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Why Did The Roman Republic Fall?

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I also would argue that the great-nephew (military adventurer, terrorist, unprincipled schemer, incomparable politician and brilliant propagandist) is possibly even more to blame than his adoptive father for the demise of free institutions.

 

I would ask for valid examples of the young criminal's first three attributes.

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Hi gents!

 

Why Did The Roman Republic Fall?

 

Anyone got a good explanation?

 

/thanks

 

Matteus

 

..."Because nothing lasts forever"...

 

...probably not the answer you were looking for...

 

cheers

viggen

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Though I understand Catos passion about his namesakes' inimicus, and I agree that Caesar was willing to do violence to the republic in defence of his personal dignitas (and his ambition), it seems to me that E S Gruens hypothesis that it was the scale and duration of the conflict(s) of 49-31BC that wrecked the republic has merit. I also would argue that the great-nephew (military adventurer, terrorist, unprincipled schemer, incomparable politician and brilliant propagandist) is possibly even more to blame than his adoptive father for the demise of free institutions.

 

I basically agree with Gruen's theory, and I point to Caesar as the necessary cause and ALMOST sufficient cause. The scale and duration of the civil wars were caused by Caesar's policies and politics, and it was Caesar who put Octavian in his position ("You boy who owe everything to a name", Antony observed bitterly). Thus, Caesar's behavior explains most of the factors that led directly to the fall, and other factors aren't necessary to explain these.

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Though I understand Catos passion about his namesakes' inimicus, and I agree that Caesar was willing to do violence to the republic in defence of his personal dignitas (and his ambition), it seems to me that E S Gruens hypothesis that it was the scale and duration of the conflict(s) of 49-31BC that wrecked the republic has merit. I also would argue that the great-nephew (military adventurer, terrorist, unprincipled schemer, incomparable politician and brilliant propagandist) is possibly even more to blame than his adoptive father for the demise of free institutions.

 

I basically agree with Gruen's theory, and I point to Caesar as the necessary cause and ALMOST sufficient cause.

 

One man caused it alone?

 

That surely means, either Julius was the most influential persona of all time, or the republic was taking the last breaths already, right?

 

cheers

viggen

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Without a doubt Caesar was one of the most influential men in history. Surely no one doubts his importance as an historical figure. His legacy was civil war and monarchy where there had been peace and a republic.

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Without a doubt Caesar was one of the most influential men in history. Surely no one doubts his importance as an historical figure. His legacy was civil war and monarchy where there had been peace and a republic.

 

I suppose there was something of a Republic, but peace? The revolts of Sertorius, Cataline and Lepidus do not strike me as peace.

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If you refer to the fight against Sullan dictatorship by Sertorius as a mere revolt, then I fear you have gravely misunderstood the motivations and reasons behind his actions.

 

Gravely...phew that's a heavy word for it! :unsure:

 

If Sertorius was rebelling against Sulla's dictatorship why did he continue to rebel against the Republic when he stepped down and died? Regardless, if a revolt, rebellion, war or whatever else you want to call it, the point is it was an abnormality of the status quo, and seems to indicate another story than a perfectly fine Republic until Caesar comes around.

 

At any rate, you should start a new thread on the man, quite an interesting episode in Roman history worthy of much discussion.

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Einstein said it best: explanations should be as simple as possible--and no more. I'm not claiming that Caesar is the only factor that caused the fall--I'm claiming that he was necessary and NEARLY sufficient: obviously, he needed help and co-operation from many people and a little luck too.

 

I would like to come at this at a different angle, and give my simplistic reason for the demise of the Republic: Rome expanding her overseas provinces.

 

The great influx of slaves Rome experienced as a result of her foreign wars meant that Rome's workforce was now saturated with free labour; this subsequently lead to the rise of Latifundia (large slave run prairie farms owned by senators, rich from Rome expansion), and before you knew it, Italian farmers were forced off their land into over-crowded cities; this social injustice at the hands of the nobility then instigated the ideologies which internally wounded the Republic (e.g. Opimates Vs Populares).

 

Additionally, the rise in Rome's territories meant that armies on the frontlines were great distances from Rome, and were often on campaign for a longer amount of time. The expansion of provinces would mean a greater amount of warfare. If a successful general led the troops, warfare would mean booty. Booty would mean loyalty to the general rather than Rome. These ambitious generals therefore, could use their troops dissociation with Rome, and subsequent loyalty to them, to their advantage: if they wanted them to (as the events of the Later Republic proved), generals could persuade their troops to march on Rome.

Edited by WotWotius

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An elegant hypothesis, WotWotius, but I respectfully disagree with its two basic premises.

 

First, the archaeological evidence for small farms is quite robust during the period of their alleged decline, and there is no evidence for a concomitant rise in the prevalence of latifundia. Smallholdings and villas existed side-by-side; the latter did not wipe out the former. I grant that T Gracchus claims that the latifundia wiped out the small estates based on his one foray through Italy, but it's impossible for him to discern a trend from only one data point--an infinity of trends are consistent with only one data point: as far as he knows, the latifundia he witnessed in Italy had DECLINED from where they had been at an earlier time, OR (more likely) the latifundia did not increase or decrease but the countryside instead became overpopulated by the progeny of soldiers returning from war and breeding like little bunnies.

 

Second, a large influx of slaves from foreign wars only means a permanent change in the labor pool if the slaves manage to survive. That, however, is a big if. The average lifespan of slaves on the farms was very short--only about two working years by one estimate I read. Thus, even if the Romans had imported a large number of slaves, they wouldn't have been accumulating quickly enough to support a permanent replacement force. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence of slaves working beside free men throughout the period in which the slaves are supposed to be replacing the free labor workforce. There, again, is evidence against the notion that the countryside was being deprived of free labor.

 

Finally, recall that immediately after the Punic Wars, there was legislation afoot requiring men to marry to replace all the dead from the wars--if anything, there was initially an insufficient number of workers, not a surplus of unemployed. Looking ahead to the time of Marius, the roles of the proletarii (who weren't even unemployed, just poor) only amounted to about 10% of Rome's population, which again isn't consistent with the notion of teeming hordes of the unemployed hanging around Rome due to their latifundia-caused life of landless restlessness.

 

I realize that a case can be made for your point of view from some of our written sources, but the physical evidence that exists is also consistent with another point of view that exists in the testimonia. When the physical evidence favors one set of claims in the written literature over another, I think that's the one that we should go with--don't you?

 

Again, for detailed empirical support on these matters, see Rome at War: Farms, Family, and Death by Nathan Rosenstein.

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Ah yes, the slave minimization theories. Cato I have some points in defense of Wot's ideas, which for the most part I do believe played a role in the Republic's corruption, maybe you can clarify your ideas on them.

 

First, the archaeological evidence for small farms is quite robust during the period of their alleged decline, and there is no evidence for a concomitant rise in the prevalence of latifundia.

 

I've heard of this mentioned before, but archaeology is a clumsy tool sometimes. So archaeology tells us that there were many huts and remains of various artifacts throughout Italia. (If you could explain in more detail how archaeologists claim this I would appreciate it). The thing with latifundia is they were big tracts of land. Latifundia do not leave as many archaeological remains necessarily as do the small holdings and huts of numerous farmers. So isn't it possible that there were actually large latifundia monopolizing the land, where the number of huts and small steads as you say, remained at the same number? Is it proved that these small homesteads were not populated by slaves by a landlord who did not want to construct convenient large housing structures for later archaeologists to find? How could Gracchus hope to claim something in front of the senate and people that was blatantly not true and expect to be believed? If there were so many landholders, why did Marius find it necessary to open the legionary ranks to the landless as well?

 

I find this revisionist take on the land issue intriguing, and I don't pretend to say it absolutely is not true, but as with all revisionist theories I am compelled to ask many questions. You see scholars needing tenure have sometimes struck out new ideas simply for the sake of striking out new ideas you know. :unsure:

 

The average lifespan of slaves on the farms was very short--only about two working years by one estimate I read.

 

If there were so few slaves, why is it then that Sparticus was able to collect tens of thousands of slaves to his cause? If slaves died out so easily why then was the slave trade so lucrative? Why would anyone bother to buy a slave in the first place if they were such a transient purchase? Cato the Elder's work on estates proves to us that the Romans were no fools on the running of their estates, so mistreating property so as they die out in a few years time seems highly unlikely to me.

 

Finally, recall that immediately after the Punic Wars, there was legislation afoot requiring men to marry to replace all the dead from the wars--if anything, there was initially an insufficient number of workers, not a surplus of unemployed.

 

Quite true, but we only hear about the land issue raised in Gracchus' time, many generations after the losses of the Second Punic War, so I am not sure if this has any bearing on the problem at hand.

 

I get much of my ideas and support from The Roman Empire: Economy, Society and Culture by Peter Garnsey & Richard Saller

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I grant that T Gracchus claims that the latifundia wiped out the small estates based on his one foray through Italy, but it's impossible for him to discern a trend from only one data point--an infinity of trends are consistent with only one data point: as far as he knows, the latifundia he witnessed in Italy had DECLINED from where they had been at an earlier time, OR (more likely) the latifundia did not increase or decrease but the countryside instead became overpopulated by the progeny of soldiers returning from war and breeding like little bunnies.

 

But surely, the fact that Tiberius Gracchus roused so much support based on his claim indicates that the effects of latifundia were not as insular as you make out. Even if you claim that latifundia did not directly affect the lives of the rural poor, their sheer presence was enough to cause discontent among the poor: they were an indication of just how much wealth was accumulated by the nobility (which by no means trickled down to the lower classes) as a result of Rome's expansion

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Besides, it was still latifundia (a concept that arose due to the expansion of Rome) that, directly or not, caused this rural to urban migration.

 

But that's the premise that I think needs to be questioned very strongly. The discontent that Gracchus cites is testimony to the problem of too little land for so many people. This real problem could have been caused either by a reduction of available farm land with a constant population or a constant supply of available farm land for an increasing population.

 

The widespread evidence of smallholdings from this period with a constant number of the type of villas and large-scale farming goods you would find on latifundia supports the latter hypothesis. Still further support comes from studies of demographics which find population booms following the cessation of war, and the fact that the Gracchan agitation occurred precisely when the Punic baby-boomers would have been coming of age and demanding a place in the world is still further support for the hypothesis.

 

In my opinion, the holders of latifundia were being scapegoated in exactly the same way that the cossacks were scapegoated for Stalin's land-distribution scheme and the way the white farmers of Zimbabwe were scapegoated for Mugabe's land-distribution scheme. The only way to justify these three land redistributions was to claim that the initial landholdings were unfair (whether they were in actuality or not), and that's exactly the political game that the Gracchi played (whether by an honestly mistaken reading of the situation in the countryside or by a cynical political calculus--it isn't clear).

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and the fact that the Gracchan agitation occurred precisely when the Punic baby-boomers would have been coming of age and demanding a place in the world is still further support for the hypothesis.

 

The Second Punic war ended in 200 BC, Tiberius Gracchus was born in 163 BC. That's about three or more generations of Romans, seeing as how they married quite younger than 20 years of age very often, especially in the rural areas.

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and the fact that the Gracchan agitation occurred precisely when the Punic baby-boomers would have been coming of age and demanding a place in the world is still further support for the hypothesis.

The Second Punic war ended in 200 BC, Tiberius Gracchus was born in 163 BC. That's about three or more generations of Romans, seeing as how they married quite younger than 20 years of age very often, especially in the rural areas.

"Punic baby-boomers" is simply a short hand for the concept representing all the babies born of the generations involved in the Punic Wars (all three). Even the modern term "baby-boomer" doesn't correspond only to those born in 1946, but to a range of years.

Edited by M. Porcius Cato

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