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Research PaperJeremy Olson

August 29, 2005

The Fall of the Roman Republic

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TA BL E OF CON TE N TS

I.Introduction..............................................................................................................................2 II.TheStruggleofOrders...........................................................................................................4 III.Expansion............................................................................................................................10 A.ThelossofCivicVirtue b.TheRomansoldiersrelationshipwithhisstateandhisgeneral IV.AmbitiousPoliticians...........................................................................................................13 A.TiberiusGracchus B.GaiusGracchus C.MariusandSulla D.GaiusJuliusCaesar V.Conclusion............................................................................................................................32

THE DECLINE OF THE ROMAN REPUBLICI. IntroductionThe definition of a republic according to the Oxford American Dictionary is a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elec-

The Fall of the Roman Republic

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ted representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.1 In 509 BC, the destiny of a little city on the coast of Italy, and indeed, the history of the world, was altered forever. This is because in 509 BC the Roman Republic was officially established. If this event did not take place, the geographical borders of todays modern nations would be dramatically altered, and the world situation would be something entirely different than what it is today. This is because Rome would not have become successful had it allowed itself to be ruled by kings and potential tyrants such as Tarqinius Superbus: the last king of Rome. Under the Republic, Rome eventually became the only superpower in the entire western world. Before the Roman Republic was established, Rome was threatened by many rivals. Under the rule of the Republic, those rivals became no more. There was no one reason that the Roman Republic fell. Throughout the Roman Republics history (approximately 509 BC to 27 BC2) there were numerous events, personalities, and laws that can be considered as contributing factors to the decline of the Roman Republic. The first of these factors was the struggle of the orders, in which the majority of the Roman people known as plebeians, fought for their rights. The second factor was Romes tremendous expansion in and around the year 146 BC3 and the issue of that expansion. The third and last major factor is ambitious politicians who took advantage of the previous factors to strengthen their cause and, ultimately, contort the Roman Republic into a state in which neither the people, nor their elected representatives, were the sovereign rulers, but rather a supreme ruler or emperor, backed by his army, ruled Rome with unquestioned authority.

1 Republic, Oxford American Dictionaries, 2005 ed. 2 Erich Gruen, Ancient Rome, World Book Encyclopedia, 1997 ed. 3 Richard Hooker, The Punic Wars, 1996, Washington State University, June 7, 2005 . The Fall of the Roman Republic 3

II. The Struggle of OrdersThroughout the history of the Roman Republic, there was an ongoing struggle between the social classes of Rome. This struggle is widely known as the struggle of the orders1 and was one of the major factors that led to the fall of the Roman Republic. The founding of Rome is shrouded in ancient legends and myths which make it impossible to define any solid truth.2 The Romans credited a man named Aeneas as the founder of the Roman people because his relative, Reah Silvia, was the mother of Romulus, who was the supposed founder of Rome.3 There is much mythology involved in the story of Romulus, but there is no clear alternative. Consequently, the story of Romulus is generally used to describe the founding of Rome. According to Plutarch, Romulus opened his city to fugitives and travelers from neigboring lands. Many came seeking a new life or the protection of Romes walls. Once the city was adequately populated, Romulus appointed 100 senators to assist him in ruling Rome. These senators and their families became the Patres, the fathers of Rome.4 The descendants of these 100 senators were called the patricians.5 Around 40 years after Rome was built, Romulus disappeared in a storm and was never seen again6. He had ruled from approximately 753 BC to 715 BC.

1 "ancient Rome." Encyclopdia Britannica, 2005, Encyclopdia Britannica Premium Service 21 June 2005 . 2 Christopher Heaton, Founding of Rome, 2003, UNRV History, June 21, 2005 . 3 Titus Livius, History of Rome, Book 1: The Earliest Legends, 5 vols. (New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1905) 1.4 (Original text written somewhere between 59 BC and 17 AD). 4 Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, ed. Britannica Great Books, 1 vols. (Chicago, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952) 19 (original text written in 75 AD). 5 Titus Livius, 1.8. 6 Titus Livius, 1.16. The Fall of the Roman Republic 4

After a year of turmoil, a new king was chosen, the second out of seven. For the most part, the kings after Romulus ruled honorably and justly though there is not much solid information about them.7 The sixth king, Servius, created a law that allowed any man to hold positions of power if he had gained a certain amount of wealth. This law enraged the noble patrician class in which positions of power had previously been reserved. In 534 BC, with the encouragement of the nobles, Servius son in law, Lucius Tarquinius, cruelly murdered Servius and became king8. Though the Republic had not yet been established, this is the first example of the patrician class forfeiting their own rights through their jealousy. Tarquinius ruled with cruelty and murdered many senators, disregarding all counsel the senators provided. Tarquinius tyrannical rule caused the Roman people to despise the absolute authority the kings had over Rome, though they had not yet reached the breaking point of rebellion. According to the Roman Historian Titus Livius, in 510 BC, the fundamental last straw took place when Tarquins son, forced Lucretia, a patrician noblewoman, to commit adultery with him.9 When the patrician men came back from war, Lucretia made them swear revenge and thrust a hidden dagger into her own heart. Tarquins family was cast out of Rome in a revolt led by Lucretias husband and his friend Brutus. The Senate then voted to never again allow a king to rule over Rome, and in 509 BC, formed a republican government.10 It is very possible that the rape of Lucretia is mere legend and that there was no definitive event that led to the fall of monarchy in Rome, but the story of Lucretia is the only account of events that is available. In southern Italy, the cities chose one among them as an executive or president. In place of a king, the Senate chose to have two executive administrators to avoid the unreliability of a single executive. The executives had to be patrician (a descendant of the original 100 senators) and they were called consuls.11 Each consul was given the right to veto any move by the other consul, an attempt to keep balance in the Republic. The consuls would 7 Christopher Heaton, Kings of Rome, 2003, UNRV History, June 21, 2005 . 8 Titus Livius, 1.48. 9 Titus Livius, 1.57. 10 Titus Livius, 2.1. The Fall of the Roman Republic 5

serve a one year term and then the people would vote for a pair of different consuls. The consuls were essentially the leaders of the government along with functioning as commanders of the military, governors of provinces, and curators of public works.12 The Senate, composed of patrician citizens, served as the legislative branch of government and as an advisory body (thus the name: senatus, counsel of elders). Ex-consuls were required to serve in the Senate after their term as consul was over, so the consuls were careful to cultivate their relationship with the Senate throughout their consulship. According to Richard Hooker, a Washington State University Professor, the result was that the consuls did not exercise much initiative or creativity, so Roman government tended to be highly conservative and cautious.13 The ultimate position of power in the Roman government was the dictatorship, which was only relevant when Rome was in significant danger. A dictator elected by the people had supreme authority over Rome and her military in the case of an emergency. The dictators were elected for short periods of time, but in the last stages of the Republic, the ultimate goal of a Roman politician was to be elected dictator for life. The initial Republican constitution, one which was based merely on traditions and not a written document, was flawed in that all the governmental power was put into the hands of a single group of citizens, the patricians. These were the descendants of the first senators; the patricians were the only citizens who had access to political offices in Rome. This led to oppression of the rest of the Roman citizens, the plebeians, who had no real representatives in the government.14 The only influence the plebeians had on the government was through the citizen assemblies, in which politicians would 11 Christopher Heaton, Struggle of the Orders, 2003, UNRV History, June 7, 2005 . 12 Christopher Heaton, Roman consuls, 2003, UNRV History, June 7, 2005 . 13 Richard Hooker, The Roman Republic, 1996, Washington State University, June 7, 2005 . 14 Hooker, The Roman Republic. The Fall of the Roman Republic 6

bring legislation to the plebeians for voting. Because only the patricians were allowed into positions of power, the citizen assemblies were very much neglected15. The patricians abused their power by selling plebeian debtors as slaves and giving patricians tremendous leniency in court cases, am

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