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The Roman Empire I: The Republic

OxfordHandbooksOnline

TheRomanEmpireI:TheRepublic

HenrikMouritsen

TheOxfordHandbookoftheStateintheAncientNearEastandMediterranean

EditedbyPeterFibigerBangandWalterScheidel

EditedbyPeterFibigerBangandWalterScheidel PrintPublicationDate: Feb2013 OnlinePublicationDate: Jan

PrintPublicationDate: Feb2013

OnlinePublicationDate: Jan

2013

Subject: ClassicalStudies,AncientRomanHistory,Greekand RomanLaw,SocialandEconomicHistory DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195188318.013.0015

DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195188318.013.0015 AbstractandKeywords

AbstractandKeywords

ThischapterexaminesthehistoryoftheRomanEmpireasarepublic,explainingtheformationoftheRoman

republic,itsdurabilityandrelativestability,andthemilitaryexpansionismthatallowedittoexpanditsterritory.It

alsoidentifiesthesocial,political,andmilitaryfactorsthatledtotheweakeningoftherepublicansystemof

governmentanditseventualreplacementwiththemonarchysystem.

Keywords:RomanEmpire,Romanrepublic,militaryexpansionism,republicansystem,monarchysystem

TheRomanrepublic,accordingtotheconventionalchronology,wasfoundedin509andlasteduntil31 BCE,when Octavian’svictoryatActiumpavedthewayfortheintroductionoftheAugustanprincipate.Thistimespanmadeit oneofthemostdurablepoliticalstructuresknowninantiquitytobebasedonasystemofpubliclynegotiated powersharing.ItslongevitystandsoutasoneofthetwomostremarkablefeaturesoftheRomanrepublic,theother beingitsexceptionalexpansionism.Thus,duringtherepublic theRomanstategrewfromasmallcity-statein LatiumtoalargeterritorialstatethatcoveredtheentireItalianpeninsula.Itspopulationexpandedcorrespondingly fromafewhundredthousandtoseveralmillion.ItwasalsotheRomanrepublic thatestablishedtheoverseas empire,whicheventuallycomprisedmostoftheMediterraneanworldandWesternEuropeandoutlivedtherepublic

byalmosthalfamillennium(SeeMap14.1.).

Thischapterwillbestructuredaroundthesetwoissuesandtrytoexplainfirstlythedurabilityandrelativestability thatcharacterizedtheRomanrepublic andsecondlyitsmilitaryexpansionismandabilitytoextenditsterritoryand citizenbody.Althoughthetwocentralquestionsremaindistinct,theanswers,asweshallsee,areclosely connected.Finallywewillbrieflyconsidertheeventualcollapseoftherepublicansystemandtheemergenceof monarchy,outliningthepolitical,social,andmilitaryprocessesthatledtoagradualweakeningoftherepublican formofgovernment.

(p.384) TheFormationoftheRomanRepublic

TheearlieststagesintheformationoftheRomanrepublic arelostintime.Accordingtothecanonicalversionof events,notfinalizeduntilthelatefirstcentury BCE,anuprisingheadedbyJuniusBrutusledtotheexpulsionofthe

lastkingin510,andthefollowingyearthefirsttwoconsulswereelectedbypopularvote.Thisrevolutionushered

inanewsystemofgovernmentthatinprinciplewouldlastuntilthelatefirstcentury BCE.Thus,thelistofchief magistrates,theso-calledFasti,tracedacontinuoussuccessionofpairedconsuls(orvaryingnumbersofconsular tribunesduringthefourth-century“struggleoftheorders”)fromtheexpulsionofthekingstotheageofAugustus.

Therealityislikelytohavebeenconsiderablymorecomplexandthetransitionfromkingshiptorepublic probably

farlessclear-cut(Cornell1995).Thetraditionaldateis,forexample,likelyduetoalaterhistoriographicalinvention,

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

inspiredbythecontemporaryoverturnoftheAtheniantyranny.Todayonlyavagueoutlineofthisprocesscanbe reconstructedandmodernhistoriansremaindeeplydividedonalmosteveryissue.Mostofourinformationcomes frommuchlatersources—thefirsthistoricalaccountswerenotwrittenuntilthethirdcentury BCE,whenTimaeus

(ca.350–260)andlaterFabiusPictor(latethirdcentury)composedthefirst(nowlost)historiesofRome.The

survivingsourcesarenearlyallfromthelastgenerationoftherepublic ortheearlyorevenhighempire,which furthercomplicatesanyattempttoreconstructtheearlypoliticalhistoryoftherepublic.Giventhepaucityof contemporarydocumentaryorarchaeologicalevidencetoelucidatethequestion,itisdifficulttoseehowa scholarlyconsensuscaneverbeachieved.VirtuallyallaspectsofearlyRomanhistoryareopentodispute,and

hereonlyaverybroadandtentativeoutlinewillbeattempted,mostlybasedoninferencesfromlater,better-

documentedperiods,aboveallinstitutional“survivals,”thatis,relicsofpreviousevolutionarystagesthatwere

preservedintheclassicalrepublicanconstitution.

TheRoman“Constitution”

TheRoman“Constitution” Clicktoviewlarger Map14.1 TheRomanEmpirecirca60 BCE

Clicktoviewlarger Map14.1 TheRomanEmpirecirca60 BCE

RepublicanRomedidnothaveaconstitutioninthemodernsensesomuchasasetofpracticesandconventions, whoseauthorityincreasedovertimeandeventuallygainedthestatusofhallowedancestralcustom.Thus,despite continuousevolutionnoinstitutionorpracticewas,asfarasweknow,everformallyabolished.Insteadtheywere drainedofpoliticalsignificanceandleftasemptyconstitutionalshells.Informingthepoliticalpracticesand conventionsofrepublicanRomewereasetoffundamentalconcerns,allfocusedonthespreadingofpowerand thepreventionofundueinfluencebeingconcentratedinthehandsofasingleindividualorsmallgroupsoffamilies. Theseconcernsdictatedtheshapegiventoindividual(p.385) (p.386) institutionsandproceduresanddefined thepoliticalcharacteroftheRomanrepublic asawhole.

Theearlyrepublic appearstohavehadarelativelysimplepoliticalstructurebasedonthetripartitemodelof magistrates,council,andassembly,typicalofmanyancientcity-states.Executivepowerswereinthehandsof annualmagistrates,whowereelectedbyapopularassemblytowhichallmaleadultcitizensformallyhadaccess althoughtheinfluenceofsomegroupswashighlyrestricted.Duringtheiryearinofficethemagistrateswere supposedtotakeadvicefromapermanentbodyofelders,thesenate,whichwasitselfmostlycomposedofformer magistrates.Lawswereproposedbythemagistratesincooperationwiththesenateandpassedbytheassemblies. ThepopulusremainedtheonlysourceofpoliticallegitimacyintheRomanstate,alllawsandappointments requiringtheapprovaloftheassembly.However,theprecisenatureofthepeople’spowerwillbefurtherexplored below.OnlyinonesphereoftheRomanconstitutiondidanalternativesourceofauthorityexist,sinceinallmatters concerningstatereligionthesenatehadthefinalsay.

Magistrates

Thechiefmagistracywasduringthehistoricalperiodstheconsulship,aneponymouspostfilledannuallybytwo men.Thesituationintheearliestperiodsisuncertain,andthedualconsulshipmaypossiblybealaterinvention

introducedin367toallowpowersharingbetweentwocompetingsocialgroups,thepatriciansandplebeians.The

originalnumberofchiefmagistratesisdisputed,butitseemslikelythattheirtitlewaspraetorratherthanconsul. TheRomansinvestedimmensepowerintheirchiefmagistrates,whoheldwhatwasknownasimperium.Their tenureofofficewasshortbutduringthatperiodtheyheldtheultimateauthorityintheRomanstate.UnlikeGreek officials,Romanmagistrateswerenotsimplycitizenswhobrieflyperformedapublic serviceonbehalfofthe

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

community.Duringtheirterminofficetheyheldan“autonomous”authorityoverthepeople,towhomtheywere

formallysuperior,hencethetermmagistratusderivedfrom“greater.”

OvertimemoreofficeswereintroducedtocopewiththeincreasedscaleandcomplexityofRomansociety.A

quinquennialofficewas,accordingtotradition,introducedin443toconductthecensus.Itwasthecensors’taskto

registerallcitizensandassesstheirproperty.Aspartofthisoperationthetwoofficeholderswouldalsorevisethe membershipofthesenate.Theyhadthepowertocensureindividualcitizensforbothpublic andprivate misconduct.

In366thefirstpraetorwaselected,whosemainresponsibilitywastheadministrationofjustice(Brennan2000).

Thepraetoralsoheldimperium,whichenabledhimtocommandarmies,buthisauthoritywaslessthanthatofthe consuls,whosefunctionsinthecityhewouldtakeoverwhentheywereawayonmilitarycampaigns.Later praetoreswouldbeappointedtogovernoverseasprovinces,andtheir(p.387) numberwassteadilyexpanded followingthegrowthoftheempire,reachingatotalofeightin81 BCE.

Quaestorsweretraditionallytheassistantstotheconsuls,andhadoriginallybeendirectlyappointed,butlaterthey werechosenbythetribalassembly.Theywereinchargeoffinancialadministration,andtheirnumberwassteadily raisedfromtheoriginaltwototwentyintheearlyfirstcentury BCE.Inadditionalargenumberoflowerofficialswere alsoappointedannually,coveringawiderangeofadministrativeresponsibilities.Thus,bythelaterepublic almost onehundredindividualpositionswerefilledbypopularvoteeachyear.Themagistrateswereassistedbyalimited “civilservice,”whichcomprisedonlyafewhandfulsofadministratorsandassistants,apparitores,andanumberof stateslaves,servipublici.Toagreatextentthereforetheyusedtheirownprivateservantswhilecarryingoutstate business.Public officewasnonremuneratedandtheholdersgenerallyhadtopayfortheirownstaff.Asamatterof courseonlythosebelongingtothepropertiedclassescouldthereforeholdoffice.Itisuncertainwhethertherewas aformalpropertyqualificationformagistratesuntilthelaterepublic.

Themagistrates’powerwasfoundedonamandategrantedbythepopulus.Itiscommontodescribethe

procedurebywhichthisauthoritywasbestowedasa“popularelection”butthatneedstobequalified.Technically

theprocessinvolvedboththepresidingmagistrateandtheassembly,whichwouldjointlyappointthesuccessor,

andtheproceduresfollowedmaysuggestthatthepeople’sroleoriginallywasacclamatoryratherthanelective.

Assemblies

OvertimeRomedevelopedabewilderingnumberofpopularassemblies,comitia,eachwithitsowndistinct organizationandfunctions.TheearliestRomanassemblywasthecomitiacuriata,theassemblyofcuriae,which weredivisionsofthecitizenbodywhoseprecisenaturenoweludesus.Inhistoricaltimestherewerethirtycuriae, tenforeachofthethreetribesintowhichtheRomanpeopleoriginallyweredistributed.Presumablyallcitizens weremembersofoneoftheseunits,hencethetraditionaldesignationoftheRomancitizenbodyasQuirites, membersofacuria.Thishasbeendisputedfortheearlierperiods,butcertainlyforthelaterepublic membership seemstohavebeenuniversal.Littleisknownabouttheirpoliticalroleintheearlyrepublic,apartfrompassingthe lexcuriatathatformallygrantedimperiumtothechiefmagistrates.Laterthisbecameapureformalitywithout actualpopularparticipation,sinceeachcuriawouldberepresentedbyalictor.

Itiswidelyassumedthattheprocedurewasacclamatoryalsoinitsearlierstages.Thenewmagistrate(s?)wouldbe

presentedtothecomitiaandreceiveitsformalapproval.Therewasprobablynovote,andnochoiceof

candidateswouldbeoffered.Theacclamationwasinprincipleunanimous,andtheprocesswasatthesametimea

conferralofpoliticallegitimacyandadeclarationofallegiancetothenewleader.

(p.388) ThecomitiacuriataintroducedwhatwouldbecomeoneofthemostdistinctivefeaturesofRoman politicalprocedure,thepracticeofblockvoting.Themagistratewouldbepresentedtoeachcuriaseparatelyin ordertoreceiveitspublic declarationofsupport.Itmeantthatpoliticallythevoiceofeachcitizenwouldbeheard onlyaspartofagroupthatwouldexpressasingleopinionorverdict.Thisuniqueprinciplewouldbeapplied universallytoallRomanassemblies,wherecollectiveunitsratherthanindividualcitizenswouldcount.Itgave politicalparticipationinRomeanabstractquality,whichstandsinsharpcontrasttotheGreekworldwherecitizens alwayswerepoliticallyactiveasindividuals.ThepoliticalbodyinRomewasnotdefinedasthesumofitscitizens butoftheunitsintowhichtheyhadbeendistributed.Solongasalltheseunitstookpartintheproceedingsthe

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

entirepopuluswasformallypresentandcouldtakedecisionsbindingforthewholepopulation.Thus,itonlytooka handfulofcitizensfromeachunittoconstitutetheRomanpeoplepolitically.Theformalismhighlightedbythis practiceunderscoresthestrongritualaspectofallpublic proceedingsinRome.

Politicalinitiativelayinthehandsofthemagistratewhopresidedoverthemeeting.Thepeoplecouldnotact

withoutformalleadershiporevenconvene.Theycouldnotdebatecurrentissuesandtheycouldnotmakeany

suggestions,norcouldtheyalterorreformulateproposals.Theirrolewaspurelyreactive,reducedtoasimple

“yes”or“no,”andtheycouldinprincipleonlyaffirmorwithholdtheirsupport.Thus,itisstrikingthattheLatinword

forvote,suffragium,onlyhasapositivemeaningoflendingsupport.TherewasnowordintheLatinlanguagefor

theexerciseofpoliticalchoicebythepopulus,onlytheexpressionofapproval.Followingthepatternprovidedby

thecomitiacuriataanumberofotherassembliesweredevelopedovertime,includingthecomitiacenturiata,the

comitiatributa,andtheconciliumplebis,whichwillallbedealtwithbelow.

TheSenate

Formermagistratescouldfromthemiddlerepublic onwardexpecttogainaseatinthecouncilofelders,the senate,whoseconstitutionalrolewasprimarilyadvisory.Duringmostoftherepublic itwasmadeupof300

memberswhoinpracticewereappointedforlife(atleastafter318),althoughtheycouldbeexpelledbythe

censorsformisconduct.Inthelaterepublic themembershipwasdoubledto600,probablytoenableittocope betterwiththeextendedjudicialresponsibilitiesitsmembershadbeengiven.Senatorsnormallybelongedtothe propertiedclasses; indeedtheycouldbeexpelledforbankruptcy,whichequaledimmoralbehavior.

Theirmeetingswerepresidedoverbytheconsuls(andintheirabsencepraetors),andtheycouldissue resolutions,so-calledsenatusconsulta,thatwouldinstructthemagistratestotakespecific actions.Theirmeetings anddebatesappeartohavebeenconductedaccordingtoaformalizedsetofprocedures,whichmirroredthe internalhierarchyofstatusandsenioritywithinthesenate.Whilethesenatehadno(p.389) legislativepowers, itsapproval,coveredintheelusiveconceptofauctoritaspatrum,wasapparentlyrequiredfornewlawstobefully valid,atleastinthecenturiateassembly,althoughmuchremainsuncertain.Thisgaveitacentralroleinthe constitution,asreflectedinthedyadic definitionoftheRomanstateasSenatusPopulusqueRomanus.Thesimple factthatthesenaterepresentedtheonlypermanentdeliberativebodyintheRomanrepublic,whichcounted amongitsmembersmostmenwithpracticalpoliticalandmilitaryexperience,alsogaveitaninfluencethatwentfar beyonditsformalpowers.Traditionallythesenatewasresponsiblefornegotiationswithforeignpowers,and embassiessenttoRomewerethereforereceivedinthesenate.Itwasalsothesenatethatallocatedresourcesto magistrates.Asnotedabove,thesenateheldsupremeauthorityinjustonesphereofRomanpublic life,whichwas thatofreligion,andtounderstandbetterthisdistributionofpowerswewillhavetoconsiderthatparticularaspect oftheRomanrepublic morebroadly.

ReligionintheRomanState

TheRomanrepublic wascharacterizedbythealmostcompleteintegrationofreligiousandpoliticalauthority. Politicsandreligiondidnotrepresentdistinctspheresofpublic life,andanyattempttoseparatethemistherefore anachronistic (Beard,North,andPrice1998).Religiousfunctions,includingsacrifice,prayer,anddivination,were entrustedtoanumberofdesignatedpriesthoods,whosemembersgenerallyheldtheirpositionforlife.Theywere dividedintothreemainbodies,thepontifices,theaugurs,andthedecemviri,inadditiontoseverallesser priesthoods.Thepontificeswereheadedbythepontifexmaximusandamongtheirmemberswereseveralpriests dedicatedtospecific deities.Theaugurswerechieflyresponsiblefordivinatoryprocedures,andthedecemviri (laterexpandedtoquindecimviri)fortheconsultationofacollectionoforaculartexts,knownastheSibylline Books.

DivinationandthetakingofauspiciawerefullyintegratedintothelifeoftheRomanrepublic,whichdevelopedwhat mayhavebeenthemostextensiveaswellascomplexsystemforgaugingthewillofthegodsknowninany ancientsociety.Consultationofthegodswasanaturalpartofallpublic proceedings,anditprecededevery collectiveactionorinitiativeaswellasmilitaryengagements.Theelaboratesystemofdivinatoryproceduresand ritualsensuredthatthegodsremainedfavorableandthatpaxdeorum,peacewiththetutelarygodsoftheRoman people,waspreserved.Theyprovidedaframeworkfortheinterpretationanddecodingofomensandotherdivine messages,andofferedtriedandtestedmeansofassuagingdivineangerandavertingthedangersitposed.

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

DeclaringwarwasinessenceareligiousprocedureinRome,carriedoutbymembersofaseparatepriestly college,theFetiales,specificallydedicatedtothistask.Theritualtheyperformedwascrucialtothelegalityofa war,determiningwhetheritcouldberegardedasbellumiustum,aconceptthatisthereforebestunderstoodasa

“correctlydeclared”ratherthan“just”war(Harris1984).

(p.390) Giventheircrucialimportanceforthesurvivalofthecommunity,itwaslogicalthatmattersrelatingtothe godsbetheresponsibilityoftheleadersofthestate,andpriestsweregenerallydrawnfromtheranksofthe senatorsandofficeholders.Priestsfulfilledaroleasreligiousexpertswithprivilegedknowledgeofritualpractice andtheinterpretationofsigns,onthebasisofwhichtheywouldmaketheirrecommendations,butitwasthesenate thatwouldtakethefinaldecisiononallreligiousissues,includingthoserelatingtocultanddivination.

Originallythereligiousauthorityofthesenatehadbeentheexclusiveprivilegeofaseparategroupofelitefamilies,

thepatricians,whoheldaninheritedclaimtotheauspicia,theformalcommunicationwiththegods.Forthatreason

theyalsomonopolizedthepriesthoodsintheearlyrepublic.Theauthorityentailedbythisprivilegecanhardlybe

overestimated,sinceitgavethesefamiliesadistinctresponsibilityforthemaintenanceofthevitalrelationshipwith

theRomangods.

Consultationofthegodsmayhavebeenpartandparcelofallpublic proceedings,buttheprocedureswerealso finelytunedtopreventthemfromparalyzingthestate.Thegodswerenotaskedtoapproveaspecific proposalor appointmentbutrathertoapprovethedayonwhichthedecisionwastobetaken.Thus,incaseofanegative responsetheconsequenceswerenotfinalbutmerelymeantabriefpostponementuntiltheomenswerefavorable andthemeetingcouldgoaheadasplanned.Theimplicationwasthatallactionscarriedanelementofdivine sanction,whichneverthelessremainedoblique.Historianshavedrawnparallelsbetweentheconsultationofthe godsandthepopulus.Theywerebothcrucialforthelegitimacyofanypublic actionbutatthesametimealso highlyritualizedandmanagedthroughasetofprocedurescarefullydesignedtoproduceapositiveresponse

(Scheid2003).

TheEarlyRomanState

TheRomanstatewasinmanyrespects“primitive,”inthesensethattheRomansdidnotconceptualizethestate asdistinctfromtheRomanpeople.Thus,thetermusedtodesignatethe“state”wasrespublica,meaningthe “public affairs”or“affairsofthepopulus,”andthese“affairs”werelargelyconfinedtotheareasofjusticeand security.TheRomanstate(inthemodernsense)hadverylimitedscope,essentiallyjustconcerningitselfwithlaw, public order,justice,andsecurity,thelattercomprisingbothsecurebordersandpeacewiththegods.Beyond thesebasic responsibilitiesthestaterarelyinvolveditselfinthelivesofitscitizens.Allexpenditurewasfocusedon financingthearmy,religion,andafewpublic servicessuchassewers,public buildings,andwatersupply.Very limitedfundswerethereforeraisedthroughtaxation.Themainsourceofrevenuewasthetribute,whichwaslevied onthebasisofacensusconductedeveryfiveyears.Eachcitizenwouldthenmakeamonetarydeclarationofhis wealthtothecensors.Othersourcesofstateincomewerestatecontractsandleases,managedbythesame officials,andabovealltherevenuesaccruedfromsuccessfulwarfareabroad.

(p.391) LawandOrder:ConflictandCoercion

Themagistratesexercisedamonopolyofphysicalforce.Magistrateswithimperiumoriginallyheldthepoweroflife anddeath,assymbolizedinthefascescomposedofrodsandaxes,carriedbytheirbodyguardoflictores. Increasinglythearbitraryapplicationofthesepowerswasrestrictedthroughtheintroductionoflegalsafeguards thatprotectedcitizensagainstphysicalpunishmentandexecution.Lawswerepassedthatguaranteedtherightsto apropertrialbeforetheultimatepenaltycouldbeimposed.Romancitizensgainedtheiusprovocandiadpopulum, whichallowedthemtoappealtothepeople,atleastfrom300 BCE,andcapitaltrialswerethenheldinthepopular assembly.Eventuallythisrightwasalsoextendedtothemilitarysphere.Despitetheselimitationsthemagistrates stillhadanumberofmeansbywhichtocoercethecitizens,includingtheimpositionoffines,temporary imprisonment,andconfiscationofproperty.Thesepowers,however,wereapparentlyusedmostlytopolicethe

behavioroftherulingclassratherthanthemasses(Nippel1995).

Thepursuitofjusticewasinprincipleaprivatematter,andthestatewouldonlyactivelypursuecasesoftreason

andotherseriousthreatstothestate,althoughthetresviricapitales,primarilyresponsiblefororganizingafire

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

brigadeofpublic slaves,hadsomeroletoplayincriminalcases.Theroleofthestatewastoprovideaframework forcitizensseekingjustice.Criminaldisputeswereoriginallyheldinthecenturiateassemblyandlaterinpublic courtspresidedoverbyamagistrate.Jurorswoulddelivertheverdict.Graduallyamorecomplexsystemwas developedwithstandingcourts,quaestiones,dealingwithdifferenttypesofcrimes.Theproceedingsinvolved speakersfrombothsidesofthedispute,andlegaladvocacybecameoneofthemainfunctionsoftheRoman patronagesystem.Civilcaseswouldberesolvedbyaniudex,appointedbyamagistrate.

TheRomanstatewasexceptionalinthedegreetowhichitdelegatedcoercivepowerstotheheadsofindividual

familyunits.Thepaterfamiliasheldabsoluteauthorityoverallthoseunderhispotestas,includingthepoweroflife

anddeath,iusvitaenecisque.Hisauthorityalsocoveredtheentirefamilyestate.Theextentofthepatriapotestas

meantthereweresimilaritiesbetweenthepositionofchildreninpotestateandslaves,theformerdistinguishedas

liberitoindicatetheirstatusasfreemembersofthehouseholdasopposedtotheunfreeservi.

Themaintenanceofpublic orderwasstructuredaccordingtoareligiousdistinctionbetweenthecityofRomeand theterritoriesoutsideofthecity.Romewassurroundedbyaritualboundary,thepomerium,insideofwhichno armedforcewasallowed.Itwasinprincipleaswellasinpracticeademilitarizedzone,whereonlythebodyguards ofthechiefmagistratesholdingimperium,twelvelictoresforconsuls,andtwoorsixforpraetorswerepermitted. Theonlyexceptionwasmadefortriumphalprocessionswhenthevictoriousarmywouldcrossthepomeriumand marchalongthetriumphalroutefromtheCampusMartiustotheCapitol.Theabsenceofapermanentmilitary presenceinRomeprobablyreflectedpoliticalasmuchasreligiousconcerns,sincetheexistenceofastanding forcewouldhave(p.392) posedalatentthreattotherepublicanformofsharedgovernment.However,italso madethatsystemhighlyvulnerabletoanyarmedchallengeagainstwhichitwouldhavebeenlargelypowerless, thelictoresservingamostlysymbolic function.

Facedwiththeriseinpoliticalviolenceinthelaterepublic,thesenatein121introducedtheso-calledfinaldecree,

senatusconsultumultimum,whichaskedtheconsulstotakeanyactionnecessarytoprotectthestateagainst harm.Senatorsandequitesthenarmedthemselvesandtheirservants,alsousinganauxiliaryforceagainsttheir politicalopponents.Thisprocedurewasrepeatedonseveraloccasionsduringthelaterepublic,whenthesenate assumedtheauthoritytosuspendestablishedcivic rightsintheinterestofthestate.Itdidsobylegitimizingthe useofviolencebysomecitizensagainstothers,whoweredeemedguiltyofseditioandcondemnedasenemiesof thestate.

CivilandMilitaryPower

Civilianandmilitaryinstitutionswerenotclearlyseparatedapartfromthereligiousdistinctionbetweendomi

militiae,mentionedabove(Rüpke1990).Thus,thehigheststateofficialswereineffectthecommanders-in-chief

andexpectedtoleadthearmyduringtheirterminoffice.Itwasthereforenotbymodernstandardsa“civil”office.

Thearmywasinprincipleinseparablefromthecitizenbody,sinceitwasstructuredasamilitiainwhichalladult

malecitizenswereobligedtoserve.Inpractice,however,onlythosewhowereofmilitaryageandabletoarm

themselveswouldbecalledupforactivedutyundernormalcircumstances(althoughanexceptionwasmadefor

freedmenwhoweredefactotreatedasproletarii).Thecitizenbodywasdividedintoiunioresandseniores,who

wouldserveseparately.Propertywasrelevantbecausesoldierswereexpectedtoprovidetheirownarmor,

althoughtheywouldreceiveremuneration(stipendium)whentheywereinthefield.TheRomancitizenswere

thereforeclassifiedaccordingtotheirproperty,originallyintotwocategories,classisandinfraclassem,theformer

comprisingthosequalifiedtoserveandthelatterthosewhofellbelowthepropertyqualification.Laterthissimple

systemwasrefinedthroughtheintroductionoffivedifferentinfantryclassesbasedonagraduatedscaleof

propertyrequirements.Thecavalry,orequites,wereapparentlyselectedfromamongtherichestmembersofthe

firstclass,whileatthebottom,belowtheclasses,weretheproletarii,whoselackofpropertynormallyexcluded

themfrommilitaryservice,althoughtheycouldbecalledupforgarrisonorgalleyduties.

Thiscomplexstratifiedstructuredidnotreflectafunctionaldifferentiationwithinthearmy,butitwascloselylinked toitspoliticalrole.Thus,thearmycouldconveneasapoliticalbody,intheformoftheso-calledcomitia centuriata.Formallyrepresentingthecitizensunderarms,ithadtomeetoutsidethepomeriumintheCampus Martius.Theassemblywouldbecalledbythechiefmagistrate,whowasalsoitscommander.Originallythe assembledcrowdwasaskedtogivethenew(p.393) leadersitssupportandallegiancethroughacclamation,and aftertheintroductionofmultiplecandidatesitwouldbeaskedtochoosebetweenthem.Inadditiontheywouldelect

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

theotherseniormagistrates,thepraetorsandcensors.Reflectingthemilitaryoriginsofthecomitiacenturiata,it

wasthisassemblythatwouldbeaskedtovotealsoonmattersofwarandpeace.

The“StruggleoftheOrders”

ThelaterRomansourcesdescribeaconflictbetweentwodistinctgroups,patriciansandplebeians,which dominatedthefirsttwocenturiesoftherepublic.Littlereliableinformationaboutthisperiodisavailable,andthe natureoftheconflictandtheidentityoftheparticipantsarethereforelargelyamatterofspeculation.Wecannot sayforcertainwhetherthetwogroupsonlyemergedafterthefoundationoftherepublic,whetherthey representedabipolardivisionoftheentirecitizenbody,oriftherewasathirdcategoryofcitizensneitherplebeian norpatrician.Neitheristhereanyagreementonwhethertheexclusivityofthepatriciansdominatedthestateright fromthebeginningoftherepublic oriftheyonlygraduallyestablishedthemselvesasarulingclass.Giventhestate ofourevidenceaconsensusisunlikelytobereachedontheseissues.Whatismostimportantforourpurposes arethefollowingaspects,onwhichthereseemstobesomeagreement.Firstly,thetwocategoriesofpatricians andplebeiansappeartohavebeenhereditary.Secondly,thepatriciansasagroupclaimedadistinctreligious authority.Thirdly,theplebeianswere—atleastduringsomeperiods—excludedfromstateoffices,civic andmilitary aswellascultic.

Thesocioeconomic statusofthetwocategoriesisnotentirelyclear.Whilethepatriciansgenerallyarepresented asrichandpowerful,theplebeiansseemtohavecoveredabroadersocialrange.Someofthembelongedtothe lowerclasses,assuggestedbytherequestsforsocialandeconomic reforms,reportedinthesources.Other demandschallengedthepatricianmonopolyonpublic office,whichmayindicateamoreelevatedsocialstatus.

Aspartofthestruggleforpoliticalequalityandsocialconcessions,theplebeianscreatedanumberofcivic and religiousinstitutionsinordertopromotetheirinterests.Aplebeianassemblywasfounded,theconciliumplebis, convenedbythetribuniplebis,theofficialsoftheplebswhoseprimaryrole,accordingtothetradition,wasto protectplebeiansagainstpatricianoppression.Thetribuneswereprotectedbyacollectiveoathtakenbythe plebeianpopulation,whichmadethemsacrosanct.Anotherplebeianmagistracywastheaedileship,concerned withthecelebrationofseparateplebeianreligiousfestivalsandthemaintenanceoftheirshrines.Theplebeian assemblycouldissueitsownresolutions,so-calledplebiscita,whichwerebindingfortheplebeianpopulation. Theirassemblywasstructuredaroundthevotingunitofthetribus,territorialdivisionsoftheRomanstate,whichon thefaceofitmayhavegivenitamore“democratic”aspectthanthetimocraticallyorganizedcomitiacenturiata.

(p.394) Thepatriciansgraduallymadeconcessionsonallfronts,andacompromisewasformulatedbywhichthe plebeianleaderswereadmittedtoalmostallpublic offices,includingthereligiousposts,whiletheplebeian

institutionswererecognizedbythestate.In367itwasagreedthatoneoftheconsulsshouldbeplebeian(effective

from342),andin300thepontificatewasopenedtoplebeians,whoweretoprovidehalfofthemembers.

Theendresultwasaheterogeneousmixofofficial“state”postsandassembliesandseparateinstitutionsthatwere openonlytoplebeiansbutcarriedstateauthority.Anewassemblywasalsointroducedbasedonthetribal divisionsbutcoveringbothplebeiansandpatricians,thecomitiatributa,whichwouldpasslegislationandelect lowermagistrates,aedilesandquaestors,inadditiontoahostofminorpublic officials.Theplebeianaedileshipwas

in367matchedbyasimilar“curule”office,whichwasopentopatricians.Liketheirplebeiancounterpartstheir

mainresponsibilitywaspublic festivals,works,andgrainsupply.

Althoughthisgradualprocessofplebeian-patricianintegrationmayseemuniquelyRoman,thereareclearparallels tothisphenomenoninthemedievalcity-statesofcentralItaly,wherepopularmovementsoftenestablishedrival

institutionsthatovertimewereabsorbedintotheofficialconstitutionalframework(Finer1997).

Thereislittleevidencetosuggestthatthe“struggleoftheorders”representeda“democratic”challengetothe

Romanstate.Theplebeianinstitutionsallappeartohavebeenmoldedonthoseofthepatrician-dominatedstate.

Therelationshipbetweenassemblyandmagistratewassimilar,againreducingthemassestoapassive,reflective

role.Itisthereforedifficulttointerprettheplebeianinstitutionsastheproductsofagenuinely“popular”movement

emerging“frombelow.”Mostplausiblyaplebeianelitehadexistedatanearlystage,whichchampionedthecause

oftheplebeianpopulationingeneralwhilealsousingthenewinstitutionstobolstertheirownclaimstopowerand

equality.Themainconsequenceofthe“struggle”wasamodificationoftheexecutivestructuresandabroadened

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

accesstopublic office.

SocialandPoliticalStabilityintheMiddleRomanRepublic

Theperiodbetweentheendofthe“struggleoftheorders”inthefourthcenturyandthefirstoutbreakofpolitical violencein133 BCE isgenerallyseenasthe“classic”Romanrepublic,characterizedbystabilityathomeand expansionabroad.Whilethepoliticalstabilityofthemiddlerepublic mayhavebeenexaggeratedbysubsequent writerswholookedbackwithnostalgiaontheperiodbeforetheupheavalofthelaterepublic,thereislittledoubt thatthesewerethecenturieswhen(p.395) therepublicansystemworkedmostsmoothly.Anumberoffactors canbeadducedtoexplaintherelativestability,includingthestructureandideologyoftherulingclass,its relationshipwiththepeople,andtheconciliatorypoliciespursuedbytherulingclass.Finallythewholequestionof Rome’sdomestic stabilitymustbeviewedagainstthebackdropofherexternalsuccess,thecontinuouswarfare andtheincreasingmilitarizationofRomansocietyduringthisperiod.

TheNewNobility

The“struggleoftheorders”ledtotheformationofanewrulingclass,consistingofbothpatriciansandplebeians (Hölkeskamp1987).Insocioeconomic termstheelitehadnotbeenbroadenedtoanysignificantdegree,since commonersstillwereexcluded.Butthenewelite,whichlaterbecameknownasthenobilitas,neverthelessmarked afundamentalhistoricalshift.Mostimportantlyitdefineditselfintermsofofficeholdingratherthanbirth.Accessto politicalpowerwasnolongerreservedforanexclusiveeliteclaiminginheritedprivilegebutwasinprincipleopen toallmenofmeans.

Thenewelitethereforehadastrongmeritocratic elementtoit,butitsoonassumedmoretraditionalaristocratic featurestoo.Thus,thepersonalmeritrepresentedbyofficeholdingbecameadistinctionthatcouldbepassedon tothenextgenerations.Thus,thenobilitaswasdefinedasthosefamiliesthatcouldcountaconsulamongtheir ancestors,andamanwhoreachedthehighestofficewould“ennoble”hisfamilyanddescendants.The paradoxicalresultwasarulingclassthatfoundeditsclaimtoleadershiponacombinationofindividual achievementandinheritedentitlement.Thenewcomerswholackednoblepedigreewerelabeled“newmen,” hominesnovi,andtheveryexistenceofthisconceptunderlinesthehereditaryelementtothenewoffice-holding class.Membersofthetraditionalconsularfamilieshadastrongerclaimtosucceedtothehighestoffice.Inthe hundredyearsbefore133 BCE nofewerthan99outof200consulshipswerefilledbynoblescarryingjustten

differentfamily(orclan)names.Bycontrast,between179and49onlyseven“newmen”fromnonsenatorial

familiesreachedtheconsulship(withtwomorepossible; Brunt1982; Badian1990a,1990b).Afewconsulscame fromsenatorialfamiliesoflowerrank,butthevastmajoritycamefromoldconsularfamilies.

Itisimportanttonote,however,thatdespitethenearmonopolyonthehighestpostsexercisedbyasmallcoreof oldfamilies,Rome’swasnotaclosed,hereditaryelite,claimingautomatic succession.Continuoustenureofthe highestofficeoverseveralgenerationswasinfacttheexceptionevenamongfamiliesintheinnercircle.Between 249and50 BCE 35percentoftheconsulswerenotabletocountanotherconsulamongtheirdirectancestorsthree generationsback.Likewiseforaroundathirdoftheconsulsinthisperiodwehavenoevidenceofanysons followingintheirfootsteps.Andatthelowerrungsofthesenate,theturnoveroffamilies(p.396) wasprobably

evengreater(HopkinsandBurton1983).Severalfactorsmayexplainthispattern.Thehighmortalityratenaturally

ledtoasteadyrenewaloftheelite,asfamiliesorfamilybranchesbecameextinct.Thepracticeofpartible

inheritancealsocontributedtothisprocessbyencouragingfamiliestoaimforasinglemaleheirtoperpetuatethe

namewhilekeepingtheestateintact.Frequently,however,theresultwaseitherextinctionorthediminutionofthe

familyfortune,leadingtoa—perhapstemporary—eclipseofthefamilies’politicalrepresentation.

Thedynamic andopenstructureoftheoffice-holdingclassnotonlystrengtheneditsidentityasameritocratic elite butalsohelpedsecureitslong-termsurvival.Oligarchic systemsarevulnerabletoanumberofthreats,whichare asmuchinternalasexternal.Fixedandinflexiblebarriersbetweenclassesareoftendetrimentaltothelong-term stabilityofrulingelites.InRometherelativeopennesspreventedthebuildingupofresentmentandopposition amongrisingfamiliesexcludedfromofficeandstatus.Thesecouldbecontinuouslyadmitted,usuallytothelower ranksofthesenate,buttheywouldoftenfallpreytothehazardsmentionedaboveanddisappearagainafterafew generations.Inthiswaythesystemcouldaccommodatetheambitionsoftalented“newmen”without

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

compromisingthefundamentalstabilityoftheinternalpowerstructure.

TheRomanelitemanagedaprecariousbalancebetweentotalopenness,whichthreatensthecontinuityofthe

rulingclass,andtheexclusivitythatmakesthesystemvulnerabletochallengesfromexcludedoremerginggroups

offamiliesoutsidetheelite.Partoftheanswertothisconundrumwasamultitieredstructurewithintheelite,which

consistedofseveralformallyrecognizedlevels—equites,senators,andnobiles.Theyallenjoyeddistinctionsof

status,whilemostpowerremainedinthehandsoftheleadingfamilieswithinthenobility.

Themainchallengetothesurvivalofoligarchic systemstypicallycomesfromwithintheranksoftherulingclass itself.Theformalizedsharingofpoweramonggroupsoffamiliesalwaysrequiresstronginternalcohesionaswellas effectivemeansofenforcingcollectivediscipline.Safeguardsmustbeinplacetopreventattemptsatusurping unwarrantedpowers,andcompetitionmustbetightlyregulatedtominimizethedisruptionotherwisecausedby openpoliticalcontest.Self-policingwasessentialtothelong-termstabilityofancientoligarchic systems.

Conformitytothearistocratic idealofpowersharingwasfromanearlyageinculcatedintoyoungnobles,whowere instilledwithacompetitivebutfundamentallyegalitarianethos.Thismessagewasreinforcedbystoriesof exemplarypunishmentsofpastleaderswhohadbrokenranksandaspiredtotyranny.Anyattemptbynoblesto overshadowtheirpeerswascondemned,andtheelitecouldberuthlessinitsdefenseofitslibertas—definedas thefreedomfromthedominationofasingleindividualorsmallclique.Accusationsofseekingdominatiowerethe mostpowerfulweaponsinthepoliticaldiscourseatRome.Theconsensualideologyoftheeliterequiredsubmission tothemajorityviewinordertomaintaininternalunity,andadherencetothisidealwaspromotedthroughaculture ofrespectanddeferenceforage,seniority,andexperience,asalsoreflectedinthe(p.397) hierarchical structureoftherulingclassdeliberativebody,thesenate,whichfacilitatedunanimityandhelpedsuppressorat leastmarginalizedissent.

Therewerealsoanumberofinstitutionalsafeguardsbuiltintotheconstitution.Thesharingofpowerwasorganized throughveryshort-termofficeholding,andeventhemostseniorstatesmenthereforeheldformalauthorityforonly averybriefperiodduringtheirpublic careers.Graduallythesecareersweregivenafirmerstructurewithruleslaid downfortheorderinwhichofficesweretobeheld,theso-calledcursushonorum.Minimumageswerealso prescribedforeachofficebytheLexVilliaannalis,180 BCE,suchasageforty-twofortheconsulship,andan intervaloftwoyearswasrequiredbetweentheholdingofdifferentcuruleoffices.

Accesstopowerandhonorswasregulatedthroughtheprocessofgeneralelection,andheremeasureswere takentocontainthepotentiallydisruptivedynamicsofopencontests.Thedecisiveinfluencewasplacedinthe handsofthepropertiedclasses,whiletheurbanplebsineffectwasdeprivedofanyrealsay.Ideallyinoligarchic systemstheaccesstoexecutivepowerisgovernedbyarandomprocessthatofferslittleopportunityfor influencingtheoutcome.Thus,inVenice,another(later)aristocratic republic characterizedbyremarkable stability,anextraordinarilycomplexsystemwasdevelopedtoappointthedoges,whichcombinedelectionwith

lotteryasameansofmaintainingtheinternalequilibriumwithintherulingclass(Finer1997).Romemayhavetried

toachieveasimilareffectbychoosingasingleelectoralunit,thecenturiapraerogativa,bylotanddesignatingits

resultasapseudo-divineindicatortotherestofthevotingunits.Apparentlyitsleadwasgenerallyfollowed,

therebyreducingtheincentiveforcandidatestocampaignextensivelyinanattempttoinfluencetheresult,which

mighthavehadadestabilizingeffectontheeliteasawhole.Italsoproducedamuchstrongermandateforthe

newmagistrates,whowouldwinbyaclearmajority,therebyreinforcingtheimageofacommunitystandingunited

behinditsleaders.

Itwasimportantnotjusttocurbtheambitionsofindividualnoblesandregulatetheircampaigningeffortsbutalsoto

exercisesomecontroloverthemduringtheirtimeinoffice.ThiswasaparticularprobleminRomewhere

magistratesheldexceptionallystrongpowers.Whenmagistratessteppeddowntheycouldbetriedforoffenses

committedduringtheirtimeinoffice,whichmayhavehelpedtoreinin“rogue”membersoftheelite.

Anotherproblemwasposedbytheexistenceofthepopulartribunate,arelic fromthe“struggleoftheorders,” whichhadbeenincorporatedintotheconstitution.Considerablepowerwasinvestedinthetribunate,whichwas filledannuallybytenofficeholders,whoatleastinthemiddleandlaterrepublic usuallywereintheearlystagesof theircareers.Notonlycouldtheypresenttheirownlegislativebillsdirectlytotheassembly,buttheycouldalso vetothoseofothers.Sincetheyallheldequalauthority,theirindividualpowersoftencanceledeachotherout, preventinganyundesirableinitiativesfrombeingimplemented.Theirobstructivepowerscouldbemoredifficultto

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

control,andhereinformalpressureexercisedbyseniorfiguresgenerallymanagedtobringthemintolinewiththe prevailingeliteview.Theageofthetribunesprobablycontributedsincefewofthemwouldhave(p.398) been willingtojeopardizefuturecareersonamatterofprinciple.However,theirofficewastraditionallydefinedasthe protectorofthepeople’sinterests,andwhentakenseriouslythisidentitycouldoccasionallyleadtoconflict betweentribunesandthesenatorialconsensus.Tribunescouldthenappealdirectlytothemassesforsupport againsttheirpeers,whichrepresentsaclassic crisisscenariocommontomostoligarchic societies.Thisparticular problemtakesustothebroaderquestionhowoftherulingclassmaintainedsocialpeaceandlong-termcontrol overthepopulace.

EliteandMasses

TraditionallyitwasbelievedthattheentireRomanplebswastiedtoaristocratic familiesthroughadensenetworkof patronage,aso-calledclientelasystem.Thisideahassincebeenquestionedbymanyscholars,andthereisnow broadagreementthatalthoughpatronagerelationsundoubtedlyplayedacentralroleinthepracticalfunctioningof Romansociety,theywereprobablynotascrucialinmaintainingthepoliticalorderasithaspreviouslybeen assumed.Notonlydoclientelarelationsappeartohavebeenfarmorecomplex,oftenshort-livedadhoc arrangements,buttherewerealsosimpleissuesofscalethatwouldhavepreventedthedirectcontrolofall Romansbyindividualsenatorialfamilies(Brunt1988; Mouritsen2001).

Followingthemodificationoftheclientelatheory,somescholarshavearguedthatthemassesrepresentedafree andactiveagentinRomanpublic life.Afewhaveevengonesofarastosuggestthatthepeoplehadadecisive influenceonpoliticsandstategovernance,therebychallengingtheprevailingviewoftheRomanrepublic asan

oligarchy(Millar1998).ThepoliticalroleoftheRomanpeoplewas,however,fullofcontradictions.Ontheone

hand,thepeoplemadeallmajordecisionsaffectingthestate.Ontheotherhand,theywerealsodefinedas profoundlypassiveparticipantsinpublic life.ThisparadoxledsomeancientobserverssuchastheGreekhistorian Polybius(ca.200–ca.118 BCE)toconstruetheRomanconstitutionastheembodimentoftheGreekidealofthe mixedconstitution,whichblendedelementsofmonarchy,aristocracy,anddemocracyintoasingleharmonious

andstablesystemof“checksandbalances”(Nippel1980).Hismodelhasbeenhighlyinfluentialbutitwasin

essenceatheoreticalexercisethatlargelyfailedtograsptheuniquelyRomanfeaturesoftheconstitution.We

mustdistinguishinRomebetweenformalauthorityandpowersthatweretobeactivelyexercised,andthe

“democratic”elementwasinessenceaformalrequirementthatthepopulusratifyalllawsandacclaimall

magistrates.

AcloseranalysisofthefunctioningofthepoliticalinstitutionssuggeststhatrepublicanRomewasanoligarchyinall butname.Themasseshadaverylimitedinputintopolicymaking,sincenewlegislationwasnotformulatedinthe assemblies,whichmerelygaveititsformalapproval.Lawscouldberejectedintheassemblybuttheevidence suggeststhishappenedquiterarely—nocertaincaseis(p.399) knownfromthefirstcentury BCE.Arejectionwas probablyconsideredsomethingofananomaly,sincetherationaleoftheoccasionappearstohavebeentoratify theproposalandnottoexerciseanyspecific judgmentonitsmerit(cf.North2002).Acentralregulatoryfactorin thelegislativeprocessthereforeappearstohavebeenthetribunicianveto,andthepublic debatesprecedingthe votemaytypicallyhaveevolvedaroundthequestionofwhetherathreatenedvetoshouldremainorbelifted; or, inotherwords,whethertheproposalshouldgoforwardtowardaformalratificationornot.

Public policywasformulatedbythesenateandmagistrates,andwhileaccesstoofficereliedonapopular mandate,theelectoralcrowdsweregenerallysmallandunrepresentative.Inpracticaltermsitwasimpossiblefor morethanatinyproportionofthecitizenbodytotakepartinpublic meetings,andgiventhetime-consuming natureoftheproceedingsitwasprobablymostlymenofsubstancewhocouldaffordtodevotetheirtimetopublic affairs.

Thehigherofficeswerefilledthroughelectioninthecenturiateassembly,wherethevoterswereorganized accordingtoeconomic standingandthegreaterinfluencewasgiventothepropertiedclasses.Thechoiceof candidateswaslimited,sincetheyallbelongedtotheelite.Moreover,thereislittleevidenceforanyovertly politicalcontentintheelectionsorthecampaignsthatprecededthem.Usuallylegislativeprogramswerenot presentedinadvancenorwere“party”affiliationsdeclared.Thereareevenindicationsthatcontroversialissues mayhavebeenavoidedbycandidatesduringtheirelectoralcampaigns.Thechoicewasthereforemadeonthe basisofpersonalqualities(andfamilybackground)ratherthananyspecific policies.

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

Thepeople’sabilitytoexerciseanydirectinfluenceonstatepolicyappearstohavebeenlimited,whichinturn makestherelativestabilitythatcharacterizedtheRomanrepublic somuchmoreremarkable.Anexplanationmust besoughtinanumberofdifferentareas,practicalaswellasideological.

TheformalconstructionoftheRomanstatewouldhavemadeitdifficulttoformulatea“democratic”alternativeto

theexistingorder,sinceintheorythepopulusalreadyplayedapivotalroleinthegovernanceofthestate.The

often-mentioned“sovereignty”oftheRomanpeople(theconceptitselfisofcourseamoderninventionand

belongstotheearlymodernperiod)wasrootedintheprimitivenotionofthestateasindistinctfromthepeople,

whichthereforerepresentedtheonlypossiblesourceofformallegitimacy.Whileinpracticethepeople’sinfluence

mayhavebeenhighlycircumscribed,thepopulusremainedthefocalpointofallpoliticalproceedingsand

arguments.

ThisconstructionofthestatewassupportedbyacommonideologythatcelebratedthelibertaspopuliRomani. Allegiancetothe“freedomoftheRomanpeople”wasanall-pervasivepoliticalcreedandcentraltothecollective identityoftheRomanrepublic.ItlayattheheartoftheRomanperceptionoftherespublicaasacommunityoffree men,butimportantly“free”didnotinthiscontextmean“democratic”; essentiallyitmeantabsenceofdominatio, whichinthemostbasic termswasdefinedasthefreedomfromthecapriciousruleofonemanorasmall(p.400) clique.Inthisinterpretationthe“freedom”oftheRomanpeoplerestedprimarilyonthemaintenanceofacollective governmentappointedthroughproperpublic procedureaswellasonrespectforthelawsthatprotectedtheircivic rights,includingtherighttoatrialandtoappealagainstmagisterialcoercion,provocatio.Inthatsenseitwas equallyattractivetoaristocratsastothemasses,andnooligarchic alternativetotheidealoflibertaspopuli Romaniwasthereforeeverformulatednorwasthe“sovereignty”ofthepeopleformallychallenged.Whatis strikingaboutpoliticaldiscourseintheRomanrepublic isthereforewhatinanarrowercontexthasbeendescribed

asitsideological“monotony”(Morstein-Marx2004).

Theidentityoftheeliteandthewayitjustifieditsleadershipwasfullycompatiblewiththelibertasideology. Membershipofthenobilitaswasnotformallybasedonbirthrightbutonpersonal(orfamily)achievements.By definingitselfasan“office-elite”thenobilitascouldclaimadirectpopularmandateandjustifyitspowerintermsof personalmeritandservicestothestate.Inpracticeonlypersonsofconsiderablewealthmayhavebeenableto assumepublic responsibilities,butthefactthatinprincipleitwasopentoalltalentedoutsiderswashugely important.

Theelite’smeritocratic self-imageinfluenceditsstyleofgovernmentanditmayalsohaveencouragedittopursue broadlyconsensualpolicies,whichcontributedtothemaintenanceofsocialandpoliticalstability.Theelite’sown lifestyleappearstohavebeenrelativelymodestduringmostoftherepublic,whichreducedthemostglaringsocial

inequalityandencouragedanegalitarianvisionofthecitizenbody.Thiswaspartlytheresultofinternalself-

policing,asreflectedinaseriesofluxurylawscurbingexcessivelifestyles.Likewisethebeneficentideologyof public munificenceembracedbytheelitemayhavecontributedtoageneralsenseofpaternalistic responsibility, despitetheevidentopportunitiesforself-promotionthatitalsooffered.

Mostimportantinthiscontextwasthefactthattheeliteethosofpublic serviceincreasinglywaschanneledintoa questformilitarydistinction.Extendedmilitaryservicewasintegratedintothepublic careerstructure,andtheglory wononthebattlefieldsbecameamajorfactorintheelite’sinternalcompetition.Theresultwasthatthenobilityin effectbecamea“warriorelite,”andtheestablishmentofthenewrulingclasscoincidedwithamajorpushin Rome’sexpansioninItaly.Thenobilitasthusconsolidateditspositionthroughitsmanagementofthisprocess

(Hölkeskamp1993).

Themilitarybasisfortheascendancyofthenobilitaswasreinforcedthroughawiderangeofpublic ritualsand manifestations,suchasthetriumph,funeralprocessions,andorationsthatdemonstratednotjusttheircapability butalsotheirdevotiontotherespublicaanditsideals.Moreover,thecityscapeofRomewasincreasinglyshaped byaristocratic self-promotion.Votivemonumentsandhonorific statuaryproliferated,whichbroughthomevisually Rome’sexternalconquestsandactedasreminderstothepopulaceofthesuccessfulleadershipprovidedbythe nobility.Thepublic ritualsandtheirassociatedmonumentsthusbecamecelebrationsofthepartnershipbetween theRomanpeople,itsleaders,andthetutelarygods,whichmanifesteditselfinthesteadyexpansionofherpower andterritory.

(p.401) AssuchtheyreflectedtheincreasingmilitarizationofRomansocietyduringtherepublic.Prolonged

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

periodsofcontinuousmilitaryengagementandmassmobilizationmadewarfareanormal,indeedhabitualactivity fortheRomans,andmostlikelythisdevelopmentalsohadaprofoundeffectontherelationshipbetweenleaders andmasses.Thelinebetweencivilianandmilitaryauthoritybecameblurred.Ontheonehand,thecitizenbody(or atleastthepoliticallyactivesectionofit)thusbecamelargelyidenticalwiththearmy,whichwasusedtotake ordersfromtheirsuperiors,while,ontheotherhand,themilitaryleadersbecameaccustomedtoanelementof reciprocityintheirdealingswiththepeopleandwereimbuedwithasenseofobligationtoleadbyexample.The Romaneliteseemstohavesubscribedtotheidealofanapproachablestyleofleadership,characterizedbywhat hasbeendescribedas“joviality,”thatis,thefriendlydemeanorassumedbyasuperiortowardhissocialinferiors

(Jehne2000).

Thecontinuousmilitaryengagementsnotonlyhadadirectimpactondomestic politicsbutalsocruciallycreated thepracticalopportunitiesthatenabledtheelitetopursuemoderate,broadlyconsensualpoliciesthat accommodatedtheinterestsofthemasses.Therewas,inotherwords,anintimateconnectionbetweeninternal socialandpoliticalstabilityinRomeandherexternalexpansionduringthesameperiod.Wewillthereforetakea closerlookattheinitialstagesoftheRomanexpansion.

Rome’sExpansioninItaly

Romefirstemergedasalocalhegemonic powerinLatiumduringthefourthcentury,whenshecametodominate theothersmallcity-states.Accordingtolatertraditionthepeoplesoftheplainhadearlyformedadefensiveleague inreactiontoraidsbyinlandhighlandtribes.GiventhegeographicalconditionsinLatium,whichofferedlittle naturalprotectionandcouldeasilybeoverrun,thiswouldhavebeenanentirelylogicalmeasureandnecessary fortheircollectivesecurity.Apparentlythemembersoftheleaguehadalsoexchangedvariousmutualrights,

enablingtradeandintermarriage.In340theLatinsrevoltedagainstRomanhegemony,andaftertheirdefeatinthe

ensuingLatinWartheleaguewasdissolvedandRomeemergedasadominantpowerincentralItaly.Romesoon extendedherhegemonytoCampaniaandtheVolsciantribes.ThissparkedaseriesofconflictswiththeSamnites incentralItaly,Rome’sstrongestopponent,aswellasahostofotherItalic peoples,includingtheEtruscans, Umbrians,Apulians,Lucanians,andtheGaulsinnorthernItaly.Bytheearlythirdcenturymostofthepeninsulahad

comeunderRomancontrol,andafter264therewaslittlearmedoppositiontoherhegemony.However,duringthe

Hannibalic WarmanyItalianpeoplesincentralandsouthernItalyjoinedCarthage,butwithRomanvictorysecure theywerebroughtbackunderRomancontrol.

(p.402) AnumberofdifferentfactorscontributedtotheremarkableexpansionofRomanpowerinItaly.Divisions withintheranksofRome’sopponentswereexploitedbycleveralliancepoliciesthatplayedoutdifferentopponents againsteachother.ButthemajoradvantageenjoyedbyRomeappearstohavebeenherabilitytomobilizelarge sectionsofthemalepopulationoverlongperiods.Thefigureswehaveforthenumberofmenunderarmsandthe sizeofthecitizenpopulation—whichmustbeusedwithgreatcaution—suggestaveryhighlevelofmobilization. Thiswassustainable,practically,economically,andpolitically,foranumberofreasons.Atthemostbasic level massmobilizationwaspossiblebecauseofthestructureofthecitizenmilitia,whichmadethemajorityofmale adultseligibleforextendedmilitaryservice,onlytheproletariiandfreedmenbeingdefactoexcluded.Romealso devisedasystemtoensurecontinuousmilitaryleadershipduringtheextendedcampaigns,whichbrokewiththe principleofshort-termtenureofoffice.Thishappenedthroughtheinventionofpromagisterialpostsduringthe middlerepublic,whichextendedtheimperiumoftheannualofficeholdersandenabledthemtocontinueinthe field.ItalsoallowedRometofieldseveralarmiesatthesametime.

Warfarewasoriginallyaseasonalactivity,andservinginmilitarycampaignsduringpartsoftheyearbecamepart oftherhythmoflifefortheRomanpeasantry.AtarelativelyearlystageintheRomanexpansion,however,soldiers hadtoremainunderarmsforlongerperiods,andithasbeensuggestedthatanynegativeimpactoftheirabsence ontheeconomyandpopulationwascompensatedforbyearlyconscriptionanddelayedmalemarriage (Rosenstein2004).ThelevelofmobilizationintheRomanrepublic isneverthelessremarkable,notleastinlightof thelimitedevidencewehaveforanyresistancetoconscription.Thismaybeexplainedpartlybyahabitofservice thatledtoagradualmilitarizationoftheRomancivic identity,partlybythecollectiveaswellasindividualbenefits thatweretobederivedfromcontinuouswarfare.Thesharingoftheproceedsofwar,aboveallbootyfromplunder, wouldhaveprovidedanimportantincentive,buttherewerealsowidersocialandeconomic implications.Itcreated arichsupplyofwarcaptiveswhoweresoldintoslavery; between297and293 BCE nofewerthan69,000were

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

enslaved.Thisinfluxoflaborwouldhavereducedtheneedfordebt-bondage,whichwasbannedbythelex

Poetiliaineither326or313(Oakley1993).EnslavementofRomanshadneverbeenallowedwithinRoman

borders,butdebt-bondagemayhavebeenrelativelycommon.TheforeignconquestsalsogavetheRomans accesstoextensivelandresourcesonwhichlandlesspoorcouldbesettled(cf.below).Thecreationofasteadily growing“cake”thushelpedinmaintainingsocialstabilityathomewhilealsoconsolidatingthepositionoftheruling nobilitas,whichjustifieditsleadershipintermsofmilitaryprowess.ItenabledRometoexportherpopulation surplusandtherebyeasedomestic socialpressures.

TheRomanHegemonyinItaly

AstheRomansextendedtheirhegemonyacrosstheItalianpeninsula,theydevelopedcomplexpatternsof relationshipswithindividualItaliancommunities.(p.403) Modernscholarshavetriedtoidentifybehindthese arrangementsadeliberatestrategyaimedatlayingthefoundationfortheromanizedItaly,whichwouldemerge centurieslater.Thereareobviouselementsofteleologyinthisapproach,andtheresulthasoftenbeenthe projectionofmuchlaterdevelopmentsbacktoanoriginal“masterplan.”InrealitytheRomanorganizationofItaly appearstohaveevolvedgraduallyoveralongperiodandtohavebeensubjecttocontinuousadjustmentsand modificationsthattookintoaccountlocalcircumstancesandchangingshort-termobjectives.Wecannevertheless discernthevagueoutlineofsuccessivestagesinthedevelopmentofRome’shegemonic system,aswellassome generalprinciplesthatdictatedherpolicies.Themainhegemonic toolswereincorporation,enfranchisement, treaties,landconfiscation,andcolonization.Whendealingwithindividualcommunities,Romewouldfrequently combinethesedifferentcomponents.

Rome’sfirstmajorconquesttookplacein396,whenaccordingtoancienttraditionVeii,Rome’sEtruscanneighbor

tothenorth,wascaptured.Thetownwasthendestroyed,thepopulationenslaved,andtheterritoryannexedand

distributedamongRomansettlers.Adifferentpolicywaspursuedin381,whentheLatintownofTusculumwas

incorporatedandapparentlygivenfullRomancitizenship.Thisisthefirstrecordedinstanceofthewholesale

incorporationofanothercommunityintoRome.Itbrokewithtraditionalnotionsofthecity-stateascomprisedbythe

cityanditssurroundingterritory,andthusopeneduptoaprocessofmunicipalizationthatallowedthedominant

centertocoexistwithlesserurbancommunitiesthatwereallocatedcertainadministrativeresponsibilities.

AftertheLatinWar(340–338)amajorreorganizationofRome’shegemonyinLatiumtookplace.Theformerallies

were,withafewexceptions,allincorporatedintotheRomanstate,apparentlyreceivingfullRomancitizenship. LaterothercommunitiesincentralItalyweretreatedsimilarly,althoughitisnotclearwhetherfullenfranchisement wasalwaysinvolved.Thepolicyofextendingbothterritoryandcitizenbodywaspursueduptoapointinthethird centurywhenfearsofoverstretchingRome’sabilitytointegrateforeigncommunitiesledtoachangeofpolicy.At thatpointRomanterritoryextendedfarbeyondwhatcouldreasonablybedefinedasacity-state.Theexpansionof theRomancitizenbodywasfeasiblebecauseoftheparticularRomandefinitionoftheircitizenship.Unlikeinthe Greekpoleis,citizenshipdidnotentailanydirectpoliticalinfluence,anditcouldthereforebeextendedwithout jeopardizingpoliticalstabilityorcausinganydisruptiontotheinternalbalanceofpower.Moreover,citizenshipwas notregardedasaspecific privilegeasmuchasthecommonstatusheldbyallfreemembersofsociety,whichalso explainstheautomatic enfranchisementoffreedslaves,liberti,atRome,apracticethatsurprisedcontemporary Greekobserverswhofounditremarkablygenerous.

IncontrasttomostotherancientsocietiesRomecouldexpandhercitizenbodywithoutmajoradverseeffects, enablinghertoenjoythebenefitsfromincreasedmanpowerandtherevenuesthatwouldpayfortheirdeployment. PoliticallytheexpandedRomanstateremainedhighlycentralizedwithallpowerconcentrated(p.404) inthecity ofRome.Fromthatperspectiveitremaineda“classic”city-state.ThedegreeofpoliticalintegrationintheRoman territoriesmaythereforehavebeenlimited.Politicalproceedings,festivals,andothercivic eventswouldmostly haveaffectedthoselivinginornearthecityofRome.Thearmymayinfacthavebeenthemainintegrativefactor withintheRomanstate,sincerecruitsfromdifferentpartsoftheRomanterritoryappeartohavebeendeliberately

mixedinindividualarmyunits(Jehne2006).

Themostcommonalternativetoincorporationwastheformationofalliances,whichtiedItaliancommunities

externallytoRomewhileconcedingfullinternalautonomy.Romeappearstohaveexchangedbilateraltreatieswith

alargenumberofItalianstates,althoughithasbeenarguedthatsomedefeatedcommunities,ratherthan

receivingaformaltreaty,simplymayhavebeenleftasdediticii,surrenderedenemies,subjecttoRome’swilland

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

command(Rich2008).Someallies,especiallythosewhohadenteredfreelyintoanalliancewithRomewithout

coercion,mayhavereceivedmorefavorabletermsthanothers,describedasafoedusaequum,butitisnotclear whatthepracticalimplicationswere.Thetreatiesdeprivedthealliesofanindependentforeignpolicyandtiedthem toRome,whomtheywereobligedtosupportwhencalledupon.ThemilitarycontributionsbytheItalianswere regulatedbytheformulatogatorum,thatis,thelistoftogati,presumablythemenofmilitaryage,whichtheRoman authoritiesusedtospecifythenumbersoftroopsrequiredofeachalliedcommunity.Inthearmytheallied contingentswouldserveinseparateunitsundertheirownofficers,butunderthehighcommandoftheRoman general.Beyondthemilitarycontributionsthetreatiesdidnotimposeanyspecific obligations.Notributewasever imposedontheItalianallies.TherewasnoattempttoextenddirectruleorRomanlawortoenforcefurtherpolitical orculturalintegration.TheinternalautonomyofthealliesalsoappearstohavebeenbroadlyrespectedbyRome, apartfromisolatedinstanceswhenoverbearingmagistratesbrokewithconvention.

Thecategoriesofalliedandincorporatedcommunitieswerenotalwaysclear-cut,andtheedgesoftheRoman citizenbodywereparticularlyfuzzy.Latersourcesrefertoagroupknownascivessinesuffragio,citizenswithout thevote,whomayhavepresentedaformofaffiliatedstatusbywhichthecommunityreceivedelementsofRoman citizenshipwithoutbeingfullyincorporated.Thecategoryremainselusive,anditmayoriginallyhavecovereda

fairlywiderangeofdifferentrelationstoRome(Mouritsen2007).Somewereclearlytreatedmorefavorablythan

others,andinsomecasestheirstatusmayhavebeenformalizedinatreaty,whichgavethemanintermediate

positionhalfwaybetweenallyandsubject.ItisnotcleartowhatextentthesecommunitiesservedintheRoman

legionsorcountedasallies.

TheapparentinconsistenciesinRome’spolicytowardthesepeoplesmayreflectanearlyexperimentalphase

beforetreatiesbecamethesinglepreferredmeansofregulatingRome’shegemonyinItaly.Thepurposeof

exchangingelementsofthecitizenship,includingiusconubiumetcommercium,mayhavebeentotiethese

communitiesmorecloselytoRome,politicallyandeconomically,throughintermarriageandtrade.

(p.405) WhenanopponenthadsurrenderedtoRome,punitiveactionsoftenfollowedintheformofland confiscations.Accordingtoonesource,theRomanstypicallyannexedathirdoftheiropponent’sterritory. DependingonthesizeandlocationofthelandanumberofoptionswerethenopentotheRomanauthorities.The landcouldbecomeRomanpublic land,agerpublicuspopuliRomani,andhandedovertoso-calledpossessores whowouldcultivatethelandwithoutanyformallegalentitlement.Thelandinquestionmightalsobesettledby Romanscitizenswhowouldformsmallcommunitiesthathadnoformalpoliticalidentityandforpurposesof jurisdictionwereservedbyofficialsdispatchedfromRome.FinallytheseizedlandmightbeturnedintoaRoman colonywithfullpoliticalautonomy.

RomancolonizationinItalyhadalonghistory,goingbacktotheearliestexpansionofthe“LatinLeague,” membersofwhichwouldexploitnewconqueststhroughtheestablishmentofjointsettlements,priscaecoloniae Latinae.AftertheLatinWarRomancolonizationenteredanewphasewiththefoundationofalargecolonyat Calesin334 BCE.ItwasforallintentsandpurposesaRomansettlementbutitreceived“Latin”status,despitethe dissolutionoftheLatin“league.”ItbecameindependentofRome,withwhomthenewcommunitysharedatreaty, butitenjoyedtherightstraditionallyassociatedwithmembersoftheLatinLeague,namelytherightstointermarry andtoconductformaltradewithRome.TheRomansettlerswhoweredispatchedtothenewcolonywerestripped oftheircitizenshipandgivenanewpoliticalidentityascitizensofCales.InthefollowingcenturiesRomecontinued

thispolicyuntilthe180swhenalmostthirtyLatincolonieshadbeenfounded.AtthatpointRome’scolonialpolicy

hadalreadychangedfundamentallywiththefoundationofthefirstlargesettlementofRomancitizensinnorthern

Italy,whichpresumablywastriggeredbyawishtomaintaindirectcontroloverthemanpowerresources.

TheLatincoloniesservedmultiplepurposes.ThenewsettlementsrelievedpopulationpressuresatRome,andthey assertedstrategic controlovernewlyconqueredterritories.ThecoloniesensuredapermanentRomanpresencein distantregions,therebyhelpingtomaintainRomanhegemony.Theywerestrategicallylocatedtomaximizetheir geopoliticalimpact.InordertoensurecontactwiththeirmothercitythecolonieswerelinkedtotheRoman heartlandthroughnewroads.AlongsidetheselargeLatincoloniesRomealsofoundedso-calledcoloniae maritimae,orcoastalcolonies,whichweresmallfortifiedsettlementssetuptoprotectthecoastlineagainst

attacks.Countingonly300adultmalesettlers,thesecolonieswereeffectivelygarrisonswithoutanylocal

autonomy,andthecoloniststhereforemaintainedtheirRomancitizenship.

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

ThefinaloutcomeofallthesedifferentpoliciesandstrategieswasahighlycomplexpoliticalmapofItaly,which reflectedchangingcircumstancesandshort-termobjectivesduringtheperiodofconquest.Romedealtwitheach opponentindividually,employingarangeofdifferentformsofrelationshipsandagraduatedblendofrightsand obligations,buttheguidingprinciplewasalwaystoneutralizefuturethreatsandtoensureRomanaccesstotheir manpowerresources,ideallywithoutassuminglong-termadministrativeormilitaryresponsibilitiesherself.Inthis way(p.406) theorganizationofItalywasaningeniousmeansofsupportingcontinuousexpansionbeyondthe peninsula.

Havingworkedwellforseveralcenturies,thehegemonic systeminItalycametoanendin91,whentheItalians revoltedagainstRome.Theensuingconflictbecameknownasthe“SocialWar”(fromsocius=ally),andaftertwo yearsofintensefightingtheItaliansweredefeatedandtheirstatesincorporatedintoRome.AlaterRomantradition interpretedthewarasanItalianfightforRomancitizenshipandfullinclusionintoherstate.However,giventheloss ofautonomythiswouldentailforthelocalItalianelitesandthelimited—andinmostcaseshypothetical—benefits thatmightbederivedfromRomancitizenshipduringtherepublic,itmaybemorerealistic toseetheconflictasa conventionaluprisingagainstforeignexploitationandhegemony.

InthelongtermtheRomanhegemonic systemmayhaveprovedtooinflexible.Thus,itwasincapableof accommodatingthechangingcircumstancesthatfollowedfromthecreationofRome’soverseasempire.This expansionhadtoagreatextentbeenachievedthroughalliedmanpower,whichseemstohavemadeupbetween halfandtwo-thirdsofthearmy.Theresultwasaconflictofinterestastothecontrolandexploitationofthisjointly createdbutunilaterallycontrolledasset.Thealliancesystemwasentirelybilateralwithnofederalbodies,which mighthaveplayedamediatingroleandpreventedtheclashofinterestsfromeruptingintotheviolenceofthe SocialWar(Mouritsen1998; 2006).AtthesametimetheRomancolonistsinthe“Latin”settlementsalsoseemto havecampaignedforreadmissiontotheRomanfranchise,addingafurtherdestabilizingelementtothecomplex politicalsituationthatemergedinthelatersecondcentury.

TheoutcomeofthewarwasanItaliandefeat,markingthedissolutionoftheirpolitiesandthewholesale incorporationoftheirpopulationsintoRome.Theresultwasanewterritorialstate,morethantwiceaslargeas before,withanethnicallydiversepopulation.Forthefirsttimetheentirepeninsulaformedasinglepoliticalunitwith asinglecitizenship.Still,onlylimitedattemptsseemtohavebeenmadetoenforceanyculturalunityinthenew state.Thegradualacculturationofitsmanydifferentconstituentsthattookplaceduringthefirstcentury BCE is thereforeperhapsbestunderstoodasaninadvertentby-productofthedisruptionscausedbythecivilwarsandof theextensivecolonialschemes,whichresultedinanunprecedentedlevelofpopulationdisplacement(Scheidel

2004).

ImperialExpansionOutsideItaly

RomemadeherfirstconquestoutsidetheItalianpeninsulaafterthefirstwaragainstCarthagein241,whenmostof

SicilyfellunderRomancontrol.AtthatpointitwasdecidednottoextendtheItaliansystemofautonomousorhalf-

incorporatedalliestoSicily.InsteaditwouldberuleddirectlybyaRomanmagistrate,whowas(p.407) invested

withunlimitedauthoritywithinhissphereofcommand—orprovincia,asitwascalled,hencethelateruseofthe

term“province”todenoteasubjectterritory.Itlaterbecamecommonpracticeforhighermagistrateswith

imperiumaftertheiryearinofficetotakeupapostwithpropraetorianorproconsularpowers,governinga

provinceforalimitedperiodoftime.

Inlinewiththispolicythenewterritorywasexploitedeconomicallyintheformoftributetobepaidineithermoney

orgrain.Theexistingsystemfortheextractionofresourceswasleftinplace,andtheimpositionofRomanrule

thereforerepresentedcontinuationonalocallevelratherthandisruption.Thetributarysystemwouldsubsequently

beextendedtootheroverseasterritoriesthatcameunderRomancontrol,althoughoftenaftersomeinitial

reluctancetoassumedirectadministrativeresponsibility.Theadvantagesofthisarrangementwereobvious,since

itreducedtheneedforapermanentRomanadministration.Theexistingsocialstructureswereasarulealsoleft

intactasfaraspossible.Bybringingthenativeelitesontheirside,theRomanspromotedlocalcomplianceand

reducedtheneedforextensivegarrisoningoftheterritory.

Romedidnotimposeauniformsystemoftaxationandtaxcollectionthroughouttheprovinces.Astandardtax

wouldbelevied,knownasthestipendium,whichcoveredbothcapitationtaxesandtaxesonlandedproperty.

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

Individualgovernorscouldalsoimposespeciallevies,tributum.In123thetaxcollectioninAsiawashandedover

toprivatecompaniesofpublicani,whowouldbecomepowerfulpoliticalplayersinRome.Laterthissystemwas

extendedtosomeoftheotherprovincesandthesecompaniesmightalsobeputinchargeofmining,roadbuilding,

andthecollectionoftollsandvariousduties.

TheestablishmentoftheoverseasempirehadadirectandimmediateimpactontheRomanstate,which

experiencedanenormousincreaseinrevenues.Thetributumwasnotleviedfrom167,sinceitwasnolonger

neededtofinancethearmy.Italsoledtoanincreaseintrade,asectorinwhichtherulingclasswasnotallowedto engagedirectly.Thus,thelexClaudia(218 BCE)bannedsenatorsandtheirsonsfromowninglargeseagoingships. ThehugeinfluxofslavesalsohelpedtotransformtheItalianeconomy.

ThenatureofRomanimperialismfallsoutsidethescopeofthissurvey,butwemaybrieflynotetheimportanceof elitecompetitionfocusedontheattainmentofmilitaryglory,combinedwithapervasivemilitarizationofRoman societyandthemanifesteconomic benefitstobeaccruedfromcontinuouswarfare(North1981; Harris1984; Rich

1993).NotallwarsmayhavebeendirectlyinitiatedbyRome,buteveryopportunityforfurtherconquestsseemsto

havebeenembracedwithouthesitation.ThestructureoftheRomanhegemonyinItalymayalsohavecontributed

toherwillingnesstoengageinoverseasconflicts,sinceitonlycameintoeffectwhensoldierswerecalleduponto

supportRomeinsuchengagements.

TheoverseasconquestschangedthenatureandscaleofRomanpolitics,whichinturnhaddirectconsequences fortherulingclass’sabilitytocontrolitsownmembership.Newsourcesofeliteconflictemergedastheimperial richesandcareeropportunitiesraisedthestakesintheirinternalcompetition.Theestablishment(p.408) ofthe empirethusputincreasingpressureontherepublicansystemofgovernment,strainingthecohesionand consensualideologyoftherulingclassbeyondthebreakingpoint.

TheFalloftheRomanRepublic

TheRomanrepublic cametoanendinthelaterpartofthefirstcentury BCE,whenincreasedpoliticalinstability accompaniedbyariseinpoliticalviolenceandother“unconstitutional”practiceseventuallyledtocivilwarsand finalcollapse.Thegradualdisintegrationoftherepublic wastheproductofcomplexhistoricalprocessesinvolving arangeofinterlockingfactorsthatallcontributedtothecrisis.Arootcausewasthedeclineinelitecohesion, whichhighlightedintrinsic weaknessesinthepoliticalsystemandinturnwasexacerbatedbystructuralflawsinthe organizationoftheempire.Inaddition,changestothecitizenmilitiaandthedramatic expansionoftheRoman citizenbodyaftertheSocialWarcreatedafertilegroundforthepoliticizationofthearmy.

Thebeginningoftheendoftherepublic istraditionallydatedto133 BCE whenpoliticalviolenceeruptedforthefirst timesincetheendofthestruggleoftheorders.ThereformingtribuneTiberiusSemproniusGracchuswaskilledby senatorialopponentsafterhehadusedhispowersinawaythatbrokewithconvention.Indoingsoheignoredthe consensualideologyoftheelite,whichrequiredthatofficeholderssubmittothecollectiveviewoftherulingclass.

Thesituationin133thusencapsulatedadeeperstructuralproblemimmanentintheRomanconstitution.Theten

tribunesheldimmensepowers—activeaswellasreactive—buttheneedforunanimityamongthemhad traditionallyensuredstability.ThisprinciplewasabandonedbyGracchus,whichlefthissenatorialopponentswith nooptionbuttoeliminatehimbyforce.Theiractionsexposedthedisparitybetweenthesenate’sformaladvisory roleanditsdefactopositionastheseatofthearistocratic government.Whenconfrontedbyintransigent officeholderswhorefusedtosubmittoitsauthoritythesenatehadvirtuallynoconstitutionalmeansofenforcingthe majorityview.

Thoughlogicalwithinthecontext,therecoursetoviolencein133setanimportantprecedent,sinceitundermined

thetraditionalpoliticalimperativeaccordingtowhichallconflictsofinteresthadtofindanegotiatedsolution.Once thetabooagainstforcewasbroken,itbecamemoredifficulttoenforceacompromisethroughargumentsor appealstothearistocratic consensus.Rivalfactionsandindividualscouldchoosetofightitout,firstinthestreets andlateronthebattlefields.

Whilethecrisisof133markedanewturninthearticulationofRomanpolitics,itwasnotaboltfromtheblue.The

stabilityofthemiddlerepublic shouldnotbeoverestimated.Openconfrontationsmayhavebeenavoidedbutthe republic hadoftenbeenonthebrinkofcrisis.However,tensionsandconflictsweregenerally(p.409) resolved

The Roman Empire I: The Republic

throughnegotiationsandtheapplicationofpeerpressure,underliningthefundamentaltruththatRomecouldbe governedonlyifpublic authoritywasexercisedconsensually.Whenthisconsensusbrokedownthepolitical systemofferedampleopportunitiesforindividualpoliticianstoassertthemselvesagainstthecollective.Theycould appealdirectlytotheassembliesandhavetheirproposalsratifiedwithoutsenatorialbacking,sincethepopulus remainedthesolesourceofformalauthority.Thisinturnchangedtheroleofthepopularinstitutions,whichwere givenanentirelynewpoliticalfunctionasdecision-makingbodies.Theybecamefocalpointsoftheactivitiesof rivalgroupsandindividualsseekingpopularlegitimacyfortheiractions.Inotherwords,withthebreakdownofelite consensustheritualizednatureofpoliticalproceedingsatRomebecamealiabilityfortherepublicansystemasa whole.

InthispoliticalclimatetheabsenceofapermanentarmedforceinthecityofRomealsobecamecritical.Itmeant thatthecentralauthoritieshadnomeansofmaintainingpublic order,andtheresultwasanincreaseinstreet violenceandcivilunrest.ThedemilitarizationofthecityofRome,whichhadpreviouslysustainedthesystemof aristocratic,sharedgovernment,nowemergedasaseriousthreattothisformofgovernment.

ThefailingsofthepoliticalprocessinRomefedintoastructuralprobleminherentintheorganizationoftheempire. Undertherepublic theprovincialsystemhaddelegatedimmensepowersandvastmilitaryresourcestoindividual membersoftherulingclass,whowerebeyondanyeffectivecontrolfromthecenterduringtheirtenure.Thiswasin itselfamajorflawinthesystem,butcombinedwiththeconstitutionalweaknessesnotedaboveitbecamefatalfor therepublic.Officeholderscouldusetheassembliestoprocureprovincialcommandsforthemselvesortheirallies, whichbrokewiththetraditionalformatoflimited,short-termservice.Aformalmandatecouldnowbegainedfor provincialpostingsthatexceededtheconventionallimitsintermsofbothscaleandduration.Thisinturnenabled generalstoestablishanalternativepowerbaseawayfromthecenter,whichtheywereabletochallengefroma previouslyunimaginablepositionofstrength.

Thelackofcentralcontrolwasexacerbatedbyanotherimportantdevelopment,relatingtotherecruitmentof soldiers.Theminimumpropertythresholdforconscriptionhadalreadybeenloweredduringthesecondcentury

(Rathbone1993),anddifficultiesofrecruitmentduringthesecondcenturyhadforcedgeneralstodisregard

conventionsanddraftproletariitothearmy.In107thegeneralGaiusMariusformallyabandonedthelinkbetween

propertyandmilitaryservice.ThisdevelopmentunderminedthetraditionalmilitiastructureoftheRomanarmy, whichhadbeenpredicatedonthesoldiers’abilitytosustainthemselveseconomicallywhentheirmilitaryservice wasover.Therepercussionswereimmediate,sinceMariusasthefirstgeneralsoughttoprovidelandforhis veteransthroughcolonialsettlements.Thesenateopposedtheschemewiththeresultthatveteranprovision becametheresponsibilityofindividualgeneralsratherthanthestate.Thiswasacrucialmistake,foritgenerateda shiftinarmyloyaltyawayfromthestateontotheirgenerals,whomsoldiersbecamewillingtofollowagainstthe center(p.410) (Brunt1988).Theproblemofloyaltymayalreadyhavebeenexacerbatedbytheheterogeneous characterofthenewstatethathademergedoutoftheSocialWar.Thus,alargeproportionofthesoldierswho foughtinthecivilwarswerenewlyincorporatedItalianswhoseallegiancetotheRomanstateislikelytohavebeen muchweaker.

Threemajorfactorscontributedtothecollapseoftherepublic: thedivisionofformalandinformalpowersinthe Romanconstitution,thestructureofmilitarycommandsandprovincialadministration,andthecompositionofthe Romanarmy.Buttheunderlyingcausethatenabledthesefactorstocometogetherwithsuchdramatic effectwas ultimatelythedeclineintheunityoftherulingclass,whichhadgraduallycrumbledundertheimpactofthenew imperialreality.Therefore,putverysimply,itcouldbearguedthatwhilethefirststagesofRome’sexpansion entrenchedthepositionoftherulingclass,thelaterconquestsoutsideofItalyledtoincreasedfrictionwithinthe eliteandultimatelytoitslossofinternalcohesionandgroupdiscipline.Theeventualoutcomewasacollapseof collectivegovernmentandtheriseofautocracy(Gruen1974; Meier1980).

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HenrikMouritsen

HenrikMouritsen,ProfessorofRomanHistory,King’sCollegeLondon.

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