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M. Porcius Cato

Nobiles in the Caesarian Civil War

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One of the more prevalent claims about the late republic is that Caesar was somehow forced to march on Rome because most of the nobiles were opposed to him and would have failed to give him a fair trial. The latter issue--whether Caesar could have obtained a fair trial (given his record of bribery, e.g.)--is a matter of pure speculation. The issue of whether the majority of nobiles was opposed to Caesar, however, is a matter of record. This record, compiled by Shackleton Bailey in a 1960 issue of Classical Quarterly, shows that the majority of nobiles supported Caesar in the civil war, not the republican cause led by Pompey.

 

For those interested, Bailey provides the following list of nobiles for whom we have a record of allegiance. Of the 95 men for whom a clear identification can be made, 55 supported Caesar, 40 the Republic.

 

REPUBLICAN NOBILES (40)

L. Aelius Tubero (praetorius)

Sex. Atilius Serranus

M. (Aurelius) Cotta (praetorius)

L. Caecilius Metellus (tr. pl. 49)

Q.Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio Nasica (cos. 52, pont.)

M . Calpurnius Bibulus (cos. 59)

Cn. Calpurnius Piso (Frugi) (proq. 49)

C. Cassius Longinus (tr. pl. 49)

C. Claudius Marcellus (cos. 49)

M. Claudius Marcellus (cos. 51)

App. Claudius Pulcher (cos. 54, cens. 50, augur)

L. Cornelius Lentulus Crus (cos. 49)

P. Cornelius Lentulus Spinther (cos. 57, pont.)

P. Cornelius Lentulus Spinther (augur)

Faustus Cornelius Sulla (q. 54, augur)

L. Domitius Ahenobarbus (cos. 54, pont.)

C. Fannius (praetorius, pont.)

L. Julius Caesar

M. Junius Brutus (Q.Servilius Caepio Brutus) (q.53, leg. 49, pont.).

Licinius (Crassus) Damasippus (senator)

P. Licinius Crassus Dives Junianus (tr. pl. 53)

L. Livius Ocella (praetorius)

A. Maillius Torquatus (pr. 70?)

L. Manlius Torquatus (pr. 49)

Minucius Rufus

Q.Minucius Thermus (praetorius)

M. Octavius (aed. cur. 50)

M. Opimius

Otacilius Crassus

A. Plautius (Silvanus?) (pr. 51)

Pompeius Rufus

M. Porcius Cato (pr. 54)

M. Publicius (senator)

M. Pupius Piso (senator)

Sex. Quintilius Varus (q. 49)

P. Rutilius Lupus (pr. 49)

Ser. Sulpicius (senator)

Ser. Sulpicius Rufus (cos. 51)

M. Terentius Varro (praetorius)

C. Valerius Flaccus (leg. 53-51)

 

C

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Telling evidence, but we are of course left wondering how large the client pools were for each of these individuals and the total influence that could be accumulated. Additionally, as the nobiles are not necessarily members of the Senate, it also does not necessarily indicate that Senatorial support for Caesar followed the same pattern.

 

Regardless, since the Roman jurors of Caesar's era included both Senatorial and Equestrian representatives, even if the Senate were overwhelmingly against him (though I am not saying it was) there is little within the law to believe that Caesar could not have successfully defended himself in court through the support of equestrian jurors.

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For those interested, Bailey provides the following list of nobiles for whom we have a record of allegiance. Of the 95 men for whom a clear identification can be made, 55 supported Caesar, 40 the Republic.

 

Thanks for the list, Cato - this is enlightening stuff. However, I presume we are just dealing with the tip of the iceberg here? There were clearly more than 95 nobiles. Does the Shackleton-Bailey study give any indication of what percentage of men this list of 95 represents?

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I presume we are just dealing with the tip of the iceberg here? There were clearly more than 95 nobiles. Does the Shackleton-Bailey study give any indication of what percentage of men this list of 95 represents?

 

The total number of nobiles is impossible to know with certainty, but S-B lists a number of nobiles who were also neutral and whose allegiance simply wasn't known. These latter two groups were comparatively small, but included Caesar's own father in law L. Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus and his kinsman L. Julius Caesar (cos 64).

 

The important point is that this list puts to bed the simplistic nonsense that Caesar was some sort of champion in a class war between the nobiles and people. If anything, the nobiles were (as in the case of Sulla) on the side of a patrician marching on Rome to put an end to a popularly elected government. Indeed, scanning the list, it looks as if Caesar has not only more nobiles on his side but more patricians on his side as well (but I haven't counted them yet). Moreover, that citadel of inherited privilege--the augury--was overwhelmingly Caesarian (8/11).

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A question about the compilation... Do we know the time frame that this compilation represents? Is it immediately before Caesar crossed the Rubicon, after the same, or in the heart of the war, etc.?

 

It's unlikely to be a major factor but could have had an effect on the allegiances of some players.

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A question about the compilation... Do we know the time frame that this compilation represents? Is it immediately before Caesar crossed the Rubicon, after the same, or in the heart of the war, etc.?

 

Jan 49

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A question about the compilation... Do we know the time frame that this compilation represents? Is it immediately before Caesar crossed the Rubicon, after the same, or in the heart of the war, etc.?

 

Jan 49

 

Excellent... so it's in line with the actual event. The list should therefore not be tainted by knowledge of any pending victory. Clearly there would be some who supported one side of the other based purely on how it might have benefited them personally, but this wouldn't be the overwhelming factor.

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I'd like to know what the abbreviations after the names of various members mean? Do they denote their role in the Senate or elsewhere?

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I'd like to know what the abbreviations after the names of various members mean? Do they denote their role in the Senate or elsewhere?

 

Generally it is magistracy and year, though there are some religious appointments mixed in...

cos = Consul

pr = praetor

tr. pl. = tribunus plebis

cens. = censor

q. = quaestor

aed. cur. = aedile curulis

pont. = pontifex

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The important point is that this list puts to bed the simplistic nonsense that Caesar was some sort of champion in a class war between the nobiles and people. If anything, the nobiles were (as in the case of Sulla) on the side of a patrician marching on Rome to put an end to a popularly elected government. Indeed, scanning the list, it looks as if Caesar has not only more nobiles on his side but more patricians on his side as well (but I haven't counted them yet). Moreover, that citadel of inherited privilege--the augury--was overwhelmingly Caesarian (8/11).

 

I have never subscribed to the theory that Caesar was a champion of the People, but for the sake of the argument, before we reach such a far-reaching conclusion, shouldn't we know the numbers involved in the other groups? You hinted that they were comparatively small, but presumably the entire list compiled by S-B is based on men who expressed an allegiance or neutrality. Were there men who were not canvassed at all? For instance, if we are talking about - say - 300 senators and only half of them have taken part in the 'study', how can we reach the definite conclusion that more nobles supported Caesar?

 

I am not trying to be awkward here, Cato - but I just think the group of 95 is perhaps too small to go on. Nor is 55-40 a resounding majority - although I grant, on the face of the evidence provided, it is a definite one.

 

As for the populares ticket, we all know that the nobiles did not shy from playing that card if they thought it would suit their own purposes.

 

Also - the abbreviation next to Cn. (Cornelius) Lentulus Vatia in the Caesarian list is 'cf. 209'. I'm at a loss to unravel what this means. Any suggestions, anyone?

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Generally it is magistracy and year, though there are some religious appointments mixed in...

cos = Consul

pr = praetor

tr. pl. = tribunus plebis

cens. = censor

q. = quaestor

aed. cur. = aedile curulis

pont. = pontifex

 

Thanks, PP! This helps much!

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Wow, this is a very interesting data though I agree with Augusta that we can't make a sweeping assumption about nobiles in general. I can't still dismiss the fact that Caesar felt cornered by union of Optimates and Pompey.

If somebody could work on this further and sort out tendencies of all known Senators, that would be very telling.

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Before we reach such a far-reaching conclusion, shouldn't we know the numbers involved in the other groups? You hinted that they were comparatively small, but presumably the entire list compiled by S-B is based on men who expressed an allegiance or neutrality. Were there men who were not canvassed at all? For instance, if we are talking about - say - 300 senators and only half of them have taken part in the 'study', how can we reach the definite conclusion that more nobles supported Caesar?

 

Two important issues here.

 

First, in determining whether the nobiles were biased against Caesar (the view I'm attacking), the total number of nobiles is irrelevant IF the probability of a nobile being sampled is not greater for the Republican versus Caesarian cause. For example, if we had obtained all or most of our names from Caesar, who would naturally be more likely to mention his own legates and friends than some relatively obscure Pompeian, then we would have a sample that is biased toward finding more Caesarian nobiles than non-Caesarian nobiles. In contrast, if we had obtained all or most of our names from Republicans, who would naturally be more likely to mention their own allies rather than some nobody like L. Aemilius Buca, then we would have a sample that is biased toward finding more Republican than non-Republican nobiles. Thus, given the finding of predominantly Caesarian nobiles, all that has to be established is that we didn't draw our names chiefly from Caesarians. And, in fact, this is the case--we have Cicero. (Also, if there were a bias, it could be eliminated by simply restricting the analysis to names that were mentioned both by Caesarians and by Republicans.)

 

Second, in determining whether the nobiles were biased against Caesar (the view I'm attacking), I needn't provide evidence that the nobiles were biased for Caesar. It's possible that the nobiles were equally likely to go for Caesar or for the Republic. As you rightly point out, the limited data don't support a pro-Caesarian bias with much certainty, but the 55-40 plurality for Caesar strongly disconfirms the hypothesis that the nobiles were all lined up against Caesar. The probability of drawing a plurality for Caesar when the population was against him is infinitesimal.

 

Also - the abbreviation next to Cn. (Cornelius) Lentulus Vatia in the Caesarian list is 'cf. 209'. I'm at a loss to unravel what this means. Any suggestions, anyone?

That's the RE number, a conventional identification code (like a Social Security number) for keeping individuals straight. With, for example, some eight guys named "Marcus Porcius Cato", Roman historians needed something, so they invented this code. I meant to take all of those out, but I missed the one for Lentulus Vatia.

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Wow, this is a very interesting data though I agree with Augusta that we can't make a sweeping assumption about nobiles in general. I can't still dismiss the fact that Caesar felt cornered by union of Optimates and Pompey.

If somebody could work on this further and sort out tendencies of all known Senators, that would be very telling.

 

Hold on--how do you know as a "fact" that Caesar felt cornered by the union of Optimates (whoever they were) and Pompey? Moreover, we have a record of what the senate wanted with respect to Caesar. They voted overwhelmingly (like 95% to 5%) in favor of a motion that Pompey and Caesar lay down their arms.

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Two important issues here.

 

First, in determining whether the nobiles were biased against Caesar (the view I'm attacking), the total number of nobiles is irrelevant IF the probability of a nobile being sampled is not greater for the Republican versus Caesarian cause. For example, if we had obtained all or most of our names from Caesar, who would naturally be more likely to mention his own legates and friends than some relatively obscure Pompeian, then we would have a sample that is biased toward finding more Caesarian nobiles than non-Caesarian nobiles. In contrast, if we had obtained all or most of our names from Republicans, who would naturally be more likely to mention their own allies rather than some nobody like L. Aemilius Buca, then we would have a sample that is biased toward finding more Republican than non-Republican nobiles. Thus, given the finding of predominantly Caesarian nobiles, all that has to be established is that we didn't draw our names chiefly from Caesarians. And, in fact, this is the case--we have Cicero. (Also, if there were a bias, it could be eliminated by simply restricting the analysis to names that were mentioned both by Caesarians and by Republicans.)

 

Well - believe it or not, I actually follow this argument! :lol: So - are we saying that the names come chiefly from Cicero? Ah ha - you didn't mention that in your opening post. This does give a certain weight, as Cicero would be hardly likely to show that more nobiles were on Caesar's side if that wasn't the case. In fact, I can follow what you are saying here - he would have been more likely to try and prove the opposite? Am I following you correctly?

 

Second, in determining whether the nobiles were biased against Caesar (the view I'm attacking), I needn't provide evidence that the nobiles were biased for Caesar. It's possible that the nobiles were equally likely to go for Caesar or for the Republic. As you rightly point out, the limited data don't support a pro-Caesarian bias with much certainty, but the 55-40 plurality for Caesar strongly disconfirms the hypothesis that the nobiles were all lined up against Caesar. The probability of drawing a plurality for Caesar when the population was against him is infinitesimal.

 

All I would ask here, is what is the basis for 'the population' being against Caesar? What do we mean by 'population', and how can we hear its voice in the literary sources? Again - I am not being awkward, but as we've been accustomed to the conventional view that the populace loved Caesar (which may or may not be fallacious, of course), what evidence do we have to suggest that they were against him after the Rubicon?

 

Also - the abbreviation next to Cn. (Cornelius) Lentulus Vatia in the Caesarian list is 'cf. 209'. I'm at a loss to unravel what this means. Any suggestions, anyone?

 

That's the RE number, a conventional identification code (like a Social Security number) for keeping individuals straight. With, for example, some eight guys named "Marcus Porcius Cato", Roman historians needed something, so they invented this code. I meant to take all of those out, but I missed the one for Lentulus Vatia.

 

Phew - well I'm glad this is cleared up. I stupidly thought that the 'cf' was the conventional 'compare' and we were being directed to man in 209BC!

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