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L. Quintus Sertorius

The Cause That Lacked Naught But A Cause

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Agreed, the legates probably were not more Italian than Roman - but the centurions (NCO's, as Adrian Goldsworthy as called them) certainly were. One of Caesar's favored promotions was that of a valorous legionary to the centuriate.

Good point--and very relevant too. If the centurions had all been legionaries, then all the centurions would have taken the sacramentum and been bound by it. Thus, insofar as Caesar packed his officer's tents with men from the legions, he prevented any of the defections that had troubled Sulla. What a Machiavellian genius!

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I'm suprised that Adrian Goldsworthy describes centurions as NCO's - they weren't. They were a class of junior officer that has no modern equivalent. There were NCO equivalents - the principales - but the command structure of the legions was different to modern day armies despite some apparent similarities, and I think its a bit misleading to compare them directly. We understand the modern military structure, its almost part of ordinary life even to those who don't know the details. It must have been the same for the romans in their day.

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Legally, the sacramentum, or military oath, was sworn to the presiding commander, to whom the soldier vowed to obey, to execute the orders of his officers, and not to desert (Polyb. 6.21.2). Oaths to the republic itself--which might have saved Rome from Caesar's designs--were typically required of foreign nations and allies, but such an oath was never required of soldiers. Thus, Caesar had only to command his men to cross the Rubicon, and they had no choice in the matter.

 

I might add that soldiers DID have a choice about whether to take the sacramentum in the first place, and they took the oath quite seriously. Consider 88 BCE. When Marius obtained Sulla's command (under dubious circumstances), Marius sent his agents to administer the sacramentum to Sulla's troops--and the troops stoned the agents to death. Examples abound of commanders requiring new oaths from deserting, captured, and fraternizing soldiers. Indeed, when Caesar's men finally mutinied against him, Caesar reminded them of their oath to him (App. BC 2.47).

 

In addition to the logical inference that Caesar could have gained the support of his men merely from the sacramentum, we also have ancient testimony to the fact. According to Appian (BC 2.140), Caesar was directly charged with having taken advantage of the sacramentum in order to lead his unwilling soldiers against Rome.

Nope, you can't conclude that. Even if there was no republic's oath (absence of evidence is no evidence of absence), oaths were not the only valid legal allegiance. The Tarpeian rock and alternative methods were there to help assure the citizens' loyalty, irrespective of the omnipresent legal background. It's an absolute for any established nation.

Conversely, even if we weren't aware of the sacramentum (BTW, it was not the only military Oath among the Romans), we can rest assure that the Roman army, and any other army deserving such name, had well defined methods to compel their soldiers to obey their commander's orders. After all, no regular army is ruled by its privates' consensus. A minimum of military discipline is another absolute.

Internal military revolts had always posed the same alternatives through all history: the established regime versus your rebel comrades. The degree of administrative autonomy for each army has been extremely variable, but with the possible exception of some mercenaries, the soldiers have always had allegiances with both sides to some extent. Caesar's soldiers couldn't ignore the obvious fact that they were exposing themselves to severe punishment by following the orders of a rebel. If that wasn't the case, it was only because theirs was ultimately the winner side.

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oaths were not the only valid legal allegiance. The Tarpeian rock and alternative methods were there to help assure the citizens' loyalty, irrespective of the omnipresent legal background.[...] Caesar's soldiers couldn't ignore the obvious fact that they were exposing themselves to severe punishment by following the orders of a rebel.

 

There is no evidence that the ordinary soldiers who followed the orders of defeated Roman hostes--including Sertorius, Lepidus, Brutus, Catiline, Sextus Pompey, Cassius, Brutus, and Antony--were ever thrown from the Tarpeian Rock or punished in any other way. Had Caesar been defeated, the only ones to suffer from his defeat would be those killed directly on the battlefield and the legates who--taking no sacramentum--freely followed him in his treason.

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There is no evidence that the ordinary soldiers who followed the orders of defeated Roman hostes--including Sertorius, Lepidus, Brutus, Catiline, Sextus Pompey, Cassius, Brutus, and Antony--were ever thrown from the Tarpeian Rock or punished in any other way. Had Caesar been defeated, the only ones to suffer from his defeat would be those killed directly on the battlefield and the legates who--taking no sacramentum--freely followed him in his treason.

Here comes Lex Duodecim Tabularum (tabula IX, Lex VII):

 

"If anyone should stir up war against his country, or delivers a Roman citizen into the hands of the enemy, he shall be punished with death."

 

I haven't been able so far to find any evidence of exceptions for soldiers under Sacramentum or any other oath. Au contraire, perduelles were specifically public enemies who bore arms against the state. At a later period, several leges maiestatis dealed with crimes against the Roman people or state.

 

The lex Cornelia (or Valeria?) de proscriptione et proscriptis, sanctioned at 82 BC was the main legal basis for thousands of proscriptions and executions against real or purported Marian soldiers by the men of Sulla. At 43 BC, a law carried by the tribune P. Titius appointed Octavius, Antonius and Lepidus as Triumviri Res Publica Constituenda and let them proscribe an even greater number of Roman citizens. One of their main legal supports was presumably the lex Julia majestatis (circa 48 BC).

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The lex Cornelia (or Valeria?) de proscriptione et proscriptis, sanctioned at 82 BC was the main legal basis for thousands of proscriptions and executions against real or purported Marian soldiers by the men of Sulla.

 

The Sullan proscriptions weren't aiming to punish Marius' soldiers--they aimed at rich, political opponents of Sulla. Think about it: only 4700 people were proscribed, not a whole army's worth. Thus, Caesar's legates might have wanted to avoid such a fate, but there was no precedent for applying such a law to ordinary infantrymen following orders.

 

Now the lex maiestas is a much more interesting case. These laws would apply to soldiers, but the wording of the laws (even as late as 48) seems to envision situations such as desertion, conspiring with the enemy, abandoning a standard or fortress, etc. Had it been otherwise, surrendering forces in civil war would have been summarily executed, which seems not to have been the policy. In the case of the Social War,for example, surrendering troops were given the franchise. I hasten to add that troops that did not surrender were killed, e.g., the recalcitrent Samnites in the Social War and the last Marians at Praeneste, but they were not tried under the lex maiestas--they were just butchered.

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The Sullan proscriptions weren't aiming to punish Marius' soldiers--they aimed at rich, political opponents of Sulla. Think about it: only 4700 people were proscribed, not a whole army's worth. Thus, Caesar's legates might have wanted to avoid such a fate, but there was no precedent for applying such a law to ordinary infantrymen following orders.

 

Now the lex maiestas is a much more interesting case. These laws would apply to soldiers, but the wording of the laws (even as late as 48) seems to envision situations such as desertion, conspiring with the enemy, abandoning a standard or fortress, etc. Had it been otherwise, surrendering forces in civil war would have been summarily executed, which seems not to have been the policy. In the case of the Social War,for example, surrendering troops were given the franchise. I hasten to add that troops that did not surrender were killed, e.g., the recalcitrent Samnites in the Social War and the last Marians at Praeneste, but they were not tried under the lex maiestas--they were just butchered.

 

Both Sullan and Triumviral proscriptions were aimed to punish the enemies of the state (Marian and Republican supporters, respectively); both made a lot of money by pure abuse of their unrestricted authority for selecting the "enemies", specifically defined by the Lex Duodecim Tabularum as anyone who "should stir up war against his country" (vg, soldiers).

This definition is hardly surprising; almost all nations and societies at any time have thought and acted in the same way; in fact, it would be really amazing to find any well-attested exception.

 

I think you haven't found yet any single example of a Roman soldier or official acquitted of a charge of high treason (for stirring war against Rome) simply by the "following orders under his oath" excuse.

BTW, you're right; Roman generals were frequently accused (and convicted) of perduellio for offenses far lesser than open rebellion, as you rightly mentioned.

 

If defeated soldiers were butchered (out of the battlefield) without any trial, it would be little more than a technicality for the topic of this thread (Caesar's soldiers motivations). If you loose, you might very well die. Literally. If the butchering soldiers were not tried for their actions, we may reasonably infer they were legal.

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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I think you haven't found yet any single example of a Roman soldier or official acquitted of a charge of high treason (for stirring war against Rome) simply by the "following orders under his oath" excuse.

 

First find some examples of common soldiers being charged or convicted of high treason. Also see if there examples of common soldiery being proscribed. I know you will say that absence of evidence is not evidence, but the lack of such evidence is clearly an indication that these men weren't targeted. Treason and proscription was aimed at those capable of leading an insurrection, ie officers, whereas proscription was aimed at men of wealth and/or political influence.

 

There is plenty of evidence of mutiny in the historical record and how various commanders dealt with it. If this was worthy of being reported by the sources, why not mention when soldiers were proscribed or charged in a criminal conspiracy trial?

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I think you haven't found yet any single example of a Roman soldier or official acquitted of a charge of high treason (for stirring war against Rome) simply by the "following orders under his oath" excuse.

Given that I can't find a single example of a Roman soldier being CHARGED with treason for following his officers' orders, it's impossible to find evidence that one was ACQUITTED either! The onus of proof is on you to find evidence that a common solider was ever charged with treason while acting under orders.

 

Generally, I find it fantastic to imagine the authoritarian Romans expecting common soldiers to overthrow their commanders. Indeed, there is some evidence that the normal social hierarchy was expected even in civil war. Recall that after Sulla--who was never declared hostes-marched on Rome in 88, he passed a measure declaring the 12 seditious Marians hostes, including Sulpicius, the tribune whose use of force started the whole civil war. A slave of Sulpicius promptly did his patriotic duty by turning the public enemy over to Sulla, who gave the slave his freedom--but then had the freedman hurled from the Tarpeian rock for disobeying his master.

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First. this thread is about Caesar's soldiers motivations. It's clear (at least for me, and I would think for everybody else here) that they knew the Senate and the Roman state could and would punish them (vg, butchering them) for following their rebel commander, with or without any kind of oath. The precise legal background was a technicality, at best.

 

Second, I haven't read about any legal exception protecting Roman soldiers from treason charges.There is certainly no one on the Lex Duodecim Tabularum . I would find it really amazing if Roman soldiers were excused from constitutional laws applied to Roman generals and intended to all Roman citizens.

 

Third, let me get this straight; you claim Roman (or any other country's) soldiers were not liable to treason's indictment for taking arms against their country just because they were following orders from their commander. From where I am, that is an extraordinary claim, and if it's verifiable, it might considerably change my global vision of ancient Rome's world. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Excuse me, but the extraordinary claim is not mine. Until I have firm evidence to believe otherwise, I think Roman soldiers that follow a treacherous general were liable of treason, just like those of any other country or society I have information of.

 

And lastly, thanks for the Sulpicius' slave story; it's pretty enlightening about the legal and social situation of slaves at ancient Rome.

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A slave of Sulpicius promptly did his patriotic duty by turning the public enemy over to Sulla, who gave the slave his freedom--but then had the freedman hurled from the Tarpeian rock for disobeying his master.

 

For the record:

 

Roman slaves were not Roman citizens; they didn't have patriotic duties.

 

It is evident manumission didn't transform that unlucky ex-slave into a Roman citizen; Sulla wouldn't have been able to make his little joke if that were the case.

 

That said, Sulla was a real scoundrel; not even Caesar made ever something like that.

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I think you haven't found yet any single example of a Roman soldier or official acquitted of a charge of high treason (for stirring war against Rome) simply by the "following orders under his oath" excuse.

 

First find some examples of common soldiers being charged or convicted of high treason. Also see if there examples of common soldiery being proscribed.

 

How about twelve thousand of them to begin with?

 

Here comes Plutarch, Parallel Lives; Sulla; Ch. XXXII, sec. I:

 

"Meanwhile Marius the younger, at the point of being captured, slew himself; and Sulla, coming to Praeneste, at first gave each man there a separate trial before he executed him, but afterwards, since time failed him, gathered them all together in one place

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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A slave of Sulpicius promptly did his patriotic duty by turning the public enemy over to Sulla, who gave the slave his freedom--but then had the freedman hurled from the Tarpeian rock for disobeying his master.

 

For the record:

 

Roman slaves were not Roman citizens; they didn't have patriotic duties.

 

Not strictly speaking, but they were expected to act in their masters name who did indeed have patriotic duties. Subinfuedated duties if you will, and romans were very keen to see slaves do their bit out of loyalty to the master or the state if need be, provided it did not conflict with common decency, law, or task. As Cicero said when describing the courage of gladiators - "...If a mere slave can do this, then what can a roman do?..."

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I think you haven't found yet any single example of a Roman soldier or official acquitted of a charge of high treason (for stirring war against Rome) simply by the "following orders under his oath" excuse.

First find some examples of common soldiers being charged or convicted of high treason. Also see if there examples of common soldiery being proscribed.

How about twelve thousand of them to begin with?

Here comes Plutarch, Parallel Lives; Sulla; Ch. XXXII, sec. I [...]

And here comes Appian, The Civil Wars, Book I, Ch. XCIV [...]

The Praeneste massacre (which I already cited above) did not follow a conviction of treason--it was plain butchery and was expressly forbidden by the lex Valeria and leges Porciae, which forbade summary execution of soldiers.

 

Furthermore, if you want to continue this line that Caesar's troops couldn't desert him lest they be executed for treason by the republican forces, the critical evidence has to come from surrendering troops, not captured troops.

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I think you haven't found yet any single example of a Roman soldier or official acquitted of a charge of high treason (for stirring war against Rome) simply by the "following orders under his oath" excuse.

First find some examples of common soldiers being charged or convicted of high treason. Also see if there examples of common soldiery being proscribed.

How about twelve thousand of them to begin with?

Here comes Plutarch, Parallel Lives; Sulla; Ch. XXXII, sec. I [...]

And here comes Appian, The Civil Wars, Book I, Ch. XCIV [...]

The Praeneste massacre (which I already cited above) did not follow a conviction of treason--it was plain butchery and was expressly forbidden by the lex Valeria and leges Porciae, which forbade summary execution of soldiers.

 

Furthermore, if you want to continue this line that Caesar's troops couldn't desert him lest they be executed for treason by the republican forces, the critical evidence has to come from surrendering troops, not captured troops.

Your quoting is incomplete:

Meanwhile Marius the younger, at the point of being captured, slew himself; and Sulla, coming to Praeneste, at first gave each man there a separate trial before he executed him, but afterwards, since time failed him, gathered them all together in one place

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