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M. Porcius Cato

Nobiles in the Caesarian Civil War

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What the list does is to wipe away any impression that it was Caesar vs. all, but it's quite another thing to say that Caesar caused civil war inspite of good chance of acquital.

The jury would have been pooled from such large group of equites and senators that I think it's reasonable to assume that overall influence wielded by Pompey and Optimates combined would have been more important than balance of pro-Caesar and pro-Optimate nobiles. Does this justfiy Caesar's invasion of Italy? I don't think so, and many of pro-Caesar nobiles including his father-in-law didn't think so either. But I do think it serves history better to understand Caesar's point of view as well.

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What the list does is to wipe away any impression that it was Caesar vs. all, but it's quite another thing to say that Caesar caused civil war inspite of good chance of acquital.

The jury would have been pooled from such large group of equites and senators that I think it's reasonable to assume that overall influence wielded by Pompey and Optimates combined would have been more important than balance of pro-Caesar and pro-Optimate nobiles. Does this justfiy Caesar's invasion of Italy? I don't think so, and many of pro-Caesar nobiles including his father-in-law didn't think so either. But I do think it serves history better to understand Caesar's point of view as well.

 

I agree that it's not necessarily fair to disregard Caesar's point of view. I believe that had his opponents allowed him to march home triumphantly he would've been appeased and continued to pursue his political goals through more conventional methods. He desired prominence and only sought war as a means when the possibility for that political prominence through normal methods seemed to be unlikely.

 

In essence, yes, it's fair to say that from his perspective, he had been pushed to war by his uncompromising opponents. However, based on the evidence of support by the nobility, his popularity with the people, his noted oratory skill, his past political successes, and his enormous wealth after the conquest of Gaul, it also seems fair to say that had he chosen to face his accusers in court, he may have been able to defeat said accusers in a resounding manner. Such a success may have launched him into legendary status without the stigma that was attached through the civil war. (though such a stigma seems to have faded and is generally glorified)

 

Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that Caesar wouldn't have jumped at the chance to face the opposition in such an open forum with the adoration of the people behind him (unless of course, said admiration has been overstated through history). Had Caesar returned to Rome without his army though, imagine the groundswell of support from those who feared pending war and begged for compromise. Such an act may have even persuaded the politically conflicted Cicero to throw his considerable voice behind him in court. While its also entirely understandable that he may have feared a Gracchan style execution before any opportunity arose in court (and/or the rather unlikely possibility of a Sullan style takeover by Pompey once Caesar laid down his arms), clearly Caesar could've at least been aware of the non military possibilities.

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I believe that had his opponents allowed him to march home triumphantly he would've been appeased and continued to pursue his political goals through more conventional methods.

You mean like the "conventional methods" he used when consul the first time--when he had Cato arrested? When he used armed thugs in the Forum to prevent tribunes from using their right of veto? When he used screaming mobs to keep his consular colleague locked up in his house? When he made alliances with brigands like Clodius? When in power, there was nothing conventional about the methods of that darling of Venus--and giving Caesar more power, would have done nothing to change those methods.

 

The fact is that after eight years, feeding like a wolf on the blood of Gauls, Caesar's monstrous vanity and lust for power was worse than ever before. Had Caesar faced his opponents in court, he would have won and been even more unbearable. The only good that would have come of it is that civil war would have been averted, thereby saving the republic. As nice as that would have been, let's not pretend that Caesar's future career would have been 'conventional.'

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You mean like the "conventional methods" he used when consul the first time--when he had Cato arrested? When he used armed thugs in the Forum to prevent tribunes from using their right of veto? When he used screaming mobs to keep his consular colleague locked up in his house? When he made alliances with brigands like Clodius? When in power, there was nothing conventional about the methods of that darling of Venus--and giving Caesar more power, would have done nothing to change those methods.

 

The fact is that after eight years, feeding like a wolf on the blood of Gauls, Caesar's monstrous vanity and lust for power was worse than ever before. Had Caesar faced his opponents in court, he would have won and been even more unbearable. The only good that would have come of it is that civil war would have been averted, thereby saving the republic. As nice as that would have been, let's not pretend that Caesar's future career would have been 'conventional.'

 

I simply meant conventional as in political rather than military, regardless of the methods. My apologies for not being quite as hostile with the use of colorful adjectives, but I generally agree. B)

I don't think there is any question that Caesar's lust for power would not have been curtailed, and a struggle for political dominance would have continued, but civil war and the horrific political ramifications would have been averted. (At least temporarily... as we can't be sure of any hypothetical possibilities of course). You're not going to get an argument from me that Caesar would have been the sort to retire to the country while resting on his laurels of victory, but even a belligerent and victorious political Caesar was a better alternative than the triumphant dictator.

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I completely agree that if civil war was averted through compromise, whatever followed would have been much more preferrable than the civil war and its consequences. The Senate clearly did not want it, the people clearly did not want it. And considering the offers made by Caesar, hardline policy pursued by Optimates and combined with general circumstances which alienated the poor, I cannot help but blame both parties for instigation of war.

 

As for Caesar's Rubicon, I believe that rightly or wrongly Caesar felt that his hands were forced.

Although Caesar was genuinely popular with urban plebs at this time and his supporters were being elected, though he was supposedly a great orator and Cicero certainly would have defended Caesar due to his personal obligations (but we all know how he does under pressure. B)), again Pompey's influence (now backed by Optimate-led Senate) was probably felt to be even stronger at this time than what turned out to be, and what it was was still very formidable.

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Although Caesar was genuinely popular with urban plebs at this time and his supporters were being elected

 

How do we know whether Caesar (or Pompey, or Cato) were "genuinely popular with urban plebs" in Jan 49? There were no opinion polls except one--the vote. And the elections (conducted by secret ballot) were returning both Caesarian and anti-Caesarian candidates. In 49, for example, the populace turned away Caesar's candidate Galba, in spite of his reputedly greater dignity, in favor of Lentulus and Marcellus, who announced quite vocally their intention of opposing Caesar.

 

Thus, given the outcome of the elections, it seems likely to me that Caesar was a controversial figure, with both popular support and popular resentment.

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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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Maybe I'm missing something on the list, I went over it several times, but Gaius Cassius Longinus, future "Liberator", put in with Pompey. How all encompassing is that list?

 

I don't understand your objection. The list does include Caius Cassius Longinus as taking sides against Caesar in Jan 49. As far as I know, the list is comprehensive, but it isn't speculative. Figures with no known loyalty are not included.

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Maybe I'm missing something on the list, I went over it several times, but Gaius Cassius Longinus, future "Liberator", put in with Pompey. How all encompassing is that list?

 

I don't understand your objection. The list does include Caius Cassius Longinus as taking sides against Caesar in Jan 49. As far as I know, the list is comprehensive, but it isn't speculative. Figures with no known loyalty are not included.

 

The original list that did not divide patricians and plebeians did not, as far I could see, include Cassius. I went over it several times. The new list breaking things down between the two social classes does. No objection meant...

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From the list above, I got 13 patricii in the Republican side (13/40= 32,5%) and 21 in the Caesarian side (21/55= 38,2%)....I hope MPC will be able to check out this figures.

 

Nice work, Asclepiades. Your analysis further supports what I've been arguing--if anything, the patricians favored the patrician Caesar to the republican cause. The only modification I might make would be to count the Liberator Brutus as half-patrician (through his mother and adoption by his uncle, Quintus Servilius Caepio).

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From the list above, I got 13 patricii in the Republican side (13/40= 32,5%) and 21 in the Cesarean side (21/55= 38,2%)....I hope MPC will be able to check out this figures.

 

Nice work, Asclepiades. Your analysis further supports what I've been arguing--if anything, the patricians favored the patrician Caesar to the republican cause. The only modification I might make would be to count the Liberator Brutus as half-patrician (through his mother and adoption by his uncle, Quintus Servilius Caepio).

 

 

Numbers can be deceiving. I'm not disputing the figures. The fact of the matter is, after Pharsalus, Caesar was dependent on the opposition to properly run Rome. Many of his associates were army thugs. My opinion, the brighter minds in Rome went with Pompey to defend the Republic.

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The fact of the matter is, after Pharsalus, Caesar was dependent on the opposition to properly run Rome. Many of his associates were army thugs. My opinion, the brighter minds in Rome went with Pompey to defend the Republic.

I agree entirely. My point certainly isn't that the patricians were better men and that Caesar's cause was the better (quite the opposite); my point is that the common view of the Caesarian civil war as being "Caesar and the people versus Pompey and the nobility" is just flat-out wrong. Even Lucan fell into this error in his Pharsalia (7.597f): "Here perished all the glory of the fatherland: on the plains in an enormous heap patrician corpses lie, with no plebeians among them." Aside from the obvious exaggeration involved, Lucan has the statistics reversed. To turn Lucan's famous line ("Victrix causa.."), the closer truth was that the conquering cause pleased the patricians, but the conquered cause pleased plebeians.

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Interesting to note how so much attention is given to the division of sides at Pharsalus and not at Philippi. Many of the brighter minds died there, too. Actually a long list could be drawn up. And events building up to it are exciting too, like how Cassius hammered Dolabella at Laodicia. From Pharsalus to Actium a brain drain was taking place. MHO.

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Interesting to note how so much attention is given to the division of sides at Pharsalus and not at Philippi. Many of the brighter minds died there, too. Actually a long list could be drawn up. And events building up to it are exciting too, like how Cassius hammered Dolabella at Laodicia. From Pharsalus to Actium a brain drain was taking place. MHO.

I agree entirely. Men who had experience in office were always precious to the republic because it was their experience that was the substance of the constitutional order. This working knowledge of the republican system was not isolated to actual magistrates, of course, but also included the sons and male relatives of magistrates, who were reared in the expectation that they would one day wear the senatorial toga and carry on the republican tradition. From Pharsalus to Actium, this wealth of accumulated experience was wiped out in civil war. In my opinion, this factor more than any other is what explains the death of the republican system.

Edited by M. Porcius Cato

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