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M. Porcius Cato

Reforming The Republic

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It's interesting that in both Caesar's and Sulla's marches on Rome, it was only the officers who deserted.

 

Because as the discussion has loosely suggested so far, the legions were dependent upon the commander who raised them for not only their safety and care (including supply) in regards to any campaign, but for financial gain in the way of plunder. Perhaps more importantly and often ignored it was also this same general who was responsible for retiring his veterans and providing them with land.

 

Had the Senate taken control of 'retirement benefits' by centralizing and standardizing it for all who served (as done by Augustus) perhaps some of the loyalty shown to the generals would have been transferred. Mind you the first two points (safety and plunder) would still be the domain of the general, but at least loyalty might have been tested if the common soldier stood to lose something that was guaranteed by the state itself.

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Mind you the first two points (safety and plunder) would still be the domain of the general, but at least loyalty might have been tested if the common soldier stood to lose something that was guaranteed by the state itself.

Good points. Am I correct to assume that plunder wasn't a very significant factor when Rome was doing battle on behalf of allies? Perhaps if the Senate had taken measures to prevent campaigns of conquest on some sort of equitable basis (i.e., not playing favorites with one general over another), they might also have prevented the rise of the client armies.

 

What about the notion that Marius' opening the legions to the proletariat created the client army? It doesn't seem to me that the prior wealth of the soldier was as large a force as the other factors mentioned in creating dependence on generals. Thoughts?

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Am I correct to assume that plunder wasn't a very significant factor when Rome was doing battle on behalf of allies? Perhaps if the Senate had taken measures to prevent campaigns of conquest on some sort of equitable basis (i.e., not playing favorites with one general over another), they might also have prevented the rise of the client armies.

 

What about the notion that Marius' opening the legions to the proletariat created the client army? It doesn't seem to me that the prior wealth of the soldier was as large a force as the other factors mentioned in creating dependence on generals. Thoughts?

 

Plunder was always a factor when it came to the post Marian legionary. Just like in the example provided regarding Sulla, the soldiers in the late Republic didn't care much about right and wrong or law and justice (in a generic collective sense, I'm sure as individuals there were plenty who did), they cared about making a living from their occupation. Earning that living included campaigning against foriegn nations or cultures.

 

Sulla's men were easy to convince because failing to support their commander may have resulted in their dismissal when Marius took over and assembled his own army. The thought of marching on Rome wasn't so bad because they were preserving their own chance at a campaign in the wealthy east. In Caesar's case, the issue was a little more difficult because the plunder had already been gained. The common soldier in theory had little to gain in a civil war in this case and I find it hard to believe that they were really all that enraged over the treatment of the tribunes... I think more importantly, it was Caesar, and Caesar alone who promised them retirement lands. As far as they knew (whether true or not, what they believed is important) they would be completely dismissed and ignored once they gave up their arms.

 

This in itself is indicative of the Senate's failings. Retirement benefits to veterans were rarely gained without a fight. The army in the post Marian era seems to have been viewed by the non military aristocracy with an air of contempt. The generals of the period who were the ultimate protector of their benefit rights against a resistant Senate unintentionally pushed the generals into a position siding with the populares. The notable exceptions (off the top of my head) were Metellus in Africa whose men were largely inherited by Marius leaving him free from dealing with the issue of retirement, Sulla, who pre-empted any Senatorial resistance to his veterans by taking matters into his own hands, and Lucullus who like Metellus had his command transferred to Pompey before he too was forced to deal with it. Pompey of course did have to deal with it and because of it was forced into Caesar's camp. Had the Senate had the foresight... the triumvirate may have been crushed before it ever began.

 

(I am quickly jotting these notes down as I am late leaving work, lol, I'll likely refine this line of thought as the discussion unfolds)

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Retirement benefits to veterans were rarely gained without a fight. The army in the post Marian era seems to have been viewed by the non military aristocracy with an air of contempt. The generals of the period who were the ultimate protector of their benefit rights against a resistant Senate unintentionally pushed the generals into a position siding with the populares.

 

I'm not so sure about this--let's say the Senate had a standing policy of awarding X benefits. A general could always demand, and sometimes win, X+1 benefits--in fact it was very much in the general's interest to pretend that the benefits awarded by the senate were penurious, so he could increase his reputation as a "soldier's general" and gain all the credit for their benefits himself and thereby have an easier time raising an army in the future.

 

Perhaps the key reform lay in how soldiers were equipped and supplied?

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Perhaps if junior officers had greater collective power, they might prevent rebellion.

 

Perhaps, but then wouldn't this undermine the command structure considerably - if Junior officers were able to second guess their commanding officers ?

 

What keeps modern forces loyal ? Good conditions provided by the state, good pay etc ? I think like Primus Pilus mentioned, the key here is that the Army would have to be provided for by "The State", rather than individual generals.

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Perhaps if junior officers had greater collective power, they might prevent rebellion.

 

Perhaps, but then wouldn't this undermine the command structure considerably - if Junior officers were able to second guess their commanding officers ?

Yes, if individual junior officers could second guess their commanding officers, it would completely undermine the command structure. However, if *all* the officers (or a very large majority of them) think the general has lost his marbles, they should be able to veto an action for further review, or something. Obviously, the defense of mutiny has a checkered history, but when it comes to marching on one's own capital, I think it's pretty darned likely that the mutiny is justified.

 

What keeps modern forces loyal ? Good conditions provided by the state, good pay etc ? I think like Primus Pilus mentioned, the key here is that the Army would have to be provided for by "The State", rather than individual generals.

yes, I do agree with this, but I remain concerned that the method of recruitment, supply, and so forth, go quite beyond mere veteran's benefits.

 

BTW, has there been a thread on how soliders were recruited? My knowledge here is very patchy.

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yes, I do agree with this, but I remain concerned that the method of recruitment, supply, and so forth, go quite beyond mere veteran's benefits.

 

Absolutely, we've only scratched the surface, but these things were major factors in loyalty. Still, even personal charisma of an officer has an effect on loyalty of his troops so there is much more to it than benefits. However, retirement of veterans, including land settlement, was a reoccuring and dominant issue for the armies of the Late Republic. Its not a coincidence (from a political standpoint) that such measures were a problem when we can see how very closely related giving land to veterans, raised from the plebeian mob, was to various other agrarian laws and plebe/latin right entitlement issues of the day.

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[its not a coincidence (from a political standpoint) that such measures were a problem when we can see how very closely related giving land to veterans, raised from the plebeian mob, was to various other agrarian laws and plebe/latin right entitlement issues of the day.

Ahhh...but which were the causes and which the effects?

With the goal of preserving the republic, should latin rights have been expanded to all the provinces, including Sicily, Egypt, and Trouser-wearing Gaul? If so, how could that have worked, practically?

Also, which agrarian laws would have reduced the patron-power of generals, and which would have only increased their patron-power?

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I think the main problem is how to effectively marshall the resources of an entire empire under one executive authority, while maintaining some type of Republican government.

 

To be honest, the executive authority would have to change dramatically. If this were not to devolve into autocracy, it would still need radical overhauls from the old system of two consuls elected annually. Perhaps one consul elected every 5 or 10 years. But however it is, there has to be one warlord at the top with command of the entire armies to deal with imperial wide threats, as Pompei demonstrated with the Cicilian pirates.

 

But what to stop this super-consul from evolving into King or Autocrat? Most likely he would have to be elected by, and responsible to, the Senate, which would take power away from the Assembly of Centuries.

 

The Senate itself would have to change to admit elites from the provinces. Since the conservatives in the Republic were adamantally opposed to this, I'm not sure how this could be done under the Republic.

 

Basically, the Republic would have to evolve from a municipal government into a truly imperial affair. But since the diehards of the Republic fought change with tooth and nail, I'm still skeptical the Republic could have peacefully evolved and survived into the Empire.

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To prevent topic-creep (and especially a replay of the optimate-populare bake-off), I want to postpone the matter of who did and did not advocate the reforms that were necessary to make the republic work.

 

On what was needed:

I think the main problem is how to effectively marshall the resources of an entire empire under one executive authority, while maintaining some type of Republican government.

 

Given Sparta's military successes with two kings, why would it be necessary to abolish the co-consulship? When did divided executive authority undermine Roman ability to respond to threats? If there were crises that required one consul to take charge, the senate had the power to authorize the move temporarily--so why make it permanent?

 

there has to be one warlord at the top with command of the entire armies to deal with imperial wide threats, as Pompei demonstrated with the Cicilian pirates.

But Pompey didn't need to be a dictator to deal with the pirates, so I don't see how his example supports your claim.

 

The Senate itself would have to change to admit elites from the provinces.

If the senate is merely the body of ex-magistrates, senatorial opposition to provincial candidates to the magistracy is moot as long as provinicials have the opportunity to run for office and to have their votes counted in proportion to their numbers. Probably, voting laws needed to be reformed for this to happen, and the office of the censor had to be eliminated. However, with these changes having been made, Roman senators could huff all they'd like about the New Men, but it wouldn't make any difference.

 

Basically, the Republic would have to evolve from a municipal government into a truly imperial affair.

But what exactly would this entail? Moreover, did the Republic need to evolve from a municipal government into an imperial government, or did it simply need to become a nation-state? That is, did the city of Rome itself have to subjugate all other cities to maintain its own freedom, or could it serve as the princeps of a nation of cities, each of whose citizens had rights that were equal to those of the Roman mob?

 

I think the Republic simply needed to evolve into a nation-state rather than into an Imperial power. Here's a list of reforms that I think could accomplish this while preserving the republican form of government:

(1) reform of the voting laws to prevent exclusion of provincial participation (on the model employed in Macedonia),

(2) limiting the duties of the censor to regular census-taking (on the model practiced under Augustus),

(3) legal rights extended throughout all newly acquired territories (on the model proposed by Fulvius Flaccus),

(4) modernization of the public financial records (on the model employed by Cato in Cyprus)

(5) recruitment of soldiers, military support, and veteran's benefits being provided exclusively by the Senate and/or lower magistracies according to pre-defined legal standards, and

(6) temporary public-ownership of all slaves acquired in the course of military campaigns so that they could be sold at public auctions held throughout the empire with all revenues being transferred to the public treasury (on the model used for the distribution of conquered land).

 

As far as I can tell, these six reforms would incorporate provincial interests into state-wide government, increase government revenues by recapturing the rents charged by publicani, reduce provinical exploitation by corrupt governors and thereby increase provincial wealth and potential for military self-help, reduce magisterial corruption, and prevent the formation of client-armies. Taken together, I think these six reforms would allow for a stable republic to stretch from the Danube to the Pillars of Heracles and from the Shetlands in Scotland to the sands of the Sahara.

 

Am I missing any reforms?

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Am I missing any reforms?

 

Perhaps some sort of reform regarding the office of tribune and it's easy abuse.

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Am I missing any reforms?

Perhaps some sort of reform regarding the office of tribune and it's easy abuse.

What kind of abuses would you want to stop? My concern is that some of the 'abuses' of tribunician authority comes down to people not liking the politics of the tribunes holding office. So, leaving that aside, what would you take to be an out-and-out abuse that isn't already covered by extant law (e.g., laws against bribery)?

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So, leaving that aside, what would you take to be an out-and-out abuse that isn't already covered by extant law (e.g., laws against bribery)?

 

I suppose laws on Bribery cover it.....but then in reality they didn't did they ? I guess I can't have it both ways, I can't have the positive reforms the office enabled for the people without the demagogues.

 

My concern is Veto for cash. The only thing I can think of is to have the 10 tribunes as a board if you will, with a Veto only possible if in majority agreement, rather than indivuals being able to Veto at will, despite no support from their collegues. Would this not be an amicable compromise ? The Tribunes retain the power - but buying one or even two tribunes would no longer gaurantee you your Veto on tha Bill you don't want passed. It may also have helped put a stop to some demagoguery by individuals ala Saturninus ?

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It's interesting that in both Caesar's and Sulla's marches on Rome, it was only the officers who deserted.

When it comes to Caesar's army the only major player to change sides was Labienus. The famous saying "The die is cast" is passed down by Assinius Polio who was present during the contemplation on the banks of the Rubicon. Caesar's army was well staffed by officers.

Edited by P.Clodius

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My concern is Veto for cash. The only thing I can think of is to have the 10 tribunes as a board if you will, with a Veto only possible if in majority agreement, rather than indivuals being able to Veto at will, despite no support from their collegues.

 

Seems like a good reform to me--sort of turns the tribuneship into a Supreme Court-style decemvirate. I'd still want to put the tribuneship on the cursus honorum though. It would help to integrate the two bodies.

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