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Numa Pompilius

Would Rome have survived under a republic?

Would Rome have survived under a republic?  

26 members have voted

  1. 1. Would Rome have survived under a republic?

    • yes
      11
    • no
      15


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Does any one here think that if Rome never had an emperor it would have lasted longer?

Edited by Numa Pompilius

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I voted no, at least no under the system they had

 

as I see it, had reformers such as Tiberius Graccus had been listened to (yes I'm assuming that the Gracchi had pure motives) at an earlier date. The Republic could have been spared its ultimate fall. However it proved that tradition was soo central that any reform constituted an attack on the state. So of course less honorable characters such as Cataline, Marius, Clodius, and Caesar came to the front. These who were prepared to break laws to get their power

 

sadly the noble senators didnt see the futility in ruling against the will of the people

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I voted no because the republic was untenable. Most of the voting power was in the hands of the richest citizens so it was a top heavy system. Anything top heavy is bound to tip over. Men like Caesar and Marius had to break laws because the system was flawed and no one wanted to change it. Caesar saw what happened when the Gracci tried to work within the system. Instead of being slaughtered at the hands of the Optimates, the so called "best" men, he brought a Legion with him. Some people blame Caesar for the civil war. If Caesar had returned to Rome without his Legions then he would have met the same fate as befell all previous reformers. Instead, he faced violence with violence.

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If the Republic had a similar provincial administration to the one installed by Augustus, maybe.

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The original question is whether the Roman system could have lasted longer had an emperor not been installed. Meeting that simple criterion leaves open any number of alternative, non-imperial systems, including ones that would have been more inclusive (though whether that would have actually helped is open to debate). As stated, the question is really whether the imperial system was the perfect system--or whether a system that had no emperor could have worked better.

 

Are the No-voters really arguing that an imperial system is the BEST POSSIBLE system? And--if you have criticisms of the system prior to the republic--how does having an emperor improve anything?

 

If "anything top-heavy is bound to tip over" (an arbitrary and ill-defined premise, but let's go with it), wouldn't that make an imperial system even MORE likely to "tip over"? What could be more "top-heavy" than the imperial system? Or--to speak in English rather than metaphors--if an oligarchy is unstable, how is a monarchy more stable? (Not that I grant that the republic was an oligarchy--that's just populist rubbish.)

 

Also, CiceroD--You speak of the Gracchi as if opposition to their plans were based only on tradition, and then you infer that all reforms were interpreted as an attack on the state. You do realize that there was continuous reform of the system from the founding of the republic right up to Caesar's putsch, don't you? Just consider the reforms since the Twelve Tables, when a hereditary class (patricians) held a monopoly on power and refused to allow even intermarriage with the plebs. Since that time, the marriage laws were overturned, all the magistracies on the cursus honorum were opened to the plebs (while the plebs kept certain offices closed to the patricians), all the religious colleges were opened to the plebs, the leading citizens of Rome were soon dominated by plebs (the so-called 'noble plebs'), and the one purely plebeian office had full veto power and sacrosanctity. Now if that isn't reform, what is???

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Whichever form of government existed... whether it was the Republic, Principate, Dominate, etc., I don't believe that the social, religious, economic and military conditions of the 3rd through 5th centuries could've been avoided entirely. Additionally, the movement of eastern and Germanic tribes still would've had a similar impact. Clearly, not every event or condition would've followed the same historical path, but I believe that these paths would've had enough similarities as to effect the same final result.

 

Might a more stable government void of lengthy periods of civil war (especially in the 3rd and early 4th centuries) have impacted these conditions? Might a philosophic change in numerous policies (notably expansion) have impacted these conditions? Of course, but we can't be certain that a change in the system of government alone could've insured stability, economic prosperity, social and religious traditionalism, military viability, etc.

 

Essentially my non-committal answer is... I don't know, but anything could've been possible.

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Whichever form of government existed... whether it was the Republic, Principate, Dominate, etc., I don't believe that the social, religious, economic and military conditions of the 3rd through 5th centuries could've been avoided entirely.

Let me make sure I understand your argument. You're saying that even if Rome had managed to avoid civil war and had adopted the reforms of provincial administration initiated by Augustus, Roman society would still have faced the challenge of Christianity, the economic consequences of its "bread and circuses" policy, and a massive migration by Germanic tribes.

 

Sounds right to me, but if the previous history of the republic is to be our guide, I don't see why Rome couldn't have successfully overcome these challenges. The republic had defeated the Cimbri and Teutones before, so why shouldn't they have successfully resisted the next wave of Germanic 'migrants'?

 

Its also certainly true that the free bread and entertainment in Rome had the effect of sucking off productive farm labor from the countryside, and the rise of monasticism had the effect of draining capital from productive enterprises into completely non-productive ones, but each of these problems could have been dealt with as they had during the republic. First, the underemployed in Rome normally jumped at the opportunity to settle in new colonies (such as those proposed by Gracchus), which was the traditional mechanism for restoring equilibrium to the labor market (e.g., among the Greeks). Second, the state support of the pagan religions wasn't cost free either, and as long as the state support of religion was made a zero-sum game, the negative economic consequences of Christianity could have been contained.

 

But I agree that Rome would have had major challenges ahead of it even had the republic been preserved.

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I think the key would've been limiting expansion. However, the counter to this simplification is that the economic boom that expansion provided would have also been limited. Once the empire reached its greatest extant, the economic crises seem to become much more prevalent. Could a government that allowed for political debate and factional rivalries have maintained a better grasp on economic control (or been better prepared for various crises) as opposed to an economy subject to the whims of imperial edict?

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My "no" vote requires some explantaions. First, I believe that an emperor was a bad idea. As much as I disagree with Diocletian on moral grounds, his idea of a non-hereditary tetrarchy seems to have been the best plan. I don't think that the Empire being a monarchy is what killed it, I think that having the Empire led by a man chosen for his birth rather than his qualities is what killed it. After Caesar, Augustus and maybe even Tiberius and Claudius ran the Empire well, but Caligula and Nero were pretty worthless leaders. The Five Good Emperors were all chosen for their qualifications and then adopted by the previous Emperor. All of them were, as their title suggests, good Emperors. Diocletian's plan of having Emperors chosen by the former Emperor and then trained on the job was the best sucession plan. As much as I agree with Constantine I on moral grounds, I think that using a merit-based sucession system would have been better than another civil war.

 

My beef with the republic is not so much with how it was run, but who ran it. Cato brings up a good point in pointing out how the plebs were represented by their Tribunes. The problem was, Tribunes like the Gracci who worked from within the system were assassinated and the only Tribunes that didn't face casual assassination were ones like Milo and Clodius, and we all know how wonderful they worked out. It got to the point that only rotten gang leaders or loyal flunkies could be safe as tribunes. The optimates would probably pushed the Republic into another civil war sooner or later if Caesar had not ended the civil wars. After he won in Spain there were no more civil wars until 69 A.D., IIRC.

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The optimates would probably pushed the Republic into another civil war sooner or later if Caesar had not ended the civil wars. After he won in Spain there were no more civil wars until 69 A.D., IIRC.

 

I'm sure Cato will contend with you on some of your points, but I will respectfully point out that Caesar's civil war hardly ended them, but led to a struggle for power that lasted over a decade. It was after the wars between Octavian, Brutus, Cassius, Sextus Pompey, Lepidus, Antony and Cleopatra, that there was civil peace until AD 69 (though there were revolts that were suppressed).

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The problem was, Tribunes like the Gracci who worked from within the system were assassinated and the only Tribunes that didn't face casual assassination were ones like Milo and Clodius, and we all know how wonderful they worked out. It got to the point that only rotten gang leaders or loyal flunkies could be safe as tribunes.

You're exaggerating the dangers to the tribunes immensely. Between 133 BC and 44 BC, around 890 tribunes served the republic and fewer than 5 were assassinated. That's a survival rate of about 99.5%. In contrast, around 50% of emperors were deposed violently, either due to murder, suicide, or civil war. So, being a tribune during the republic was roughly ONE HUNDRED TIMES safer than being an emperor. IMO, that's a pretty immense discrepancy to gloss over.

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Are the No-voters really arguing that an imperial system is the BEST POSSIBLE system? And--if you have criticisms of the system prior to the republic--how does having an emperor improve anything?

 

 

Also, CiceroD--You speak of the Gracchi as if opposition to their plans were based only on tradition, and then you infer that all reforms were interpreted as an attack on the state. You do realize that there was continuous reform of the system from the founding of the republic right up to Caesar's putsch, don't you? Just consider the reforms since the Twelve Tables, when a hereditary class (patricians) held a monopoly on power and refused to allow even intermarriage with the plebs. Since that time, the marriage laws were overturned, all the magistracies on the cursus honorum were opened to the plebs (while the plebs kept certain offices closed to the patricians), all the religious colleges were opened to the plebs, the leading citizens of Rome were soon dominated by plebs (the so-called 'noble plebs'), and the one purely plebeian office had full veto power and sacrosanctity. Now if that isn't reform, what is???

 

I, myself (as my namesake) am a true Republican even though I voted no.

Obviously, Emperors are not an ideal political setup. But their Republic was too complex to be efficient when their was a strong political divide. for example everyone could veto everyone else (Im exagerrating).

Yes a Republic is the BEST POSSIBLE system but not their

 

Secondly, I recognise that the opposition was not based entirely on tradition but also upon avarice.

But to my mind there is a difference between social change and true social reform.

of course all societies change and must make new laws to adapt. But true social reform for the benefit of the people, such as FDR's New Deal or the Constitutional Convention is nearly unheard of In Ancient Rome.

The closest that they had (that I know of personally) is the founding of the institution of Tribunes. But the much vaunted plebian secession from the city occured in 493 B.C.E! It was therefore already part of their sacrosanct tradition.

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In contrast, I'd say that the "struggle of the orders" was a period of continual reform for greater openness and inclusiveness and that it did not end until the lex Titia.

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