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M. Porcius Cato

Nobiles in the Caesarian Civil War

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Well - believe it or not, I actually follow this argument! :lol: So - are we saying that the names come chiefly from Cicero?

I'm so glad you followed the argument (which required comparison of several counter-factuals!). To answer your question--Yes. The sources of the names come largely (maybe mostly) from Cicero, though not only from Cicero of course. Some of the attributions come from epigraphy. For example, we occasionally know of some of Caesar's men from coins they issued. Other attributions come from Caesar's own writings.

 

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?

Yes, that was one part of my argument. The other is that even if Cicero had no eye toward showing that the nobiles followed the Republicans more than Caesar, he might have been more familiar with the Republican side since they were his friends, and this would have had an unintended bias in the same direction. Thus, since the list relies largely on Cicero's sympathies, memory, and familiarity, it should be biased toward finding Republican nobiles rather than finding Caesarian nobiles.

 

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?

Ooops--I didn't mean population in the sense of "the populace". Rather, I was intending to draw the distinction between the population of the nobiles (i.e., all the nobiles who existed) and our sample of the nobiles (i.e., the particular nobiles of which we are aware). I was using 'population' in a statistical sense. For example, if you have a bag of 300 marbles and I draw 95 marbles from the bag, the population of marbles is 300, and the sample is 95. If there's a better term for 'population' (i.e., one with greater currency), I'm happy to use it instead.

 

I stupidly thought that the 'cf' was the conventional 'compare' and we were being directed to man in 209BC!

Yes, the cf does mean confer (id est, compare), but the 209 is the RE #.

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After re-reading the thread, there is still a lingering question--a philosophical one, and probably one which cannot be answered. It would be interesting to know how many of those 55 pro-Caesar nobiles were truly for CJC, and how many just saw him as the better option (the lesser of evils, or the safer bet, or the more feared option).

 

Regardless, his acts would have triggered an opinion out of everyone...just what exactly those opinions were is something left for the ages, I presume.

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

 

A few points about the evolving attitude of the senate (who were mostly non-nobiles, btw).

 

First, it seems there was initially a deplorable attitude of peace-at-any-price. In Dec 50, the senate had voted 370-22 for Curio's motion that both Pompey and Caesar should give up their provinces and armies, which would have peacefully resolved the conflict, though our sources--Appian (ii, 27-31) and Plutarch (Pomp. 58)--strongly imply that the senate preferred that Caesar alone give up his provinces since his term had expired whereas Pompey's term had not. Cicero reports a similar attitude for appeasement among the senators and Equites south of Rome, who were reluctant to raise the required conscripts for fighting off Caesar's invasion (Att. vii. 13.2, ix.2a.2). This attitude had the effect of emboldening Caesar.

 

Consequently, this initial attitude towards appeasement was subsequently undermined by two polarizing developments. First, as Caesar's demands grew more audacious, his hirelings Curio and Caelius began making ominous warnings to neutrals like Cicero, who began to fear Caesar as another Sulla (Att. x 9a). Second, once Pompey left Rome, he too began warning neutrals that they would be treated like Caesarians (Caes., BC i.33.1; Dio xli. 6), an attitude that escalated in its bloody-mindedness as the defense of the Republic grew more desperate (again, see, Cicero's letters to Atticus while in camp with the Republicans). Thus, by the time Pompey was at camp in Thessalonica, he could count some 200 senators in his midst (Dio xli. 43).

 

Thus, it seems that the senate was initially bending over backwards to thwart civil war, but as Caesar's demands grew more ludicrous (esp in Apr 49) and Pompey's position requiring greater support, the senate was won over to Pompey. This is a very different state of affairs than is often made out, which depicts the senate as initially opposed to Caesar but slowly won over to him by his saintly mercy and grace. Of course, this is pure hooey.

 

It's also worth emphasizing that the nobiles were not only divided between Caesar and Pompey, they were also divided within families. Divided families included Aurelii Cottae, Cassii Longini, Cornelii Sullae, Iunii Bruti, Pompeii Bithynici, Sulpicii Rufi, and Terentii Varrones. This division within families still further emphasizes that the Caesarian Civil War was not a class conflict--if it were, all noble families would be united.

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It's also worth emphasizing that the nobiles were not only divided between Caesar and Pompey, they were also divided within families. Divided families included Aurelii Cottae, Cassii Longini, Cornelii Sullae, Iunii Bruti, Pompeii Bithynici, Sulpicii Rufi, and Terentii Varrones. This division within families still further emphasizes that the Caesarian Civil War was not a class conflict--if it were, all noble families would be united.

 

Indeed, this was something that interested me in the lists, Cato. I note that the Claudii Pulchri had a similar divide, and I think you have the Cornelii Lentuli in both lists. This does seem to suggest to me (although I may be over-simplifying) that even the great families were prepared to adhere to their principles in these matters, rather than just flock together in blind loyalty to one another.

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I note that the Claudii Pulchri had a similar divide, and I think you have the Cornelii Lentuli in both lists. This does seem to suggest to me (although I may be over-simplifying) that even the great families were prepared to adhere to their principles in these matters, rather than just flock together in blind loyalty to one another.

 

That's my interpretation. At the very least, the lists show how darned misleading Syme's stemmae are. His implication is that the families of the nobiles somehow mapped onto factional divides, but once we actually look at the factional divides we see how badly family and faction overlap.

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If I understand the argument here(?!) the question is: could Caesar have survived a trial for any of several enormities he would have been accused of by Cato and his coterie had he laid down his command and returned to Rome as a private citizen? Is the idea that Caesar's fear of such a prosecution was just a propaganda excuse for his long planned attempt to sieze power?

 

As far as a prosecution and trial are concerned I'm not sure that the number of Caesars' partisans is that significant. It's fairly clear that in Rome a minority of the principal men (the consulars et al) could control what happened in the government or in the courts (hadn't the Catonists (aka the "Optimates") quashed Curio's popular proposal that both Pompey and Caesar lay down their commands?). Caesar's party was numerous and broad, it included patrician nobiles like Fabius Maximus as well as many equites and others; but consulars were significantly absent. The only such partisans Caesar could claim were Gabinius (cos58) M Valerius Messala Rufus (cos53) and C Antonius (cos63) (all of whom had been condemned for electoral fraud) and Cn Domitius Calvinus. L Marcius Philippus (cos56), L Calpurnius Piso and C Claudius Marcellus (cos50) remained neutral - supposedly due to marital relationships, but all the other active consulars eventually accompanied Pompey. But I'm not sure even this is as important as the determination of the powerful agroup led by Cato to put the kaibosh on Caesar's ambitions and the eventual decision by Pompieus to support stripping Caesar of his command.

 

It was personal politics - not ideology. The "Optimates" wanted to end Caesars' career because of fear, personal animosity or jealousy, Pompieus wanted to regain the position of preeminence he had lost in the 60's, and Caesar was determined NOT to end up eating mullet in Massilia. These rivalries were eventually decided by the contention of armies, provinces and kingdoms instead of in the forum. Weren't all three contenders guilty of so raising the ante?

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If I understand the argument here(?!) the question is: could Caesar have survived a trial for any of several enormities he would have been accused of by Cato and his coterie had he laid down his command and returned to Rome as a private citizen? Is the idea that Caesar's fear of such a prosecution was just a propaganda excuse for his long planned attempt to sieze power?

 

As far as a prosecution and trial are concerned I'm not sure that the number of Caesars' partisans is that significant.

 

Why isn't number the ONLY thing that matters? The jurors voted, and the majority ruled.

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If I understand the argument here(?!) the question is: could Caesar have survived a trial for any of several enormities he would have been accused of by Cato and his coterie had he laid down his command and returned to Rome as a private citizen? Is the idea that Caesar's fear of such a prosecution was just a propaganda excuse for his long planned attempt to sieze power?

 

As far as a prosecution and trial are concerned I'm not sure that the number of Caesars' partisans is that significant.

 

Why isn't number the ONLY thing that matters? The jurors voted, and the majority ruled.

 

In theory a majority of the jury decided; but such trials were political struggles and the clout of individual nobles (particularly the ex consuls) was what mattered. However, it's not clear that all the ex consuls that eventually wound up in Pompey's camp would have violently opposed Caesar, and how a trial would have gone is, as you say, anyones guess. But Caesar was't willing to chance it - and anyway, he probably thought that subjecting himself to such a trial was beneath his dignitas.

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In theory a majority of the jury decided; but such trials were political struggles and the clout of individual nobles (particularly the ex consuls) was what mattered.

 

I find it difficult to believe that a trial system--composed of senators and equites as jurors--that had returned an acquittal for Clodius in the Bona Dea scandal would have failed to do so for Caesar.

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In theory a majority of the jury decided; but such trials were political struggles and the clout of individual nobles (particularly the ex consuls) was what mattered.

 

I find it difficult to believe that a trial system--composed of senators and equites as jurors--that had returned an acquittal for Clodius in the Bona Dea scandal would have failed to do so for Caesar.

 

And the idea should be that it was entirely possible that Caesar would be acquitted, regardless of the risk. We can't know for sure obviously, and even with the bribery that would've resulted in said trial, Caesar also would've been left with some doubt, but it was by no means a done deal. In fact had Caesar prostrated himself before the Roman courts and claimed outrageous slanders against him I find it hard to believe that he would not have experienced a ground-swell of public support to aid his cause.

 

Perhaps we might liken it to Scipio Africanus and the accusations of bribery after the war with Antiochus that ultimately riled the people to his defense... but of course it did lead ultimately to his political retirement. I can't recall any historical record linking Caesar's thought processes to the trial of Lucius Scipio and the retirement of P. Scipio before going to civil war, but it's entirely possible that the result had an influence. Though it's also quite unlikely that Caesar would've accepted a scenario that resulted in his retirement even if he was ultimately proven to be 'in the right.'

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In HBO forum, I often engage in debate with a Caesar supporter defending Optimates, and here I often find myself defending Caesar. I'm afraid I'm going to develop split personality. ;)

 

Anyway, while I find Cato's list of nobiles very illuminating, I still think that Caesar was not entirely wrong to assume that his goose would be cooked if he returned Rome a private citizen. Although Senate obviously wanted to compromise with Caesar, Cato and Optimate leaders were very successful in pursuing their hardline policy toward Caesar, overcoming Senate's own preference.

I agree with Pompeius that the overall clientele influence of Pompey and Optimate leaders combined would have been more significant factor in the trial than actual number of Caesar's partisans and opponents. Moreover, as Caesar pondered the prospect of trial, he probably would have had in mind the fate of Gracchi more than that of Scipio.

 

Like Pompeius said, Roman politics was largely personal with some occasionally significant injection of ideology (though I wouldn't say that it was personal jealousy that motviateed Optimates). The consulars would have far greater influence in terms of cliente and amicitia than lower-ranking senators, and I think Caesar's supporters were generally lower-ranking senators of younger generation.

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As Caesar pondered the prospect of trial, he probably would have had in mind the fate of Gracchi more than that of Scipio.

 

Strange then that he didn't put the fate of the Gracchi in mind as he pondered assuming lifelong dictatorial powers. As I recall, it was his unabashed aiming at regnum that finally got him killed by senators.

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If Caesar woulkd have stood trial he would have went down. Pompey, Cato and the Caecilli Metelli where just too powerful. Pompey was motivated by personal reasons such as that Caesar had taken away the mantle "First Man in Rome" from him. Pompey, Cato and all the rest would have stacked the jury, and bribed heavily to ensure Caesar was convited.

In HBO forum, I often engage in debate with a Caesar supporter defending Optimates, and here I often find myself defending Caesar. I'm afraid I'm going to develop split personality. ;)

 

Anyway, while I find Cato's list of nobiles very illuminating, I still think that Caesar was not entirely wrong to assume that his goose would be cooked if he returned Rome a private citizen. Although Senate obviously wanted to compromise with Caesar, Cato and Optimate leaders were very successful in pursuing their hardline policy toward Caesar, overcoming Senate's own preference.

I agree with Pompeius that the overall clientele influence of Pompey and Optimate leaders combined would have been more significant factor in the trial than actual number of Caesar's partisans and opponents. Moreover, as Caesar pondered the prospect of trial, he probably would have had in mind the fate of Gracchi more than that of Scipio.

 

Like Pompeius said, Roman politics was largely personal with some occasionally significant injection of ideology (though I wouldn't say that it was personal jealousy that motviateed Optimates). The consulars would have far greater influence in terms of cliente and amicitia than lower-ranking senators, and I think Caesar's supporters were generally lower-ranking senators of younger generation.

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If Caesar woulkd have stood trial he would have went down. Pompey, Cato and the Caecilli Metelli where just too powerful.

 

What evidence supports such a claim? What evidence--in principle--would falsify it? As far as I can tell, the list I've presented shows that a selective pulling of a couple opponents of Caesar fails to represent the actual political backing that Caesar possessed before marching on Rome.

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I came across a passage from Suetonius that seems to help explain Caesar's popularity with the nobiles:

 

When he [Caesar] had put all Pompey's friends under obligation, as well as the greater part of the senate, through loans made without interest or at a low rate, he lavished gifts on men of all other classes, both those whom he invited to accept his bounty and those who applied to him unasked, including even freedmen and slaves who were special favorites of their masters or patrons. In short, he was the sole and ever ready help of all who were in legal difficulties or in debt and of young spendthrifts, excepting only those whose guilt or poverty was so heavy, or who were so given up to riotous living, that even he could not save them; and to these he declared in the plainest terms that what they needed was a civil war.
(Suetonious,
Caesar
27.1-2)

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