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Caesar & Augustus

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We have a number of threads in which Caesar and Augustus are maligned. Therefor, I have questions: Who, or what, at the point of the Rubicon, or prior to it, had the capacity to retain the then vaunted Republic? If they existed, why didn't they save the Republic? Wasn't it plain for them to see from the actions of Caesar and Pompey that the Republic was in danger?

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We have a number of threads in which Caesar and Augustus are maligned....

Revisionism, plain and simple. Of course this can be healthy and considered normal as new evidence arises. Current events (at the time of writing) can influence a thesis, an obvious one would be "Naughty dictator/fascist one man rule" thesis of the nineteen thirties and forties, or the "white mans burden/for the good of civilization" thesis of the eighteen hundreds to support imperialism. Unfortunately certain quarters of this forum seek empiricism when as we know empiricism is an impossible thing in ancient history.

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If I may say (before M Porcius dives in) you are very right Clodius - history says as much about the time it's written as the time it describes. Though as a youth I admired Caesar and his vile great-nephew for thier genius; now, as our liberties and constitution are being daily dismantled in the name of security and efficiency (as always!) without a whimper of protest, I find hero worship of Caesar appalling .

 

As far as the state of the Republic in 50 BCE, I go with Gruen et al. who say it was a going concern, not without problems of course (mainly the violent rivalries of the nobles) but a viable government until destroyed by the civil war.

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As far as the state of the Republic in 50 BCE, I go with Gruen et al. who say it was a going concern, not without problems of course (mainly the violent rivalries of the nobles) but a viable government until destroyed by the civil war.

 

I must respectfully but unequivocally disagree with your assessment of the viability of the Republic in the mid-1st century B.C. To my way of thinking the Republic came to an end when the first cudgel struck the head of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus in 133. In fact I would go so far as to say that the conclusion of the 2nd Punic War marked the beginning of the end of the Republic. If Caesar had fallen off his horse while crossing the Rubicon and cracked his skull open, the shell of the Republic might have had a few more years (even a decade or two), but I doubt if it would have survived till the birth of Christ.

 

And if Marcus Porcius Cato comes on this thread to dispute my argument, I will throw down my shield, turn tail, and run for the hills!

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I must respectfully but unequivocally disagree with your assessment of the viability of the Republic in the mid-1st century B.C. To my way of thinking the Republic came to an end when the first cudgel struck the head of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus in 133. In fact I would go so far as to say that the conclusion of the 2nd Punic War marked the beginning of the end of the Republic. If Caesar had fallen off his horse while crossing the Rubicon and cracked his skull open, the shell of the Republic might have had a few more years (even a decade or two), but I doubt if it would have survived till the birth of Christ.

We are in agreement.

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If I may say (before M Porcius dives in) you are very right Clodius - history says as much about the time it's written as the time it describes. Though as a youth I admired Caesar and his vile great-nephew for thier genius; now, as our liberties and constitution are being daily dismantled in the name of security and efficiency (as always!) without a whimper of protest, I find hero worship of Caesar appalling .

 

As far as the state of the Republic in 50 BCE, I go with Gruen et al. who say it was a going concern, not without problems of course (mainly the violent rivalries of the nobles) but a viable government until destroyed by the civil war.

 

None of the questions are answered.

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At the time of Caesar's transcending the Rubikon, the only entity that may have been capable of retaining the Republic would have been the Senate. But, as we all know too very well, leaders from Caesar to the end of the Empire made legions loyal to themselves more than that to the SPQR, which in my opinion is a republics greatest fear. A Senate, or Republic for that matter, with little or no military back-up, will succumb to a general bent on a power-grab with the might of the military loyal only to him, and not to the people. Making promises of pay raises, donating land and raising the pensions for veterans only led to the solidifying of military support and loyalty to the general promising the gold.

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I believe Pompey was the de facto benefactor for the Senate, or at least trying to present himself as such for the time being; meaning that the legions under Pompey's control were supposedly fighting for the rights of the Republic. If Pompey would have won Pharsalus, I think he would have gone the same route as Caesar in any case.

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I believe Pompey was the de facto benefactor for the Senate, or at least trying to present himself as such for the time being; meaning that the legions under Pompey's control were supposedly fighting for the rights of the Republic. If Pompey would have won Pharsalus, I think he would have gone the same route as Caesar in any case.

 

I quite agree. If Pompey triumphed over Caesar (and that could have happened if Pompey had pursued his victory at Dyrrachium) I suspect he would have insisted upon a "Princeps" sort of title from a cowed and grateful Senate. (At this point I don't think "Mr. Magnus" would have been satisfied with a mere First Man in Rome appellation.)

 

However, Pompey being from Picenum was viewed by many "true" Romans (the boni) as being Gallic and not a Roman-of-the-Romans. The thought of a Gallic Princeps would have been repellent to most Romans (think Brennus, circa 390 BC). I'd speculate you'd wind up with another civil war after the Pompey vs. Caesar dust-up.

 

Love him or hate him, Caesar was a true Roman and from an extremely ancient Patrician family. That had to count for something to many of his countrymen.

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We have a number of threads in which Caesar and Augustus are maligned. Therefor, I have questions: Who, or what, at the point of the Rubicon, or prior to it, had the capacity to retain the then vaunted Republic? If they existed, why didn't they save the Republic? Wasn't it plain for them to see from the actions of Caesar and Pompey that the Republic was in danger?

There are a number of threads that also deals with such questions. For example, in this related thread, my question was Why did the Republic never came back?

 

I don't think we got then to a conclusion. My position would still be more or less the same; the critical point for the demise of the Republic would be the introduction of the so called "Marian" reforms at the end of the II Century BC (justified or not), mainly because they made the Legions permanent institutions, leaving then the viable option for their commanders to use them at will; therefore, it would have been only a matter of time until a sufficiently ambitious and capable commander tried a coup d'etat.

 

In fact, I think the Roman Republic was just dead after LC Sulla's victory, and I don't think we have the full answer as to why the Republic was eventually restored, beyond the obvious premature disappearance of the Dictator.

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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When Marius returned victorious from Gaul there was no armed force that could prevent his domination of the state, yet he dismissed his troops and entered the senate. When Pompey returned from the East in 63BC no one could have stood in the way of the peoples hero and his army, yet he laid down his command and the republic went on. Even Sulla who did use his army to overthrow the government didn't establish a monarchy, but placed a reinforced senate in control. The ambition of all was to ENTER the aristocratic elite, the generals competed to control the state not to destroy it.

 

I'm not convinced of the concept of "private armies" either. True the soldiers served their commanders for gain and loyalty, but Caesar and Sulla both appealed to their troops in the name of legitimacy and the republic not personal loyalty. And who's to say what Pompey would have done had he been victorious - would he have been more dominating in 47 than he was in 63? He didn't set up a monarchy then.

 

Gruen emphasizes the continuity in the operation of government institutions through the last Generation of the Republic, and cautions against hindsight. We know the republic fell and are bound to look for the seeds of collapse in the years leading up to the crisis. Legislation dealing with the land, the allies and the provinces continued to be passed, elections continued, criminal trials (most with political implications) went on right up to 50 BC; and the final crisis was brought on by a wrangle over the interpretation of a law. Maybe it was all just a facade waiting to be tipped into rubble by a gentle push - but maybe it took 20 years of brutal war and terrorism to destroy the republic, and a politician/dictator of genius to keep down it's memory till the corpse was truly buried.

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When Marius returned victorious from Gaul there was no armed force that could prevent his domination of the state, yet he dismissed his troops and entered the senate.

It might have been a miscalculation. Marius tried the eternal consulship and failed; then the things went wrong with Saturninus.

 

And at DCLXVIII AUC / 86 BC, he effectively dominated the state when the armed force which could have prevented him again went to the east. Entering the aristocratic elite was simply not enough for him.

 

Here comes Appian, Bellum Civili, Liber I, Cp. LXV-LXXV:

 

"So Pompeius came and encamped before the Colline gate. Cinna advanced against him and encamped near him. When Gaius Marius heard of all this he sailed to Etruria with his fellow-exiles and about 500 slaves who had joined their masters from Rome... he collected 6000 Etruscans and reached Cinna ... Marius captured and plundered Ostia, while Cinna sent a force and captured Ariminum ... Appius Claudius, a military tribune,... admitted him into the city, opening a gate for him at about daybreak. Then Marius admitted Cinna... He fell upon their garrisons unexpectedly and captured Antium, Aricia, Lanuvium, and others... The Senate was alarmed... changed its mind and sent envoys to Cinna to treat for peace... Accordingly Cinna and Marius entered the city and everybody received them with fear. Straightway they began to plunder without hindrance all the goods of those who were supposed to be of the opposite party... Censorinus cut off his head (Octavius') and carried it to Cinna... the first head of a consul that was so exposed... Gaius Julius and Lucius Julius, Atilius Serranus, Publius Lentulus, Gaius Nemetorius, and Marcus Baebius were arrested in the street and killed. .. Quintus Ancharius... when he approached and saluted Marius, the latter, who was just beginning the sacrifice, ordered the guards to kill him in the Capitol forthwith; and his head, with that of the orator Antonius, and those of others who had been consuls and praetors, was exposed in the forum... The following year Cinna was chosen consul for the second time, and Marius for the seventh; so that, notwithstanding his banishment and the price on his head, the augury of the seven eaglets proved true for him. But he died in the first month of his consulship"

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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I'm not convinced of the concept of "private armies" either. True the soldiers served their commanders for gain and loyalty, but Caesar and Sulla both appealed to their troops in the name of legitimacy and the republic not personal loyalty. And who's to say what Pompey would have done had he been victorious - would he have been more dominating in 47 than he was in 63? He didn't set up a monarchy then.

Neither do I, that's why I don't talk about "private armies".

 

We had recently a quite extensive argument concerning soldiers' motivations. Briefly, the military oath (Sacramentum) gave the commandant absolute personal authority over his soldiers, including capital punishment. Previous to the Marian Reforms, that authority had the chronological limitation imposed by the annual levies, but after 107 BC (DCXLVII AUC) it was effective for the whole active life of each soldier. Even so, personal voluntary loyalty to the general (their perceived provider and protector) was probably the main explanation for following rebel commanders.

Edited by ASCLEPIADES

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Even Sulla who did use his army to overthrow the government didn't establish a monarchy, but placed a reinforced senate in control.

No, he removed his rivals from the senate. Thats not reinforcement. It may well be he did this for a partially noble purpose (he did retire voluntarily bless him) but he certainly made sure he profited from it, and made sure his cronies did too.

 

The ambition of all was to ENTER the aristocratic elite, the generals competed to control the state not to destroy it.

Ok, but the generals competed to destroy each other rather than simply control territory.

 

I'm not convinced of the concept of "private armies" either. True the soldiers served their commanders for gain and loyalty, but Caesar and Sulla both appealed to their troops in the name of legitimacy and the republic not personal loyalty.

So? If you want troops to follow what amounts to open rebellion you want them behind you yes? So you legitamise your cause - and tell them anything that makes them believe their cause is just. Thats typical of rebel leaders.

 

Gruen emphasizes the continuity in the operation of government institutions through the last Generation of the Republic, and cautions against hindsight. We know the republic fell and are bound to look for the seeds of collapse in the years leading up to the crisis. Legislation dealing with the land, the allies and the provinces continued to be passed, elections continued, criminal trials (most with political implications) went on right up to 50 BC; and the final crisis was brought on by a wrangle over the interpretation of a law. Maybe it was all just a facade waiting to be tipped into rubble by a gentle push - but maybe it took 20 years of brutal war and terrorism to destroy the republic, and a politician/dictator of genius to keep down it's memory till the corpse was truly buried.

The senate continued after Sulla on momentum, tradition. The problem with such 'croney-ism' is that it always weakens a governing body, since older traditions of public service evaporate in the face of selfishness and no shortage of greed since the example has been set, and if so-and-so can get away with it why can't I? In that respect, Sulla effectively reduced to the senate to a gathering of wealth seekers and such bodies are prone to domination by powerful and ambitious personalities. The corpse was not truly buried. The republic didn't actually end, it simply had an imperial dynasty dominate it. And one should not be fooled into thinking the senate was the lapdog of the emperors. Senators very often made life difficult for emperors, there were always senators who wanted their job, and more than one emperor was declared an enemy of the state.

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