Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
  • Time Travel Rome

Furius Venator

Did Cato Destroy The Republic?

Recommended Posts

Cato's rigid pursuit of his feud with Caesar precipitated the crossing of the Rubicon. His unbending hatred caused all overtures of peace to be rejected (though the overwhelming mass of senators were for accommodation with Caesar).

 

The Republic had (just) withstood the dominations of Marius, Sulla and Pompey amongst others. Caesar wanted to be primus inter pares, not to destroy his opponents but to win political supremacy over them. The stubborness of Cato and his faction meant bloody civil war and their ultimate destruction...

 

 

Now obviously Cato is not wholly responsible, yet his attitude makes him at least as culpable as Caesar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Cato's rigid pursuit of his feud with Caesar precipitated the crossing of the Rubicon. His unbending hatred caused all overtures of peace to be rejected (though the overwhelming mass of senators were for accommodation with Caesar).

 

The Republic had (just) withstood the dominations of Marius, Sulla and Pompey amongst others. Caesar wanted to be primus inter pares, not to destroy his opponents but to win political supremacy over them. The stubborness of Cato and his faction meant bloody civil war and their ultimate destruction...

 

 

Now obviously Cato is not wholly responsible, yet his attitude makes him at least as culpable as Caesar.

 

I do agree mostly with the 'equal culpability' theory, but the following stands out:

(though the overwhelming mass of senators were for accommodation with Caesar).

 

While this is in theory true, why then did so many allow the convictions of Cato to prevail as the overriding position... therefore putting the onus on Caesar at the Rubicon? The likely truth is that most of the Senate simply did not believe that it would ever come to what ultimately happened.

 

Did they truly believe that Cato was in the right by the standards of the law? Did they believe that the presence of Pompey would deter Caesar from using military options? Did they believe that if Caesar just admitted to his own manipulation of the law that Cato may relent and allow certain compromises (such as a triumphant prosecution free return to Rome)?

 

Despite the patron-client system of the Republic, a system that discouraged open dissent from within a 'party', rewarded client obedience and loyalty with political appointment, etc, and was simply 'the way it was', its difficult to grasp how so many moderates and backbenchers allowed what essentially came down to ego to dictate such a monumental series of historical events.

 

Though I suppose politics is not alot different now in that respect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Caesar's incursions into Germania were illegal, and his term of office was set to expire. The law demanded that he lay down his troops. Why blame Cato and not the law itself? Why not advocate that governors should be able to rule as mini-kings outside Rome? Or why not advocate total disregard of the law and become an anarchist? Unless you're willing to advocate that, you must in logic regard Caesar's refusal to give up his governorship as wrong.

 

In the Civil Wars, Caesar tells us that he refused to give up his governorship for the sake of his dignitas. I believe him--his wounded little ego would not suffer questioning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Caesar's incursions into Germania were illegal, and his term of office was set to expire. The law demanded that he lay down his troops. Why blame Cato and not the law itself? Why not advocate that governors should be able to rule as mini-kings outside Rome? Or why not advocate total disregard of the law and become an anarchist? Unless you're willing to advocate that, you must in logic regard Caesar's refusal to give up his governorship as wrong.

 

In the Civil Wars, Caesar tells us that he refused to give up his governorship for the sake of his dignitas. I believe him--his wounded little ego would not suffer questioning.

 

Give me a break. So what that Ceasar had an ego. So did Pompey, Cato, Marcus Licinius Crassus and many other romans whether they were from Ceasar's past, present and future.

 

Ceasar refused to give up his governorship for other reasons not his ego. It was a matter of principle and the way he was being treated by the Senate and Pompey.

 

In my opinion Cato and especially Pompey and Crassus had the biggest egos during the republic. That's why Crassus was killed and half his army of 40,000 men were litterly wiped out at the battle of Carrhae against the Parthians, with the remaining 10,000 Romans being taken as prisioners and another 10,000 were able to escape back into Roman territoy. Anyways Crassus could be a whole new topic to discuss later.

 

Anyways, I really don't feel that Cato destroyed the republic. The republic was being destroyed way before Cato was even born. The republic form of government in my opinion was really never an effective form of government. The republican form of government was a government that was meant to rule only a city not a nations. It was logical for the Roman form of government to evolve based on the changes and growth Rome was experiencing as they were acquiring more land to rule over.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ceasar refused to give up his governorship for other reasons not his ego. It was a matter of principle and the way he was being treated by the Senate and Pompey.

 

So was Caesar lying when he said he marched on Rome for the sake of his dignitas? If there was a matter of principle, what was the principle? And how exactly was he "being treated by the Senate"? Perhaps you'd enlighten us as to the measures that were passed that did NOT have the support of the triumvirate?

 

The republic form of government in my opinion was really never an effective form of government. The republican form of government was a government that was meant to rule only a city not a nations. It was logical for the Roman form of government to evolve based on the changes and growth Rome was experiencing as they were acquiring more land to rule over.

 

And a system with no mechanism of accession provided a better means for governing lots of land??? That makes no sense to me. As the number of provinces grew, Latin rights could have been extended indefinitely without the need for monarchy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So was Caesar lying when he said he marched on Rome for the sake of his dignitas? If there was a matter of principle, what was the principle? And how exactly was he "being treated by the Senate"? Perhaps you'd enlighten us as to the measures that were passed that did NOT have the support of the triumvirate?

 

Are you not also leaving off the sanctity of the Tribune of the Plebes as a key element? Right or wrong, it still played a major role.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So was Caesar lying when he said he marched on Rome for the sake of his dignitas? If there was a matter of principle, what was the principle? And how exactly was he "being treated by the Senate"? Perhaps you'd enlighten us as to the measures that were passed that did NOT have the support of the triumvirate?

 

Are you not also leaving off the sanctity of the Tribune of the Plebes as a key element? Right or wrong, it still played a major role.

 

 

Good points both and there's more! Pompey was awarded the sole consulship not just because Cato wished him to stand Rome's ground against Caesar but also because there was terrible violence in the city at that time. This was another special command given to Pompey, were the Senate supposed to stand aside and allow the city to fall to the riots? Whatever their cause they needed to be sorted out, and one of the best things to do not only for public order but also for public confidence was to put Pompey in charge. Caesar I have no doubt was aiming at tyranny by this point...it is conceivable that Pompey was still only looking for acceptance and preeminence. Cato was a principled man, personally i think Caesar was less so.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ceasar refused to give up his governorship for other reasons not his ego. It was a matter of principle and the way he was being treated by the Senate and Pompey.

 

So was Caesar lying when he said he marched on Rome for the sake of his dignitas? If there was a matter of principle, what was the principle? And how exactly was he "being treated by the Senate"? Perhaps you'd enlighten us as to the measures that were passed that did NOT have the support of the triumvirate?

 

The republic form of government in my opinion was really never an effective form of government. The republican form of government was a government that was meant to rule only a city not a nations. It was logical for the Roman form of government to evolve based on the changes and growth Rome was experiencing as they were acquiring more land to rule over.

 

And a system with no mechanism of accession provided a better means for governing lots of land??? That makes no sense to me. As the number of provinces grew, Latin rights could have been extended indefinitely without the need for monarchy.

 

Look, I'm not saying that Ceasar is lying. I never said that. All I'm saying is that I personally don't feel and believe that you opinion regarding Ceasar's reasoning for not giving up his governorship was the sole reason. Im not disputing that Ceasar wasn't a very egotistic person. Yes he was. Why Ceasar crossed the Rubincon river is a matter of opinion. I personally happen to feel differently, that's just me.

 

The ambitions of men that were in power at the time or time-frame in my mind were driven by power and of course power makes a man generate a ego. Think about it, were the competition between Marius and Sulla similiar to a certain extent. Didn't Marcus Crassus have an ego as well.

 

The republican form of government in my mind was not suffice to handle the complex and every growing role Rome was playing in the surrounding areas as her influence grew. I do admit the imperial form of government had it's own issues such as succession and so forth.

 

Now, To answer your question on whether government with a mechanism of no accession provided a better means of governing lots of land was any better, the answer is yes. It make sense to me, if it doesn't make sense to you, well that's your own opinion. I never said that the imperial form of government was 100% any better, it had it's issues. But it was expected over-time that as Rome a city-state became more and more less of a city-state it's form of government would change/evolve into something different whcih it did.

 

We could have a never ending disscusion and ask folks which form of government that like and prefer and which government was better for Rome?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Like PP, I support the dual culpability theory. The fact that Caesar acted outside the law in his incursions across the Rhine and the channel is up for debate, but has already been debated in many threads. The fact that Pompeys actions outside the law are accepted (living at Rome while retaining Imperium for example). Cato was principled certainly, and reminds me of Sulla in many ways other than the Tyranny factor, mostly for his blind support of the Aristrocratic oligarchy. He certainly supported Sullas final march on Rome and Pompeys aid to him in that endeavor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I doubt Cato had much of an informed opinion on the matter of Sulla's march on Rome when it happened. Cato was born in 95, and Sulla entered Rome in 88.

 

Leaving aside Plutarch's dubious but telling anecdote about a boy Cato asking for a sword to liberate his country from the tyranny of Sulla, Cato was firmly anti-Sullan (if not anti-Sulla): as quaestor Cato vowed to prosecute everyone who had profited from the proscriptions (and did manage to prosecute many--including Murena, whom Cicero defended), and he enthusiastically supported the bills to repudiate Sulla's laws.

 

More generally, as a pleb from an Italian familiy (from the Sabine territory), Cato was not a natural ally of the Sullan ranks, who first paid attention to Cato for his energy in breaking up the cartel controlling the treasury, which earned him a kind of popularity that the old guard (like Catullus) could respect. When they asked him to run for tribune, however, Cato refused them, only deciding to run once he learned that a lackey of Pompey was to run for the office.

 

In any case, while I agree that Cato and Sulla shared a belief in the importance of the senate, that's where the similarity ends. Morevoer, since Cato's opposition to the would-be usurpers of the Republic cut across the Marian/Sullan divide (Cato opposed not only the Marian Caesar, but also Sullans such as Catiline, Crassus, Lentulus, and Pompey), I'd bet Cato would have been opposed to Sulla as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Are you not also leaving off the sanctity of the Tribune of the Plebes as a key element? Right or wrong, it still played a major role.

 

I'm all for the office of the tribunes, but if their restoration was the principle over which Caesar fought (rather than a mere pretext, why did Caesar himself nullify their office once he attained power? Why did he hire armed thugs to keep the tribunes out of the forum while passing Pompey's land bills? Was Cato himself not serving as tribune at the time Caesar had him arrested? What kind of adherence to principle is that???

 

There was only one kind of tribune that was sacred to Caesar, and it was the Tribune of the Caesarians not the Tribune of the People.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you not also leaving off the sanctity of the Tribune of the Plebes as a key element? Right or wrong, it still played a major role.

 

I'm all for the office of the tribunes, but if their restoration was the principle over which Caesar fought (rather than a mere pretext, why did Caesar himself nullify their office once he attained power? Why did he hire armed thugs to keep the tribunes out of the forum while passing Pompey's land bills? Was Cato himself not serving as tribune at the time Caesar had him arrested? What kind of adherence to principle is that???

 

There was only one kind of tribune that was sacred to Caesar, and it was the Tribune of the Caesarians not the Tribune of the People.

 

I agree in some context, but he still used the affronts against the tribune as a 'reason' for his march on Rome. Its a very key factor in convincing his men to march with him. We've argued the 'legality and personal motivations' many times, so I personally have no reason to rehash and will leave that part to others who feel so inclined.

I am only countering your claim that Caesar himself said that his own dignity is his only reason for marching on Rome. Whether we agree with him or not, he does very much make the claim that the affronts against Antonius were important.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I doubt Cato had much of an informed opinion on the matter of Sulla's march on Rome when it happened. Cato was born in 95, and Sulla entered Rome in 88.

 

Leaving aside Plutarch's dubious but telling anecdote about a boy Cato asking for a sword to liberate his country from the tyranny of Sulla, Cato was firmly anti-Sullan (if not anti-Sulla): as quaestor Cato vowed to prosecute everyone who had profited from the proscriptions (and did manage to prosecute many--including Murena, whom Cicero defended), and he enthusiastically supported the bills to repudiate Sulla's laws.

 

The African War 2.22 :-

 

Meanwhile Cato, who was in command at Utica, never stopped haranguing Gnaus Pompeius the younger, at length and often. "When your father was your age", he said, "he saw the State oppressed by wicked and criminal citizens, and good men either killed or punished by exile and so deprived of their homeland and their civic rights. And so, in the enthusiasm engendered by his desire for renown and his nobility of spirit, though merely a private citizen and barely out of his childhood, he colected the remnants of his fathers army, and restored the independence of Italy and of the city of Rome, when they were all but overwhelmed and destroyed. He also recovered by force of arms, with amazing speed, Sicily, Africa, Numidia and Mauretania.

 

He's talking about actions undertaken by Pompey as a lieutenant of Sulla, seems fairly glowing of the actions too - hence my comment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Germanicus for that reminder of Cato's harangue of the younger Pompey. I wonder how the author knows what Cato had to say to the younger Pompey--maybe the author just inferred it from Cato's reputation as an advocate of the senate.

 

BTW, just to be absolutely certain that Caesar didn't write the African War, the author (though a Caesarian) calls Cato a "grave and worthy senator" in that context. Hard to imagine the Darling of Venus having anything good to say about a man of principle...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
BTW, just to be absolutely certain that Caesar didn't write the African War, the author (though a Caesarian) calls Cato a "grave and worthy senator" in that context. Hard to imagine the Darling of Venus having anything good to say about a man of principle...

 

You do make me laugh !

 

Not to mention that the Darling of Venus has a sensational writing style not evident in the African war.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×