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Why Did The Roman Republic Fall?

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While I agree with Cato that the Romans largely avoided popular election of generals, I suppose we should add the Lex Gabinia to this.

 

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but didn't the lex Gabinia specifically avoid mentioning any particular general by name? As I understood it, no laws were allowed to name specific citizens.

 

Parenthetically, I always thought this prohibition was another instance of the genius of the Roman constitution, and I'm almost positive the same principle was not applied by the Athenians.

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While I agree with Cato that the Romans largely avoided popular election of generals, I suppose we should add the Lex Gabinia to this.

 

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but didn't the lex Gabinia specifically avoid mentioning any particular general by name? As I understood it, no laws were allowed to name specific citizens.

 

Parenthetically, I always thought this prohibition was another instance of the genius of the Roman constitution, and I'm almost positive the same principle was not applied by the Athenians.

 

Indeed, it was a generic command in concept, though the political opposition was well aware of who the candidate was for that command. Semantics it would seem, but in the strictest terms of interpreting the law itself you are correct that the Romans avoided this practice. Perhaps what might be interesting is whether or not the assemblies were aware of the implied appointment of Pompey through his tribune Gabinius, or if the matter were truly open in their hearts and minds.

 

But I do suppose that I digress from the topic at hand...

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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?

Marius used the Tribunes and Assemblies in such a crass and personal way. Sulla re-instituted the Senates role in government. I am not sure if the Tribunes had not been made into a dominating political force again that things like the lex Gabinia would have come about. Gabinius certainly used his position to weaken and corrupt the Senate I gather. Roman history might have been very different if the Tribunes had remained somewhat emasculated. I have a question too on when and why the Roman practice of not allowing succeeding yourself in office and age restrictions were removed? I guess I see Sulla (in spite of the horror of the terror) as the very antithesis of someone like Caesar.

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I am not sure if the Tribunes had not been made into a dominating political force again that things like the lex Gabinia would have come about.

 

Are you aware that tribunes vetoed the lex Gabinia?

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Welcome Arminius. Look forward to your continued participation.

 

Thank you for the welcome and the insights. I appreciate your response!

 

I was unaware of much of what you said about the Grachi and about the restrictions of the priesthood.

 

 

Democratic choice of commanding generals was a disaster for the Athenians. One of the strengths of the Roman system was that it avoided this disastrous policy--both before Marius and forever after him. Therefore, the choice of Marius over Metellus really wasn't a precedent for anything else.

 

Through the election of consuls, weren't generals often basically elected anyway? My understanding is that Marius was re-elected so many times primarily because of the repeatedly delayed threat of the Cimbri and Teutones. The people kept electing him because they felt he was the man who could protect Rome. They weren't electing him for any other reason, at least until after they were defeated, were they? I do understand that the Senate engaged in some political trickery (and I use that term loosely) after his initial election and that another vote was required to send Marius after Jugurtha, but did this really seem outlandish to Romans at the time? It evidently did not to the voters.

 

 

This is an interesting (and, I think, original) idea. If true, it suggests that Caesar made a colossal miscalculation. The Romans were no more interested in having a king rule them than were the Gauls, and Caesar's clemency (to the Romans, sometimes) led directly to his assassination.

 

In any case, I'm not sure what you're arguing to have caused the fall of the republic.

 

Well Caesar's decision to give clemency to certain Romans seems to have been a miscalculation in any case. I'm not sure I would call it colossal, though. I think Caesar would be fairly satisfied to know that he is still frequently talked about 2,000+ years later and is generally considered one of the greatest (in terms of importance) men of all time, in any culture. Couple that with the fact that we all have to die sometime, and he could have done worse for himself.

 

As for the fall of the republic, I suppose it can be fairly said that it was indeed caused by Caesar, but personally I'm more interested in the factors that allowed him to do what he did. It seems like the stage was set in the time of Sulla and Marius, and that this era of conflict was in turn set up by the actions of the Grachi (justified or not), and my feeling is the republic probably would have fallen even if Caesar had never existed. Of course there is no way of proving that.

 

For whatever reason, it seems a large majority of people became very distrustful of the Senate. Marian reforms had made soldiers beholden to their commanders, allowing those who commanded them to command their almost total loyalty as well. So in hindsight it is no wonder that politically savvy generals would be able to work the people, so to speak, to circumvent the laws and traditions of the republic for their own advantage.

 

I think the million dollar question is what things were the cause of this mistrust between people and Senate, and to what extent those things were real or just perceived. Also, to what extent was the Senate more of an oligarchy than a part of a republican power structure? To what extent were the people cruelly manipulated by people like Marius, Pompey and Caesar, vs. the people getting what they wanted/needed out of those men? I find it difficult to answer those questions, but they seem central to the matter.

 

Edit: I see I will have to work on my quoting skills! I tried to make it somewhat more readable by italicizing things Cato said and eliminating my original quotes altogether. Sorry, I did preview it and thought maybe the quoted parts just didn't look right until the end product. ;)

 

[Edit PP: you were missing a couple of quote tags... added them in]

Edited by Primus Pilus

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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

 

I greatly dislike "Great Man" based histories, I prefer to look at underlying socio-economic and cultural causes. It is my opinion that after the Marian reforms it was a near certainty that a rouge general would end the Republic.

 

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.

 

This is my own view as well, as it is the view of one of my favorite historians, A. J. Toynbee.

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Their Constitution was based on working together, since the tribunes of the plebs could veto anything and only the Assembly passed the laws after the LEx hortensia, if there was ever any legislation that was unfavorable to a group then all the government would need to come to some kind of consensus. The problem was after the 2nd punic war all the individual farmer solider's farms had laid fallow and allowed to be over gornw since they could not return to thier farms as long as Hannibal was roaming about Italy. So alot of the individual farms were bought up by rich men who manned them with slaves, putting thousands of rural poor in the mood to travel to rome and become the thousands of urban poor. This led to a bit of rabble rousing, but it also led for the need for change, Which the romans were always agasint intiallty (at least the upper crust of Roman society). Then you have the gracci brothers and Caesar come in and try to change things. But its not so much what they tired to change as how they tried to change it. They broke traditions and caesar went so far as to call teh republic a dead body. THough it was, he seemed a bit out of it to the Romans. Plus during all these time u have about 100 years of civil war, which shows how the Roman constitution was great for a city state of about 50,000 but not the capital of an empire. So basiaclly the Republic became ineffeicient and the men who tried to change the republic for the good ended up making it destroy it self.

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The problem was after the 2nd punic war all the individual farmer solider's farms had laid fallow and allowed to be over gornw since they could not return to thier farms as long as Hannibal was roaming about Italy. So alot of the individual farms were bought up by rich men who manned them with slaves, putting thousands of rural poor in the mood to travel to rome and become the thousands of urban poor. This led to a bit of rabble rousing, but it also led for the need for change, Which the romans were always agasint intiallty (at least the upper crust of Roman society). Then you have the gracci brothers and Caesar come in and try to change things. But its not so much what they tired to change as how they tried to change it. They broke traditions and caesar went so far as to call teh republic a dead body.

 

Pure mythology. There is absolutely no evidence for a decline in small holdings after the Hannibalic War, nor is there any good reason to expect such a decline. There is no evidence that the urban poor in Rome was predominantly of agrarian origins: in fact there is plenty of evidence that the urban poor was overwhelmingly of servile origins. There is absolutely no evidence for--and actually quite a bit of evidence against--the notion that the "upper crust" disapproved of any changes: in point of fact, the Gracchi had a number of super-wealthy senatorial supporters. Finally, putting the Gracchi and Caesar in the same category is without any merit whatever. Julius Caesar was a patrician thug, and his legislative agenda prior to his dictatorship was largely confined to supporting his political seniors, Crassus and Pompey: there was no populist element to it. Also, if you're not fabricating Roman history solely from out of thin air, find where Caesar called the republic a "dead body." I suspect that this little tidbit, like all the others, is pure fantasy.

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Did the Roman Republic fall in the first place, was it just superseded. My answer to the 'fall' would be that the republic was limited by the senate, then pressured by Marius before Caesar trully realised the senate held Rome/him back.

 

The turmoil in the second century proved Rome to be the super-nation and that the senate arguing amongst itself was the only limiting factor in total expansion. Cato the elder refuse to support new ideas for one. Carthage was destroyed because the senate were to brash yet Corinth was destroyed to late, it should have been done earlier.

 

Gaius Marius and Sulla were on the verge of eliminating the republic with their own personal civil war, it proved that the senate sparked arguments larger than it could handle and that the rules could be bent for those powerful enough (Marius' constant Consular positions). Two larger than Rome characters who eventually worked out that the senate could be tehirs without the other. The republic did briefly fall at this point when Sulla finally did become dictator. The senate realised that on could rule if they had the money or influence.

 

Caesar was to realise this and had the money, troops and everything to become dictator and no longer have the bickerings of the senate constricting Rome.

 

vtc

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I freely grant that the Senate attempted to hold Caesar back, but hold Rome back?? Rome was ruled by a senate for nearly 500 years, during which time a city on the Tiber became the greatest empire of the ancient world. With that track record of "holding Rome back", Caesar should have wished that the Senate held him back!

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I freely grant that the Senate attempted to hold Caesar back, but hold Rome back?? Rome was ruled by a senate for nearly 500 years, during which time a city on the Tiber became the greatest empire of the ancient world. With that track record of "holding Rome back", Caesar should have wished that the Senate held him back!

 

Indeed, my mind ran away with my thoughts. Sometimes though, i wish i made a point without a flaw :)

Now when I look at the facts i don't know what i was on about. Although i still stress that the senate made boundaries for Rome that an imperator/emperor does not have.

 

vtc

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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

 

I greatly dislike "Great Man" based histories, I prefer to look at underlying socio-economic and cultural causes. It is my opinion that after the Marian reforms it was a near certainty that a rouge general would end the Republic.

 

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.

 

This is my own view as well, as it is the view of one of my favorite historians, A. J. Toynbee.

 

I think that you've articulated my own understanding of the death of the Republic. In the modern era, Thomas Jefferson said that you cannot maintain a republic and an empire at the same time. These are contradictory forms of power. The citizens of a republic end up, one way or another, by paying for the costs of empire.

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