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M. Porcius Cato

Symptoms Of The Triumvirate Not The Republic

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Since you're on record claiming the republic was not stable, provide an alternative list of symptoms.

 

I mostly agree with your list of symptoms, I just don

Edited by tflex

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Anything that occurs during the era of the republic is a result of the republic? That's absurd. By this line of sophomoric reasoning, birds flew and rain fell due to the republican constitution.

 

I agree the logic wasn't worded the best way possible, however something allowed the triumvirate to come into being, a system, laws that didn't prohibit it, lack of enforcement of laws that tried to, the client patron relationship, ancestor worship and intense personal competition and the like...that system was the republic as it stood, and I do believe the triumvirate or something resembling it was inevitable, and a symptom of this flawed system.

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The Senate was a tyranny from its very outset. What is the point of 'freedom of speech' if it doesn't matter? The 'vast' sums spent on elections were more properly called bribes. One optimate vying against another. If one of the objects of government is to serve the ENTIRE nation, then the Republic failed. The Senate served its interests and not those of the nation as a whole. This was the case also in the senates of the cities. The number of people who climbed the 'ladder', on merit alone, were exceptionally few. The Empire, when it was effective. did little if anything for 95% of the people. When ineffective, this mass suffered more. The result for the people was the same.

 

How many times would the gluttony of the Senate have had to have been 'fixed' by a Sulla or triumvirate before it got the idea? The Senate was not acting in the nation's interest.

 

If freedom or liberty are to be the contrasts between the two forms, then, in my opinion, these only leached into some societies during the 19th and 20th centuries.

 

Can one say that if the Republic had continued that Rome would exist today?

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The Senate was a tyranny from its very outset.

Not in any meaningful sense of the term.

 

What is the point of 'freedom of speech' if it doesn't matter?

It did matter a great deal. As a result of free speech, men like Verres were successfully prosecuted. That's a system that's working, and it was that very feature of the free republic that the triumvirs destroyed.

 

The 'vast' sums spent on elections were more properly called bribes.

Give me a break. The little cups that canvassers used to spread around are hardly bribes. We don't have a detailed record of campaign finances, but we do have a pretty good sense of who was tried in the courts for bribery, and the incidence of bribery was astonishingly low.

 

One optimate vying against another. If one of the objects of government is to serve the ENTIRE nation, then the Republic failed.

That isn't a proper object of government--it is quite frankly wishful thinking. No government will please all the people all the time. What matters is that the government conform to the rule of law. The triumvirs did not.

 

The Senate served its interests and not those of the nation as a whole. This was the case also in the senates of the cities. The number of people who climbed the 'ladder', on merit alone, were exceptionally few. The Empire, when it was effective. did little if anything for 95% of the people. When ineffective, this mass suffered more. The result for the people was the same.

You're ranting. Give some evidence for your case. What is the EVIDENCE that the senates in the provincial towns did not provide the government services which the people--who alone had the power to legislate--decreed by law? What is the EVIDENCE that 95% of the magistrates of the Roman republic were meritless? Take a look at the surviving list of magistrates of the republic--for how many of them do you have some evidence of incompetence and for how many do you have ZERO evidence of incompetence? And if you have ZERO evidence of incompetence, by what authority do you second guess the judgment of the people of Rome?

 

How many times would the gluttony of the Senate have had to have been 'fixed' by a Sulla or triumvirate before it got the idea? The Senate was not acting in the nation's interest.

Now I'm beginning to think you don't actually know what the Senate could and couldn't do at various points in Roman history. Sulla did not fix the gluttony of the Senate. Not by any stretch of the imagination. He succeeded in ousting the tyranny of the Marians, and he set himself up as a tyrant. The Senate was as helpless in this civil war as is a senate in any civil war. Nor did the triumvirate contain the "gluttony of the senate": almost all of the opposition to the triumvirs were on constitutional matters because there was a real constitutional debate happening in the aftermath of Sulla. If you think otherwise, provide the names and dates of the legislation that support your interepretation; otherwise, admit you're wrong.

 

If freedom or liberty are to be the contrasts between the two forms, then, in my opinion, these only leached into some societies during the 19th and 20th centuries.

 

As I've repeatedly claimed on this very thread, I'm not claiming the Republic was a libertarian utopia. I'm claiming that the instability normally said to be characteristic of the republic was in fact more characteristic of the triumvirate. The republic was not a free state, but it was a freer state than the states that followed it--from the Caesars of the first century to the Kaisars and Tsars of the 19th. For all their freedom and prospertiy, republics are astonishingly rare in the history of the world, and in my view, the republican constitution is one of the greatest legacies that Rome left to the world.

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something allowed the triumvirate to come into being, a system, laws that didn't prohibit it, lack of enforcement of laws that tried to, the client patron relationship, ancestor worship and intense personal competition and the like

Are you proposing each of these as independent hypotheses for the origin of the triumvirate? Why not add the personalities of the triumvirs? All of the factors you suppose to have led to the triumvirate had been around for 500 years. Why didn't a triumvirate emerge until it did if these factors were necessary and sufficient conditions for it? I don't think these factors do much to explain the triumvirate. Only one factor is needed to how explain the triumvirate emerged from the republic--the only novel thing to arise in this period, and a source of great evil: Julius Caesar.

 

...that system was the republic as it stood, and I do believe the triumvirate or something resembling it was inevitable, and a symptom of this flawed system.

 

Nothing is inevitable. And most of the aspects of the system that you mentioned were not endemic to the laws and constitution of the republic (e.g., patronage, ancestor worship, intense competition--all these existed before, during, and after the era of the republic). The laws also did work against the maintenance of a triumvirate, which is exactly how Cato was able to turn Pompey against Caesar: Pompey had to either ignore the laws that he himself had obeyed or to side with Caesar against the whole system. In this way, the system was working to function as it had evolved to function--to prevent the dominance of any individual over the lives and property of all of Rome.

 

I mostly agree with your list of symptoms, I just don’t agree with the comment you added, "The stereotypical depiction of the late republic derives almost all its properties from the change that was brought about by the triumvirate." Not accurate, these symptoms started before the triumvirate and led to its occurrence.

 

There is no inaccuracy. Rather, you fail to draw an important (if elementary) distinction between scale and origin. Hitler--for example--didn't invent political murder, but he practiced it on such a wide scale that he stands out amongst all the evil dictators to have existed. Yes, the triumvirs did not invent political violence in the Forum, but they practiced it on a scale that dwarfs every other period in Roman history.

Edited by M. Porcius Cato

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Are you proposing each of these as independent hypotheses for the origin of the triumvirate?

 

No, not independantly but collectively.

 

Only one factor is needed to how explain the triumvirate emerged from the republic--the only novel thing to arise in this period, and a source of great evil: Julius Caesar.

 

I do agree that the personality of Caesar contributed to the creation of the triumvirate, that's elementary as you put it but I maintain that Caesar and his actions were as a result of how the republic was operating post Gracchi. We will not reach an accord on this point.

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Cato, I really think that you are allowing your (understandable) antipathy to Caesar and your (less understandable) veneration of Cato to cloud your judgement.

 

Yes, the triumvirate used every available device to work their own ends. No less so Cato and his faction in opposing them, but their lamentable short-sightedness in failing to acqire a source of reliable soldiery to back them meant that they could not enforce their will in the same way as the triumvirs.

 

But how did the situation arise that Caesar, Crassus and Pompey could use the tactics that they did? It was precisely because of the Marian reforms, the example of Marius (and later Sulla) that showed the way clearly. The post Marian decades are rife with rebellions, intrigues and civil war. That simply does not happen in a healthy political system. At least one could say that for the period 60-50BC that civil war (if not civil strife in Rome) was averted through the triumvirate, and only brought on by Cato's insistance that Caesar be prosecuted. That does not excuse Caesar, but Cato is culpable. He grossly underestimated Caesar. This failure of judgement was in the end catastrophic.

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But how did the situation arise that Caesar, Crassus and Pompey could use the tactics that they did? It was precisely because of the Marian reforms, the example of Marius (and later Sulla) that showed the way clearly. The post Marian decades are rife with rebellions, intrigues and civil war. That simply does not happen in a healthy political system.

 

I don't dispute for a minute that the Marian reforms and tactics were destabilizing. However, with the exception of Sulla (who failed to conquer all his enemies, btw), the Roman army proved capable of disposing of every traitor who raised his sword against Rome, including Cinna, Lentulus, and Catiline. Between the retirement of Sulla and the establishment of the triumvirate, there were real constitutional issues under debate, the most pressing being how solve the problem of preventing another Sulla or Marius. The solution, I maintain, was much closer to the republican ideals of Cato and Cicero than it was to the solution offered by the triumvirate, which is why the reign of the triumvirate exacerbated the symptoms I originally listed.

 

As I have said many times, the republican system was not perfect, but it was preferable to the various forms of monarchy that followed it. Yes, I admit that the imperfections of the system left it vulnerable to traitors like Caesar, but the system that Caesar inaugurated (starting with the triumvirate) was also worse than the system it replaced, as measured by the symptoms I listed.

 

If there is an alternative metric you would use to measure the health of the system, I'm all ears. Until then, I maintain that there is no good evidence that the triumvirate was better than even the imperfect republic.

 

[i do agree that the personality of Caesar contributed to the creation of the triumvirate, that's elementary as you put it but I maintain that Caesar and his actions were as a result of how the republic was operating post Gracchi.

 

Then why didn't everyone behave as Caesar did if he was simply a mere pawn of his environment? Cicero lived in the same environment, as did Cato, Catulus, Hortensius, and many others. Yet none of these men went on a rampage against an iron age civilization and turn his sword on Rome itself. How would you explain this if Caesar's actions were merely a result of how the republic operated?

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The Senate was a tyranny from its very outset.

Not in any meaningful sense of the term.

 

O.K. How meaningful do you want?

 

What is the point of 'freedom of speech' if it doesn't matter?

It did matter a great deal. As a result of free speech, men like Verres were successfully prosecuted. That's a system that's working, and it was that very feature of the free republic that the triumvirs destroyed.

 

Ever hear of a plebe prosecuting a governor?

 

The 'vast' sums spent on elections were more properly called bribes.

Give me a break. The little cups that canvassers used to spread around are hardly bribes. We don't have a detailed record of campaign finances, but we do have a pretty good sense of who was tried in the courts for bribery, and the incidence of bribery was astonishingly low.

 

I believe that it was you who earlier said that large sums were expended in elections. I wonder how much the plebes spent on their campaigns for consul or quaestor. If one weren't a good boy, one no longer was a client. In addition to that little cup (probably filled with a few as), does the fear of losing ones patron count as a bribe?

 

One optimate vying against another. If one of the objects of government is to serve the ENTIRE nation, then the Republic failed.

That isn't a proper object of government--it is quite frankly wishful thinking. No government will please all the people all the time. What matters is that the government conform to the rule of law. The triumvirs did not.

 

If the laws are just, they will serve the ENTIRE nation all the time. Except for the criminals, of course. Serving the entire nation is not a proper object of government! Rats! I didn't know that.

 

The Senate served its interests and not those of the nation as a whole. This was the case also in the senates of the cities. The number of people who climbed the 'ladder', on merit alone, were exceptionally few. The Empire, when it was effective. did little if anything for 95% of the people. When ineffective, this mass suffered more. The result for the people was the same.

You're ranting. Give some evidence for your case. What is the EVIDENCE that the senates in the provincial towns did not provide the government services which the people--who alone had the power to legislate--decreed by law? What is the EVIDENCE that 95% of the magistrates of the Roman republic were meritless? Take a look at the surviving list of magistrates of the republic--for how many of them do you have some evidence of incompetence and for how many do you have ZERO evidence of incompetence? And if you have ZERO evidence of incompetence, by what authority do you second guess the judgment of the people of Rome?

 

Ranting? My good man! Are you maintaing that the poloi legislated? That a yokel could become a politician?What, then, was the point of these senates composed of local elites? Let us speak now of ranting. Would you please be kind enough to review my last three sentences (ex the period blunder) and determine if your last three have anything at all to do with mine or even relate to my 'supposed facts', which you seem to be countering?

 

How many times would the gluttony of the Senate have had to have been 'fixed' by a Sulla or triumvirate before it got the idea? The Senate was not acting in the nation's interest.

Now I'm beginning to think you don't actually know what the Senate could and couldn't do at various points in Roman history. Sulla did not fix the gluttony of the Senate. Not by any stretch of the imagination. He succeeded in ousting the tyranny of the Marians, and he set himself up as a tyrant. The Senate was as helpless in this civil war as is a senate in any civil war. Nor did the triumvirate contain the "gluttony of the senate": almost all of the opposition to the triumvirs were on constitutional matters because there was a real constitutional debate happening in the aftermath of Sulla. If you think otherwise, provide the names and dates of the legislation that support your interepretation; otherwise, admit you're wrong.

 

At VARIOUS points? Oh, dear me! Have I once again blundered?

Didn't Sulla whack a few senators? Well, I guess that they were all guilty of some peccadillo. I DO know that the senate couldn't stop Sulla. I agree with you that the gluttony of the senate wasn't satiated, that's what I'm saying. Needed another Sulla. One tyrant succeding another is refreshing. "...helpless in this civil war as is a senate in any civil war." Something like the U.S. Senate in the U.S. Civil War.

I will admit (and I am not being sarcastic now), that you know more about Rome than I ever will. Back to my repartee. You provide your creditable evidences first. Then I'll hammer away. A fact here and there, on either of our parts, could never be conclusive.

 

If freedom or liberty are to be the contrasts between the two forms, then, in my opinion, these only leached into some societies during the 19th and 20th centuries.

 

As I've repeatedly claimed on this very thread, I'm not claiming the Republic was a libertarian utopia. I'm claiming that the instability normally said to be characteristic of the republic was in fact more characteristic of the triumvirate. The republic was not a free state, but it was a freer state than the states that followed it--from the Caesars of the first century to the Kaisars and Tsars of the 19th. For all their freedom and prospertiy, republics are astonishingly rare in the history of the world, and in my view, the republican constitution is one of the greatest legacies that Rome left to the world.

 

Now, (I hope that you are sitting), I entirely agree with your last paragraph as written!

Nonetheless, my emphasis has been on corruption.

My whole point is this: The people of Rome were probably more free in 1 AUC than they or any other people have been until the 19th or 20th century. Plutocracy has always reigned - and still does.

 

I still love you (in the philosophical sense). Keep hammering at me; maybe I'll learn! Did you get a private message from me?

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My whole point is this: The people of Rome were probably more free in 1 AUC than they or any other people have been until the 19th or 20th century. Plutocracy has always reigned - and still does.

 

OK, then we're mostly in agreement. I'd place the height of ancient Roman liberty as occurring a bit later (sometime after the secession of the plebs and the tyranny of Cinna), but I hate to quibble so soon after being gobsmacked by concord.

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Ever hear of a plebe prosecuting a governor?

Yep. Cicero's prosecution of Verres. Or, better, Cato's (attempted) prosecution of Caesar. Heck, most of the prosecutions of the 1st century were conducted by plebs, and most of the greatest senators and staunchest defenders of the republic were plebs.

 

If one weren't a good boy, one no longer was a client. In addition to that little cup (probably filled with a few as), does the fear of losing ones patron count as a bribe?

Not true. Campaigning AGAINST one's patron was a popular move. Marius, for one, cut his teeth on the jugular of his patron, Marcellus.

 

Ranting? My good man! Are you maintaing that the poloi legislated? That a yokel could become a politician?

Yes, the people of Rome legislated directly and in person (initially not by secret ballot, but later by secret ballot). And yokels did become politicians. Cato the Elder, a true yokel, even held the highest office attainable--censor.

 

I still love you (in the philosophical sense). Keep hammering at me; maybe I'll learn! Did you get a private message from me?

No message. Also, know that I never hold grudges. Boldly argue your case--that's the best way to have one's errors corrected. Believe me, I've had many of my own mistakes corrected in this forum by patient (if exasperated) interlocutors.

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What I've always found so conceptually correct about Cato's argument is not necessarily the inherent bashing of tyranny, but the notion that the Republican system was not itself a failure. I think sometimes we get a bit blindsided by Cato's style and ignore the substance of the argument.

 

The system itself was governed by law and procedure. Were these laws and procedures always the best possible rules and guidelines for running the system? No, of course not, nor were they always the most inclusionary by nature, but the system did allow for the exchange of ideas, debate and modification of its own rules according to vote and group affirmation rather than the whims of an individual. Some Republican concepts were exclusionary to various groups but the right to speak and assemble always remained. There were times when violent assemblies were forcibly dismantled and some of these cases were assuredly oligarchic paranoia in attempts to stifle opposition, but traditional government generally returned until the periods in question. The Republic had plenty of features in place to deal with various crises, even if they weren't always handled to the best possible solution. The problem with the Republic was not the Republic itself, but the idea that it depended upon the continued restraint and dignity of individuals not to corrupt the available loopholes for personal gain.

 

In the case of provincial exploitation, people could be prosecuted, and were at times. Did this sometimes depend upon the sentiment of the times and the power of various factions within the system? Of course it did, but the ideology of law was always there and it was applied most harshly when extreme transgressions were committed. Laws were broken by various members of the Senate and the Plebeian assembly at any given time, but the rule of law was still generally applied.

 

The Republic failed because of both the personal ambitions and the stubbornness of individuals. The Republic was flexible and could have allowed for legal compromises even in the latest hours. Unfortunately though, the precedent for personal ambition and even corruption above the glory of the state had already been set. To vie for that power by whatever means necessary became the status quo. While the Republic as an institution could do little do stop this trend because demagoguery of individuals had overtaken the earlier ideology, it is the failure of individuals to be blamed and not the system itself. Men such as Caesar for circumventing the law to obtain power in the first place and men such as Cato the Younger for failing to compromise previous transgression for the sake of reconciliation and the health of the state, may have both been products of a devolving political environment, but again it is not necessarily the fault of the system itself.

 

In modern democratic states, what is stopping an individual general from going rogue and seeking ultimate power or personal glory? Very little. We have law, just as the Romans did, but what stops a general from breaking the modern law of a nation and rebelling against its government? It happens quite frequently in some parts of the world. Is there anything in place that is less tolerant in modern western law than the Romans were? No, there isn't. The penalties for treason are quite similar and if a general goes rogue, or a politician breaks the law we blame the individuals in most cases rather than the systems. The Republic as an institution is no more a failure than many other attempted forms of governments, but its ideology was at least far preferable than other contemporary monarchies and despotisms.

 

Again, I will reiterate that I personally admire Caesar for his achievements both as a statesman and a general, but I can also readily admit his personal culpability in sounding the Republic's death knell.

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M. P. Cato, by Iupiter you are the best at obfuscation. I'm going to commend you and Cicero to Bush when the Democrats take over the Comitia and the Senate. Yes, I am one of those who does not take umbrage, unless necessary. In all kindness, logic and clarity are not your strong points. I shall get a P. M. off to you as soon as I sober up. You drove me to drink. Well, the Yankees didn't help, they almost lost. Can we make Derek a God? Now, I double dare you to tell me that the triumvirate of Derek, Bernie and Mariano are lacking! :sniper:

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I agree with PP's post almost in its entirety. Only "almost" because I'm still not convinced one way or the other about whether compromise with Caesar could have averted civil war given Caesar's track record. Nevertheless, the rest of PP's post strikes me as an exemplary one--judicious, non-polemical, and erudite.

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