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Caesar's Crimes

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If Caesar lost his imperium and therefore his immunity, the boni were going to charge him with crimes. I can find no record of what these crimes would have been. I know they could have charged treason upon crossing the Rubicon, but I'm looking for other charges. Help?

 

Thank you!

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Hello step and welcome to UNRV.com

 

 

Cato had charged him with war crimes in Germania. (He did attack some tribes in peace time, if this was the reason i am not sure though) If Caesar refused to obey, he would be declared an enemy of the state.

 

I also found

 

"If he lost his command he would be vulnerable to charges brought against him for his high-handed and often illegal actions during his consulship. Gelzer 1968, 119-121

 

hope that helps a bit,

 

cheers

viggen

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Cato the Younger, in particular, wanted to charge Caesar with starting an illegal and unnecessary war against the Gauls without senatorial approval. The formation of the first triumvirate between Crassus, Pompey and Caesar, essentially formed a power triangle where the 3 men could divide up which provinces and have the ability to recruit new legions outside of Senatorial approval. Once at war with the Gauls, Caesar was accused of breaking the peace with the Gauls, and for slaughtering the Germanic tribes in a time of truce. Caesar was also accused of using his strength in legions to influence the opinion of the senate as well as using riches "stolen" from Gaul to bribe them as well.

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Cato the Younger, in particular, wanted to charge Caesar with starting an illegal and unnecessary war against the Gauls without senatorial approval.

 

According to both Suetonius and Plutarch, it was L. Domitius Ahenobarbus who threatened to prosecute Caesar for leading his army outside his proconsular imperium without authority. According to Suetonius, Lucius Antistius, a tribune of the people, thereafter arraigned Caesar.

 

According to Plutarch, M. Porcius Cato threatened, not to prosecute Caesar, but to turn him over to the Germans for breaking the truce with them, specifically by seizing their ambassadors and attacking them by surprise. (A precedent for this might be said to have occurred in 137 in the case of Caius Hostilius Mancinus.) Caesar replied to Cato's suggestion by a letter to the senate, "and when it was read, with its abundant insults and denunciations of Cato, Cato rose to his feet and showed, not in anger or contentiousness, but as if from calculation and due preparation, that the accusations against him bore the marks of abuse and scoffing, and were childishness and vulgarity on Caesar's part" (Plut., Cat Min, 51.2). The whole exchange--the near absurdity of turning Caesar over to the Germans and the vulgar denunciations of Cato--doesn't look like more than bickering to me.

 

Suetonius claims that Cato often threatened to prosecute Caesar, but Suetonius implies that that's just an inference he was making from Caesar's comments after Pharsalus, and Suetonius does not say what Cato would actually have prosecuted Caesar for. (But then Suetonius also claims that Caesar rode a five-toed horse, so who knows whether he's trustworthy in any case.)

 

I'm wondering if there are other sources that attest to Cato's threat of prosecution, and whether it's possible that Cato is simply getting the credit due to Ahenobarbus.

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And if any of that did not succeed in the prosecution of Caesar, countless other crimes could have easily been cooked up until he ran out of bribery money or supportive jurists. Even the greatest Roman statesmen through the history of the Republic were brought down on petty charges from petty men.

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FC apparently believes that "great men" should be above the law, whereas I would say that anyone who places himself above the law has acted in a petty way, whether Scipio Africanus or Caesar. He also fails to mention the other fate of great men, the ones who lost popular favor for opposing giveaways to the mob, including the early Fabii (exiled), Scipio Aemilianus (murdered) and Livius Drusus (also murdered). But by far the most common route was neither of these--of all the people who won a triumph, few to none were successfully prosecuted thereafter.

 

In any case, does anyone have a source regarding who threatened Caesar with prosecution, when they made the threat, and what crimes were to be prosecuted?

Edited by M. Porcius Cato

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Just want to be sure you guys are aware that the original post is from June 2004, is the only post by that member and is probably long since gone.

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Yes, but I noticed that it's one of the most viewed pages in the Republic subforum. Do you know of any further sources to answer the long-gone-but-not-forgotten question?

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FC apparently believes that "great men" should be above the law, whereas I would say that anyone who places himself above the law has acted in a petty way, whether Scipio Africanus or Caesar.

 

I'm sure you can come up with a number of times when a senator was convicted of such heinous crimes as possessing too much silverware on his table, holding an iugra or two too much land, conducting 'business' on nefas days or any number of other insignificant crimes.

 

It was a fundamental part of a man's political career to show his skill in the courts, and so when actual criminals did not present themselves, criminals would be made. Couple that with convictions depending heavily on the prosecutor

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OK, let's not rehash it. I'm just trying to nail down whether it was Cato or Ahenobarbus who threatened to prosecute Caesar for crossing out of his province with an army. If you want to maintain that that's like having too silverware on the table, so be it.

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I'm sure you can come up with a number of times when a senator was convicted of such heinous crimes as possessing too much silverware on his table, holding an iugra or two too much land, conducting 'business' on nefas days or any number of other insignificant crimes.

 

And I'm also quite certain that you realize that the penalties for such crimes were negligible, if they were even implemented at all. Usually, such prosecutions followed closely on the heels of various sumptuary laws (e.g., those of Cato the Elder), and were in no way, shape, or form career-ruining convictions.

 

It was a fundamental part of a man's political career to show his skill in the courts, and so when actual criminals did not present themselves, criminals would be made. Couple that with convictions depending heavily on the prosecutor
Edited by L. Quintus Sertorius

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If you want to maintain that that's like having too silverware on the table, so be it.

 

I neither said nor insinuated that. Really I'd appreciate it if you would stop putting words into my mouth, this is the second time now.

 

Thus far my posts and explanations are geared towards answering step's questions as to what kind of charges Caesar could look forward to if he let himself be at the mercy of the senatorial clique that increasingly was known for infighting and tearing down anyone who accomplished anything. I'll reiterate: aside from the major 'crimes' which we have already spoken of, there could be any number of mosquito attacks little men of all colors could tear Caesar down with. Caesar made himself many enemies in his rise to office, for all his sense of politics, still yet one of his weaknesses.

 

And I'm also quite certain that you realize that the penalties for such crimes were negligible, if they were even implemented at all. Usually, such prosecutions followed closely on the heels of various sumptuary laws (e.g., those of Cato the Elder), and were in no way, shape, or form career-ruining convictions.

 

They could be negligible, or if you put in the right man as the praetor, and the right jury (perhaps surrounded by Pompeian veterans), a simple crime could turn into something more just for the sake of it. Perhaps you could only charge a man so far for a particular crime, but add up fines and it can ruin him just as much as anything else.

 

This isn't Cato the Elder's Republic though, this is the corrupt late Republic filled with hate and disorder. In these days retroactive electoral laws (leges Pompeiae 52 BC) were all the rage when even the most lawful were not afraid to use bribes and clubs to get their way. Caesar hardly started this theme, but he did use it, like most others. He could have ruinously been charged with any of these even if he made it past the charges that would have been leveled against him during his proconsulship. Perhaps even one of Bibulus' ridiculous declarations of seeing ill omens could be used against him.

 

So Caesar, simply for his own convenience, should be given endless magistracies so he won't have to deal with the drudgery of answering for his misdeeds?

 

I never suggested any solutions, I am just giving what I believe to be the situation that Caesar faced. I don't really think there were any solutions, this is just another episode of the death of an unstable Republic, a Republic built for a city, straining under the weight of an Empire.

 

And to reiterate, it is highly unlikely that anyone but the most capable could have brought down Caesar.

 

If Pompey, Cato, and the boni are not the most capable then I don't know who is!

 

 

 

 

If I may end with a quote from Sallust, a man who was there to see it all:

 

"To bring you low these cowardly men would, if they could, give their lives...they would rather imperil liberty by your downfall than through you have the empire of the Roman people, now great, become the greatest."

 

--R.P. 2.4.3-4

 

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.

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Though the defense may rest, the prosecution sees no reason to halt its presentation of the case.

 

They could be negligible, or if you put in the right man as the praetor, and the right jury (perhaps surrounded by Pompeian veterans), a simple crime could turn into something more just for the sake of it. Perhaps you could only charge a man so far for a particular crime, but add up fines and it can ruin him just as much as anything else.

 

Trying to end Caesar's career by prosecuting him for the breach of a negligible law is like trying to kill an elephant with a pellet gun. Besides, Caesar had many, more devastating charges to answer for - the breach of proconsular imperium, the wanton murder of approximately 5 million innocent Gauls [edit - a more accurate number would be 1 million], the unlawful imprisonment of diplomatic envoys, the destruction of a Roman ally, and threatening the life of a consular colleague.

 

This isn't Cato the Elder's Republic though, this is the corrupt late Republic filled with hate and disorder. In these days retroactive electoral laws (leges Pompeiae 52 BC) were all the rage when even the most lawful were not afraid to use bribes and clubs to get their way. Caesar hardly started this theme, but he did use it, like most others. He could have ruinously been charged with any of these even if he made it past the charges that would have been leveled against him during his proconsulship. Perhaps even one of Bibulus' ridiculous declarations of seeing ill omens could be used against him.

 

Trying to support the position that the Late Republic was more corrupt than that of earlier generations is an impossible proposition. These breaches of electoral law had gone on since the days of Gaius Gracchus, Marius and M. Aemilius Scaurus, Cinna and Sulla; and it went on now in the days of Caesar, Cato, Cicero, and Pompey. Their violence was escalating, true, but the death of Clodius and the exile of Milo did much to calm the city in the years preceding Caesar's coup. In any case, the violence of the period is much exaggerated, mainly because the only primary source we have are Cicero's hyperbolic letters to Atticus - whereas we have little if any records from the participants in politics of earlier periods. I have no doubt that the letters of M. Aemilius Scaurus or M. Porcius Cato Maior would read much the same, save perhaps the difference in the purity of their Latin prose.

 

I don't really think there were any solutions, this is just another episode of the death of an unstable Republic, a Republic built for a city, straining under the weight of an Empire.

 

I can think of a superb solution - Caesar comes back to Rome without a sword in his hand and answers for his crimes. That would have suited Rome perfectly.

 

If Pompey, Cato, and the boni are not the most capable then I don't know who is!

 

My comment was in answer to your supposition that any small fry could bring down Caesar in the courts, as referenced here:

 

In Caesar's case, if he did not hold office, any list of two bit prosecutors could bury his life in endless prosecutions, even if he managed to make it past the more valid issues. Couple that with an ancient Republic that, for the goodwill of all and for the most expedient and sensible solution to serious problems, required the occasional bending of the rules. In such a way well meaning and heroic men can be brought down by the jealous and the incapable.

 

If I may end with a quote from Sallust, a man who was there to see it all:

 

"To bring you low these cowardly men would, if they could, give their lives...they would rather imperil liberty by your downfall than through you have the empire of the Roman people, now great, become the greatest."

 

--R.P. 2.4.3-4

 

Too bad you failed to mention that Sallust was a staunch Caesarian, and actually accompanied Caesar in his African campaign to fight against fellow Romans. In fact, Sallust was guilty of such gross oppression and extortion as governor of Africa that only Caesar's influence saved him from prosecution and exile.

 

He may have been there to see it all, but he certainly didn't see it clearly.

Edited by L. Quintus Sertorius

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the wanton murder of approximately 5 million innocent Gauls

 

Most estimates suggest that there were approximately 3 to 6 million people in all of Gaul at the time (its an understandably vague estimate) Perhaps 1 million were killed in the war, probably with a comparable number taken as slaves. Still alot mind you, but 5 million dead is a bit too much.

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I agree that 5 million is a bit high, but let's recall that the number killed on the battlefield is typically only a fraction of the number killed in war. The spread of disease is the real killer. If the ancient Celts hadn't an immunity to the stew of illnesses to which the urban Romans had developed an immunity, the total number killed by Caesar's troops and their entourage was most likely vastly larger than the number Caesar reported.

 

Further, Sertorius raises a number of fresh and important points of illegality that no one has addressed, including the unlawful imprisonment of diplomatic envoys, the destruction of a Roman ally, and threatening the life of a consular colleague.

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