Ancient History:Periods-Rome M
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Option M Rome: The fall of the Republic 78 – 31 BC
This period begins with the death of Sulla in 78 BC, and concludes with the final battle at Actium between the future emperor Augustus, Octavian and Marc Antony. It concludes the sudden downfall of the Roman Republic in around 100 years, and the transition from the republic into an empire.
The final years of the republic escalate into civil wars, backstabbings, political motives, personal pursuits and the downfall of the Roman concept of republic. Amidst the chaos and violence, several key figures offer flashpoints within history and undertake their part in this drama.
Sulla, the first consul to march a Roman army on Rome itself, Crassus, the counterbalance between the inevitable war between Pompey and Caesar, Cicero, the famous orator, Pompey, the firebrand who would undo and violate the rules and regulations which Romans tried to hold to, Caesar, perhaps the most famous of the lot, due mainly to his assassination and its effect on the events which followed, Antony, Caesar's subordinate and later the opponent to Octavian/Augustus, and Octavian/Augustus, the final link between the turbulent Republic wars and the Empire to come.
Principal Focus: Through an investigation of the archaeological and written sources for the fall of the Republic 78 – 31 BC, students learn about significant developments, forces and relevant historiographical issues that shaped the historical period.
Students learn about:
- Political developments in the late Republic
- Legacy of Sulla
- Pompey: significance of military and political career
- Significance of the consulship of Pompey and Crassus in 70 BC
- Role and significance of Cicero
- First Triumvirate: aims, roles and responsibilities of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus
- Activities and breakdown of the First Triumvirate
- Political crises: role of the Senate; use of the army for political purposes; urban violence
- Role of optimates, populares
- Caesar and Pompey: political competition and responsibility for outbreak of the Civil War 49–45 BC
- Significance of Caesar’s dictatorship
- Wars and expansion
- Pompey’s extraordinary commands and the Eastern Settlement
- Caesar’s military activities in Gaul, Germany and Britain
- Significance of the Mithridatic and Parthian wars
- Fall of the Republic
- Impact of Caesar’s assassination
- Formation, activities and breakdown of the Second Triumvirate
- Rivalry and Civil War between Mark Antony and Octavian: role of Cleopatra VII; Battle of Actium
Political developments in the late Republic
Legacy of Sulla
Lucius Cornelius Sulla, (ca. 138 BC–78 BC), consul 88 and 80 BC, would become the first Roman leader to march his army on Rome itself. Previously unheard of, the events would send the mos maiorum, that is that which was, a sort of unwritten law, was broken. Ironically, Sulla was very much a conservative and his reforms and actions were attempts at trying to restore the past system of Rome, rather than overhauling it. He implemented several failsafes in a bid to cease the happenings of 133-78 BC from happening again.
It is these reforms and the bloodshed and terror which occurred which Sulla would be most remembered for.
Firstly, Sulla initiated a proscription list, which effectively outlawed the listed person and made their execution/killing legitimate. The exact nature follows:
- The proscribed person could be killed/executed without reprisal or punishment
- Property was confiscated and sold at public auction, usually for extraordinarily low amounts
- Children of proscribed people were barred from holding public office
- Anyone caught helping a proscribed person could also be killed
The only other time such a decree was seen in Rome was with the issuing of the Senatus Consultum Ultimum, the ultimate decree of the Senate, which empowered a person the power and title of dictator temporarily when Rome was in serious trouble.
Sulla's reforms came as a direct reaction of the incidents with the Gracchi and others during 133-78 BC. They include:
- The restoration of the Senate
- Restraint on Individual Power
- Control of Tribunes
- Court Reform
Senate and Court Reform
Sulla increased the numbers of senators from 300 to 600, many of whom were equestrians who were also friends of his. Sulla also implemented a sort of automatic recruitment drive into the Senate by decreeing that all ex-quaestors were to return to the Senate. This also led to a sort of indirect election of the Senate by the people, since quaestors were elected by them. He limited the censors's duties by removing the lectio senatus. Sulla increased the number of praetors from 6 to 8 and the number of quaestors to 20. On top of this, Sulla enforced the traditional rule that there must be ten years in between public office, which served as an obstacle to anyone trying to attain power rapidly.
This gave Sulla virtually unrestricted power and reach as he now had both military/dictator as well as political/senate powers at his disposal.
Additionally, Sulla gave back the law courts to the Senate, after Gaius Gracchus had given them to the equites. He also reformed the law courts, forming seven permanent quaestiones covering all major crimes: murder and poisoning, forgery, extortion, treason, electoral bribery, peculation and assault. It would be one of the few reforms which would last beyond his lifetime and the Republic, even lasting into the Principate.
Sulla redrafted the lex Villia Annalis and enforced a much more rigid form of the cursus honorum. Some of the restrictions were:
- No man could become a quaestor before the age of 30;
- A praetor before the age of 39;
- And consul before the age of 42;
- And furthermore, no man could hold any office twice within the space of 10 years.
In addition, provincial governors would be restricted to wage battles only in their provinces and they needed the authority of the senate to declare war. Instead of giving governors complete authority, they were now under the control of the Senate.
Sulla viewed the tribunes as the source of Rome's problems, and thereby initiated the most extreme reforms upon them. He cut the tribune's ability to pass laws unless they had already been sanctioned by the Senate, though they could still veto other laws. Furthermore, he deprived the office of any judicial powers, with the new quaestiones replacing the tribunician impeachments. He also made the tribuneship a political deadend, whereby anyone serving as tribune could not hold any other form of public office, thus negating the popularis aspect of the seat.
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, (September 29, 106 BC – September 29, 48 BC), otherwise known as Pompey or Pompey the Great. Son of Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo, Pompey came to the fore while serving under Lucius Cornelius Sulla. He rose quickly and without office, attained an almost unheralded position in the turbulent final years and fell just as quickly as he had risen. Pompey was perhaps the final straw in breaking the foundations of rules and regulations which the Republic had been built on, and signalled the epitome of the new order.
Pompey was the son of Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo, from the rural district of Picenum. Despite the anti-rural stigma in senatorial Rome, Strabo rose through the cursus honorum and even became consul in 89 BC. Pompey served under his father, at Asculum despite only being 17. After his father died, Pompey took command of his legions and took them back to Picenum. He raises a private army in 83 BC, whilst still not having held any official positions, a privatus, and takes it to Sulla, who had just returned from the First Mithridatic Wars. He wins several key victories while still a private citizen, something which was unheard of, and according to Plutarch is given the cognomen of Magnus or the Great.
With this favour, Sulla, who had become dictator of Rome, had taken Pompey under his wings, and even offered his pregnant stepdaughter, Aemilia Scaura to Pompey, who was only too happy to accept.
Significance of the consulship of Pompey and Crassus in 70 BC
In 70BC, Pompey and Crassus won the consulship by promising drastic reforms, especially in the courts - which were viewed as corrupt by the general public. Together, Pompey and Crassus altered or reversed the remainder of Sulla’s reforms, shaping the face of the Roman republic. Although others, including C. Aurelius Cotta, had previously made amendments to Sulla’s reforms, those made during the consulship of Pompey and Crassus were the most significant.
1. The right of initiating legislation, and the right of veto were given back to the tribunes. The right to hold other offices had been previously restored by Cotta. 2. The Censors were re-established, and were once again responsible for the appointment and suspension of senators. This resulted in a mass-sacking of 64 senators, who were replaced. ROBINSON: This re-instatement of the censors was “promptly used to remove notorious opponents of the democratic cause” Pompey and Crassus then had the replacement senators somewhat in their debt. 3. The law courts and juries were also changed. Prior to this, the juries had been made up only of senators, and were thus corrupt in the eyes of the people. Cotta had a bill passed the proposed that juries should be made up of equal numbers of senators, equites and tribuni aerarii. As the tribuni aerarii were a class slightly below the equites who shared similar interests with them, there was a power shift from the optimates to the populares. 4. ROBINSON: “and here a corn dole promise was effected” The cheap corn supply that Sulla had done away with was re-instated by Pompey and Crassus.
The First Triumvirate
Activities and breakdown of the First Triumvirate
ACTIVITES AND BREAKDOWN OF THE FIRST TRIUMVIRATE
In a time of political instability, the formation of the triumvirate created a structured system of government, which, although successful for some time, would inevitably decay due to both internal and external forces. The uncompromising force of the Optimates and the influence of Cicero and Clodius on Pompey turned out to be a destructive external force which the triumvirate could not withstand. This combined with the internal issue of the separate ambitions of the triumvirs, Caesar’s military absences and the deaths of Crassus and Julia, severed the ties that would lead to the end of the triumvirate and the outbreak of civil war.
When the goals of the Pompey and Crassus had been achieved as a consequence of their support for Caesar’s consulship, and Caesar had set off for his proconsular province, the alliance was subject to pressure on a number of fronts. Although the Conference of Luca was able to re-secure the alliance temporarily, the insecurity and the remorseless maneuvering of the Optimates led by Cato, resulted in an irreconcilable breach between Pompey and Crassus which not only led to the breakdown of the first triumvirate, but to the Civil War.
INTERNAL FACTORS 1. Separate Ambitions of the Triumvirs Pompey: jealous of Caesar’s military campaigns, Pompey wants one of his own. Cicero plays on this desire, and through the Optimates appeases Pompey by securing him control of the Corn Dole. This is an attempt by Cicero to cleave Pompey from the triumvirate. Crassus: also desires a military command. Caesar: desparately wants to conquer Gaul, however this means he will be absent from Rome in a time of instability. To secure the situation, Caesar uses loyal tribunes like Curio and Peso in Rome. He also offers Crassus and Pompey proconsular commands, which will fulfill their desire for military campaigns!
2. DeathsCrassus: The death of Crassus fundamentally changed the triumvirate and its dynamics. It distanced the two remaining triumvirs and led to the decay of the alliance as it became competitive. Julia: The Death of Pompey’s wife and Caesar’s daughter, Julia, meant that the marital tie between the two was severed. There was now noting stopping them becoming enemies.
EXTERNAL FACTORS 1. Cicero and Clodius’ influence on Pompey: Clodius attacks Pompey publically, using his legalized gangs (collegia). This leads to Pompey's insecurity, and his wish to support the recall of exiled Cicero. Although Clodius uses violence to attempt to block Cicero's recall, Pompey calls men from his estate to vote for the bill and Cicero is consequently recalled. Cicero's recall disrupts the relationship of the triumvirate by cleaving Pompey from Caesar.
2. Uncompromising Optimates:Caesar was under threat from Ahenobarbus in Rome, who threatened to trial and prosecute him for his illegal acts as consul, as he had bypassed the Senate to pass a law (Lex Agraria). Ceasar needed to extend his Campaign in Gaul to avoid prosecution in Rome. Cicero was attempting to undermine Caesar’s land bill, and he was hoping for Pompey’s support.
3. Instability in Rome:Due to Coldius’ Colegia and urban violence in Rome, more pressure was placed on the triumvirate.
CONFERENCE OF LUCA: In 55BC Caesar called a conference at Luca aimed at re-establishing the triumvirate. Agreements were made: firstly, that Pompey and Crassus would run for a joint consulship which would ensure them lucrative proconsular commands. It would also benefit Caesar, as Pompey and Crassus could extend his campaign in Gaul, saving him from prosecution by Ahenobarbus and giving him time to conquer Gaul! In order to win the election, Pompey and Crassus used violence and political manipulation. They delayed the elections by using a friendly interrex and were able to secure the consulship.