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can be nobody so petty or so apathetic in his outlook that he has no desire
to discover by what means and under what system of government the Romans
succeeded in...bringing under their rule almost the whole of the inhabited
world. Polybius Histories 1.1.5
Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus
elected tribune of the people in 133 BCE, and fought for reforms of
benefit to the plebeians. He was murdered by opponents.
| Tiberius Gracchus by Plutarch
Portrait of a Roman | Marble | Palazzo Torlonia, Rome | c. 80 BCE |
|Appian: The Civil
the murder of Tiberius and his followers:
senators wrenched clubs from the very hands of the followers of Gracchus,
or with pieces of torn-up benches or other things that had been brought
for the use of the comitia, began mauling them and in hot pursuit, drove
them over the precipice. In the riot many followers of Gracchus were
killed and Gracchus himself, being seized near the temple, was slain
at the door near the statues of the kings. All the corpses were thrown
into the Tiber at night.
died on the Capitol and while still tribune, Tiberius Gracchus, the
son of the Gracchus who was twice consul and of Cornelia, the daughter
of the Scipio that conquered Carthage. He lost his life because he followed
up an excellent plan in too lawless a way. This awful occurrence, the
first of the kind that took place in the public assembly, was never
long without a new parallel thereafter. On the matter of the killing
of Gracchus, the city was divided between grief and joy. Some sorrowed
for themselves and him and bewailed the existing state of affairs, believing
that the republic no longer existed, but had been usurped by coercion
and violence. Others congratulated themselves that everything had turned
out just as they wanted it to.
157-86 BCE || Gaius Marius
was Roman general and statesman who led the popular party in the civil
war of 88 to 86 BCE. Strong individuals enjoyed a cult of personality
which proved competitive to the constitutionally prescribed system of
two consuls. An essential political theme in Roman political history
is the near continuous conflict between republicans and those seeking
BCE || Caius Sempronius
|Caius Gracchus by Plutarch
was the brother of Tiberius and son of Cornelia. He was elected tribune
of the people in 123 BCE, and attempted the continuation of popular
reforms. He, like his brother, was murdered.
explains: "Tiberius Gracchus brought forward an Agrarian law. It
was very acceptable to the people; the fortunes of the poorer classes
appeared likely to be established by it. The nobles strove against it,
because they saw that discord was excited by it; and because, as the
object of it was to deprive the wealthy men of their ancient possessions,
they thought that by it the republic was being deprived of its defenders.
Caius Gracchus brought forward a law respecting corn. It was a very
pleasing proposal to the common people at Rome; for food was to be supplied
to them in abundance without any trouble. The good resisted it because
they thought that its effect would be to lead the common people away
from industry to idleness, and because the treasury was likely to be
drained by such a measure."
struggle, primarily, was based upon class. Plutarch tells us that "having
cleared himself of every suspicion, and proved his entire innocence,
he now at once came forward to ask for the tribuneship; in which, though
he was universally opposed by all persons of distinction, yet there
came such infinite numbers of people from all parts of Italy to vote
for Caius, that lodgings for them could not be supplied in the city;
and the Field being not large enough to contain the assembly, there
were numbers who climbed upon the roofs and the tilings of the houses
to use their voices in his favour. However, the nobility so far forced
the people to their pleasure and disappointed Caius's hope, that he
was not returned the first, as was expected, but the fourth tribune.
But when he came to the execution of his office, it was seen presently
who was really first tribune, as he was a better orator than any of
Lucius Cornelius Sulla
general and statesman, led the aristocratic party during the civil war
of 88 to 86 BCE. Sulla overcame all opposition and eventually became
dictator of Rome. Sulla began what is known as the proscriptions, whereby
he published lists of so-called public enemies who were to be summarily
executed and whose property was confiscated by the state. He resigned
in 79 BCE.
Bust of Sulla | Marble | Rome | c. 90 BCE |
Read Plutarch The
Life of Sulla
time in which he lived was no longer an age of pure and upright manners,
but had already declined, and yielded to the appetite for riches and
Coin with Portrait of Sulla | Silver | Rome | c. 84 BCE |
BCE || The City of the Sun: The Slave Revolt of Aristonicus
his death, Attalus III of Pergamum bequeathed his kingdom to Rome. This
was resisted, and a rebellion ensued, led by Aristonicus, who enlisted
slaves and the dispossessed into his rebel army. Along with the philosopher
Blossius, who had tutored and supported Tiberius Gracchus, and had fled
to Pergamum after Tiberius' death, Aristonicus sought to establish an
idealistic utopian kingdom which he called the City of the Sun, with
its inhabitants whom he called Heliopolitae, followers of the sun god
Strabo in his Geography, tells us that:
Smyrna one comes to Leucae, a small town, which after the death of Attalus
Philometor was caused to revolt by Aristonicus, who was reputed to belong
to the royal family and intended to usurp the kingdom. Now he was banished
from Smyrna, after being defeated in a naval battle near the Cymaean
territory by the Ephesians, but he went up into the interior and quickly
assembled a large number of resourceless people, and also of slaves,
invited with a promise of freedom, whom he called Heliopolitae.
| Aurelian Augustus Coin 270 -275 CE; Illustrating the Cult of the Invincible Sun] SOL INVICTO XXI T Sol advancing left, wearing radiate crown, seated captive to left, raising radiate hand and holding whip, seated captive to right. |
he first fell upon Thyateira unexpectedly, and then got possession of
Apollonis, and then set his efforts against other fortresses. But he
did not last long; the cities immediately sent a large number of troops
against him, and they were assisted by Nicomedes the Bithynian and by
the kings of the Cappadocians. Then came five Roman ambassadors, and
after that an army under Publius Crassus the consul, and after that
Marcus Perpernas, who brought the war to an end, having captured Aristonicus
alive and sent him to Rome. Now Aristonicus ended his life in prison;
Perpernas died of disease; and Crassus, attacked by certain people in
the neighborhood of Leucae, fell in battle.
committed suicide, Pergamum became the Roman province of Asia.
BCE-132 BCE || The first servile war: the slave revolt of Eunus
diviner, leader, slave, and self-appointed king, Eunus led a slave revolt
which successfully took over the city of Enna in Syracuse, defeated
numerous Roman battalions, and took four years to be overthrown. Eventually,
the consul Lucius Calpurnius Piso, and his successor, Publius Rupilius,
defeated Eunus, who now called himself King Antioch. Eunus was captured
and imprisoned, where he died.
no friend of Eunus, used these slaves as an example in Against Verres, and condemned Verres as being worse than the slaves:
while Publius Popillius and Publius Rupilius were consuls, slaves, runaway
slaves, and barbarians, and enemies, were in possession of that place
(Enna); but yet the slaves were not so much slaves to their own masters,
as you are to your passions; nor did the runaways flee from their masters
as far as you flee from all aws and from all right; nor were the barbarians
as barbarous in language and in race as you were in your nature and your
habits; nor were the enemies as much enemies to men as you are to the
immortal gods. How, then, can a man beg for any mercy who has surpassed
slaves in baseness, runaway slaves in rashness, barbarians in wickedness,
and enemies in inhumanity?"
Polybius d. ca. 118 B.C.
Varro (116 - 27 B.C.)
ca. 115 BCE-53 CE || Marcus Licinius Crassus
politician, member of the First Triumvirate, defeated Spartacus, killed
in battle at Carrhae
| Crassus by Plutarch
BCE || Gnaeus Pompeius
or Pompey the Great, was an important Roman politician and military
leader, a member of the First Triumvirate, and he helped to defeat Spartacus
during the slave uprisings.
BCE-43 BCE ||Marcus Tullius
orator and political statesman, Cicero is reputed to have said that
he wished posterity to remember him as a philosopher, yet it is for
his political acumen that he is most famed. In Cicero's numerous writings,
many of which consist of his eloquent defense or prosecution of notable
Romans, he reveals a conservative, incorruptible, defense of the Republic.
His oratorical attacks upon Antony cost him his life. He was brutally
murdered in 43 BCE.
The Life of Cicero by
by Cicero himself:
Cicero | Marble | Rome | c. 50 BCE |
BCE || The second servile war: The slave revolt of Salvio
this year the senate decreed that slaves taken from those states which
were now allies of Rome were to be declared free. The governor of Syracuse,
however, halted the emancipation in his territory. With the model of
Eunus before him, Salvio led a second rebellion. He was defeated by