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

M. Porcius Cato

Symptoms Of The Triumvirate Not The Republic

Recommended Posts

Are you actually arguing that the quality of legislation is less important than who introduces it?

Absolutely yes.

 

Consider two modern, hypothetical cases: (1) the mayor of Washington, DC forces a vote on a bill that he proposes; (2) all of the legislation brought to a vote is proposed by one senator from New York.

 

The first case is clearly unconstitutional: no matter what the merits of the bill, the fact that the wrong person brought the bill forward has potential repercussions that far outweigh any of the merits of the bill itself. For example, if the mayor of the capital can introduce legislation, why not the House chaplain? or his secretary? or their janitor? Clearly, who introduces legislation is an important constiutional matter, one that utterly supercedes the content of any bill.

 

The second case is not unconsitutional, but it is highly irregular and would indicate that something weird was going on. After all, how likely is it that only a single senator has any ideas? It is possible, but unlikely. Now take the fact that legislation had been proposed from senators all over the country throughout the history of the country, and then suddenly--at a time of political violence, massive bribery, and illegal war--the one senator in the middle of it all becomes the sole person introducing legislation. In this case, you'd have to be a partisan hack or extremely stupid to fail to see that the senator was aiming to assume supreme power.

 

So, yes, the content of legislation can matter very much less than who proposes it.

 

The nature of a government is only changed in extremis(?). When people are not with their governments, they change peaceably, by force or fall entirely.

 

The first claim--that governments change only in extremis--is historically incorrect. Putsches and coups are at least as common (probably more so) than popular revolution. The second claim is simply vacuous: ultimately all governments change irrespective of their popularity. But even if you were to amend the claim to "unpopular governments are less stable than popular ones", the claim would still not support your reasoning, which is "Unpopular governments fall; the Roman republic fell; therefore, the Roman republic was unpopular." That is the fallacy of affirming the consequent, and it is an elementary logical fallacy.

 

Two consuls could never rule a great empire in alternate months, especially if all business had to cease when one was looking for omens, and a tribune had a veto.

 

Consuls were not meant to rule the republic. It simply wasn't in their job description. Consuls weren't mini-emperors. Most of the business of government did not require consular intervention--it was only when the triumvirs took the consulship that this changed. The same was true with the business of looking for omens. Omens almost never (not never, ALMOST never) seriously interfered with public business until the religious colleges became the mechanism of last resort for the opponents of the triumvirate. As far as the tribunician veto, one could make the same argument about the (de facto) imperial veto: how can you run an empire if the emperor can veto anything you do at any time? If the veto is the problem, then the same problem existed before, during, and after Caesar's coup.

 

A Triunvirate, perforce, had to fail. A strong central directed government had to be formed, thus (for the times) a monarchy.

Glad to see you agree with my central thesis--the triumvirate had to fail. However, the second claim does not follow. There was nothing in "the times" (a mystical notion if ever there were one) that mandated a monarchy. The triumvirate could have been dissolved, and the republican institutions restored. Had Caesar failed in his coup, this outcome is far more likely than Pompey assuming monarchical powers (although I admit Pompey could have assumed such powers after Caesar's defeat).

 

Democracy has never existed anywhere.

Rubbish. Athens was a democracy for quite a long period of time. I'm not a fan of pure democracy, but that's because we have a record of how one operated.

 

If oligarchs had to answer to the people, 95% of them would not have chosen poverty.

I'm sure 95% of them would also choose not to work, to get free food and entertainment, to enslave non-citizens, to plunder their neighbors' wealth, and ... wait a second--come to think of it, sounds to me like the people really did play a large role during the Roman republic, and they got a lot of what they wanted. Yes, the people were poor: but you can no more vote away poverty than you can vote away sickness and death. Only citizens who are drunk on their own power are deluded enough to think that they can vote away poverty and illness.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Salvete M.P. Cato:

I don't wish to be ad hominem in my arguments, but yours seem to have a knack for distorting and limiting the meanings of words to suit your argument. Most of your points were adequately countered by others, so I will only take on a couple.

Executive: When the executive branch of government proposes legislation, it does so through its surogates and 'bully pulpits' it. So with the Republic.

Coups: Please do not credit me with a false syllogism that you have created.

Democracy: It is either democracy or it is not. Democracy, in Athens, applied only to 'citizens' and not to all 'residents' of the city - no matter who they were. It took 'special' legislation to create a citizen. In Rome it applied to the 'tribes'. More dogs live in my block in NYC than there are people in Wyoming, yet they have two senators and three votes for president. Democracy?

Extremis: Are you arguing that a coup is not the result of some party being in 'extremis'?

In re oligarchs and poverty: That seems to be taken wholecloth from a certain claque in the U.S. Of course, the Roman poor were a lazy good for nothing lot. They suffer from a great fault of their own making. They are and were only good for taxes and cannon fodder. At one time the 'ager' was held in common until the 'good people' sequestered it.

Fascinating questions: Arguments develop. That is how one learns. Unless this is to be a sophmore college 'debate' :2guns:

Perhaps this thread has strayed from your original topic, but that is largely of your own making. Yet that is not a fault, else how could any discuss the matter, which, I presume is the reason for the original post. I don't think that any have said that you are wrong. There are differing points of view.

For my own part, I have learned quite a bit from all. Thanks. (I hope that you have also.)

 

Valete

Edited by Gaius Octavius

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Executive: When the executive branch of government proposes legislation, it does so through its surogates and 'bully pulpits' it. So with the Republic.

If this were true of the Republic, why the change during the triumvirate?

 

Coups: Please do not credit me with a false syllogism that you have created.

Then be more explicit in your reasoning so as to avoid confusion. What was the argument you intended?

 

Democracy: It is either democracy or it is not. Democracy, in Athens, applied only to 'citizens' and not to all 'residents' of the city - no matter who they were. It took 'special' legislation to create a citizen. In Rome it applied to the 'tribes'. More dogs live in my block in NYC than there are people in Wyoming, yet they have two senators and three votes for president. Democracy?

No--who claimed it was and, frankly, who cares??? We're talking about ancient Rome not NYC.

 

Extremis: Are you arguing that a coup is not the result of some party being in 'extremis'?

Yes, and no objective definition of 'in extremis' will support the opposite contention.

 

In re oligarchs and poverty: That seems to be taken wholecloth from a certain claque in the U.S. Of course, the Roman poor were a lazy good for nothing lot. They suffer from a great fault of their own making. They are and were only good for taxes and cannon fodder. At one time the 'ager' was held in common until the 'good people' sequestered it.

That's not my claim at all. My claim is that voting won't make crops grow or gold spring from the ground.; insofar as poverty is a lack of food and gold, counting the votes of the poor is not enough to end poverty. I would also add that common 'ownership' is the least efficient manner of producing what people need to live, and in consequence, anyone sincerely concerned with the plight of the poor should be the first ones to advocate the privatization of the ager publica. The fact that people like Gracchus did not do so unmasks them as incompetent, poseurs, or both.

 

Fascinating questions: Arguments develop. That is how one learns. Unless this is to be a sophmore college 'debate' :2guns:

Quite frankly, your guns lead me to think you prefer the latter. If I misunderstand your intent, then I'd invite you to produce a five-year-period that counterdicts my claim, to admit that the triumvirate--and not the republican constitution itself--produced the symptoms of instability I laid out, to produce a better set of indices of instability, or to find a formal flaw in my logic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
... to admit that the triumvirate--and not the republican constitution itself--produced the symptoms of instability I laid out, to produce a better set of indices of instability, or to find a formal flaw in my logic.

 

This is quite frankly impossible to admit because it seems to suggest that we view the triumvirate in a vacuum of sorts and ignore the conditions which led to its formation. I am not arguing with the notions that essentially the triumvirate was in itself destabilizing, but I can't admit that the Republican system was completely healthy prior to that point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ave M.P. Cato:

You have demolished me with your argumentation! I surrender; except for the logic bit.

"All A is B, B is C., Ergo all C is A!" Did I get that wrong?

 

Pax Vobiscum. Benedicite. Ite Missa Est.

Edited by Gaius Octavius

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Triumvirate produced instability....and the Republic produced the Triumvirate no ?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The Triumvirate produced instability....and the Republic produced the Triumvirate no ?

 

Not 'produced' in the same sense.

 

The triumvirate--by relying on the mutual faith of three men vying (to different extents) for supreme power and relying also on the compliance of many men who had no interest in their concord--was inherently unstable. Insofar as the government depended on this impossible concord, the triumvirate destabilized the republic. In this sense, the triumvirate caused instability.

 

The republic, on the other hand, did not create the triumvirate--Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus did. The republic was an enabling condition of the triumvirate to be sure: if there were no republic, the triumvirate could not have formed. But an enabling condition is not a cause. For example, sunlight is an enabling condition of plant growth (without sunlight, plants fail to grow), but--containing no carbon--sunlight does not directly cause plant growth (carbon dioxide in the air does).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The republic, on the other hand, did not create the triumvirate--Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus did. The republic was an enabling condition of the triumvirate to be sure: if there were no republic, the triumvirate could not have formed. But an enabling condition is not a cause. For example, sunlight is an enabling condition of plant growth (without sunlight, plants fail to grow), but--containing no carbon--sunlight does not directly cause plant growth (carbon dioxide in the air does).

 

So the Republican System as it was, always had the potential to produce just such a circimstance in your view ?

 

I think this goes back to that earlier thread you started on Reforms that could have saved the Republic.

 

I feel that yes, the period of the Triumvirate did bring to the fore some major problems, that had not been encountered in such a manner before, along with underlying issues that had been ignored for a long time. I also think that there was something essentially floored about a system that was open to such abuse.

 

I feel that the Triumvirate was a symptom of this floored system.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The triumvirate merely exploited the weaknesses of the republican constitution to their own ends.

 

How can a healthy political system allow a senior magistrate to push through laws by violence?

 

Rome had seen coups, attempted coups and rebellions by Marius, Sulla, Lepidus, Sertorius, Catiline (and those are just the ones off the top of my head). Hardly a sign of a healthy constitutional government.

 

The republic was flawed in conception and became more so through its evolution. It merely took time for men to realise how it could be best exploited for their own ends. Consider the 'laws of exemption' where the likes of Pompey were allowed to stand for office well before the constitution allowed, or the fact that the senate could vote to execute citizens without trial (when egged on by a pompous windbag- and I don't of course mean Cicero), or the fact that because officials could not be prosecuted whilst in office that men who had acted illegally would naturally seek extended commands and multiple office holdings.

Edited by Furius Venator

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The republic, on the other hand, did not create the triumvirate--Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus did. The republic was an enabling condition of the triumvirate to be sure: if there were no republic, the triumvirate could not have formed. But an enabling condition is not a cause. For example, sunlight is an enabling condition of plant growth (without sunlight, plants fail to grow), but--containing no carbon--sunlight does not directly cause plant growth (carbon dioxide in the air does).

 

So the Republican System as it was, always had the potential to produce just such a circimstance in your view ?

 

I think this goes back to that earlier thread you started on Reforms that could have saved the Republic.

 

I feel that yes, the period of the Triumvirate did bring to the fore some major problems, that had not been encountered in such a manner before, along with underlying issues that had been ignored for a long time. I also think that there was something essentially floored about a system that was open to such abuse.

 

I feel that the Triumvirate was a symptom of this floored system.

 

The fundamental flaw in the system was, in my opinion anyway, the relationship between the search for gloria which was a personal goal and the fact that the whole political system was a military one. This meant that essentially personal ambition was written into the constitution as an excusable but inevitable accident. The Triumvirate was a product of this, the system was riddled with other conflicts too, optimates V. populares rich v poor, old money versus new, tension between the equites and the senate...It is a gross simplification to try to point the finger of blame at one moment or three people, almost all of the original symptoms that started this thread were present long before the triumvirate. To suggest otherwise frankly shows a lack of awareness of the facts. :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It is a gross simplification to try to point the finger of blame at one moment or three people, almost all of the original symptoms that started this thread were present long before the triumvirate. To suggest otherwise frankly shows a lack of awareness of the facts. ;)

 

Yes, Fergus Millar and I are complete idiots. :angry:

 

Frankly, I'd suggest you look at the claim I made (again and again), viz., that SOME of the symptoms I mentioned were present to SOME extent prior to the triumvirate, but that there is no other period during the republic when ALL of these existed to the SAME extent. If you want to claim otherwise, produce an alternative five-year-period in which all of the symptoms I mention were more pronounced. If there is no such period, and it was the triumvirate that created and/or exacerbated these symptoms, revise your claim.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The "degradation of the Republic" is a myth--the republic was largely healthy (albeit imperfect) and functioning quite well against domestic threats (e.g., Catiline, Lentulus, etc) prior to the triumvirate. The upheavals from 55-50 were not caused by the Roman constitution: the upheavals were caused by men who wished to overthrow that constitution.

 

You

Edited by tflex

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The unwillingness of a few small-minded few to see anyone with talent rise above the mediocre mire directly lead to the establishment of the triumvirate.

 

Consuls proposing legislation was a by-product of the Sullan constitution. He, in fact, insisted that it was their proper role.

 

Provincial commanders did not have a need to effect policies in Roma because there was a tacit agreement that their corruption and routine despoiling of the provinces was perfectly acceptable.

 

Secret pacts, bribery, and corruption had been going on long before the triumvirate. Such things, in fact, are emblematic of the optimate opposition. How many times were tribunes of the plebs bribed in order to act as the senatorial watchdog veto?

 

Personal politics, as you call them, have been a part of the Republic's system since the VERY beginning. How did Cato Censor even get into prominence if it wasn't for the initial support of the Fabii and the

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

×