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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.

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.

 

I didn't mean to imply that all of the officers deserted; I meant that *only* the officers deserted. At least, that's what I'm assuming.

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What about religious offices or postions. I think they were partly responsible for the ending of the Republic. They still had great influence over the people during that time, yet they were too all corrupt and easily open to bribery like tribunes.

So how do you fix that?

 

How do you see a connection between religious offices and their effect on the fall ? I don't see it.

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What about religious offices or postions. I think they were partly responsible for the ending of the Republic. They still had great influence over the people during that time, yet they were too all corrupt and easily open to bribery like tribunes.

So how do you fix that?

 

Yes, the manipulation of the state religion was a bit of problem. Filibuster-via-bird-watching seems an avian-brained way to run a republic, doesn't it? I guess I'd just fire all the augurs, and I'd have the rest of the priests stick to their barbeques.

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[How do you see a connection between religious offices and their effect on the fall ? I don't see it.

 

I wouldn't argue that the manipulation of the state religion contributed to the fall, but didn't the laws passed in a year have to be submitted to the augurs for review? That religious college was almost always filled with senators, so it would have been a mostly superfluous exercise (I think), but there was certainly potential for mischief. Also, the hatred of Clodius for Cicero dates to Cicero not providing Clodius with an alibi for the Bona Dea scandal--so I guess one might try to spin something out of that.

 

All hail Clodius and his lex on prohibiting "bad" days!

 

I'd give Clodius his due on that one.

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Well if we think back to Caesar's consulship, Bibulus retreated to his house to watch for omens. A means to undermine Caesar's legislation due to it being passed on "bad" days. Hence Clodius' legislation.

Also, the hatred of Clodius for Cicero dates to Cicero not providing Clodius with an alibi for the Bona Dea scandal

This wasn't religeous in nature though, this was nothing more than a prank undermined by Cicero.

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Cato im starting to notice a bit of a trend with your posts. You serve your namesake well. In my view the republic was not savageable. There are many underlining reasons behind this.

 

First: its laws were not made flexible enough to change with time. As Im sure many of you know, the laws of the twelve tablets were borrowed from those of the Greeks, written by Greek poet Solon of Athens one of the twelve wisemen of Ancient Greece. These laws were great for the Romans when they had a small amount of territory, but not when they owned the Mediterannean, and the problem with this was that many senators were far too conservative, or stubborn in my view, to allow change to these laws. Because of this you had the various senatorial battles: the Gracchi reforms, Marius and his army reforms, Sulla and his demoting and limiting of the Plebians, Caesar and the Boni. These battles sent ripples throughout the republic and were all underlying causes to its fall. With these senetorial battles came lots of murders to prominant senators, each one a crack on the stone of the republic, the final one, Caesar, shattered the republic.

 

Next, trends were set during the last 2 centuries of the republic that also had a huge impact in the demise of the republic. Apart from the various agrarian reforms that were so vigourously argued, and violently ended, there were many other reforms and trends that hurt the republic. The most notable and thus most important of these trends were those set by Marius and Sulla. The sacking of Rome and the seizure of power by these two men had terrible results as it set in motion the notion of an army being loyal to a general instead of the senate, this also can be seen in the horrible 3rd century with 30 different emperors, many former generals who were yearning for power and seized it.

 

Finally, this is a theory of mine I have been working on. I believe that the attitudes and aggressiveness of the enemies of Rome in the early through the middle republic caused Rome to adopt a more aggressive stance towards their enemies and caused them to acquire more territory. here are a few examples of this: the Carthaginians: their paths with the Romans first crossed in Sicily, but the major aggression was shown from the Carthagianian general Hannibal who attacked Roman allies in Iberia and caused a huge war that lasted 17 years and ended with a severly limited Carthage and after their 3rd military encounter the city of Carthage was destroyed and salt sewed into the fields, a linking conflict to this was the Macedonian wars started by Philip's aggressions and siding with Rome. the end result of this was the Roman conquest of Greece and Macedon after the surrender of Persius, son of Phillip. Another example would be the agressive behavior of Antiochus and the end result, and end to his empire and further Roman holdings in the east. The Final enemy that chose to be aggressive towards Rome, and thus was conquered, was Mithradidate, spelling way off. Romans conquered him and his empire, thus creating a large amount of land that the Roman empire had to manage. Is it a meare conincidence that 50 years later the Prinicipate was founded under the leadership of Augustus, that is for you to decide. I welcome the rebuttles/disagreements with this post, especially this last one as it is an early theory I have and am still working towards expanding it and finding more evidence to back it up.

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In my view the republic was not savageable

 

I concur, but for different reasons. I don't believe Roman society was capable of organising the types of sweeping Reforms already mentioned. Who would do it ? A Dictator ? The Senate ? unlikely.

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Personaly, the republic could've held a republic, but to do so the Romans would've had to cease expanding, and eventually draw back the borders. This would, of course, mean that the Roman Empire we know today would not exist, and neither would all the greats we know, the Romans would mearly fall in place with the other mediteranian powers. Eventualy Rome would be conquered, but remain a republic to the end.

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Cato im starting to notice a bit of a trend with your posts. You serve your namesake well. In my view the republic was not savageable.

Actually, by savaging the republic, you've disproven your own post. :lol:

 

Could the republic, however, have been salvaged?

 

This whole thread has indicated any number of reforms that would have maintained the republican form of government while allowing the borders of Rome to have expanded indefinitely. Ultimately the test of some of these proposals is impossible to attain, but most of the reforms--including census-taking, elimination of the publicani, executive oversight of provincial government, expansion of citizenship to provincial residents-- were ultimately enacted with successful results without betraying republican principles. Moreover, many of these reforms were adopted so shortly after the republic fell that it's likely that they were already being widely discussed before Octavian grabbed power and some may have already been in the works.

 

In short, none of the arguments offered support the gloomy picture of the republic as a failed institiution.

 

The senate was not only capable of passing reforms, it often did so. There is a long tradition, originating with Sallust, that the senate was far too idle, greedy, and venal to pass any reforms. Sallust's moralizing abuse, however, belies the actual evidence. While some of HIS reforms were not passed, the senate was continually passing progressive legislation that was valuable to the republic (and not simply "garbage collecting" legislation, as Virgil once termed it). When we turn to evaluate the abuse heaped upon the republican ruling class--by examining the proposals, decrees, and legislation attested just during the late republic--we can quickly dismiss Sallust's cranky cynicism.

 

To begin with, the assumption that most reform bills originated with tribunes acting on behalf of a down-trodden republic is simply rubbish. Historians who have gone to the trouble of counting the reforms find that reform measures initiated in the senate were more than twice as numerous as the tribunician proposals.

 

Second, the corruption of the electoral process--always vaunted by the friends of tyranny--has been successively exaggerated by the generations as an aspect of republican life to which the senate turned a blind eye. Nothing could be further from the truth. Electoral corruption (ambitus) was prosecuted in a permanent court--quaestio de ambitu--dedicated to upholding the political process, and this court was largely enacting measures that had their origins from the days of the early Republic. Furthermore, the lex Cornelia sharply punished violators by prohibiting them from running for office for 10 years. And so while there was every motivation in the world for hauling abusers before the court, even the victorious candidates of 70, who were widely gossiped to have benefitted from bribery, were not hauled up on charges of ambitus, probably because the election process was much cleaner than has been supposed. Nevertheless, competition for honors and for a reformist reputation led many senators such as Calpurnius Piso to propose even more stringent anti-corruption legislation, including the lex Calpurnia, which strove to drive a stake into both the hearts of any corrupt officials and into the wallets of any would-be bribery agents. The only opposition to this law (by a tribune, I might add) came from the fear that Piso would prove more reformist than the reformers!

 

Moreover, if anything, the election laws were too stringent. For example, the lex Fabia prohibited the use of nomenclatores, whose job it was to inform a candidate of the names of potential voters. This silly law was notable more for its observance than for its breach: a good example of this came from Cato, who embarrased his rivals for a military tribuneship by canvassing conspicuously without the help of a nomenclator. Simply put, the election law was too strict, probably ultimately even for Cato (if I'm reading Cicero correctly).

 

Third, the problem of political violence was addressed by many senatorial measures, including the lex Lutatia, the lex Plautia , the lex Licinia de sodaliciis , and the lex Pompeia . All of these were useful laws that either anticipated or responded to real needs for the security of Romans and the political process.

 

Fourth, the senate passed sweeping and progressive reforms of the criminal code, many of which are still with us today. The most famous is probably the lex Julia repetundarum, which--although passed by Julius Caesar who was borrowing heavily from Sullan law--was nevertheless a useful and essentially republican code. It wisely set limits on the practices of provincial governors in an effort to make them more like Cato and less like Verres. One notable feature of the lex Julia--seen also in the lex Pompeia de parricidiis--is the specificity of its provisions, a feature of the legislation that was probably was even more forward-looking than the provisions themselves (already progressive).

 

Fifth, and probably most importantly, were the numerous laws passed concerning the administration of the government. These reforms included the provisions of the lex Cornelia which freed litigants from the power of partisan judicial officers, the lex Gabinia which obliged the senate to hear foreign deputations, Cicero's abolition of the senatorial junket that weighed so heavily on provincial hosts, Caesar's requirements that all senatorial acts be recorded and published, and Cato's reforms of the quaestorship and his energetic passage of the lex Licinia Junia (co-sponsored with his brother-in-law Silanus; nb not shown here ).

 

In short, Roman legislators displayed remarkable ingenuity, foresight, and attention to detail in the flood of legislation that was passed during the age of Cicero. Far from being recalcitrant, senators were crawling all over each other to outdo their colleagues in passing useful reforms--whether Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus, or Hortensius, Piso, and Cato. The mindless stereotype of senators as hidebound conservative incapable of reform is simply a convenient piece of propaganda for dictators like Caesar and Sulla, who wished to justify their power-grabs. We don't need to go on repeating this propaganda. Dictators have enough friends these days without our joining the ranks of these cronies.

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Personaly, the republic could've held a republic, but to do so the Romans would've had to cease expanding

Why? There is nothing intrinsic to a republic that sets a size-limit.

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In short, Roman legislators displayed remarkable ingenuity, foresight, and attention to detail in the flood of legislation that was passed during the age of Cicero. Far from being recalcitrant, senators were crawling all over each other to outdo their colleagues in passing useful reforms--whether Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus, or Hortensius, Piso, and Cato. The mindless stereotype of senators as hidebound conservative incapable of reform is simply a convenient piece of propaganda for dictators like Caesar and Sulla, who wished to justify their power-grabs. We don't need to go on repeating this propaganda. Dictators have enough friends these days without our joining the ranks of these cronies.

 

So Cato, why didn't all these reforms work to salvage your precious republic ? I think the labeling of the Senate as a sometimes indecisive, fillibustering body at times cannot be so easily dismissed either. I can see that yes - individual consuls and law makers had success with individual reforms. It does seem to me though that what was needed was either an individual, or two consuls in office for more than a year who could systematicly force through all required reforms. That is why I think the reforms we have established were required - would never have been enacted as a whole.

 

On the subject of Sulla, why do you call him a power grabber ? If he was so eagre for power - why relinquish it after enacting the reforms he thought were needed ?

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In short, Roman legislators displayed remarkable ingenuity, foresight, and attention to detail in the flood of legislation that was passed during the age of Cicero. Far from being recalcitrant, senators were crawling all over each other to outdo their colleagues in passing useful reforms--whether Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus, or Hortensius, Piso, and Cato. The mindless stereotype of senators as hidebound conservative incapable of reform is simply a convenient piece of propaganda for dictators like Caesar and Sulla, who wished to justify their power-grabs. We don't need to go on repeating this propaganda. Dictators have enough friends these days without our joining the ranks of these cronies.

So Cato, why didn't all these reforms work to salvage your precious republic ?

 

They just needed more time to finish. Unfortunately, their work was cut short by a tyrant, and the tyrannicides couldn't quite defeat the tyrant's princelings.

 

I think the labeling of the Senate as a sometimes indecisive, fillibustering body at times cannot be so easily dismissed either.

If you think my long catalogue of late republican legislative activity is "dismissing", I'd hate to think what you would consider to be a non-dismissive response! If you want justification beyond what I've already offered, I'd refer you to "The Last Generation of the Roman Republic" by Erich Gruen. Like many other modern historians, he also regards the notion that the republic was "doomed" as an unsupportable verdict.

 

That is why I think the reforms we have established were required - would never have been enacted as a whole.

You don't need a strongman to accomplish reform. To pass an agenda within a republic, you need a real political party. The 'optimates' and 'populares' were party-like, but neither had a formal platform or were identifiable as a slate of candidates (thought they were moving in this direction). This is a topic of great interest to me, but I'd prefer to save it for another thread. For now, I'd simply refer you to the arguments raised by Lily Ross Taylor in my favorite book on the period, "Party Politics in the Age of Caesar."

 

On the subject of Sulla, why do you call him a power grabber ? If he was so eagre for power - why relinquish it after enacting the reforms he thought were needed ?

I call him a power-grabber because he grabbed power and bathed in the blood of his adversaries. His agenda was almost completely rescinded once he retired, suggesting that his reforms might have been more successful if he had attempted persuasion instead of force. Sometimes, arms must give way to togas.

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You don't need a strongman to accomplish reform. To pass an agenda

within a republic, you need a real political party.

 

You're right - that is interesting. Would be good for another thread as you mention.

 

I call him a power-grabber because he grabbed power and bathed in the blood of his adversaries.

 

I think you should read that book you were asking about "Sulla, the Last Republican". I can't agree with all it touts, but it does ask some very good questions and gives some good answers calling into question the popular view of Sulla as a blood thirsty tyrant above all else.

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