Pr02b3_New Direction in Government and Society- Ancient Rome: Republic to Empire (Slide by Slide Description)
Click on Pr02b3_New Directions in Government and Society- Ancient Rome: The Republic to Empire to view the slides that accompany these descriptions.
Cover Slide: “SPQR“. Represents republican Rome’s creed. As an acronym, it stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus => The Senate and People of Rome. Such a phrase/ acronym would be affixed at the end of official documents and public monuments.
Slide #2: This slide depicts an excerpt of a text written by Sallust, a Roman historian. A more complete version was assigned as a reading and can be accessed via the course website. As Rome grew in size, wealth, and military dominance in the Mediterranean world, some in the Republic raised concerns about the apparent disregard for traditional Roman values. Some of these values were evident in legendary figures like Cincinnatus.
Slide #3: Rome’s growth into a regional power also disrupted many of the norms in daily life. The Patrician and Plebeian classes of Roman citizens had existed for centuries as distinct social groups. The changes wrought by Rome’s growing imperial power made these groups increasingly argue, often violently, about issues that are not uncommon today: Distribution of wealth, political influence, and reigning-in the authority of government.
Slide #4: Any change in Rome’s circumstances (ie: growing military and economic dominance) would eventually force the society to adjust. The adjustment often came after violent street protests. One major issue was the representative assembly that was the voice of the Plebeians in the republican government (a diagram of how that government was structured can be found in your auxiliary notes and an earlier presentation in this series). The Centuriate Assembly had administrative flaws that limited the influence Plebeian representatives exerted. Through the leadership of certain Roman political figures (see the next slide), the Centuriate Assembly was replaced by a new representative body within the government=> The Tribunate.
Slide #5: Among the leaders of the Plebeian cause were the Gracchi Brothers (Tiberius & Gaius). As part of the Tribunate, they used the enhanced authority that the title of Tribune carried to make changes. These changes were often opposed by leaders of the Patrician class. Patricians believed that any Plebeian advance meant a Patrician retreat. Patricians, who always controlled the Senate, would do anything to stop the changes the Gracchi brothers sought. The Gracchi threatened street protests (often violent) as well as hindering Rome’s military machine, which was entirely dependent on the disciplined legionnaire- who were Plebeian. The Gracchi did not start Rome’s tradition of street violence, but they were not shy in using it as a political weapon. As is often the case, “those who live by the sword shall die from the sword”. Both brothers were assassinated in street riots. Is it possible that the Senate was involved in the murders? The evidence is lost in time.
Slide #6: The social violence did not diminish in the closing centuries of the BC Era. Powerful politicians attempted to consolidate power in their hands. This was hard to do as an individual, so several leaders would combine their efforts to form a Triumvirate (“Rule by three“). There were several periods in Roman republican history when leaders tried to rule as a group. Our attention here is turned toward the Triumvirate that Julius Caesar participated in. This Triumvirate also included Crassus and Pompeii. Within a decade, Octavian will form a Triumvirate of his own which included Lentulus and Mark Antony.
Slide #7: By 60 BCE, Rome was at the helm of a massive empire. This growth placed challenges on the political system that was initially customized to a small city-state. Of importance is the use of the Fasces. As a city-state, Rome’s republican founders only foresaw a limited use of the authority that the Fasces represented. But, centuries later, Rome controls an area thousands of times it’s size. If you wish to rule over distant lands, you’ll have to invest powers in the person (Proconsul) chosen to govern in the name of Rome. Therefore, many Fascii were issued to the Proconsuls who were to govern Rome’s new provinces. Within those borders, they exercised the authority represented by the Fasces. In other words, they were dictators in those provinces only. They were prohibited to exert that authority outside the borders of their province. So if they were called to Rome, they must leave the Fasces and the army behind. The only Fasces and army allowed in the Italian peninsula were the ones in the care and control of the Senate. It was the Senate’s Fasces “…that ruled them all”.
Slide #8: Julius Caesar is pivotal because he set in motion a series of events that would violate Rome’s most ancient and revered traditions while setting the government on a path that would essentially abandon it’s republican institutions. As Proconsul of the province of Gaul, Caesar left his province with an army (and the Fasces/ authority that gave him that army) and entered the Italian peninsula from the North via the Alps. “…The die has been cast…” is an oft cited quote from Caesar’s Latin classic The Civil Wars. Supposedly, Caesar said this just before crossing the Rubicon River, the traditional northern border of Roman Italy. The rest is history!
Slide #9: Caesar captures the government and takes the title of ‘Dictator’ for life. This was too much for many Roman Patricians to support. He was assassinated by members of the Senate in 44 BCE. This would propel his nephew into the limelight.
Octavian was Caesar’s nephew, but Caesar’s Will indicated that Octavian was his adopted son, in addition to being nephew. Adoptions were accepted practice in Rome. Of course, now that Caesar subverted the government, anyone hoping to succeed Caesar (Mark Antony, Octavian) would want to do the same. The Republic is lost forever and Rome will fall into another civil war. Octavian will come out the winner.
Slide #10: Octavian, who will now become ‘Augustus‘, will consolidate power and become the first Roman Emperor. He takes the title of Princep (first citizen) because it’s a title that few will find threatening.
Slide #11: Over time (Augustus ruled for 41 years), Virgil is hired by the emperor to embellish Rome’s founding myths. Virgil produces the Aenied. In this tale, Rome is connected to the Homeric tales of Troy via a man named Aeneas.