Effects of a Sertorian victory?

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Effects of a Sertorian victory?

Postby Curio Agelastus on Mon Aug 16, 2004 12:31 am

Salvete omnes,

Something I've been pondering for some time is the effect a Sertorian success might have brought about on Rome - not how such an event might come about, but simply what it might bring about. Being a fervent Marian, I'd always assumed a Sertorian victory would, as he was a Marian and anti-Sullan, be good for Rome. However, the more I look into it, the more this doesn't seem to be the case.

For instance, he seems to have dealt with foreign powers in order to strengthen his own war effort. This means that, had he marched on Rome, he would either have gone back on his word, or weakened Rome's foreign policy in order to allow people like Mithridates of Pontus more space in which to expand.

What do y'all think? Would a Sertorian victory have hastened, delayed, or even prevented the death of the Res Publica?

Bene valete,
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Mon Aug 16, 2004 12:21 pm

Salve Curio

I don't know how far you could go in saying Sertorius was a Marian. Roman politics did not have so clearly defined factions as our historians like to project. You could say there was a Marian party, or a constituency that supported Marius. Sertorius would not be among them. Even after the Civil War crystallized Rome into two camps Sertorius oposed Marius and the actions of his followers. He seems to me to have been more in the camp of Cinna and the moderate conservative republicans.

I think a Sertorian victory would have benefitted the Res Publica in the long run. In the Civil War the centrist, modern conservatives who had primarily governed prior to the war were wiped out, first by Sulla and then Marius. Moderates do not hold up well when extremists force things to come to push and shove. There is a marked decline in the number of patrician families during the Civil War, and along with them would also be a number of plebeian nobiles. The centrists of the past were gone, but if Sertorius had won you would probably have seen a return to the earlier system of government under the Gracchan constitution. For all the infighting that Roman politics generated, you still had a better means under the Gracchan constitution for resolving disputes through a political process. The Senate was composed of different factions, the comitia were the main arena for contesting factions, and the courts, in spite of the problems with them, were separate from the Senate or comitia. You had in that a framework for different forces to contend, and different arms of the government to place checks on other branches. Under the Sullan constitution all power was invested into the Senate with the comitia and courts controlled by the Senate. So you see post war factions develop that split the Senate and led to another civil war. The Sullan courts were just an extension of the fighting in the Senate, and the comitia powerless to adjudicate between Senatorial divisions. By having the different branches of government developed you probably would have seen a wider portion of the Roman polity involved in government, and therefore more difficult for a coalescence into two warring factions as eventually happened.
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Postby Curio Agelastus on Mon Aug 16, 2004 11:00 pm

Salve Piscine,

I agree with your comments about Roman factions. It was only a loose classification. However, Sertorius is particularly difficult to classify. I don't think he was particularly attached to Cinna or Carbo, since he left them once he decided there was little chance of their defeating Sulla. Perhaps that is the best way to classify him: as an anti-Sullan.

Your point about the decline in patrician families is fair; in fact, the death of most of the old families in the last century of the Republic was what inspired my suggestion for a genealogical tracing of those families (Which I still intend to return to.)

I also agree with your point that the Gracchan constitution was better than the Sullan constitution. Struggle to deal effectively with real crises though the Gracchan constitution might, the Sullan constitution was fundamentally flawed by altering drastically the balance of power between the components of the Roman state.

However, the issue of foreign policy remains to be dealt with, as does the issue of Sertorius' administrative skill. By the first, I mean that I'm not certain that Sertorius would be able to fulfill his promises to Mithridates honourably and yet retain the trust and integrity of his followers - he had, after all, signed over kingdoms, some of whom looked to Rome for protection, to Pontus. Admittedly, he desperately needed resources, and cannot really be blamed for his action, but would it be good for Rome to concede the power in Asia Minor to Mithridates, as Sertorius had effectively done?

As to Sertorius' administrative skill, I mean simply that there is little proof of it. Plutarch says that he did well during the Italian war in an administrative capacity, but is one thing to raise troops, another to govern over the Roman Republic, as he would undoubtedly have done had he been the victory. He had not had the training, the exposure to the law that most Roman youths got. I don't believe he would have had the gubernatorial skills to reform Rome yet again to face the inevitable challenges that Rome needed to overcome, both external, and internal, in order to keep the Republic going. He may not have had the crass uncouthness that Marius was famous for, but Sertorius was no lawmaker either.

As an interesting sidenote: Have a look at this site, mi Piscine:
http://www.ukans.edu/history/index/euro ... rius*.html

It is apparently a translation of Plutarch's Life of Sertorius. However, in the ninth paragraph, Plutarch says this: "After encountering grievous storms in mountainous regions, he was asked by the Barbarians to pay them tribute and purchase his passage. His companions were indignant, and considered it a terrible thing for a Roman pro-consul to render tribute to pestilent Barbarians; but Sertorius made light of what they thought a disgrace, and with the remark that he was purchasing time..."

Now I'm certain that Sertorius was never Consul. Why, therefore, would Plutarch make such an obvious mistake as to call him a "pro-consul"? Is this a genuine mistake by Plutarch, a mistake by the webmaster, or am I missing something obvious?

Anyone else got an opinion on the subject of Sertorius?

Bene vale,
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