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

Guest Matteus

Why Did The Roman Republic Fall?

Recommended Posts

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 somehow find it difficult to believe that a single person could have toppled the long lasting institution called republic, if the circumstances weren`t right. If you take Julius out of the equation (agreeing that he played a major role) who else played a prominent role, why was the so called republicans so weak to not defend the republic, why was the people of rome not hesitant to defend the long tradition, and why after all, did after Caesar die the republic not return?

 

cheers

viggen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you take Julius out of the equation (agreeing that he played a major role) who else played a prominent role, why was the so called republicans so weak to not defend the republic, why was the people of rome not hesitant to defend the long tradition, and why after all, did after Caesar die the republic not return?

 

Given that it takes at least two sides to fight a civil war, quite obviously there were many who DID defend the republic--not only against Caesar but also against Octavian and Antony. Do you not recall the forces assembled at Pharsalus? Or Utica? Did you forget that the combatants at Phillipi involved more Roman forces than had ever met on a field of battle? To claim that no one defended the republic--I don't even know what to say.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you take Julius out of the equation (agreeing that he played a major role) who else played a prominent role, why was the so called republicans so weak to not defend the republic, why was the people of rome not hesitant to defend the long tradition, and why after all, did after Caesar die the republic not return?

 

Given that it takes at least two sides to fight a civil war, quite obviously there were many who DID defend the republic--not only against Caesar but also against Octavian and Antony. Do you not recall the forces assembled at Pharsalus? Or Utica? Did you forget that the combatants at Phillipi involved more Roman forces than had ever met on a field of battle? To claim that no one defended the republic--I don't even know what to say.

 

Thanks, slowly we getting there...

 

We have now established that Caesar played a major role and that there were two factions, now on to the third issue, what about the people of Rome? Did they care? Did the majority of ordinary people maybe consider the senatorial class corrupt and favoring their own interest rather then that of the "so called" simple man? Was Caesar simply "cooler" in the eyes of the soldiers/ordinary man and the "Optimates" considered by many a thing from the past, because those so called defender of the republic long ago moved away from the original ideals and were anyway just a simple oligarchy ?

 

cheers

viggen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you take Julius out of the equation (agreeing that he played a major role) who else played a prominent role, why was the so called republicans so weak to not defend the republic, why was the people of rome not hesitant to defend the long tradition, and why after all, did after Caesar die the republic not return?

 

Given that it takes at least two sides to fight a civil war, quite obviously there were many who DID defend the republic--not only against Caesar but also against Octavian and Antony. Do you not recall the forces assembled at Pharsalus? Or Utica? Did you forget that the combatants at Phillipi involved more Roman forces than had ever met on a field of battle? To claim that no one defended the republic--I don't even know what to say.

 

It is obvious that in a civil war you must have at least two sides, so there can be no question of people fighting. Rather. one should ask whether or not the people who were "fighting for the Republic" were fighting to defend tradition and just government, or fighting to assure that their position atop the pyramid would remain, allowing them to continue to exploit the system as they had in the past. (Although one could argue that it need not simply be reduced to one or the other)

 

It should be noted, Viggen, that a single person did not topple the Republic. Even with circumstances as they had been developing, one must remember Caesar had an army with him, and iron can be made useful tool in legislation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
iron can be made useful tool in legislation.

 

Very true. The senate had Pompey 'The Executioner" as it's champion, which makes me wonder if it would be more correct to make it a matter of a civil war between two generals as was Marius vs. Sulla, rather than a romantic defense of the Republic. I suppose for some it was a romantic defense, but without the bulwork of the greater names, might not have happened at all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think the analogy between Marius/Sulla and Pompey/Caesar is entirely apt. Pompey, unlike Marius, was not butchering his political opponents in the streets of Rome.

 

We have now established that Caesar played a major role and that there were two factions, now on to the third issue, what about the people of Rome? Did they care? Did the majority of ordinary people maybe consider the senatorial class corrupt and favoring their own interest rather then that of the "so called" simple man? Was Caesar simply "cooler" in the eyes of the soldiers/ordinary man and the "Optimates" considered by many a thing from the past, because those so called defender of the republic long ago moved away from the original ideals and were anyway just a simple oligarchy ?

 

Had free and fair elections been held we might know the answer to this question, but insofar as people voted with their feet, the length and duration of the civil war is the best proxy we have. Based on this, a large number of both ordinary and extraordinary people favored both sides in the struggles to come.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't think the analogy between Marius/Sulla and Pompey/Caesar is entirely apt. Pompey, unlike Marius, was not butchering his political opponents in the streets of Rome.

 

The second time around, or the first? Pompey earned himself the nickname 'the executioner' under Sulla for doing his dirty work. Considering the uncompromising attitude of his camp when they battled against Caesar (even neutrals were considered enemies), I think it reasonable to assume the same would have occurred if they won. Sadly this fact sours the perception of their stand against Caesar as being something noble, when in fact clemency during this age was so rare as to be an unparalleled mark of nobility.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The second time around, or the first? Pompey earned himself the nickname 'the executioner' under Sulla for doing his dirty work.

"Teenage butcher" as I recall. Though he hadn't butchered a million yet--that was Caesar.

 

Considering the uncompromising attitude of his camp when they battled against Caesar (even neutrals were considered enemies), I think it reasonable to assume the same would have occurred if they won. Sadly this fact sours the perception of their stand against Caesar as being something noble, when in fact clemency during this age was so rare as to be an unparalleled mark of nobility.

 

Assumption...fact--which is it? Frankly, I don't see an "uncompromising attitude" as a threat of physical force--the "uncompromising attitude" was rhetoric as usual, and in fact, the senate voted overwhelmingly for Curio's proposal for compromise. With no army behind them, the 22 remaining senators who voted against Curio's proposal hardly constituted a Marian-level threat. We've been over this before, and now we're just repeating ourselves.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"Teenage butcher" as I recall. Though he hadn't butchered a million yet--that was Caesar.

 

We are speaking in facts yes? It is a fact that Pompey killed in his lifetime up to the civil war many more Romans than Caesar. By it's end, they were probably equal, but if Caesar could have achieved his aims without killing any Roman he would have done so as clearly exemplified by his record. The Sullan/Marian revolutionaries saw murder of opponents as a viable political solution. Pompey was one of them, and probably his own willingness to do so was reflected in his paranoia of assassination, just as Caesar's inherent clemency can be seen reflected in his lack of precaution that led to his death.

 

Frankly, I don't see an "uncompromising attitude" as a threat of physical force--the "uncompromising attitude" was rhetoric as usual, and in fact, the senate voted overwhelmingly for Curio's proposal for compromise.

 

I imagine that most of these people stayed in Rome or Italia and did not take sides, the same people who the Pompey camp considered to be an enemy of the Republic for not joining them, the same camp led by the Butcher, Executioner, whatever they liked to call him. :(

 

With no army behind them, the 22 remaining senators who voted against Curio's proposal hardly constituted a Marian-level threat. We've been over this before, and now we're just repeating ourselves.

 

I don't think we are repeating much, we're getting into what was behind the minds of the Pompey camp, which was composed of many of the leading men in the senate who had considerable influence, but the majority of the senate did not want things to come to this as exemplified by their votes.

 

All of this leads to the concept that the Pompey camp was not such a noble cause for the republic in my opinion (that was mostly a brag to garner support), but more of a contest between Pompey, some stubborn and poor politicians who needed his protection, and Caesar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
By it's end, they were probably equal, but if Caesar could have achieved his aims without killing any Roman he would have done so as clearly exemplified by his record. The Sullan/Marian revolutionaries saw murder of opponents as a viable political solution.

 

And so you postulate that, even if Sulla and Pompey had met no resistance in Italy, they still would have proscripted so many? I doubt that highly, and you're applying a varnish to Caesar's political tool of clemency that was not there at all times.

 

Caesar's hard-won war in Spain led him to execute 5,000 captured Roman soldiers after the battle of Munda, and kill Gnaeus Pompey and Labienus. Would Caesar have been so forgiving after a long, slogging campaign down the Italian peninsula, as surely would have occurred had Pompey mustered the forces he intended to in time? Again, highly doubtful. It's also probable that, given such a firm resistance in Italy proper, Caesar would have dropped all pretenses and lashed out against his political opponents - just as Sulla did.

 

I imagine that most of these people stayed in Rome or Italia and did not take sides, the same people who the Pompey camp considered to be an enemy of the Republic for not joining them, the same camp led by the Butcher, Executioner, whatever they liked to call him.

 

The extent of those who stayed behind is greatly exaggerated. Almost all of the Senate and the Ordo Equester left with Pompey - there were so few Senators left that Caesar could barely muster a rump to hear his justifications when he reached Rome.

 

And Pompey's nickname during the 1st Civil War was adulescens carnifex - teenage butcher. A nickname earned for stupendously outrageous acts during Sulla's reign. So, we have a "teenage butcher" with the backing of the legitimate government of the People of the Imperium Romanorum, and a middle-aged butcher who, having drenched his sword with blood in Gaul, decided that he'd rather drench it in Italian blood than lay it down.

 

I don't think we are repeating much, we're getting into what was behind the minds of the Pompey camp, which was composed of many of the leading men in the senate who had considerable influence, but the majority of the senate did not want things to come to this as exemplified by their votes.

 

Of course they didn't want a civil war - but when it came down to it, they had no choice. Caesar alone had the power to disband his legions, lay down his imperium, and answer for his crimes. It was his refusal to do so that prompted the Civil War, not any speech of Cato or Cicero's.

 

All of this leads to the concept that the Pompey camp was not such a noble cause for the republic in my opinion (that was mostly a brag to garner support), but more of a contest between Pompey, some stubborn and poor politicians who needed his protection

 

If by "poor and stubborn politicians", you mean "the legitimate and near entire governing body of the Roman Republic", then you might be somewhere near correct. And if there was a greater general among the Senate to defend the legitimate cause of the Republic than Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, feel free to point him out. I'm having trouble seeing anyone else who had the slightest chance of victory.

 

and Caesar

 

Whose fault the whole mess was in the first place. :(

Edited by L. Quintus Sertorius

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
And so you postulate that, even if Sulla and Pompey had met no resistance in Italy, they still would have proscripted so many?

 

It is hard to say what Sulla would have done had the Marians not started the bloodshed. Perhaps he would not have the lists, but the fact remains that they happened and Pompey was a primary tool in this episode. Pompey was young at the time, and learning. This was his political upbringing.

 

Caesar's hard-won war in Spain led him to execute 5,000 captured Roman soldiers after the battle of Munda, and kill Gnaeus Pompey and Labienus.

 

The difference is Caesar always gave a first chance, even to Gaul tribes...anyone, to drop the matter of their attempting to kill him, and let them live with all their possessions if they simply promised to halt the opposition. If they attacked him a second time he killed them. Obviously releasing someone who will not relent in their opposition would be foolish. Sulla nor Marius ever gave that, and I seriously doubt Pompey would have.

 

The extent of those who stayed behind is greatly exaggerated. Almost all of the Senate and the Ordo Equester left with Pompey

 

The entire equestrian order?! I'll have to ask you for proof of that. From what I remember most folks blended throughout Italia and waited for the war to end, and Caesar had trouble with summoning the senate because most folks were neutral, so they could not join Pompey in Greece nor Caesar in Rome.

 

Of course they didn't want a civil war - but when it came down to it, they had no choice. Caesar alone had the power to disband his legions, lay down his imperium, and answer for his crimes. It was his refusal to do so that prompted the Civil War, not any speech of Cato

 

Actually it was Cato's inflexibility which probably precipitated much of the eventuality of the civil war in the near term. Perhaps we can come down on Caesar as overly prideful and not philosophic enough to see the benefits of maintaining the Republic and going to Rome to put himself at the mercy of men like Cato who would ludicrously hand him over to barbarians. I for one have a hard time blaming him for not relenting in his position to protect himself. It was a matter of dignitas, and in that respect Caesar was as true a Roman as any of them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It is hard to say what Sulla would have done had the Marians not started the bloodshed. Perhaps he would not have the lists, but the fact remains that they happened and Pompey was a primary tool in this episode. Pompey was young at the time, and learning. This was his political upbringing.

 

Which does not neccessarily point to anything on its own, except that standard practice was to kill or not kill based on the advantage it would bring. Would you claim that had Caesar judged it to be in his best intrests to drown the Italian peninsula in blood that he would not have done so?

 

The difference is Caesar always gave a first chance, even to Gaul tribes...anyone, to drop the matter of their attempting to kill him, and let them live with all their possessions if they simply promised to halt the opposition. If they attacked him a second time he killed them. Obviously releasing someone who will not relent in their opposition would be foolish. Sulla nor Marius ever gave that, and I seriously doubt Pompey would have.

 

Other than the fact that he had formerly worked for Sulla, what evidence do you have to suggest Pompey would have started butchering people, with the implicit support of the Senate?

 

Actually it was Cato's inflexibility which probably precipitated much of the eventuality of the civil war in the near term. Perhaps we can come down on Caesar as overly prideful and not philosophic enough to see the benefits of maintaining the Republic and going to Rome to put himself at the mercy of men like Cato who would ludicrously hand him over to barbarians. I for one have a hard time blaming him for not relenting in his position to protect himself. It was a matter of dignitas, and in that respect Caesar was as true a Roman as any of them.

 

And so on the one hand you have the argument that Cato should have laid aside his beliefs and duties and compromised with Caesar, possibly putting him in a position where the threat he posed could later be neutalized legally or otherwise. Or you can recall that Caesar was, legally, in the wrong of the matter, and that there was no reason to compromise other than that seemingly practical point above.

 

As I take a moment to look more carefully at that comparison you made, which puts Caesar in the right while still sharing in some of the blame with the villainous Cato, I am forced to inquire: Why do you think that Caesars actions in defense of his dignitas were more acceptable then Catos actions in defense of the law?

 

Legally, Caesars actions can not be excused, for as has been cited elsewhere, his conduct is full of flagrant violations. And as these illegal acts, up to and past his march on Rome, led directly to the downfall of the Republic, the only viable course of argument in Caesars defense is to ask whether or not his destruction of the old order was to the benefit of Rome (or whether it would have been to Romes benefit had he not be assassainated.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
When the infantry had thus clashed together in the centre and were fighting, Pompey's cavalry rode proudly up from the wing and deployed their squadrons to envelope the enemy's right; and before they could attack, the cohorts ran out from where Caesar was posted, not hurling their javelins, as usual, nor yet stabbing the thighs and legs of their enemies with them, but aiming them at their eyes and wounding their faces. They had been instructed to do this by Caesar, who expected that men little conversant with wars or wounds, but young and noble, and pluming themselves on their youthful beauty, would dread such wounds especially, and would not stand their ground, fearing not only their present danger, but also their future disfigurement. - Plutarch, Life of Caesar

 

When Pompey had thus spoken the whole army, including the senators and a great many of the nobility who were with him, applauded him vociferously and told him to lead them to whatsoever task he would. - Appian II, Dyrhacchium

 

The losses of Italians on each side

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Would you claim that had Caesar judged it to be in his best intrests to drown the Italian peninsula in blood that he would not have done so?

 

Yes I would claim that. Caesar was capable of bloodshed as you say, but only under very particular circumstances. Far more I think he had the opinion that it was better to preserve and build than conquer with steel and blood. He saw it I think a greater victory to win the heart and mind of an opponent, than to force it. In fact he would be willing to accept even setbacks and reversals in the attempt to make something work peacefully, but in the end he was capable also of doing what he had to. It's important not to compare the war in Gaul with the civil war.

 

Other than the fact that he had formerly worked for Sulla, what evidence do you have to suggest Pompey would have started butchering people, with the implicit support of the Senate?

 

Other than that I can think of nothing else at this time, but it's enough for me to imagine what would come if they won the war.

 

And so on the one hand you have the argument that Cato should have laid aside his beliefs and duties and compromised with Caesar, possibly putting him in a position where the threat he posed could later be neutalized legally or otherwise. Or you can recall that Caesar was, legally, in the wrong of the matter, and that there was no reason to compromise other than that seemingly practical point above.

 

As I take a moment to look more carefully at that comparison you made, which puts Caesar in the right while still sharing in some of the blame with the villainous Cato, I am forced to inquire: Why do you think that Caesars actions in defense of his dignitas were more acceptable then Catos actions in defense of the law?

 

Legally, Caesars actions can not be excused, for as has been cited elsewhere, his conduct is full of flagrant violations. And as these illegal acts, up to and past his march on Rome, led directly to the downfall of the Republic, the only viable course of argument in Caesars defense is to ask whether or not his destruction of the old order was to the benefit of Rome (or whether it would have been to Romes benefit had he not be assassainated.)

 

I really don't buy the Caesar illegality arguements. Honestly, the idea is mostly prophaganda of Pompey's camp which they used to garner support. I don't mean to suggest that Caesar's actions are totally free from illegality, nor that someone could not peg him down for something or another, but in this late a day in the Republic, illegality was commonplace, and depending on who you are and the general situation, it could be totally ignored. Just look at Pompey's career, the so called defender of the Republic. The Republic was flexible, and that was a strength. In order to function properly while being an empire rather than a city it sure as Hades had to be flexible, but this last instance of inflexibility of people like Cato and Domitius Ahenobarbus, for reasons selfish or idealistic, was the last time the Republic could bear it. At that point you had to go with the wildly swinging power blocks and hope for the best, because anything more rigid would cause it to crack.

 

 

 

Anyway, you all know my opinion by now. I'd love to see L Quintus Sertorius, M. Porcius Cato and M. Tullius Cicero all have a debate here now between each other; I bet you all have some interesting insights into these times.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some questions:

 

1. Aren't all 'revolts' illegal as regards the then existing government (including the present 'flower' revolts)?

2. "Free and fair" elections - in those days?

3. Was the 'republican' government corrupt or not? (This question must not be obfuscated with a comparison to the subsequent governments.)

4. Was the Senate capable of governing the then existing empire?

 

These questions deserve a 'yes' or 'no' answer.

 

A thought: If the Senate was capable of running the empire, then why did a Caesar (and a Pompey) come to the fore?

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

×