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Why Did The Roman Republic Fall?

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the Punic and Macedonian Wars created an environment and the opportunity to make the later transgressions possible.

Exactly, my use of the word 'inspiration' was a benign way of summerizing the above... :thumbsup:

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I guess you could argue that Rome's success in defeating Carthage sent Rome on an expansionist binge that was bound to be destabilizing. The only problem with that theory is that it doesn't explain why the previous 100+ years of successful expansionism wasn't similarly destabilizing, similarly 'inspiring' to would be dictators, and similarly fertile for the creation of private armies, etc. No, I just don't think this explanation works.

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No, I just don't think this explanation works.

I still think it has some merit. The scope of social and commercial resources attained in the later helped push them to a critical mass per se.

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But how does one determine a priori what a "critical mass" is? If I said, "No, the critical mass occurred 100 years earlier and no private armies developed," what would you say? You might say, "No, the critical mass didn't occur earlier because there were no private armies earlier," but clearly that would be a circular argument. So if the "critical mass" argument is going to save the idea that the Hannibalic War led to the downfall of the republic, we need a more precise definition of "critical mass".

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But how does one determine a priori what a "critical mass" is? If I said, "No, the critical mass occurred 100 years earlier and no private armies developed," what would you say? You might say, "No, the critical mass didn't occur earlier because there were no private armies earlier," but clearly that would be a circular argument. So if the "critical mass" argument is going to save the idea that the Hannibalic War led to the downfall of the republic, we need a more precise definition of "critical mass".

 

Just for the record, I disagree with the notion that the Second Punic War led directly to the downfall of the Republic (and I think Pan is thinking along the same lines). I was only suggesting how the results of that war allowed broader opportunities for later constitutional and legal transgressions. I've said in other places I still believe it is the fault of individuals despite whatever temptations or precedents they may have faced.

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Just for the record, I disagree with the notion that the Second Punic War led directly to the downfall of the Republic (and I think Pan is thinking along the same lines). I was only suggesting how the results of that war allowed broader opportunities for later constitutional and legal transgressions. I've said in other places I still believe it is the fault of individuals despite whatever temptations or precedents they may have faced.

Yep, if we go back the beginning of this offshoot of the discussion, we all (P-P, myself and Cato) started with a basic suspicion in regards to the events of the Late 3rd Century BC being viewed as a direct contributor to the fall.

 

From there, I was only playing devil's advocate to help flesh out any reasoning for supporting that assertion, no matter how tenuous.

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Indeed the debate is long , some 2050 years old .

 

"Many Romans themselves put the key turning point in 133 BC. ...Gracchus proposed to distribute to poor citizens stretches of state-owned land in Italy which had been illegally occupied by the rich. But instead of following the usual practice of first consulting the 'senate' ...he presented his proposal directly to an assembly of the people...In the process, he deposed from office another tribune who opposed the distribution...Gracchus's land bill was passed. But when he tried to stand for election for another year's term as tribune (a radical step - as one of the republican principles was that each office should be held for one year only), he was murdered by a posse of senators.

 

"Gracchus's motivation is much less clear. Some modern historians have seen him as a genuine social reformer, responding to the distress of the poor. Others have argued that he was cynically exploiting social concerns to gain power for himself.

 

"Whatever his motives were, his career crystallised many of the main issues that were to underlie the revolutionary politics of the next hundred years.The consequences of Rome's growing empire were crucial. Many of the poor had fallen into poverty after serving for long periods with armies overseas - and returning to Italy to find their farmland taken over by wealthier neighbours.

 

"How were the needs of such soldiers to be met? Who in Rome was to profit from its empire, which already stretched from Spain to the other end of the Mediterranean? Tiberius's decision to use the revenues of Asia for his land distribution was a provocative claim - that the poor as well as the rich should enjoy the fruits of Rome's conquests.

 

"But Tiberius's desire to stand for a second tribunate also raised questions of personal political dominance. The state had few mechanisms to control men who wanted to break out of the carefully regulated system of 'power sharing' that characterised traditional Republican politics.

 

Mary Beard

(Reader in Classics at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Newnham College)

2006-09-11

 

 

So "simple" , so "traditional", yet so true , up to date and more important , the standard point of view of one of the most prestigious schools on earth .

 

P.s. - I welcome any other view :thumbsup:

Edited by Caesar CXXXVII

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While what Gracchus did was not strictly illegal (since there was no written constitution), it was just not done that way before. Tradition was broken and the way government worked was broken also.When Marius used the same tactic later it led to the first Civil War. Sulla's reforms were meant to make sure there would (and could) never be another Marius OR Sulla. They were gradually dismantled. With the Sulla reforms in place,would Caesar have been able to get as far as he did? Sulla was a living memory to most of these actors. With a codified government of checks and balances maybe the other problems could have been worked out. I blame Marius :angry:

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Sulla needed land for his 120.000 veterans (and indeed provided all of them with land), Pompey needed land for his soldiers, and Caesar was no excpetion to this. A soldiers loyalty to his general was, in he late republic, unmistakenly linked to the generals capability to provide pension (land) and wages. All this was a direct consequence of economic and social changes that happened after the second punic war.

 

But the last sentence is the issue under dispute, specifically whether the Hannibalic war necessitated the creation of private armies.

 

If Sulla, Pompey, and Caesar had not provided land to their veterans, their veterans would still have left service far richer than they had entered it. These soldiers had been paid for their service; they were given leave to rape and pillage the provinces at their leisure; and their commanders grew monstrously rich from their campaigns. So, there's no point in pretending that the soldiers would have faced starvation upon leaving the service. Moreover, in every case, the commanders you mentioned could have patiently attempted to purchase land out of their own purse for their soldiers. But they didn't. They relied on confiscation, proscription, and civil war to evacuate speedily those Roman lands they wished to disburse to their veterans. In short, Sulla, Pompey, and Caesar came to view Roman property holders in the same way that they learned to view non-Roman property holders--as de-humanized fodder for their own ambition. Sulla, Pompey, and Caesar weren't frustrated social workers--they were thugs who were accustomed to taking what they wanted, rights be damned.

 

What is the relevance of the Hannibalic war to these affairs? The connection seems very slight to me. If I'm misunderstanding you, please let me know.

 

The soldiers may have been far richer when exiting service, but they still had to eat and drink ten or twenty years ahead. Ager publicus was not something that you could purchase (not with a soldiers salary anyway) - it was lent to you by the republic and the republic in return demanded a small yearly fee.

 

The triumvires relied on proscription and confiscation because there was no land to buy - most of the ager publicus was already on the hands of the allies of Rome. This is exactly why Pompey, through Caesar, had the tribunate propose a landlaw in Pompeys favor.

 

The relevance of the second punic war to these affais? Well, I never wrote that the pillaging of Hannibal necessitated the fall of the republic - only that it catalysed the process. A great portion of the italic farmland had been destroyed and cremated by Hannibals soldiers, and returning from the final battle the roman/italian peasant only saw scorged earth. At the same time the price for grain had dropped quite a deal due to increasing competition from abroad - most respectively Egypt. With no other alternatives (as I wrote before: olives and caddle was expensive and needed starting capital due to the long wait for revenues) and in conjunction with the still richer aristocracy - who needed something to invest their capital in, since there was a law forbidding senators from taking up commerce - the roman and italian peasant had a natural strong urge to sell to the highest bidder. This was the beginning of the landless soldier and the proletarii.

I'm not claiming that the landless soldier wouldn't have come to be without the second ounic war, but that war certainly did not make things better.

Edited by fonss

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Sulla's reforms were meant to make sure there would (and could) never be another Marius OR Sulla. They were gradually dismantled. With the Sulla reforms in place,would Caesar have been able to get as far as he did?

 

Which of Sulla's reforms do you think hindered Caesar's coup d'etat? The evisceration of tribunician power? Tribunes were typically a reliable check on Caesar's power-plays, so much so that Caesar typically resorted to force against the tribunes.

 

I'll happily concede for argument's sake that Sulla wanted to prevent another one like him, but which of his reforms actually could have stopped someone like Pompey or Caesar?

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While what Gracchus did was not strictly illegal (since there was no written constitution), it was just not done that way before. Tradition was broken and the way government worked was broken also.When Marius used the same tactic later it led to the first Civil War. Sulla's reforms were meant to make sure there would (and could) never be another Marius OR Sulla. They were gradually dismantled. With the Sulla reforms in place,would Caesar have been able to get as far as he did? Sulla was a living memory to most of these actors. With a codified government of checks and balances maybe the other problems could have been worked out. I blame Marius :)

 

This is a fascinating forum and I think this is a particularly fascinating time period being discussed here. And in case that first sentence doesn't give it away, this is my first post on this forum.

 

My understanding through reading many of Plutarch's biographies is that it was well-established that the Popular Assembly could enact laws, even if it hadn

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Welcome Arminius. Look forward to your continued participation.

 

My understanding through reading many of Plutarch's biographies is that it was well-established that the Popular Assembly could enact laws, even if it hadn

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But the last sentence is the issue under dispute, specifically whether the Hannibalic war necessitated the creation of private armies.

 

Is it possible that a general decline in the number of Roman soldiers as a result of and after the Punic Wars was the link to the creation of private armies? As you all know, before, during and after the Punic Wars, the only men allowed in Rome's legions were those who met the land ownership qualifications in Italy, and were thus able to provide for themselves. Perhaps the Punic Wars caused a slump in the numbers of those who met the qualifications through defeats, which in turn limited the manpower Rome had it's disposal, and when coupled with Rome's outward expansion, put a strain on Rome's available manpower.

 

We thus come to the disasters of Marius' time; a series of defeats; notably, Arausio, where upwards of 80 000 Roman soldiers were lost against the Cimbri and Teutones. I would say that by this time, Italy would have been pretty much squeezed dry of soldiers who met the property qualifications. Rome is thus facing a crisis as to where to get men that meet the qualifications. Hence, Marius' reforms come forward. Urban citizens, without the property qualifications, were given incentives to form new legions, were equipped with gear at the expense of the state, or more commonly, at the expense of their general. This is where we reach the point. From here on, the precedent is set for generals to set up and equip armies out of their own pockets, which, naturally, would cause the army in question to feel more loyalty to their general then the state. From there on, it's history :)

 

What do you think? It is but a speculative argument, but i think it's possible...

Edited by Tobias

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In any event it could hardly have been a surprise when this method was used again later to give Marius command of the army, thereby relieving Metellus of his command. It's notable, I think, that Metellus simply stepped aside when this happened. Sulla of course did not, but it

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