The Gracchi

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The Gracchi

Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sun Apr 25, 2004 12:10 pm

Salvete sodales omnes

"History is an agreed upon lie." That quote, from Napoleone Bonaparte, is a favorite of mine, on a subject that is most dear to me. History is not a science but an argumentive discipline. As such, history is about interpretations of past events, reflective most often of the period in which it was written rather than the period discussed. And since historians are presenting an argument that their particular interpretation of events be accepted, history often turns into a debate with past historians. A central concern among the conditores of SVR, long before SVR was even founded, was the misuse of Roman history for modern political opinions. We should all know how Mussolini and the Fascists of the 1920-30's reinterpreted Roman history to their own ends. A period in US that has always fascinated me was its revolutionary period when political debate was performed with reference to figures from Roman history. In the debate over whether to adoption of the Constitution, those who opposed its federalism chose to represent their democratic views by adopting Cicero and Cato as staunch republicans opposed to the tyrant Caesar, while Federalists often took the name Publilius to represent their views. That tradition has remained among political scientists and commentators in the US. On the internet today, in the opinion of some of the conditores, Roman political history is often presented from a Ciceroian perspective, being elitist, misogynystic, and anti-democratic. Some of us view this as a usurption of our Roman heritage by people who have fascist leaning political views, misinterpreting what some very conservative historians have had to say in the past. That begins with the most important person for modern interpretation of Rome's history. Mommsen is the starting point for any modern interpretation of the history of the Republic. His views need to be considered with respect to the politics of his day, as he was a staunch supporter of that period's monarchial systems. Central to any perspective one takes on Republican history then becomes a matter of how are we are to view the Gracchi. Over in Coll Quot-Vit Curio exspressed his view that the Gracchi were revolutionaries, a view that goes back to Mommsen. So perhaps it is about time, or long over due, that we in SVR begin discussing the Gracchi and what they meant to Rome and to our Roman heritage.

The main sources on the Gracchi are Plutarch (50-120 CE) on Tiberius Gracchus and Appian's digression in The Civil Wars, written around 150 CE. Plutarch can be found at http://classics.mit.edu/Plutarch/tiberius.html

Appian's digession is at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/ ... wars1.html

Or at least they were there the last time I checked. These Greek authors were expressing the views they had learned from Romans of their day. And then there is Mommsen's views to consider too, from whom I will lend some quotes. So the questions for our sodales to reflect upon are what was the Gracchian program, from where did it originate, and was it revolutionary? Second would then be concerned with the results of their political program, whether intended or not, and if it proved revolutionary? Consideration too must be given to those who opposed the Gracchi and what were their motivations? These questions have to take into account Roman social structure, which was highly stratified, very complex, and quite different from today's society. A central issue in the Gracchan program was over the ager publici or the use of these public lands by Roman citizens, so first we would have to have some understanding of these lands and what was at issue. Social structure and economic conditions are not subjects easily considered in such a forum as we utilize.

I will contend that the Gracchi were not revolutionaries but offered a reform that was first proposed by the very highest elements of Roman society. It was a reform from the top, rather than agitation for revolution from the proletatiat. Even the term proletariat, adopted by modern political theorists for their own views on modern society, can be an issue of contention, because what it meant in the time of the Gracchi, or in Cicero's time, is quite different from the general understanding of that term today. To me the Gracchan period begins with Scipio Africanus the Elder and the reforms he posed, that were opposed most strongly by the elder Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, consul and censor. More important was the amicitatis or circle of friends of the younger Scipio Africanus Aemilianus who both sponsored Tiberius Gracchus and conducted his program after his death. I have written some things before on this matter, elsewhere, and so will try to find those posts to place here and begin our discussion.

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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sun Apr 25, 2004 10:23 pm

Salvete omnes,

A very interesting topic indeed to discuss in depth, especially given the specific questions you'd like to investigate, mi Piscine !

I think however, we should delay the discussion a little, to allow all willing participants to go through the main sources to search for answers and form their opinion. I suggest the Kalendae of May to begin the discussion.

If anyone would wish to read parts of Mommsen's Römische Geschichte, it can be read (in the original German) at http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/mommsen/roemisch/roemisch.htm. I have also put the two chapter concerning the Gracchi on my own webserver.

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Mon Apr 26, 2004 2:12 pm

Salvete Attice et sodales omnes

Yes, this is a subject that requires a little research.

The sources we have on the Gracchi are a section on Tiberius Gracchus in Plutarch's "Lives", Appian's "Civil Wars" 1.9.37 and 1.11.46. Those can be found, I hope, at the links I gave earlier. Then there is Vellius Paterculus 2.2.2-3; and several references by Cicero. Here is what Cicero wrote, in the chronological order of when he wrote them.

66 BCE Pro Cluentio 34, 94. A passing reference to Gaius Gracchus, "men as eminent as Publius Popilius Laenas and Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus found it beyond their powers to stand up to the opposition of a tribune." Laenas, who prosecuted the followers of Tiberius, was exiled by Gaius Gracchus in 123. Metellus Numidicus by Saturninus in 100.

Pro Cluentio 54, 150: "It was proposed by Gaius Sempronius Gracchus to deal with false witness to compass a man's death, and his motive was to help the people, not to oppose them."

63 BCE Pro Rabirio 4, 12-13: "Gaius Sempronius Gracchus passed a law exempting citizens from prosecutions on capital charges unless and until by the consent of your Comitia it were first ordained... Now, if this procedure you (Labienus) are supporting were so democratic, if it could be described as containing the smallest element of justice or fairness, surely it would inevitably have been adopted by Gaius Sempronius Gracchus....Do not waste time pretending that your uncle, that other Labienus, whoever he may have been, was more deeply mourned by the people of Rome than Tiberius Gracchus ever was."

63 BCE Against Catalina IV: "Tiberius Gracchus facing the ordeal of your (the Senate's) stern verdict because he aimed to become tribune a second time, nor of Gaius Gracchus because he had incited the land reformers to revolt."

Against Catilina IV: v, 10 "A Sempronia law which safeguards the lives of a Roman citizen in cases where the Comitia has voted no measure against them.

Against Catalina IV: vi, 12 "a mere boy who was acting as the emissary of his own father, had also been thrown into prison and put to death." Referring to Quintus Fulvius, 18 years old, and to his father Marcus Fulvius Flaccus. Fulvius Flaccus was a member of the Gracchan land commission after 130, became consul in 125. A strong supporter of Gaius Gracchus, he was executed by Opimius, along with 3,000 of Gaius' followers in 122. He is brought up in Cicero's speech, as a way to accuse Julius Caesar of being part of the Cataline conspiracy, as Fulvius was Julius Caesar's maternal grandfather.

55 BCE On the Orator 1,9, 37: Q. Scaevola speaking, "I believe the best speakers I have ever heard were the tribunes Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus...fine speakers equipped with every oratorical qualification that nature or training could provide. Because of their father's wisdom and their grandfather's military victories, Rome, as they found it, was prospering exceedingly. yet they managed to bring our flourishing nation to ruin, and this they did by their eloquence." [An odd statement to place in Scaevola's mouth, as he was a strong and most consistent supporter of the Gracchi.]

On the Orator 1, 33, 153: L. Licinius Crassus (Gaius Gracchus' father-in-law) is speaking (really describing Cicero's own methods), "Ennius, if his poetry was chosen for my exercise, or Gaius Gracchus, if I set myself on one of his speeches, I had already appropriated the best, finest, and fittest words on whatever the subject might be."

52 BCE Pro Milo, "When the seditious tribunus plebis, Gaius Papirius Carbo asked Publius Africanus (Aemilianus) at an open meeting what he thought about the death of Tiberius Gracchus, you will not, I am sure, accuse the great man of mental aberration for his reply that, in his opinion, the killing was deserved." The story recorded elsewhere is that Scipio Aemilianus replied, "So far as Tiberius had aspired to the crown, he had been justly put to death." A statement that could be taken to have just the opposite meaning as what Cicero says. Plutarch stated that Scipio replied only with an ambiguous quote from Homer, "Even so perish all who do the same." On its face the words seem to have Scipio agree to Tiberius's murder, but in the context of Homer from which it is drawn, it too has the opposite meaning.

Pro Milo V, 13 "Those occasions on which Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Gracchus were killed...their repression could not fail to convulse the Republic, though it was to safeguard the Republic that it had to be carried out."

52; 46-44 BCE On the Laws III.20: Quintus asks, "What rights did the tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus leave to the best citizens? ...Furthermore, was it not the overthrow of Gaius Gracchus and the casting of daggers in the forum, that citizens might use them to stab one another, this is Gracchus' own description of what he did, that brought about through the tribunate a complete revolution in the state?" Here Quintus puts forward one of those political rumors that were later used to justify Tiberius murder, playing with the "casting of daggers in the forum" in a literal sense rather than the allegorical sense in which it was originally spoken. Against the Cataline conspirators played to his own supporters fears by trumping up charges against Lentullus and the others that they were stockpiling daggers.

On the Laws III.24 Cicero, however, replies to Quintus that while the tribunes have too much power, the people are more cruel and violent. The Tribune's power, in practice, acts therefore as a check on mob rule. A tribune may excite the people, "and they often calm them too." It is enough, Cicero says, that only one of the ten tribunes need veto a measure to act as a check on the others. "Why it was the fact that Tiberius Gracchus not only disregarded another tribune's veto, but even deprived him of his powers, that caused his own downfall." Speaking further on the institution of the tribunes (III. 25) "When the Senate had granted this power to the plebeians, conflict ceased, rebellion was at an end, a measure of compromise was discovered which made the humble believe that they were accorded equality with the nobility, and such a compromise was the only salvation of the state. 'But," you say, 'we have had two Gracchi.' yes, and you could mention may more besides...but in the meantime the Senatorial order (summus ordo) is not subject to envy, and the common people (plebi) make no desperate struggles for their rights....real liberty, not a pretense of it, had to be given to the common people, but this liberty has been granted in such a manner that the people were induced by many excellent provisions to yield to the authority of the nobles (principum)."

44 BCE On the Republic II. 49 "It has been said that Spurius Cassius, Marcus Manlius, and Spurius Maelius attempted to win the kingship, and recently..." The text breaks there with a missing section. Since the dialogue here is set in Jan/Feb 129, it is assumed that Tiberius Gracchus was inferred.

On the Republic III. 41 "Tiberius Gracchus...kept faith with his fellow citizens, but violated the treaty rights of our allies and the Latins."

44 BCE On Duties II. 21,72 "Gaius Gracchus...benefited numerous individuals by massive distribution of free grain, yet in doing so he exhausted the national treasury. The modest distribution of Marcus Octavius (in 120 BCE) on the other hand, not only provided the needs of the poorer sections of the population, but were useful to the state as well." Even this 'moderate' measure of Octavius was then superceded by more stringent measures.

On Duties II, 23, 80 "strife over the redistribution of land was what caused their (the Gracchi) downfall, too."

Each source needs to be qualified by the times in which they wrote. Cicero's slant changed as the political situation in Rome changed. He had tried to offer a line of interpretation in 63 BCE and later of political identification with Ahala, Nasica, Opimius, Marius, to himself, Cicero, and and then to Milo. However, he lost the case for Rabirius, he was exiled himself because of actions in the Catalina affair, and was prevented from even speaking in the Milo case, because his interpretation of events was not accepted by the general public, or even among most Optimates. His interpretation was used to justify violating the Roman constitutional tradition, proposing that the Senate had a power to issue a senatusconsultum ultimum, a power which it never had and everyone knew that when members of the Senated acted upon it that they were usurping power. So that too, public reaction to our sources at the time they wrote has to be considered along with their opinions

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sun May 02, 2004 3:22 pm

Salvete

The kalends are past, and although today is a dies ater I will continue the preliminaries to our discussion by offering some initial thoughts.


The Gracchi are often depicted as social revolutionaries. In order to discuss whether or not this was true we will have to have some understanding of Roman social structure. Rome was a highly stratified society. To speak of high, middle and lower classes as we might for a modern society really has nothing to tell us about Roman society. There was a level of citizenry that was too poor to be counted in the census. These were the unpropertied proletarii and the censi who had property but not enough to meet the minimum requirement of the classes. The rest of Rome?s citizens were divided into five classes according to their wealth, but even in that there were diverse strata in each class. The most important one for us to consider with regard to the Gracchi is the prima classis with its various strata.

The equites are often attributed as being Rome?s middle class, above them being an aristocratic Senatorial class. That is really not the case and to think of the equites in such terms hinders our understanding of the social dynamics of the Gracchan period. Technically, in the time of Tiberius Gracchus, equites referred only to those 1,800 individuals known as the equites equo publico who received a horse and payment for its upkeep at state expense. Originally this was to provide for a Roman cavalry, but by the Gracchan period it was more an insignia of rank to have a state horse. Nearly all members of the Senate were equites equo publico in an earlier period, but that changed in the Gracchan period. Cato, as censor, had caused quite a stir when he ordered senator Lucius Scipio, to give up his horse due to his age. He had intended to remove all members of the Senate from the rolls as equites equo publico in order to enlarge the number of individuals counted in the upper portion of Roman society. His measure did not pass the Senate however. The practice continued until 129 when a plebiscitum equorum reddendorum was passed that ordered all who were or would became senatores to surrender their horses. This freed 300 public horses for others to be given, and thereby increased the number to 2,200 in the uppermost echelon of Roman society. So the term equites equo publico means something a little different at the time of Tiberius Gracchus than it does in the time of his brother Gnaeus Gracchus. This is important to remember because when Gnaeus Gracchus passed a measure making juries composed of equites and excluding senatores, he was referring only to those 1,800 equites equo publico. It is a misnomer to say his measure included all who may thought as equites in its broader meaning, a term from the Late Republic that does not really apply to the Gracchan period. Other measures, made earlier, tried to severe the senatores from certain commercial activities. One example was the Lex Claudia of 218 limiting the size of ships owned by senatores. Senatores could not become publicani collecting taxes, or contractors for state funded building projects. Contractors and publicani still had to be wealthy land-owners as land was required as a surety. The reform movement to curtail senatorial privilege did not end with the Gracchi either.

There is a broader meaning to the term ?equites.? It does not, however, refer to a middle class but rather to the wealthiest members of Roman society. Roman citizens were divided into five classes according to their wealth. However, things changed dramatically after Aemilianus Paullus won his victory over Perseus of Macedonia when there was a sudden and dramatic increase in Roman wealth, and the display of wealth. At some time prior to the Gracchi a new qualification was introduced in the prima classis of the census. The minimum required to be in the prima classis was to demonstrate ownership of property amounting to at least 100,000 sestertii (=100,000,000 sesterces), the new qualification was for those above 400,000 sestertii. Members of this new class became popularly known as equites, but not officially, and there were certainly more than 1,800 of them by then. Because of the influx of wealth, although not equally distributed, a lot of Romans were becoming quite wealthy, able to compete for public contracts. Not only Romans either. Jugurtha's massacre at Cirta, Mithradates' massacre in Asia, are of Italians, rather than Romans, serving in the provinces as Roman publicani.

As more individuals came to meet the requirements, there was greater competition for few political offices. Attention is often drawn to this fact by historians. But it was not only the higher magisterial offices that competition was fierce. The basic political units in Rome were the neighborhoods, organized into curia. Each curia was headed by a curio and a curio maximus headed all of the curiae. The curiones were officials who organized these bloc units when votes were taken in the different comitia. They also held some religious functions and had a degree of status above other citizens. The comitia curiata still met to confer imperium on magistrates and to witness wills and adoptions, and for religious ceremonies. (By the late Republic the curiae were each represented by a lictor.) The curiones were not clientelia of powerful senatores as is sometimes thought, but rather independent power brokers, bargaining their support to politicians who relied upon them to deliver the votes of their own clientelia. These curiones came almost exclusively from the equites, if not the equites cum equo publico. There was also increasing competition for public contracts, and since land was still needed as a surety for any contract, there was increased competition for land in Italy. The wars in Spain, Africa, and the East had devastated and depopulated large tracts of land that could be exploited, but we do not know if they were used as a surety, and no attempt was made to extend Roman colonies outside Italy until Gaius Gracchus. So if you wanted to compete for a lucrative state contract, you had to wealthy enough to be in the upper portion of the prima classis and own a lot of land in Italy itself. What the census figures tell us is that there were a lot of people who met those qualifications, all competing for those contracts.

So within the equites we can distinguish three separate groups to begin with, although there were more than three, distinguished not by wealth but by status. 300 Senatores, 1,800 Equites equo publico, and then everyone else in the prima classis above a certain level of wealth who could be called equites. Among the latter were further strata based on status rather than wealth, depending upon what offices one held and, we may assume, on how many generations of their family had been able to meet the qualification of the prima classis. What had changed in this period leading up to the Gracchi was that now status did not always match wealth as it had in the past. And the disparity of wealth, within the equites, let alone between them and the lower classes, had grown to extreme levels. The minimum level was 400,000 sestertii. When Paulus died in 167, considered one of the poor among the aristocracy, his total worth was 3,600,000 sestertii or nine times that of the minimum qualification for the equites. Scipio Africanus the Elder received 1,800,000 sestertii from Antiochus alone in 190. The Aqua Marcia contracted in the 140's cost 4,500,000 sestertii. For comparison, a legionary may have received as much as 1,080 sestertii per year at that time. The publicani would not have the social status as a senator or an eques equo publico, but he could, and often was, far more wealthy and had a greater number of clientelia among the voting citizens. A senator seeking high office need to have such individuals among his amicitas, or circle of friends, since they could provide the wealth and the clientelia, but to consider them as clientelia of a senator is to misconstrue the relationship. What we end up with is not a simple structure of high, middle and low status groups among the equites, but rather networks of relationships that overlapped and were constantly shifting. Rather than view political struggles in this period as one between the classes, what we have are parallel, competing networks, each network composed of the various strata of society.

It is in this period that the first temples built of marble appear at Rome, at a cost far above that of an aqueduct. Complaints begin to be raised that marble statues, taken as war booty, were being brought in to private houses while temples still had terracotta. There is complaint on all types of luxurious display. One thing about those complaints though is not that wealth was being consolidated into fewer hands. Just the opposite was happening apparently. A lot of people were becoming rich, and their expenses were making other Romans wealthier than before, to the point where the old censorial classes did not really apply. Another problem is, because wealth was not being distributed evenly or proportionately, the old elite's claim to power by status no longer applied when men of lesser status could become far more wealthy. Battles over status distinction between plebeians and patricians had ended some hundred and fifty years earlier. By the time of the Gracchi there were about 130 patrician families remaining, declining to about 30 in Cicero's time two generations later. No one really knows what that distinction was originally - not ethnic, not wealth, and not really political at the beginning of the Republic. Vestiges of that distinction remained but by around 211 BCE, when the ?as? was devalued and the denarius introduced, the censorial classes were definitely placed on the basis of wealth, if not earlier. In the fifty years leading up to the Gracchan reforms, the upper portion of the Roman social pyramid was bulging as more citizens began to meet the minimum for becoming prima classis first and then equites, while the lower end of traditional Roman society was shrinking. I will look at the lower classes in a different post, but one of the significant problems of the time was that the Romans could no longer fill a citizen fleet. While one had to be a propertied citizen to serve in the army, it was the non-propertied proletariat that served Rome?s navy. The fact that Rome could no longer find non-propertied citizens does not mean that they were losing their citizenship, but that they too were gaining in wealth, enough wealth to enter the censorial classes, and even the potential for their children to become equites.

When we begin to consider the Gracchi, who they were, for whose benefit their reforms were aimed, who opposed them, and then who did actually benefit in all this, it will all be in terms of the equites. We will have to distinguish further the various strata of those equites who formed the Senate, who formed the equites equo publico, and then some other groups like the publicani and curiones that were likewise equites. Two additional groups can be distinguished out at this time for their status rather than their wealth. There remained the patricians who held a traditional status. The only concrete benefit of being a patrician by this time was that the religious offices of the flamines maiores and the rex sacrorum were reserved for patricians. The majority of pontifices and augures were plebeians (after the Leges Ogulnia in 300 BCE), the pontifex maximus could be a plebeian (although the first plebeian elected to this office was the tribune Q. Mucius Scaevola in 106BCE), while the decimviri were usually plebeian even before 300 and the tresviri epulones created by tribunus Licinius Lucullus in 196 BCE were exclusively plebeians. The other group that would figure prominently in the Gracchan period were the nobiles. The story that Livy gives us is that from the very beginning of the Republic there were patricians who sided with the plebeians against some radical patricians. The ?closing of the patriciate,? as it is called, was as much opposed by some patricians as it was by plebeians. Then in each step of the later struggles there were interrelations, political networks, which joined plebeian and patrician politicians together. But in these networks plebeians did not play a lesser role to the patricians, or serve as an underclass clientelia. Nor can it be assumed that those plebeians who acted in opposition to Licinius and Sextiusin in the fourth century and to other reforms sponsored by plebeian tribunes at later periods were themselves clientele of powerful patricians. The nobiles was a group of patricians and plebeians, and their descendents, who had sponsored earlier reforms, and had been able to do so by having been elected to high office. In that, they represented a particular group of political networks, networks that had been successful in the past. That poses though that there were other political networks as well, which identify with a different political tradition. To say that the nobiles as a whole formed any sort of cohesive political group would be wrong. But it is equally wrong to view them in terms of class. The nobiles were opposed by other political networks composed of individuals who had just as much wealth, power and status, only these others did not identify their current political interests with the tradition of reforms fostered by Licinius and Sextius in the fourth century.

When we begin to look closer at Tiberius Gracchus, where his political roots lay, we will then examine one of these political networks, as I have referred to them. For the moment though let me state that Tiberius Gracchus was a member of the highest echelons of the equites, a member of a senatorial family and in fact one of the very highest level of the Senate; his father, also Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, was twice consul and a censor, as well as an augur. He was by birth a plebeian but his mother Cornelia was not only a patrician but from the very highest status patrician families of the time, being the daughter of Scipio Africanus the Elder. And Tiberius Gracchus was in fact one of the nobiles, counting among his ancestors tribunes who had participated in earlier political struggles.
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Sun May 02, 2004 3:27 pm

Salvete

And after considering the highest echelons of Roman society, we can look at the lower strata


Since the stated purpose of the land distribution was to provide Rome with more people who met the qualifications needed to be in the army, we should take a moment to look at the assidui. The census figures between 233 and 164 show a increasing population, as would be expected, but with some exceptions. In 169 there were 312,805 Romans qualified to serve in the army, five years later, 337,452. But then the number began to decline steadily until 131 when there were only 318,823. In 125 the number then grew to 394,736, supposedly as a result of Tiberius' land distribution. Comparing the figures census to census there are some peculiarities that historians try to explain, but these make little difference because the figures, as they were reported, was with what the Senate had to work.

There was a growing shortage of assidui who could serve in the legions. The induction of Italian allies was increased so that unlike in earlier wars where the number of allied troops equaled those of the Romans, the Italians now made up two-thirds of any Roman force. There came some resistance by the allies as they too were finding it difficult to fill the ranks. At the lowest level of the propertied classes the qualification had been a wealth of 11,000 asses. By the mid second century that figure was reduced to 4,000 asses, and by 141 it had been reduced further to 1,500 asses (the year that asses ceased to be used as an official unit of accounting.) Qualifications were lowered at the other end as well, the requirement for being in the prima classis dropped from 120,000 asses to 100,000 asses. Service in the army was extended, and resistance to recruitment grew because of this. Beginning in 151 and times later, tribuni plebis tried to prevent levies from being conducted, even imprisoning consules to stop it. The measures taken with the census were certainly meant to increase the available manpower for the army, but the problem was not there alone. By Polybius' day the Romans could no longer provide fleets of the same size they had in the First Punic war. Instead the Romans came to rely on foreign navies that they hired from friendly powers because there just were not enough poor Roman citizens. Roman fleets were manned by proletarii who did not meet the minimum qualification to be among the assidui. The fact that Rome couldn't find enough proletarri runs counter to the idea that the number of assidui was decreasing due to their losing their land.

The elite of Roman society, the equites, was expanding, while at the other end of the social spectrum, the number of poor Roman citizens was shrinking. How would that have affected Roman politics? The comitia curiata was used for formalities only. The comitia tributa no longer much mattered, as so few patricians remained that it had become redundant, which was why in 287 the plebisctia of the comitia plebis took on the force of law. While other comitia did continue to meet for traditional purposes, the only two comitia that mattered by the mid second century was the comitia centuriata and the comitia plebis. Much is made of the distribution of centuries between the various censorial classes, allotting a disproportionate amount to the prima classis so that the elite could dominate that assembly. That is not quite an accurate picture though. Voting took place first by the 80 centuries of the prima classis, not all of who could be equites. Next to vote would be 18 centuries of the Equites equo publico, then two for the engineers. That made 100 out of 193 centuries. The equites could dominate the assembly, assuming they were united. The assidui below equites status made up a total of 60 centuries, and then 30 for the lowest class, followed by two for musicians and one for the proletarii. If the equites were divided on an issue, they would need the support of a majority of the assidui. The comitia plebis was organized differently, based on place of residence. The poor were supposedly placed at a disadvantage by being placed in only four urban tribes, while the 31 tribes of the outlying area were dominated by the rich, as only they could afford to journey into Rome in order to vote. So historians have interpreted Roman voting assemblies. If that is the fact, then the equites held greater dominance in the comitia plebis than in the comitia centuriata. The equites held even more dominance in the tribal assemblies than is generally depicted, for if we take it down further, voting within an urban tribe was conducted by the vici who were equites themselves. Potentially the equites could control the vote of all 35 tribes. But this control of the vote was not made possible by numbers. Rather it depended on influence. If there was a clear division between the classes, the equites of a tribe would be outnumbered by the assidui. But such interests never really divided the classes, and what held them together were their more immediate, common interests. A politician running for office could bribe the vici, but they in turn had to get the rest of their tribe to vote their way. How that was done, the bribe, so to speak, to the voting bloc was often public projects. A new fountain for an urban vicus, road repairs for a country tribal region, just as today in politics, the ability to meet a local interest was what determined voting. Part of the Gracchan measures was the paving of a road as far as Bovilla, shortly later (127?) extended to Casilinum to become the Via Latina. The equites having the money, connections, and status, could influence the vote in the vici and tribes, even when they were not in the majority of those who came to vote.

A question arises then. Since the equites were divided over the issue of land distribution, if the reform measures were solely to benefit the assidui and urban poor, would it not have been easier to pass the legislation through the comitia centuriata? All that might have prevented it were the consules, but those in office at the time, Scipio and then Scaevola, favored the land distribution. Why would a measure to benefit the lower classes, and as it is posed, the very lowest class of proletarii, be brought before the comitia plebis where the equites had more control over the voting than elsewhere? Historians have posed that certain measures were offered to gain the support of the equites for measures to benefit the lower classes against the Senate. But really, the way voting was conducted was the other way around. There are two different parts to the reform measures. The land distribution was only part of it. Looking at the reforms and who they actually benefited should then give us some idea of what actually occurred.
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Wed May 05, 2004 4:52 am

Salvete omnes

The Senate?s hierarchical structure was fairly straightforward. Senators enjoyed the highest status among the equites, although not always the greatest wealth. Traditionally there were 300 members to the Senate. However the censores could remove members and, though rarely, enroll new members to exceed the traditional limit of 300. When the Senate met under a consul there was a determined order in which senatores would be called upon to give their opinion. This also determined the rank of senatores relative to one another. At the highest level then were those who had previously attained the office of consul, and among these would be those who went on to become a censor. Religious offices could increase one?s personal status as well, and these were generally conferred as honors on those who had already achieved high political office. At the time of Tiberius Gracchus the highest individual Senator was Appius Claudius. Plutarch wrote, ?he had been consul and censor, and was now the head of the Roman Senate.? Appius Claudius also happened to be the father-in-law to Tiberius Gracchus, and would become his main supporter, sitting on the council of three that was to oversee the distribution of land according to Tiberius? plebiscitum. As princpes Appius Claudius would be called upon first to begin any discussion in the Senate. Following him would then come former consules, especially those who had gone on to become censores, and among them seniority depended on age and family stature.

In the next level down would be former tribuni plebis and praetores. It was not unusual that a former consul would try to increase his status by running for the office of tribune, and, long before Clodius Pulcher did it, some patricians had gained plebeian adoption and the office of tribunus plebis. By the time Tiberius Gracchus came into office, a tribunus plebis held an office practically as powerful as any consul. Gnaeus Gracchus would come to test that power and push it to new limits. The Comitia plebis only grew stronger after the Gracchi, the tribuni plebis basically in control of the State. The height of the tribunes? political power over Rome came in 107-100 BCE, in that period between when the Comitia raised Marius as commander over the Senate?s selection of Caecilius Metellus until the demise of Saturninus. Primarily, though, the authority exercised by a tribunus plebis in the time of Tiberius Gracchus was due to his religious reputation rather than his political privileges. Plutarch made a point to tell how Tiberius Gracchus had been made an augur as soon as he took the toga virilis, ?and that in consideration more of his early virtue than of his noble family.? In a sense, the tribunus plebis also had the highest religious authority. Lines of religious authority were rather narrow. The pontifices held authority only over an area within a few miles of Rome, and only with regard to certain parts of the cultus civile, and over the private culti geniale. The decemviri sacris faciundis held authority throughout Roman Italy, governing even local priesthoods, and any culti deorum that they had introduced to Rome through consulting the Sibylline Oracles. Augures had their place, as did all the other priesthoods, and the aediles plebis were primarily religious officials at this time, with their own sphere of authority. The Senate could consult any of the colleges of priests, and no other college could really overrule another college?s opinion. In that, the Senate had some authority in arbitrating between the colleges of priests. But any decision by the priests, magistrates or Senate could be appealed to the Comitia, and in that, a tribunus plebis could, theoretically, have the highest religious authority in Rome. As far as we know, no decision of a pontifex maximus was overruled by a comitia, choosing instead to defer to his opinion. In one case the opinion of the pontifex maximus was appealed by a consul in 199 BCE and the pontifex maximus[/I was ]overruled by the opinion of the Collegium Pontificum (Livy 31.9.7-9).

The [i]praetores
were on a par with the tribuni plebis in both political and religious authority. In the Senate they took precedence over most tribuni plebis. The praetores were the highest legal authority in the City, an authority generally respected even if a consul was in the City. In terms of raw power, a praetor would have command over the nearest troops, if the Senate allowed him to use them and if the Senate did not appoint a dictator or otherwise have a consul take command. On the streets a praetor with his lictores and supporters could match nearly any group, except if the tribuni plebis would somehow decide to combine against a praetor. With Gnaeus Gracchus and again with Saturninus, some of the tribuni lent their support instead to the praetores and consules. Between praetores and former praetores precendence was again determined by age, family status and personal honors. The quaestores and aediles likewise had their own sphere of authority in certain matters; the aediles exercising some religious authority as well. When a consul assembled the Senate and charged who would speak in what order, he could go around the full formal order that required calling on each former consul in turn before going on to the praetores, and so on. He could instead call on individuals who represented their respective level in this hierarchy of officers.

At the lowest level of the Senate were those known as pedarii, at least by the Late Republic they were called such. It was extremely rare that any of them would get to voice his opinion openly before the assembled Senate. They could of course speak with other members in private, and could grumble aloud or lend vocal support for when other senators spoke. They were able to vote, however, ?by their feet,? so they were not without some influence in the Senate. Those who did speak before the Senate needed to win over the pedarii to their position. Since the pedarii were in hot competition to advance by attaining higher office, they were often more conservative as a group than would be the senior members of the Senate. The Senate might split over some issue temporarily, but the desire to attain a consensus among the entire Senate made partes tend to be very ephemeral, never coalescing into parties as we would think, or as came to occur after Sylla. Nor were there any factiones in this period. The pedarii would need and seek out the support of more powerful senators, since they had their own interests and people to support, brokering their vote with the more powerful in order to achieve their goals. But there were no divisions in the Senate where one group might consistently vote together as a bloc and be opposed to some other factio. There were instead circles of friends, amicitia, that gathered around more important members of the Senate and these often overlapped one another. The pedarii would seek friendly relations with several, even competing amicitia, but could easily have his career cut short if he were thought too closely linked to any one particular amicitia.

The cursus honorum was a traditional path by which the leading men of Rome would enter each office in succession, a period out of office between each he held. While a traditional way of advancing one?s career, it was not rigidly followed. In 199 BCE a tribunus plebis vetoed T. Quinctius Flaminius from standing for consul immediately after he had served as a quaestor. The issue was debated before the Comitia centuriata that elected consules, and the matter was referred to the Senate. The Senate replied that ?it seemed proper that the right should reside with the people to elect anyone they chose who sought an office for which it was not expressly forbidden for him to hold.? However in 180 BCE a law passed that set age limits on when a man could first seek a particular office, and this certainly would have prevented many from advancing by not going through the traditional cursus honorum. As a result, men of the same approximate age were competitors for the same office. This tended then to divide each strata of the Senate into competing groups, each seeking support among groups on all the other levels. That meant that often alignments were vertical, from one strata to the next, posing the potential of factiones forming, but such alignments were so fluid that none ever did.

In the political conflicts leading up to and then with Tiberius Gracchus there were two particular groups of importance. The first was the amicitia of Scipio Africanus Aemilianus and its supporters, and the second was a less cohesive group opposing them. I will turn our attention to this next.

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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Wed May 05, 2004 1:23 pm

Salve Piscine,

Gratias for your instructive articles, deepening our knowledge (I think I can speak for all of us on this matter) of the political and socio-economical realities of the Late Republic.

I began working on a small contribution on Tiberius Gracchus a few days ago, but due to study work (see Draco's "cramming" posting), I have not yet got any further :( . I'll try to continue working on it, as soon as the gods permit...

Vale optime,

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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Wed May 05, 2004 10:25 pm

Salvete Attice et Belgae et sodales omnes

I think this is an important topic for SVR to discuss, and I hope it will also allow us to continue into later developments of Roman politics. So it will be best to wait before going into the heart of this topic until after exams. There are a couple other things I can post in the meantime, some more background information, just some light summer reading. :lol:

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