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Politics law the senate used tactful politics

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Politics in the Roman Republic were ruthless and complex,
survival was attained by means of manipulation, intelligence and power,
although this was not always enough. In the period leading up to 60 BCE the
socio- politics in Rome were fragmented. Pompey had abolished Sulla’s
constitution, one which emphasised senatorial control and neglected the voice
of the populares. Consequently the power of the senate was vulnerable and later
an opportunity arose allowing the formation of a new alliance that would
challenge the senate’s supremacy.  In 60
BCE Pompey, Caesar and Crassus combined their political, military and financial
power and the First Triumvirate was formed. The motives behind the alliance
were not ones of an ethical principle. Previously Caesar’s appeal for election for
consulship and recognition for his triumph in Spain were denied, forming the
coalition would allow him the power to bypass senatorial law. All three were
seeking political reforms, military occupation and a secure position in which
they could enforce these to their own benefit. The alliance was reinforced with
the marriage between Pompey and Julia, Caesar’s daughter.  Roman writer Varro described the combined
powers of the First Triumvirate as the ‘three-headed monster’ (Appian, 247).
With reluctant permission from the opposing senate, power was distributed, and
included the people’s party and the military, two social groups whose support
fell with the First Triumvirate. Pompey and Crassus were successfully elected
as consuls and Caesar proconsul of Gaul for the next five years. As previously
agreed, Caesar passed a land-act in support of Pompey’s veterans; in an attempt
to hinder the law the senate used tactful politics to prevent its approval.
Caesar retaliated with force, and succeeded, however ‘in reintroducing the
weapon of physical force into domestic politics at Rome he laid the train of a
new civil war’ (Cary: 249). Although without immediate effect, the civil war
was to alter the current political structure entirely. Caesar continued in the
act of enforcing new reforms that the senate opposed. He distributed texts of
the Popular Assemblies and resolutions of the senate to the public, with the
objective of notifying the Roman citizens of political affairs. Roman
civilisation was divided between the patricians, elite high class families and
the plebeians, a poverty stricken majority that struggled to attain political
status.  Living conditions were imposed
by an environment of ‘overcrowding, unhealthiness and congestion of the poorer
districts’ (Bourbon, 60). Caesar implemented the distribution of public land to
alleviate the issues of the poor, in doing so he gained the support of the plebeians
and consequently the majority. While Caesar was stationed in Gaul and
successfully gaining military control, as was his intention when choosing a
location that allowed him to examine both the capital and his opponent’s movements,
issues in Rome were arising. The senate had intentions of segregating the triumvirate,
suspicions emerged that Pompey was envious of new military command, resulting
in a feud between himself and Crassus. Simultaneously, Lucius Domitius appealed
for consulship, declaring that he would enforce Caesar’s independent return
from Gaul, if he was successful. In 55 BCE the triumvirate met in Lucca and reconciliation
ensued, their power was reinstated and imposed via Pompey and Crassus’ return
to Rome. Although one set of issues were resolved, eventually more destructive
ones were to take their place.

 

The Collapse of the First Triumvirate and the fall of the
Roman Republic

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‘Being based on a temporary community of interests, the
First Triumvirate was hampered by mutual suspicions … and was never free
from the danger of falling to pieces’ (Cary, 265). An interlinking of various
events damaged the strength of the triumvirate and ultimately the alliance
collapsed. In 53 BCE Crassus was killed. In the pursuit of wealth and glory
Crassus declared war on the Parthians, an act the tribunes foreshadowed and
advised against. He ignored caution, and with his army, he met his death at Carrhae.
The connections between Pompey and Caesar had fractured, made worse by the
death of Pompey’s wife, Julia in 54. Such fractures rippled throughout Rome, corruption
dominated and the political framework became unstable, ‘many citizens began
talking … saying that the only remedy for existing evils was the authority
of a single ruler’ (Appian, 263). In 52 the senate proposed that the sole
consul should be Pompey, an act that was motivated by their strong inclination
to regain power and use Pompey as their instrument to do so. The desire to
regain power to the senate was particularly prominent in the Optimates, the aristocratic
majority that opposed the triumvirate and the tribunes of the plebeians. After
many tactful political attempts, combined with the knowledge that Pompey was apprehensive
of Caesar’s success in Gaul, Pompey requested that Caesar disarm, recall early and
return to Rome as a private citizen. Instead of complying, and relinquishing
power, Caesar marched his army across the river Rubicon. The decision was irreversible,
and civil war was declared. Caesar still possessed respect for Pompey, and regarded
him ‘as the well-meaning but irresolute dupe of the extremist party among the
nobles’, however the principles of power superseded (Cary, 274). His march upon
Rome was successful. In 46 Caesar became dictator of Rome for ten years. Pompey
and his wife fled to Egypt, a predicament the Egyptians were displeased with. In
48 BCE he was assassinated during his transition ashore. Indicative of Caesar’s
influence, Ptolemy XIII, co-ruler of Egypt, presented Caesar with Pompey’s
head.

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