. The Concillia were the goverment of Rome, the senate was left over from the time of the kings and was jealously guarded by the "priveleged" for personal enrichment. Abuse of the office of tribune was symptomatic of the political impass/es derived from the conflict of the orders.

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Abuse of the office of Tribune of the plebs was responsible for much conflict.

How about making the senate answerable to other than themselves? Corruption eminates top down and clearly the festering sore of senate self regulation contributed more to extremism than anything other single thing.

 

While I don't agree that corruption always emanates top down (do you??), some check on senatorial power was needed to prevent the accumulation of errors by that body. The office of the tribune was an important one, which is why his person was rightfully sacrosanct. Is your position, Clodius, that the tribuneship was needed and also perfect as it was, or do you think the office also needed to be reformed?

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It was perfect as it was except sacrosanctity should have been lifetime, and there was to many, I think 10 per tribunician year from the Gracchi to Sulla's reforms, and subsequently post rollback. There were originally 2.

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It was perfect as it was except sacrosanctity should have been lifetime, and there was to many, I think 10 per tribunician year from the Gracchi to Sulla's reforms, and subsequently post rollback. There were originally 2.

Why would 2 have been better than 10?

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Why would 2 have been better than 10?

Less of a pool for the senate to corrupt a la Livius (I think he was called). The tribune (senate stooly)who vetoed the land bill of T.Gracchus prompting him to propose the vote on Livius' tribunship since he was clearly not a partisan of the people.

 

Edit. The guy's name was Marcus Octavius

Edited by P.Clodius

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First, provincial administration, in particular, was very poor during the republic, but this was widely known. Higher standards and new methods of provincial administrations were being applied (e.g., by Cicero in Cilicia and by Cato in Cyprus), and very bad provincial governors (e.g., Varro certainly, maybe Caesar) were being brought to task in the courts. Many of Augustus' later reforms (e.g., census taking, direct taxation) were also applied sporadically during the republic and merely needed to be standardized.

 

Second, the requirement for large standing armies was obviously well-known during the republic. The problem was that there was no mechanism to prevent a single man from gaining control of the majority of the military power for himself. Nevertheless, there is no reason that this mechanism could not have existed during the republic.

 

Defeatism is simply a poverty of the imagination.

 

 

 

Heh, but the sword has a way of cutting oh so easily through all the Gordian Knots of convoluted governmental structure and protocol.

 

I think that all this was not a matter of structure or law, but a matter of human maturity. Everywhere one looks during the times, there are kingdoms and despotisms and empires. The Romans knew this too, that their Republic was a unique form among so many authoritarian ways. Made it easy to blame the Republic for any problems, and indeed it's form was a cause of some problems.

 

I think humanity needed to learn some more lessons in despotism, tyranny and fear before really appreciating the need for Republics and Democracies.

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I think that all this was not a matter of structure or law, but a matter of human maturity. ...I think humanity needed to learn some more lessons in despotism, tyranny and fear before really appreciating the need for Republics and Democracies.

The Romans already had experience with a monarchy, and they rejected it, and the record of this rejection led later Romans to reject also the very label Rex and to avoid even being accused of aiming at regnum.

 

More broadly, the very notion of "human maturity" is awfully dubious. Taken literally, it's absurd: there is no collective brain and so no collective learning. Metaphorically, it's also mistaken as it implies a unidirectional historical force toward progress. That kind of teleological take on history makes no sense whatever. Over time, regression is almost as likely as progress--and whether a population makes progress or not depends in very large part on government policy (e.g., whether ther is a rule of law, the right to private property, deliberative mechanisms of government finance, civilian control of the military, etc).

 

 

Why would 2 have been better than 10?

Less of a pool for the senate to corrupt a la Livius (I think he was called). The tribune (senate stooly)who vetoed the land bill of T.Gracchus prompting him to propose the vote on Livius' tribunship since he was clearly not a partisan of the people.

Edit. The guy's name was Marcus Octavius

 

But doesn't your example suggest that even 2 was 1 too many? Why not just one tribune? Seems to me that the fewer tribunes there are, the cheaper it is to corrupt them and the less likely that the office will represent the will of the citizens.

 

I think the number was OK, but I'd have liked tribunes to be elected by tribe and not necessarily in Rome. No one has mentioned it yet, but the voting system effectively excluded non-Roman Italians from their voice in the tribal assembly and that led to terrible imbalances in representation.

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