Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
  • Time Travel Rome

Sign in to follow this  
Caesar CXXXVII

Ides of March

Recommended Posts

In Answer to Sylla:

 

Caesar did not end the Republic by concentrating all power in the hands of one man (himself). That did not end the Republic any more than did Sulla's reign. Caesar broke the back of the Republic by what he did with his power: laying the foundations for Rome to truly become an empire, as opposed to a city-state that controlled a lot of territory. The essence of the Republic was it being a system designed to run a city-state, and though Rome now controlled vast territories, for all intents and purposes that was what it remained: a city-state. Until Caesar's ground-breaking distribution of citizenship and planting of colonies. That is Gelzer's thesis.

 

I do not conotate intelligence with "slavishness". On the contrary, it is a term I would have applied to the Boni had they worked with Caesar, rather than against him.

 

Caesar did likely aim for an autocracy (such a government being the only real practical one at hand). But it would, I think have been a gentler one than was eventually imposed.

By any definition, an Empire far beyond any city-state limits has been ruled by the Roman Republic for more than three hundred years, not a bad score as compared with any past or modern state; even under the Civil Wars, the Roman Empire was actually growing.

What evidence did Gelzer find on the sudden incompetence of the Republic for ruling such Empire?

For the sake of the argument, let us admit autocracy was required (???). Why Caesar? Just because he won the war?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There was an old thread about some books that considered Jesus as a re-edition of Caesar; the books themselves were a mess, but there's an obvious parallel between both figures; they were considered as tragic saviors, for whom we normal mortals should be eternally grateful.

 

Salvete omnes !

 

I have heard about 'Jesus was Caesar'. I haven't read it of course. I'm pretty sure it is mostly rubbish like almost all books with that kind of sensationalist titles are. But I do find the idea thought provoking. The more so since I pretty much lean towards the idea that Jesus Christ wasn't really a historical figure, but a composite of several messianic preachers at the time and that he only served as a figurehead around which the christian philosophy could be built in the gospels. The apostels, as far as I know are all clearly real historical people.

 

On Caesar's attitude : I think that he was a man with a great sense of destiny. And probably by the time he was murdered he felt that he had done what he had to do so far. And if the end came, well he was resigned to that. He could only hope that those who came after him would finish the work. He was probably overconfident. He had to be, he had survived so many far more dangerous situations than a few people plotting against him. And he probably felt it beneath his dignity to give more attention to it than it deserved in his view.

 

I think he was absolutely one of the greatest men ever. A great general, a great politician with a view I can very much endorse and, not least, a great writer. If anyone deserved to be deified, in my view it was him.

 

Valete,

 

Formosus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From Suetonius, Appian, Dio and others we know that across his last months of life Caesar:

- upgraded his fourth dictatorship term into a lifelong tenure,

- proclaimed himself:

-- Consul for 10 years,

-- Censor for life,

-- Father of his Country (Pater Patriae),

- declared his person sacred and inviolable (*),

- named after himself the month of Quintilis,

- extracted:

-- from the senate all kind of honours (divine included),

-- from the magistrates an oath immediately upon their inauguration not to opposite any of his decrees,

-- from each and any senator an oath to protect his person (*).

He was about to begin his Parthian campaign when he was killed (even if Sextus Pompey was still active).

 

The signs of progressively increasing hunger for power, glory and deification were everywhere.

Nowhere can I find any sign that the man was expecting to depart from this life any time soon.

This might explain why Suetonius and Plutarch required from supernatural omens to provide the literary tragic effect of their narratives.

 

(*) Additionally, this might also explain why Caesar was confident enough to dismiss his Spaniard Guard.

Edited by sylla

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also tend to believe that any prognostication by Caesar is simply retrospective creative license by the historians to add a dramatic flair. Sure, Caesar was probably well aware of rumors, but his behavior up to that point doesn't indicate a willingness to simply let his opponents have their way and win.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In Answer to Sylla:

 

Caesar did not end the Republic by concentrating all power in the hands of one man (himself). That did not end the Republic any more than did Sulla's reign. Caesar broke the back of the Republic by what he did with his power: laying the foundations for Rome to truly become an empire, as opposed to a city-state that controlled a lot of territory. The essence of the Republic was it being a system designed to run a city-state, and though Rome now controlled vast territories, for all intents and purposes that was what it remained: a city-state. Until Caesar's ground-breaking distribution of citizenship and planting of colonies. That is Gelzer's thesis.

 

I do not conotate intelligence with "slavishness". On the contrary, it is a term I would have applied to the Boni had they worked with Caesar, rather than against him.

 

Caesar did likely aim for an autocracy (such a government being the only real practical one at hand). But it would, I think have been a gentler one than was eventually imposed.

By any definition, an Empire far beyond any city-state limits has been ruled by the Roman Republic for more than three hundred years, not a bad score as compared with any past or modern state; even under the Civil Wars, the Roman Empire was actually growing.

What evidence did Gelzer find on the sudden incompetence of the Republic for ruling such Empire?

For the sake of the argument, let us admit autocracy was required (???). Why Caesar? Just because he won the war?

 

The incompetence of the Republic for governing its Empire can very broadly and roughly be divided into two aspects:

 

Firstly; the army. Viewing the events of the last century of the Republic's existence, it is pretty hard to argue with the conclusion that the military's habit of following influential generals into battle against their fellow Romans was a problem that had to be addressed. A military autocracy of one kind or another was inevitable - Caesar recognized this.

 

Secondly, and even more importantly, IMO, than the military issue, to say that the Republic was doing a fine job of ruling itself is a blatent contradiction to the facts. Plundered and Oppressed Provinces, young noblemen with bad habits of running into debt, massive unemployment and the general destabilization of the economy related to the Latifundia and the massive use of slaves, gangs ruling the streets, an oppressive oligarchy that was prepared to fight to the death (literally) against any attempt at what the system needed more than anything else: reform. Gelzer rightly points out that the problems that Caesar faced upon the conclusion of the Civil War (the economy in shambles, widespread devastation and terror, etc) had by no means been caused by the Civil War that had just been fought: they had been brewing for a long time, and all the Civil War had done was bring them over to boil. There is no greater eveidence of Caesar's sheer sanity above all else that having gained power he did his utmost best to use it intelligently to try and improve things, rejecting both populist and optimate interests alike in favor of what was the greatest benefit to everyone in general.

 

That is not to say that the Republic could not have continued to rule its empire feasibly for a few more years, without change. Of course, the problems mentioned above would inevitably have brought the whole system crashing down, and we today would certainly not remember Rome for being the great civilization that it ultimately became. But it was the high mark of Caesar's statesmanship that he recognized that it did not have to be like this; indeed it should not be like this. Why should the empire remain a series of provinces at the mercy of a city-state steadily sucking them dry (this is not an exageration: the marked economic decline of the areas under the rule of the Roman Republic over the years is a fact - it was not until the Empire that they recovered) when instead it could become a universal Romanized Empire with wide-spread benefits for many of its 60 million odd inhabitents rather than just the ones who lived in Italy? There can be no greater proof of the soundness of Caesar's vision than the results of its being implemented. It was the transformation of Rome from a city-state system into a wide Imperial Nation-State that lead to the prosperity of the Pax Romana and the real flowering of Roman Civilization.

 

Of course, to achieve this, the Oligarchic Republic had to go. And in many ways, good riddance. The rule of the Emperors was, many argue, not much better, and this is one of the reasons why I see Caesar's demise as a tragedy. He had succeeded in creating the Empire, but it was left to a still brilliant, but nevertheless lesser man - Augustus - to devise the way it would be ruled.

 

Unlike Augustus, who purged the old nobility and broke it forever, Caesar recognized that while the old nobility might have been corrupt, they nevertheless carried with the the traits that had made Rome great in the first place. This was one of the key stones in his policy of clemeny and reconciliation: he recognized that the new Nation-State coupled with the old strengths that had lead to Rome's rise, freed from their antiquated principles, would be a potent force indeed. And while at it he also intended to try and improve life for the lower classes. As was, Rome had to make do with the Nation State, and the lives of the lower classes were improved.

 

An autocracy was required, and now for your question of: Why Caesar? Pure and simple because there was nobody better suited to the job, and he knew it. His career firmly established him as a believer in meritocracy, and meritocracy in a nutshell is that the best man for the job gets the job. Caesar had many admirable traits, but modesty was not one of them. He knew he was the best, and that was why he won out in the end. Gelzer sums it up nicely: Caesar was conscious of his power to rise to become master of an Empire that he could reshape in his own image. His efforts in Gaul confirmed his rank as the First Man in Rome, the Civil War that followed represents the defence of his Dignitas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The incompetence of the Republic for governing its Empire can very broadly and roughly be divided into two aspects:/quote]

And when did such incompetence begin? Before of after the first Samnite War (343-341 BC)?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd put it as having mostly started to materialize after the Second Punic War, when Rome truly started out on the path of aquiring an empire. Rome's territories in Italy by the time relevant were effectively a part of the city-state.

 

The military aspect has two possible starting points: Marius's reforms to the army or Sulla's first march on Rome, take your pick.

 

The other problems took more time to acumulate. I'd put the start of these aspects of the Republic's incompetence as having begun and risen with the Latifundia.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'd put it as having mostly started to materialize after the Second Punic War, when Rome truly started out on the path of aquiring an empire. Rome's territories in Italy by the time relevant were effectively a part of the city-state.

 

The military aspect has two possible starting points: Marius's reforms to the army or Sulla's first march on Rome, take your pick.

 

The other problems took more time to acumulate. I'd put the start of these aspects of the Republic's incompetence as having begun and risen with the Latifundia.

It's hard to see how the acquisition of such an Empire can be seen as a sign of administrative incompetence at all.

It's evident that from at least two centuries before the Hannibalic War, Rome's territories in Italy were effectively many times larger and more populated than any Classical city-state; countless city-states were actually included within its boundaries (all Magna Grecia poleis, to begin with).

If territorial continuity is your criterion for defining city-states, then Russia would just be an overgrown Moscow.

Edited by sylla

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Did Caesar trust that his life was so indispensable to the republic that his assassination would be unthinkable? Probably. Did he take any precautions so that his death -- whether natural or artificial -- would not upend the state? Not at all. Could any such actions be undertaken? Sure -- by revoking all his own acts, which served only to monopolize power and make the state dependent on the life of a single man. Of course, had the darling of Venus done that, future monarchs -- from the Caesars of ancient Rome to the last Czars and Kaisars of the 19th and 20th centuries -- wouldn't have been named after that tyrant.

 

I'm sorry, but I think we obviously have a complete and utter disagreeance over the events of the lat years of the Republic.

 

Yes, I do think we have a complete 'disagreeance' over the events of the last years of the republic. It would probably be more constructive to exchange our reasons for disagreeing in separate threads than to have a lengthy and wide-ranging back-and-forth on a thread ostensibly about the Ides.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Did Caesar trust that his life was so indispensable to the republic that his assassination would be unthinkable? Probably. Did he take any precautions so that his death -- whether natural or artificial -- would not upend the state? Not at all. Could any such actions be undertaken? Sure -- by revoking all his own acts, which served only to monopolize power and make the state dependent on the life of a single man. Of course, had the darling of Venus done that, future monarchs -- from the Caesars of ancient Rome to the last Czars and Kaisars of the 19th and 20th centuries -- wouldn't have been named after that tyrant.

 

I'm sorry, but I think we obviously have a complete and utter disagreeance over the events of the lat years of the Republic.

 

Yes, I do think we have a complete 'disagreeance' over the events of the last years of the republic. It would probably be more constructive to exchange our reasons for disagreeing in separate threads than to have a lengthy and wide-ranging back-and-forth on a thread ostensibly about the Ides.

 

Why complicate the matter? I'd say we're having a debate that's going just fine right here.

 

And technically, since most of this resolves around whether Caesar was justified in his actions or not, and so whether assasinating him was a good thing or not, we are on topic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'd put it as having mostly started to materialize after the Second Punic War, when Rome truly started out on the path of aquiring an empire. Rome's territories in Italy by the time relevant were effectively a part of the city-state.

 

The military aspect has two possible starting points: Marius's reforms to the army or Sulla's first march on Rome, take your pick.

 

The other problems took more time to acumulate. I'd put the start of these aspects of the Republic's incompetence as having begun and risen with the Latifundia.

It's hard to see how the acquisition of such an Empire can be seen as a sign of administrative incompetence at all.

It's evident that from at least two centuries before the Hannibalic War, Rome's territories in Italy were effectively many times larger and more populated than any Classical city-state; countless city-states were actually included within its boundaries (all Magna Grecia poleis, to begin with).

If territorial continuity is your criterion for defining city-states, then Russia would just be an overgrown Moscow.

 

Gaining an empire the Republic managed quite well. Ruling it they did not.

 

I really don't see how you can argue that the Republic was managing in a manner that could in any way, shape or form be described as "competent". Quite the opposite really: the system was being torn apart by numerous crisis'; economic, social, and political. Reform was desperatly needed, and reform was precisely what the ruling oligarchy had no intention of ever allowing to happen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'd put it as having mostly started to materialize after the Second Punic War, when Rome truly started out on the path of aquiring an empire. Rome's territories in Italy by the time relevant were effectively a part of the city-state.

 

The military aspect has two possible starting points: Marius's reforms to the army or Sulla's first march on Rome, take your pick.

 

The other problems took more time to acumulate. I'd put the start of these aspects of the Republic's incompetence as having begun and risen with the Latifundia.

It's hard to see how the acquisition of such an Empire can be seen as a sign of administrative incompetence at all.

It's evident that from at least two centuries before the Hannibalic War, Rome's territories in Italy were effectively many times larger and more populated than any Classical city-state; countless city-states were actually included within its boundaries (all Magna Grecia poleis, to begin with).

If territorial continuity is your criterion for defining city-states, then Russia would just be an overgrown Moscow.

 

Gaining an empire the Republic managed quite well. Ruling it they did not.

 

I really don't see how you can argue that the Republic was managing in a manner that could in any way, shape or form be described as "competent". Quite the opposite really: the system was being torn apart by numerous crisis'; economic, social, and political. Reform was desperatly needed, and reform was precisely what the ruling oligarchy had no intention of ever allowing to happen.

 

While I concede that the Republic was failing in its pre-imperial state, it was not simply because of an incompetent system, but rather the corruption, greed and overzealous ambition of individuals and political groups. If the Republic was incompetent as a system, it would have been incompetent from the start, and it's clear that it worked for some 5 centuries (including healthy civil disturbance that led to systemic improvements). Granted, the dynamic changed as Rome grew from city to regional power to empire and allowed for the afore-mentioned issues to manifest into dangerous problems, but the system itself was set up to work despite requiring individuals of quality in order to thrive efficiently. In any case, give me incompetence over tyranny any day.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'd put it as having mostly started to materialize after the Second Punic War, when Rome truly started out on the path of aquiring an empire. Rome's territories in Italy by the time relevant were effectively a part of the city-state.

 

The military aspect has two possible starting points: Marius's reforms to the army or Sulla's first march on Rome, take your pick.

 

The other problems took more time to acumulate. I'd put the start of these aspects of the Republic's incompetence as having begun and risen with the Latifundia.

It's hard to see how the acquisition of such an Empire can be seen as a sign of administrative incompetence at all.

It's evident that from at least two centuries before the Hannibalic War, Rome's territories in Italy were effectively many times larger and more populated than any Classical city-state; countless city-states were actually included within its boundaries (all Magna Grecia poleis, to begin with).

If territorial continuity is your criterion for defining city-states, then Russia would just be an overgrown Moscow.

 

Gaining an empire the Republic managed quite well. Ruling it they did not.

 

I really don't see how you can argue that the Republic was managing in a manner that could in any way, shape or form be described as "competent". Quite the opposite really: the system was being torn apart by numerous crisis'; economic, social, and political. Reform was desperatly needed, and reform was precisely what the ruling oligarchy had no intention of ever allowing to happen.

 

While I concede that the Republic was failing in its pre-imperial state, it was not simply because of an incompetent system, but rather the corruption, greed and overzealous ambition of individuals and political groups. If the Republic was incompetent as a system, it would have been incompetent from the start, and it's clear that it worked for some 5 centuries (including healthy civil disturbance that led to systemic improvements). Granted, the dynamic changed as Rome grew from city to regional power to empire and allowed for the afore-mentioned issues to manifest into dangerous problems, but the system itself was set up to work despite requiring individuals of quality in order to thrive efficiently. In any case, give me incompetence over tyranny any day.

 

I'll challenge that.

 

The fact is that the Republic was a system inherently built to manage a small city-state. While Rome was just so, this was fine. As her territories expanded to include much of the Italian Peninsula, and evntually some provinces outside the peninsula, the system started to show signs of strain, but was holding out okay. Having an international empire was simply beyond its capacity. Even those scholars who admire Cicero admit that the Republic was beyond repair - the system needed to change. Proof of this is evident in what happened when a switch to an imperial nation-state occurred: widespread peace and prosperity that derived in a huge part from a switch from the redundant city-state system.

 

It is popular to see the various problems that emerged as having come from external events or individuals to "the system", when in fact they were very much tied to the system itself - said events just brought them sharply into focus.

 

As for the old "incompetence over tyranny" argument - bah! Tyranny, I might ask, for whom? Tyranny for the oligarchs whose hold on power was effectively broken. Under Augustus it could be argued that his rule was a tyranny for the citizens of Rome itself, who lost a number of their old rights (Caesar showed no sign of ever doing such things, and as such I hold that it is ridiculous to call him a tyrant in the modern sense of the word). But Caesar's (and arguably Augustus's) gift was to be able to look a bit further than this, as is the essence of statesmanship. What of the 60 million or so people living in Rome's provinces? What have they to say on the subject? I think that it would seem pretty clear all provincials would have found the Empire a tremendous improvement over a Republic that was quite meaningless to them. The Republic was a system which had brought nothing but misery generally - I have mentioned above that the areas under Republican Roman rule were clearly in economic decline until the prosperity of the Pax Romana came along. So even the flawed system that came out of the Principate, it can be argued successfully I think, was a vast improvement on the Republic. Had Caesar lived to implement his own system, it would have been better yet, I think.

 

So in conclusion, the Republic as a system was grossly unsuited to managing an empire, and it showed. Drastic changes needed to happen, and they did; initiated by Caesar, completed by Augustus. And the only people who would have really mourned the loss of the Republic were the Oligarchs who ran it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'll challenge that.

 

The fact is that the Republic was a system inherently built to manage a small city-state. While Rome was just so, this was fine. As her territories expanded to include much of the Italian Peninsula, and evntually some provinces outside the peninsula, the system started to show signs of strain, but was holding out okay. Having an international empire was simply beyond its capacity. Even those scholars who admire Cicero admit that the Republic was beyond repair - the system needed to change. Proof of this is evident in what happened when a switch to an imperial nation-state occurred: widespread peace and prosperity that derived in a huge part from a switch from the redundant city-state system.

 

I don't disagree that the Republic wasn't well suited for managing an empire, I just don't see how the tyrannical system was better. At least there was choice pre-Caesar, be it flawed choice or not. There was no choice whatsoever for the people in the imperial system and limited circumstantial choice for the aristocracy. Did the principate prolong the life of the empire, thereby providing for opportunity for its citizenry beyond that of the Republic? Perhaps, but I can't quantify it. It's unquestionable that the principate also was equally responsible for countless civil wars, challenged successions, political upheaval, etc.

 

It is popular to see the various problems that emerged as having come from external events or individuals to "the system", when in fact they were very much tied to the system itself - said events just brought them sharply into focus.

 

As for the old "incompetence over tyranny" argument - bah! Tyranny, I might ask, for whom?

 

Again, I'm not denying that the system was flawed, but replacing flawed opportunities with absolutism doesn't seem at all the practical solution to me in any time, place or circumstance.

 

For everyone. Aristocracy and common. At least the aristocrats had some opportunity for continued power, but again, did the citizenry have any true right of election or potential beyond that offered in the Republic? (It's also important to make a side notation that Equites were members of the aristocracy/nobility for all intensive purposes... lumping with the base plebs, freedmen, slaves, etc. is incomparable)

 

Tyranny for the oligarchs whose hold on power was effectively broken.

 

Was not the same aristocracy still the general pool for positions of importance? Other than the appointment of freed men to positions within the imperial "cabinet" the oligarchs, as you refer to them, maintained continuing potential for advancement while risking confiscation, exile and/or death at an imperial whim. The people simply lost any say in the matter whatsoever. And of course once monotheism was enforced for all, a by-product of absolutism, all bets were off for everyone eventually.

 

Under Augustus it could be argued that his rule was a tyranny for the citizens of Rome itself, who lost a number of their old rights

 

Agreed

 

(Caesar showed no sign of ever doing such things, and as such I hold that it is ridiculous to call him a tyrant in the modern sense of the word).

 

I'm afraid I must disagree vehemently, as Caesar was a tyrant by absolute definition.

 

But Caesar's (and arguably Augustus's) gift was to be able to look a bit further than this, as is the essence of statesmanship.

 

Sure, they looked to and secured their own absolute power. While Augustus did initiate a period of cultural rebirth after the close of many years of civil war, I disagree that tyrants who refused to give up that absolute power had any great intention for humanity other than their own best interests. I can't say that it surprises me given the political reality of the day, but I don't see how Caesar's invasions of Germania and Britannia, for instance, were truly in anyone's best interest other than himself. If it helped everyone, or no one at all other than himself, would Caesar still have done it? Yes.

 

What of the 60 million or so people living in Rome's provinces? What have they to say on the subject?

 

Only what the historians tell us. For the large part, histories distorted and manipulated by political motivations and influence of a particular period, emperor or events. Other than that, they could say very little as they had no real say in who ran the empire... only the legions and praetorians held that power.

 

I think that it would seem pretty clear all provincials would have found the Empire a tremendous improvement over a Republic that was quite meaningless to them.

 

I agree that most didn't care, especially with each passing generation, but the people of the late Republic sure took sides.

 

The Republic was a system which had brought nothing but misery generally - I have mentioned above that the areas under Republican Roman rule were clearly in economic decline until the prosperity of the Pax Romana came along.

 

This is rather subjective, especially when compared to the massive number of poor within imperial borders. I'll admit that it's difficult to compare, say mid Republican economics with later imperial, but I'd like to see proof of this "general misery".

 

So even the flawed system that came out of the Principate, it can be argued successfully I think, was a vast improvement on the Republic. Had Caesar lived to implement his own system, it would have been better yet, I think.

 

I'm not sure how this vast improvement can be quantified, but what system other than his own absolute authority and conquering Persia did Caesar have in store? (which was undeniably the Roman system of forcible wealth creation throughout it's history, both Republic and Imperial)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The demise of the Roman Republic after two or three centuries of conquering and ruling the known world and one hundred years of killing each other is a fascinating topic that surely deserves a far deeper analysis; maybe even its own thread. For now, I will only remark that the Roman Emperors themselves hardly considered the Republic as an administrative failure; the core of the Republican institutions and legislation survived for centuries under the Imperial rule at Rome and even at Constantinople.

 

It's refreshing to confirm that the Classical rhetoric can still have its desired effect with such strength after a couple of millennia. "Tyrant" or "not tyrant"? I think we may all agree (or maybe not?) that Caesar became an autocrat in his last days.

 

The dispassionate assessment of Caesar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×